Batman Vol. 4 finishes the origin story both for Batman/Bruce Wayne and for two of his major villains. When it begins, Bruce Wayne is essentially a man without an identity. As Bruce Wayne, he is legally dead, and all of his crime-fighting operations are anonymous. Zero Year—Secret City showcases the events that push him into taking not one, but two, public and active identities. It also provides the impetus needed for his major villains whose origins are linked to, though not dependent on him.
One of the volume’s strengths is Tynion and Snyder’s work in giving Batman and Bruce Wayne a dual origin. The volume tells fo Batman’s background and determined training. It also shows how Bruce Wayne grew up in the city, how and what he learned to love in it, and why he is determined to protect it. More, it makes it clear why both identities are necessary to the city’s welfare. The writers also show that this Bruce is not the loner he is often made out to be; from the start, he has Alfred with him, and before that, his parents. Family plays a further role in his choice to be a hero and what kind of hero.
The volume overall uses a notably brighter palette than is typical of Batman tales. Where many artists emphasize the darkness, the night, and the grittiness, Capullo shines a bright light on the grime. His rundown, broken buildings are fully visible in the sunlight. The opening chase scene is in bright daylight and further conflicts happen against bright explosions, fully visible in the fire. Bruce’s lair has a full complement of electric lights. This is not to say that there are no night scenes, but the overall emphasis is on showing Gotham’s trials clearly and mercilessly. The art is sharp and compelling.
Zero Year—Secret City is a solid retelling of the hero’s origins. It is a good entry point for new readers, and old readers will enjoy the pleasure of a good retelling.
Published May 7th 2014 by DC Comics. Order on Amazon.
Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year – Secret City
ISBN 1401245080 (ISBN13: 9781401245085)
Writers: James T Tynion IV, Scott Snyder
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque, Danny Miki, Greg Capullo
Colorists: FCO Plascencia, Dave McCaig
Letters: Nick Napolitano, Tylor Esposito, Dezi Sienty
Cover: Danny Miki, Greg Capullo, Plascencia
Series: Batman Vol. II #21-24, Annual #2