ART: Greg Capullo
I'd like to reiterate how great Scott Snyder is at writing this title because last week, I wrote in my review for Action Comics that there seems to be a few distinct types of "Zero Month" issues: the ones that gave a semi-comprehensive origin story (i.e. - Stormwatch, Animal Man, The Phantom Stranger, etc.), the ones that only focus on a particular episode from the past (i.e. - World's Finest, Earth 2, Action Comics), and the increasingly rare ones that find a way to balance both sides into a solid issue that offers some revelations into how things began, but don't resort to grand history lessons each page.
Batman #0 falls into this third category. Without an actual new origin, the writers of Batman books had to find new ways to exploit "Zero Month" - they don't get the luxury of rewriting history. In Detective Comics, we met Bruce's final teacher before he returned to Gotham. In Batman and Robin, we get a history of Damian's upbringing in the League of Assassins, and in Batman, we get Snyder's take on Bruce's earliest days fighting crime in his home city. He isn't Batman yet, and in fact, Bruce has moved him and Alfred from the mansion into Crime Alley because, "this is where I have to be, Alfred. This is where my war begins." It's a technically appropriate sentiment, but one that seems childish, even to Alfred at that moment. "And how is that war going so far, sir?"
In a surprising bit of fan service, Snyder has resurrected the original Red Hood! Yep, before Jason Todd took that moniker and built himself a cool looking red helmet, another villain had that name, albeit with a lot less swagger and talent. In Batman #0, the original Red Hood shows up with his gang to rob a bank and soon enough, he realizes that Red Hood Five is an impostor. In fact, it's Bruce Wayne trying to put a stop to criminal activity before taking on the cowl. Again, it seems childish and less thought out than we're used to from Bruce Wayne. But that's kind of the point of this issue, isn't it? Readers get a glimpse into how Bruce stumbled around before truly understanding who he was and how to fight the darkness spread throughout Gotham. This is an issue about uncertainties and how that leads to failure.
The only part of this issue that felt forced was the conversation between Bruce and Jim Gordon. After being back for three months, Bruce has moved himself into the most dangerous part of Gotham and hasn't been seen living the high life like all the other billionaires. Add to that sightings of a vigilante attempting to take the law into his own hands and Gordon begins to have a pretty good circumstantial case against the current Mr. Wayne. Of course, it's just that - circumstantial. In the end, Bruce denies everything and Gordon seemingly believes him without much of a huff. It feels like this is supposed to be Gordon eliminating Bruce Wayne as s suspect of being the vigilante (and eventually, Batman), but it feels cheap. If all these elements were adding up and equaling Bruce Wayne, what was stopping Gordon from looking into it further? The word of an insanely rich trust fund baby who just went missing for six years and now lives in Crime Alley? It all just seems a bit too much to suspend disbelief. I understand that often, a comic book world is simply more fantastical than ours, but simple human deduction would have eventually led Gordon back to Bruce. Of course, there's always the possibility that Gordon just assumes Bruce is Batman without ever actually revealing his true thoughts.
Batman #0 does a fantastic job giving readers a history without being boring or unimportant. Batman-related books could have suffered terrible setbacks with these "Zero Month" issues. Instead, Snyder is leading the pack in terms of quality and type of story that should be told. Us readers already know how Bruce's parents died and how he becomes Batman, so these issues should be more about building up a world that leads into the present day, and Scott Snyder has done this in spades.