High-Tech Year One
After so many amazing covers, I kind of expected more from Greg Capullo's zero issue cover. Batwoman, Action Comics, a few others proved that the mandated format doesn't have to create a generic cover, so I was hoping Batman would get one that stands out more, though it's not like it's bad, just not as good as I'd hoped. His interior art, however, is as fantastic as always, even though we don't get to see any of Batman being 'Batman.'
The first thing to note, is that this is not a retcon/reboot/retelling of the full 'Origin of Batman.' This doesn't contradict Batman: Year One or anything, except maybe adding more high tech gadgets into the story, updating the time period as the New 52 does, but without compromising the integrity and core of the story. Bruce Wayne is testing out some of his new toys, and still has yet to create his Batman persona. In this way, this issue isn't a complete story, it's a little side tale during the early years of Bruce's vigilantism; but with one other big story. The Red Hood Gang are the foundation of a bigger story, an expansion of the Pre-Jason Todd Red Hood persona. They're an intriguing group of utter psychos with a surprisingly tightly knit unity, and they teach a younger Bruce Wayne a lesson is patience and detective work.
The problem here is a debatable one. The story doesn't definitively wrap itself up, leaving a big plot point hanging. One could argue that the lack of follow-up on Bruce going from this basic vigilantism to becoming Batman is unnecessary; it can be assumed that Alfred's suggestion that Bruce return to the manor to rest and ruminate on what the missing 'spark' is, leads to the iconic scene where the bat crashes through his window. But the Red Hood Gang tale is left very open-ended, though it's said to be continued in 2013; but does that mean we're going to get a direct continuation, or a present day sequel kind of story? Did they attack Bruce's old headquarters back then, or do they bide their time and attack in the present? I'm eager to see more, but the sense of confusion we get is a little off-putting.
James Tynion writes the back-up solo for once, and he gets the excellent artwork of Andy Clarke to compliment his tale. The only problems I have with the backup is that when it shows Dick Grayson it reinforces the compressed timeline everyone hates, and Jason Todd seems to have a tad too much compassion for the age he's at, pre-Robin days. But those are minor quibbles to what is a fantastic little side tale of the first night the Bat-Signal was shone, and the inspiration it sparked in what will one day be the closest members of the Batman family. Tim Drake's story, especially, was loads of fun.
In Conclusion: 4.5/5
Things are left a little too open-ended, but otherwise this was yet another outstanding entry in an amazing Batman run. I'm really excited for the upcoming follow-up with the Red Hood Gang, and finding out what they mean for Joker's origin and Jason Todd.