Batman #21 (2013) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Following the lackluster ending to “Death of the Family”, Scott Snyder’s second arc on Batman, and the two decent, but uninspiring filler issues leading up to this, I had pretty much given up on Batman - which nonetheless remains, alongside Azzarello & Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman, whatever Jeff Lemire is involved in and now Ales Kot & Patrick Zircher’s Suicide Squad (!), one of the better titles over at the ever-disappointing DC Comics.
But if the prospect of the uninspiringly titled “Zero Year” mega-arc (11 issues, more or less like “Court of Owls”), retelling Bruce Wayne’s origin for the new 52 paradigm, was everything but appealing, this first issue delivered in more ways that I could have expected. Thrusting his readers in the past without much explanation required (having read the #0 issue helps, sure), Snyder paints an “old” Gotham and a younger Bruce Wayne that manage to feel both familiar and refreshing. Capullo’s artwork complements this “new” world nicely, being simultaneously crisper and more detailed than ever. It’s a deliberately bright world — seemingly far removed from the Gothic Gotham that he had accustomed us too, and one that is bound to get darker and darker as Snyder’s story progresses and Wayne fully becomes Batman. (How great is that pin-up pictured above?)
Familiar faces are introduced, corporate-focused subplots are hinted at and everything, from Wayne’s infancy, to the birth of his vigilantism and his relationship with Alfred, is touched upon organically, to be seemingly explored in further details later. It’s a great start to what promises to be a deservedly sprawling story, but unfortunately, I have come to learn that with Snyder, a strong start doesn’t always guarantee a strong ending. As far as the first chapter of his origin epic is concerned, this a success. Job well done, I might just be in for the long haul.