[19 August 2013]
PopMatters Associate Comics Editor
As Zero Year continues in Batman #23 we begin to see how various threads connect. Like Edward Nygma’s spatial algorithm threads we saw in issue 21, the narrative of Zero Year is calling attention to various life events that will propel Bruce Wayne to dawn the cowl and cape and create the Batman. We like to think that a single event created Batman, but while the murder of his parents started him on the path, it was the combination of events from throughout his life that shaped the dark knight. It’s not this happened and then that happened. It’s this, this, and this happened and then that happened. You just have to stand back and see them.
Much of this early plotting and positioning of the story arc reminds me of Inspector Eric Finch’s speech in the film version of V for Vendetta. “I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected,” Finch says towards the climax of the film. “It’s like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back… I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we’re all part of it, and all trapped by it.”
As we have seen in the first three issues of Zero Year, the individual chapters open with scenes from different time periods, the larger picture of how these moments connect unveil themselves as we move forward with the narrative. Certain aspects come together in Batman #23, but there is still more to come. We’ve haven’t reach the story arc’s actual climax, just a point of dramatic breakthrough.
Part of that breakthrough is the reimagining of the famous “I shall become a bat” scene from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, itself a reimagining of a scene from Detective #33. Writer Scott Snyder, as he has done in his previous Batman work, takes pieces of the pre-New 52 continuity and fits new elements into the cracks. He does not have to, as this is a new period with its own continuity, but he must feel some responsibility to connect this Batman period with the ones that have come before.
The famous scene plays out in Batman #23 similar to how it happened in Batman #404, but Snyder adds a new layer – the imaging and mapping device. The imaging device creates a direct connection from Bruce to his father, whom he is begging for help to see what he should do next. His father gave Bruce the device, which he used to map the caves below Wayne manor. The device overlays a holographic image of the caves over the study, a scene rendered with the utmost attention to detail and drama by artists Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia. Holographic bats fly over Bruce, inspiring him to become the omen. When the imaging device crashes to the floor and breaks, one actual Bat is left. This bit of symbolism shows the truth of the moment. While the holographic representation is enough to inspire him, that there is a bat in the present reaffirms this is the path he will take. It’s a convergence of the past and present, his father’s inspiration and the needs of the current moment.
There are elements of fate and destiny at play, but do not be confused. Bruce’s destiny is to wage a war on crime. His choice is to become the Batman. That the inspiration comes directly from something that connects back to his father only reinforces that Bruce’s life has been forfeit since his parents’ murder. It’s part of the perfect pattern and the long chain of events that lead us to this moment.
Aside from this pivotal breakthrough moment, Batman #23 offers us some of the best character work Snyder has done to date. I’ve been critical of the verboseness of previous issues, but in this issue each piece of dialogue is working on two levels. The first moves the plot along; the second further defines the different players. It’s impressive how this script leans on Capullo’s panel compositions. There is a feeling of restraint in the silent panels that allows for the visual drama to play without interruption.
This is not an expository issue, although you will see the necessary exposition that moves the entire Zero Year narrative along. It is an issue of dramatic revelation. The thread pattern intersects for one moment to inspire the next steps.