Many readers of the New 52 are hung up on the 'five year' time frame and not knowing what has or hasn't happened but the beauty of the zero issues DC is putting out is we get to find out what happened before this relaunch started. Batman is one of the few characters that has seen any major changes in the New 52. Pretty much his entire history has remained intact (even if we don't know how it could all fit within five years). When it comes to a zero/origin issue for Batman, one would think there isn't really anything we could learn. If we did think that, we'd be wrong.
I won't spoil who appears smack dab on the second page. We get a familiar face (sort of) with a new take (courtesy of Greg Capullo) that touches upon a classic origin but with minor tweaks that make it absolutely work in these modern comics. I have to admit, I almost got chills every time the name of the…group that appears was mentioned. The scene that plays out makes me wish it was possible for Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to do a miniseries based on this time period while also doing Batman stories set in the present.
This little visit to the past shows Bruce still attempting to find his way in becoming a crime fighter. That means, this isn't going to be the perfect character that makes no mistakes and is prepared for any situation. In other words, it's highly possible for Bruce to mess up and get in over his head. But of course he will be able to show he is nearly ready to become Batman.
As Bruce lies on the precipice of who he will become, there are still loads of decisions to be made. Seeing how he teeters on the edge of how he plans to proceed in different areas is like discovering the secrets behind a magician's tricks. He's ready to do away with his Bruce Wayne identity even though he doesn't have his Batman one yet. There's also the discussion between Bruce and Alfred which is priceless.
On a personal note, I couldn't be happier to see a mention of Philip Kane. That would make him Bruce's Uncle Philip, a character I've been wondering for years what his true connection to Bruce was and what happened to him. (See article: Why Was Batman Raised by a Butler? for more on Uncle Philip).
Then there's the back up story. As if a great and chilling main story wasn't enough, we get another story by James Tynion IV with art by Andy Clarke. This takes place five years ago and you get to find out quite a bit about the different Robins and how they fit into this five years. It's also interesting to see the difference in Jim Gordon within one year. You won't want to miss this. We need more stories flashing back to this time!
The main story is 'to be continued.' Does this mean we'll be seeing the story continued later in a flashback? It's great that the story won't be rushed and we'll get to see more (a complaint I had about the main story in DETECTIVE COMIC #0) but it feels a little weird to have the story end on such a cliffhanger in a zero issue when they're supposed to be self contained.
It's official. We had all the Robins within five years. This issue along with last week's DETECTIVE COMICS #0 and BATMAN AND ROBIN #0 continue to illustrate the problem of the five year timeline. The fact that Damian is ten and Bruce was seen dressed as Batman when he shared his special night with Talia before Damian came along just makes this all a bit of a mess. Also, what about James Jr and Bruce saving him during YEAR ONE? Thankfully the stories are great despite that problem.
Having all our comics interrupted by a zero issue might have seemed like a bad idea but this issue makes you wish it could last for more than a month. We thought we knew all about Bruce's days before becoming a crime fighter in his YEAR ONE days but Scott Snyder manages to give us a story that goes above and beyond what you would expect from this time. The kicker is the situation Bruce puts himself in and who he ends up confronting. Getting an early look at these characters along with Jim Gordon's take makes you hunger for a separate series showing us all the detail from this time. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo continue their winning streak of great issue after great issue. Throw in an amazing back up by James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke, this is the kind of issue Batman fans want.