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Batman #0: Killing Joke Revisited?

This flashback issue tells a tale of the early days of Bruce Wayne's fight against crime, before the cowl.

Batman #0

The issue zeros from DC are beginning to fall into two categories, interesting and unnecessary. Swamp Thing #0, interesting, Batman and Robin #0, unnecessary. Writer Scott Snyder comes in firing both barrels of interesting with Batman #0. Rather than just regurgitate an origin, Snyder decides to set down a new path, one that could fall into the pantheon of Alan Moore’s brilliant Killing Joke when it comes to recounting the past of Batman’s most famous rogue.

Batman #0 begins six years ago, when Bruce Wayne was still trying to figure out how to fight crime in Gotham. This is pre-Bat. Wayne has the tech, a few costume ideas and a “batcave” of sorts that sits on the street where his parents were murdered. At this time, the grand poobah of criminal activity is the Red Hood Gang, led by a gentleman with a shiny red helmet and, well, lets say an extremely sharp and thin jaw line. Bruce has infiltrated the gang in disguise but, thanks to being a rank amateur in the detective game, he’s quickly discovered and must turn to brute force to escape.

Snyder does some particularly clever things here. While we all know the story of the Red Hood Gang and the construct of the leader’s face in issue zero is clearly the clown prince of crime, Snyder never even hints that it might be him. There’s no white face, no giggles, no clues that this might be the biggest psychopath criminal ever. It’s in the same storytelling vein as Alan Moore’s “origin” of the Joker in Killing Joke. Moore never said his tale was gospel, only that Joker seems to remember something like that happening. In doing the same thing, Snyder has given us a viable history without trying to say he is now the keeper of the Joker’s secrets.

I also love watching an inexperienced Bruce Wayne. One of my favorite things about Batman Year One was how bad Bruce was at crime fighting. Snyder continues that theme, making Bruce impatient that he may never figure out how to truly frighten criminals and he may never really become more than a guy who beats up bad guys. As always, Snyder’s pacing and dialog are spot on. The scene between Detective Gordon (not yet Commissioner) and Bruce is a perfect example of Snyder’s ability to create tension and excitement without a lick of action.

As expected, Greg Capullo’s art is wonderful. I have always loved how he draws Batman, so the simple cover of the Dark Knight busting through is perfect. He also nails the Red Hood Gang leader, showing enough to make us say “Oh shit” but not showing so much as to conclusively prove anything. Usually, I’m not a fan of small strokes and light line work, but every panel Capullo touches is a small mastery of the medium.

Some of the best work here happens within the makeshift batcave. I really dig Capullo’s instinct on the type of outfits and tech that Bruce would originally gone with. The scene doesn’t point out anything particular, it just gives multiple hints as to where things like the Batmobile the Batplane and so forth got started. The only thing I didn’t like about Batman #0 is that it sets the tone for a story we won’t see until 2013.

9

(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)