“Where The Hell Did He Learn How To Drive?!’
Co-Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Letters by Taylor Esposito
Published by DC Comics • £3.90
Gotham is dead. The city is all but abandoned; the subway is flooded; the Batman is dead. Masked criminals roam the overgrown streets and the few people left forage for supplies. This is the Zero Year. This is where Batman begins.
It’s a hell of a premise, and one that fits in very nicely with Scott Snyder’s hugely ambitious work on Batman to date. This first issue of his latest storyline takes that incredible opening set of images and uses them to strip everything away from Batman. No myth, barely any technology, no city. Just a man in a cowl, and the idea he’s trying to resuscitate. It’s I Am Legend to Batman: Year On e’s Taxi Driver , a hugely brave choice that pays off in sheer spectacle in this issue alone.
The meat of this issue comes later though, as Snyder walks us through Bruce’s early weeks back in the city. The idea of having him operate out of a house near Crime Alley is especially perfect; the young, angry Bruce desperate to make sure the wound that defined him doesn’t scar over. Other highlights include an innovative, and bull-headed chase sequence, early tension with Alfred and the introduction of Bruce’s uncle Philip Kane. This in turn sets up the arrival of an iconic Batman moment and later, a character who looks set to be central to both the book and the year in hell Bruce and Gotham have ahead of them. It’s effortlessly impressive stuff, rich on character and information but with a strong, driving plot underneath it all. It’s typically impressive work from Snyder and, whilst the last big Batman story was criticised for folding far too many other titles in, hopefully Zero Year will either be more focused or more accommodating to DC’s preferred “widescreen” approach to crossovers.
Special note should also be made of this Director’s Cut edition. The entire script for the issue is reprinted in the back and it’s fascinating to see how closely Snyder and Greg Capullo work. Snyder’s scripts are very flexible and entire pages here are laid out by Capullo working off Snyder’s brief. If you ever doubted comic creation is a team sport, this issue will confirm it once and for all. Capullo’s wonderful pencil art is also reproduced throughout. Done from the original art boards it includes notes and the overlap art to give you a real sense of the creative process. Napolitano’s lettering also impresses, especially in the chilling confrontation with the gang members that opens the book.
Finally, “Where The Hell Did He Learn To Drive?!” – the back-up story – sees Bruce in Rio De Janeiro prior to returning home. A fast-paced, graceful car chase with a great sting in the tale, the story establishes Bruce’s keen sense of justice and fondness for the theatrical. Tynion IV’s work on the script is impressive as is Rafael Albuquerque’s art and Taylor Esposito’s smart lettering.
Zero Year is off to a great start. The premise is huge, the approach is clever and character driven and, like Snyder at his best does, the story honors previous Batman work without being beholden to it. The Director’s Cut features add welcome process details and make this one of the strongest issues DC have published in a long time. Highly recommended.
With thanks to Mondo Comico in Nottingham for the review copy. Find them on twitter at @mondocomico