Monday, 2 March 2015

Batman #0 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 0, November 2012
Whatever misgivings readers may have had with the 2011 re-launch of the entire line of ongoing “DC Comics” titles, this first anniversary ‘celebration’ of “The New 52” for the Caped Crusader sold extremely well. In fact, having shifted 156,561 copies, at least according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, it was the most successful of the publisher’s periodicals during September 2012; outsold only by the eleventh instalment of the “Marvel Worldwide” ‘event’ title “Avengers Vs. X-Men”. However such impressive sales figures do not necessarily equate to a satisfactory read, and unfortunately with “Bright New Yesterday” there are just too many questions left unanswered by the time the final panel reads “The story continues in 2013!”

However, set some six years before the ‘New 52’ modern-day timeline, this twenty-page long rebooted attempt to portray Bruce Wayne as a rookie and reckless crime fighter still has some successes. Scott Snyder’s Red Hood Gang is as technologically sophisticated as it is murderous. No longer do criminals have to physically ram-raid banks in order to get past the security measures. Instead the armed robbers simply walk in carrying a “little doodad” encrypted device which not only knocks out the vault’s systems and silent alarm but “that brand new coffee machine.”

Possibly less believable is some of the ‘state-of-the-art’ equipment employed by Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s co-creation; such as a self-folding futuristic motorcycle complete with holographic dashboard, which would seem far more at home within the CGI world of “Tron” than the realistic gritty realm of The Batman. Although the billionaire’s testing of a computer-assisted bat-a-rang, whilst being interviewed by an oblivious lieutenant Jim Gordon, provides one of the more humorous scenes of the story.

What is concerning however, and seems to go against the very core of the character of the Dark Knight, is Wayne’s apparent willingness to not only risk the lives of Gotham City innocents. But to actually inflict physical injury upon them and indirectly be responsible for their horrible deaths. All because he wanted to see the Red Hood Gang “in action.” Indeed it isn’t actually clear just how long the heavily disguised vigilante has been working undercover within the gang as Red Hood Five. Presumably not that long if he had not known the crooks had lethally poisoned the bank’s celebratory cake the day before. Admittedly such mistakes are underscored in order to depict an inexperienced future Batman. But its uncomfortable to think that the only reason the hero survives the story is through blind good fortune… and some preparedness.

The highlight of the comic however has to be the sublime artwork of Greg Capullo, whose illustration of the Red Hood is stunning; especially when he uses the reflection upon the tall shiny ill-looking piece of headwear in order to show what is happening within a panel. The American comic book artist also manages to really capture the ferocity of the ‘fist-fight’ between a cornered Wayne and the Red Hood Gang, with the punches, kicks and painful grimaces all being full of dynamism and energy.

As something of an extra, this issue also contains a surprisingly engaging eight-page tale written by James Tynion IV. Concentrating upon the activities of future Robins Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Jason Todd (as well as Batgirl Barbara Gordon) “Tomorrow” is based some five years in the past, on the night the Bat Signal is first utilised. As a result it gives the reader a little insight into just how impactive such an iconic device was upon their young minds. But at the same time exemplifies all that is wrong with “The New 52” timeline. For despite some strong competent drawing by Andy Clarke, it seems clear that all three of the boys are of similar ages. So just how is Batman going to acquire, develop and train all of these ‘side-kicks’ unless he does it simultaneously?
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 0 by Andy Clarke

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