Thursday, October 5, 2017

Batman #0 (October 1994)

Batman. The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader. One half of the Dynamic Duo. First appearing in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), Batman has become one of DC's most popular and beloved superheroes.

Before I begin this review, I have to talk a little bit about a little 1994 event known as Zero Hour. Subtitled A Crisis in Time!, it was meant to not only be a bit of a follow-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths, but intended to further help clean up continuity issues caused by CoIE's radical revamping and rewriting of the DC Universe's history. However, it did not quite work out. Hawkman's history ended up becoming even more of a mess (It got so bad that DC editorial actually considered the character "radioactive" for several years and forbade writers from using him in stories). It affected the Matrix/Linda Danvers Supergirl's origin, and like CoIE did about a decade earlier, it wreaked havoc on the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Yeah, it did a lot of damage for a event that that was supposed to help clean up history. 

In the aftermath, DC's main canon books relaunched with #0 issues, meant to tell the new origins and histories of the characters or teams they covered. This here is one of them.

And with that, let's take a look at the origin of the Batman after the time-altering effects of Zero Hour! Let's look at Batman #0!

The cover is well-drawn, if a bit basic. It just depicts Batman posing on a building, grabbing his cape, while the Bat-Signal shines in the background. As I said, it is well-drawn. It was done by Mark Manley, who also does the interior art. I can't help but snicker a bit as it looks like the wind is making Bats's cape fly out of control, and he's trying to keep it under wraps, as it were.

"Creature of the Night"
Writer: Doug Moench
Penciller: Mike Manley
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Ren Bruzenak
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O'Neil

The story begins with Batman swinging through Gotham, the Bat-Signal shining.

I don't know how he resists the urge to yell "WHEEEEE!" when he does that. Spider-Man totally would do that, and that's one way Spider-Man is cooler than Batman. Anyway, during his little journey to his traditional meeting with Commissioner Gordon, he starts having a flashback to his childhood, before the fateful day his parents were killed.

The young Bruce Wayne has fallen into a hole in the ground, which also had a nest of bats in it. The bats go nuts over the intruder in their home and start flying around all over the place, scaring the boy. Luckily, his father Thomas managed to come down and get him out. The young Bruce asked if he was in Hell.

In the present, Batman arrives at the Gotham Police HQ. Commissioner Gordon apologizes for keeping Batman from taking care of the "larger demons", aka his regular rogues' gallery. He needs the help, as his force is spread thin as it is. He explains that on his lap is a series of muggings. They would be random, but the forensic experts have discovered that the same gun was used in all of them.

Of course, for Bats, this triggers another flashback to witnesses his mother's shooting. Gordon explains the muggers have gotten about six hundred dollars...and put some bullets in their victims' hearts. Batman agrees to look into it. Gordon thanks him and shuts off the signal, only to see that in classic fashion, Bats disappeared. Heh.

Batman returns to Stately Wayne Manor, where he looks at a photograph of his parents. It triggers another flashback to him asking his parents about his family's wealth.

Martha Wayne tells Bruce that wealth is not important, it's what one does with themselves. Thomas is a doctor, for example. Even though he really doesn't need the work, he still does it because he wants to help people. Much like Martha does herself with her charity work helping the poor of Gotham. I don't think Martha's charity work was ever really explored, which is kind of a shame. It would have helped show why Bruce does so much charity work in his civilian life. It's something he got from his mother.

Bruce thinks about Alfred being gone. I think he had quit at the time because Batman was becoming more self-destructive thanks to the events of Knightfall. It causes Bruce to think to when he first entered the employ of the Wayne family.

Alfred does have a rather convenient set of skills, doesn't he? Perfect for helping out a rich superhero. Bruce goes down to the Batcave, which is smashed up to the point that it no longer feels like a sanctuary to him. I think this was not long after Knightfall, which dealt with Jean-Paul Valley's disasterous turn as the Dark Knight. It then causes Bruce to think about the night his parents died.

The choice of colors in this flashback is a good one. The shades of reds and pinks stand out from the other flashbacks, making it look like a major flashback, which is the point. This was the point Bruce Wayne died, and Batman appeared in his place.

The Tim Drake Robin appears and apologizes for not telling him about Jean-Paul sooner. Yeah, this is not long after Knightfall. Bruce reassures him it was alright, and that the fault was his own. In choosing Jean-Paul, Bruce ended perverting the ideals he was meant to employ as the Batman. He then thinks about what those ideals were, including his vow to never use a gun. Tim snaps him back to reality, and Bruce tells him to see what he can salvage, like the microscope. The Batman is going out as there's a crime to solve, and the game is afoot! I gotta pull out my copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles and read it again...

