johnkmccubbin91's Batman #21 - Zero Year: Secret City, Part One; Where the Hell Did He Learn to Drive?! review

Birth of the Bat

This has been one of my favourite series since it started a couple of years ago, and during that time we've had some brilliant Batman stories, and although some have also been slightly poor, in general it's been brilliant.


After returning to Gotham City, Bruce Wayne plans on taking down the Red Hood Gang, developing new equipment in the fight against crime.

Where the Hell Did He Learn to Drive?!

A 19 year old Bruce goes on a drive with Don Miguel as he tries to escape the cops in Rio de Janeiro.


This was yet another amazing issue, and a brilliant start to the Zero Year story. Scott Snyder has really been doing good lately, with the last year worth of this series being brilliant, the start of his new Vertigo series The Wake, and his newest series, Superman Unchained, which debuted this week. With all these different series operating at the same time it's surprising that they are all at such a high level of quality, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for Snyder. Anyway, although this was far from the most exciting issue of the series so far, it was still brilliant, having the perfect tone for the opening of this type of story. I really liked how it was much more down to Earth, having Bruce feature much more than Batman, as with it being the start you'd expect that. I also loved how Snyder managed to make this so emotional, and dramatic, whilst also feeling very natural. Talking about natural, the dialogue Snyder wrote for this issue was simply perfect, and although it wasn't the most interesting dialogue Snyder's written, it once again suited this type of story. I also liked how there was a hint of fun in this issue, as well as the fact that Bruce had a slightly different viewpoint, not entirely knowing what he's about to do.

The art in this issue was also spectacular, and Greg Capullo once again did an amazing job. His style of artwork suits this series perfectly, and he always knows when to lighten the tone, and when to give the normal darker tone, which is brilliant, and although he'll probably have some help from Snyder's script, he still does an excellent job of it. This issue didn't give Capullo much time to show off his great action sequences, but there was a couple near the start that were epic, showing exactly the kinds of things that Capullo can do, and what to expect later on in this story. The thing I noticed most about Capullo's art, and this was something he talked about in a recent interview with Comic Vine was how he managed to make Bruce look slightly younger. When I read what he said on the subject I wasn't too sure if he'd make Bruce look the right age, but with simple adjustments, like shortening his hair slightly, and thinning him out by the slightest of margins, it really does make him look younger, whilst at the same time not looking too young. I also liked how he made Alfred look a bit younger as well, as although yet again Alfred didn't look much younger, it was still noticeable. The layouts of Capullo's artwork in this issue was also fantastic, and like always it added much more drama to the story, whilst also helping to set the mood, and tone of the story.

This issue saw the return of the Red Hood Gang, who featured in issue 0. Now we didn't get much development from the Red Hood Gang in this issue, but it was still nice to see them return, and I'm sure this won't be the last we'll see of them in this story. The sequence that featured the Red Hood Gang was probably one of the most entertaining in the issue, as it had fun, drama, suspense, and excitement, which was brilliant, and the dialogue between Bruce, and Alfred, as well as from the leader of the Red Hood Gang was perfect.

During this sequence Bruce was wearing a prosthetic mask, also having others in his pre-Batcave. All this along with the other minor gadgets showed that Bruce may have not always planned on being Batman, and that he would use his prosthetics, and gadgets to fight crime, not being a symbol. I thought that in itself was a great idea, as he was bound to have wanted to fight crime before coming up with the idea of dressing as a bat, and this showed that perfectly, also showing a more realistic side to Batman. I also look forward to seeing how Snyder taked this, and turns it into Batman.

This issue would also show how Bruce, and Alfred's relationship wasn't always as strong as it currently is. In this issue we see Bruce not wanting to listen to Alfred, not valuing his input, and generally arguing with him. I found all this interesting, as it shows that this is a much more immature Bruce, as although he's grown up, he still wants to take everything on himself, and although he kind of takes that same attitude in the present, he does it in a much more respectful way. I do however look forward to seeing the development of Bruce, and Alfred's relationship, and whether there's a specific event that causes Bruce to trust, and care for Alfred more.

Not long after returning to Gotham, Bruce would be visited by his uncle, Philip Kane. It was nice that Philip appeared in this issue, and it was really nice to see Bruce interact with a member of his family. The conversation that Bruce, and Philip would share in this issue was very interesting, and it showed both the differences in both character's, as well as the fact that Philip doesn't really know Bruce well. During Philips appearance however there was a couple of interesting nods to future Batman items, with a giant penny (which would later appear in the Batcave) outside Wayne Enterprises, as well as the fact that Bruce was wearing a cap with a yellow R on it, which gives a nod towards Robin, and the symbolism behind this cap could very well be the reason Batman named his sidekick Robin.

The back-up story in this issue was written by Snyder, and regular back-up writer, James Tynion IV. This story would see how the young Bruce tackled crime, whilst also learning his craft. Now this wasn't the best back-up story that I've ever seen, but it's not the worst, and it was perfect for this issue, and I seriously hope the remaining back-up stories during this story continue in a similar fashion. The dialogue between Bruce, and Miguel in this story was very interesting, and the sudden change in attitude from Bruce was both dramatic, as well as exciting. The art on this back-up story was drawn by Rafael Albuquerque who's provided the art for Snyder's American Vampire series. Having only seen Albuquerque's art on a couple of the American Vampire issues I'm not too familiar with his work, but his art on this story was amazing, and I'd love to see more of it on future back-up stories.

Final Verdict

This was the perfect start to Zero Year, and Snyder really seems to be on a role, with a decent start to the Wake, and a phenomenal start to Superman Unchained. This issue had a little action, but besides that it was very dramatic, with brilliant dialogue, and great hints. The shocking end, along with the speculation as to how Snyder will develop this story has me hooked, and I can't wait for the next issue. I would highly recommend this issue, and as much of this series as you can get, as although it's had the odd blip, overall it's been amazing, and one of the best series DC produces.

Rating: 5/5

Edited by broo1232

Great review :) For me this is probably a 4 since it's a bit of set-up and the backup didn't have me totally sold as it wasn't the best of all of them, but the appearance of riddler was great and I like where it is going with that and also I think the fight with the red hood gang was the best bit especially with the censored panel.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@broo1232: Yeah I was considering giving it a 4, but the references really appealed to me, as did the art (especially as you said the censor). I also loved the appearance of Riddler, and look forward to more development from that. The only reason I didn't mention it in my review was cause it's too big a spoiler.

Posted by broo1232

@johnkmccubbin91: It's bordering a 5 for me but I think it hasn't just hit that yet and I try to give 5s out more often as I think those are ones I can find no major faults with, but I loved the issue.The villain adds a lot I think and I wonder it may go and he was portrayed perfectly.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@broo1232: Yeah I know what you mean, just that I gave last issue a 4, and felt that this was a lot better.

Edited by broo1232

@johnkmccubbin91: It was, but I still try to not give out 5s so easily but it would be a 4.5 if that were still allowed.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@broo1232: I see what you mean, but most things this week just excelled more than usual, and deserved the 5 stars in my opinion, but as you said if 4.5's were still around a lot would have gotten that (maybe not this though, as I really loved the references).

Posted by broo1232

@johnkmccubbin91: I miss the half stars, but I think if I give it another read the rating might go up, but I have no doubt the arc will improve over time, but I think it was pretty close.

Edited by johnkmccubbin91

@broo1232: Totally agree there, and with the villain it should be good.

Edited by broo1232

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