As DC Comics continues to celebrate “Zero Month,” we take a look at another story about one of their more famous superheroes. Last week, we discussed Green Lantern, a popular superhero in his own right, but still not as well-known to non-comic readers.
Today, however, we’re looking at one of the most popular and enduring superheroes perhaps of all time, The Dark Knight himself, Batman. Even if you’re not a regular comic book reader, it’s still very possible that you have at least a vague knowledge of the story of Batman.
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Traumatized at a young age from watching his parents be gunned down right before his eyes, billionaire Bruce Wayne studies his entire life to become the world’s greatest detective and martial artist, uses his vast wealth and resources to build weapons and gadgets to aid him in his war on crime, and adopts the mysterious persona of The Batman in order to strike fear into the hearts and minds of the criminals of Gotham City.
To date, Batman has had numerous film and television adaptations, including the Adam West television show of the 1960’s, the successful 1989 film directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton, the critically-acclaimed animated series of the early 1990’s and most recently, Christopher Nolan’s wildly popular “The Dark Knight” trilogy.
While each one brings something different to the table, most of them manage to keep to the comics fairly well, at least as far as the character of Batman himself is concerned.
In today’s issue we see hints of the far lesser known origins of an equally well-known character. The story begins with the Gotham City National Bank being robbed by a group of gangsters in red hoods, their leader having an eerily familiar smile on across his face. The robbery goes off without a hitch, until the leader of the gang notices that there is a spy in their ranks.
Realizing that his cover has been blown, the spy fights his way out of the bank and escapes into the sewer while the rest of the thieves are distracted by the police arriving on the scene.
In the sewer, it is revealed that the spy is actually a young Bruce Wayne. At this point in time, Bruce has begun his war on crime, but has yet to adopt the persona of The Batman.
The rest of the issue sees Bruce discussing some of the details of his war on crime with his butler, Alfred, serving as exposition for new readers, and a lengthy conversation between Bruce and James Gordon, the future police commissioner of Gotham City, about some various issues with Wayne’s company and the recent rumors of a vigilante in Gotham.
We end with the leader of the Red Hood gang declaring that Bruce Wayne’s company will be their next target and a chilling preview image for the next issue showing red lips and a caption that reads “Guess Who’s Back.”
Scott Synder is a decent writer, especially when it comes to Batman, but I can’t help but feel that something went wrong here. DC’s “Zero Month” was supposed to reveal some more details about the origins of the DC heroes in the rebooted universe, but this issue makes me feel like I only got half of the story.
Also, the conversation with Jim Gordon feels out of place and very hard to follow.
But here’s where the comic begins to shine: with its characters. Bruce acts very much the way you’d expect.
He’s still inexperienced so he’s reckless and makes a few mistakes, but still retains his philosophy on the nature of secret identities, an idea fully explored in the Christopher Nolan series. Bruce believes that if his identity is public, then he is just a man and a man is powerless; however, as an anonymous entity, he is indestructible.
The other character of note in this issue is the leader of the Red Hood gang. Non-comic readers probably do not know the significance of this character, but long time Batman readers will recognize this character as the original alias of Batman’s most famous foe, The Joker.
The Joker is nearly as well-known as Batman himself, having been most notably portrayed by the late Heath Ledger, who won an Oscar for the role in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” The Joker has no official origin, having various contradictory origin stories crop up over the years, but is known by most comic readers that before he became the Joker he was a petty criminal known as The Red Hood.
Despite having appeared in nearly ever Batman movie or television show, the Red Hood aspect of the character’s origin has rarely, if ever, been explored.
I feel that this issue is here to reestablish the Joker’s comic book incarnation for a wider audience.
The Joker has been largely absent from most major comic events for the better part of a year now, but the ominous teaser for the next story arc promises his return and will likely be tied into this issue.
I can’t say that this issue was bad, but sadly, I don’t feel like it delivered on what it promised.
The robbery at the beginning was exciting but after that the story grinds to a halt with exposition of things that even non-comic book readers would know, and even with that it feels like it’s over far too quickly.
However, this issue did manage to get me excited for the next story arc, which promises to feature the return of the Joker.
Wes Serafine can be contacted at