Batman investigates the crime scene, leading him to remember his parents' funeral, and his start to becoming the Batman. It shows that Leslie Thompkins was a counselor to him after his parents died. To me, Leslie is another unappreciated piece of the Batman mythos. She was the closest thing Bruce had to a mother after Martha Wayne's death, and likely helped play a role in helping Bruce maintain some sort of sanity after such an event. Bruce then gets to work preparing himself to become the Batman.

I love the last panel there. It makes me think of a description of Sherlock Holmes I once read, and it does feel rather appropriate. Like Holmes, Bruce Wayne is a genius who dedicated that brilliance to fighting crime. It gives me the idea that much like there is a link between Batman and the pulp characters that preceded him, Batman is also a bit of a spiritual successor to Holmes.

He finds some dried mud, some cigarette butts, and a book of matches a block from the actual shooting site. Bats gets suspicious and gathers the evidence. We get another flashback to Bruce's further training to become the Bat.

"Everybody was Bat-Fu Fighting..."
The flashbacks all have different "tints" to them. More on that later. Bruce finds a partial print on the matchbook, not enough to make a ID. He does have more luck with the mud. He finds that it's got a lot of clay in it, which makes it from near the Gotham River. Its eastern bank has a lot of clay in the ground, whereas the western one is more sandy. I think we can assume the west bank of the Gotham River is the closet thing Gotham has to a beach.

The matchbook could be from anywhere. Batman decides to investigate this the only way he knows how: by assuming one of his favorite disguises: Gotham's most beloved ne'er-do-well, "Matches" Malone.

Batman collects a whole bunch of matchbooks from various bars at the East Wharves. He notices a man following him as he's getting some matches from a dispenser. It's circumstantial, but it's enough to get the Dark Knight's instincts flaring. We get another flashback to when a bat crashed into a younger Bruce Wayne's window, which was what inspired him to create the bat-themed costume that became the Batsuit.

We then get some VERY abridged recounts of his rogues' gallery, his recruiting of Dick Grayson as the first Robin, Grayson becoming Nightwing, the Joker killing the second Robin (Jason Todd), the recruiting of Tim Drake as the third Robin, and then the recent stuff with the Knightfall storyline.

Batman notices the man he encountered as "Matches" Malone. As he observes, he wonders if it's worth it becoming the Batman, all he has been through. A man and his son are walking into the alley, and the man Batman is observing pulls out a gun and demands the family's money. Batman strikes.

The mugger decides to shoot the father, only for Batman to swoop in like a vengeful angel.

I keep thinking that panel should have "REKT" as a sound effect, because that's exactly what happened to that mugger. Batman growls to him that criminals like him created and deserve the Caped Crusader's wrath. Batman ties up the mugger and hangs him from a lamppost. He tells the family to call the police and essentially wishes them well. I actually really like that little detail. I don't think you see little things that much in Batman comics anymore. Batman should ideally only want to scare criminals, not innocents. Him wishing the family well shows that to them, he's a protector.

He swings away, deciding that...yeah, being the Batman is worth it. If it can allow Bruce Wayne to prevent any more tragedies like he had to suffer through, then being the Batman was worth it.

But it does leave one question remaining. When the time comes, can he hang up the cowl and walk away? Honestly, based on the modern interpretation of the character, I think we can Not if he can help it. He's that obsessed. the version from recent comics.

This issue is...perfectly fine. The mugger story is a simple one, but the focus is really on the flashbacks talking about Bruce Wayne's past and history before he became the Batman.

What I thought was clever was that the flashbacks all had different "tints" to them, and one could argue they were symbolic. The flashbacks to Bruce's childhood before his parents die are golden-tinted. It gives off the idea we're looking at an old film, a nostalgic time. It's the only time one could argue that Bruce was ever truly happy. The ones depicting his parents' death are done in shades of pink and red, seemingly emphasizing the blood the Waynes shed. The flashbacks of Bruce's training to become Batman are done in blue, which I think could be symbolizing the gloom that Bruce lived under after his parents' death, and arguably still does in a way. And maybe it's also a nod ot the blue in Batman's suit at the time. No idea why the flashbacks to Bane breaking Bruce's back in Knightfall are done in green, though. May it represents illness?

I also liked that this issue got to show Batman being a detective. Sometimes, I do think his fighting skills can be overly emphasized at times, so it is nice to remind readers he does have a brain to go with his fists and feet. As for the's perfectly fine. I have no real complaints about it. It's very well-done.

Next time, it's October, baby! As such, we'll check in on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange as they deal with the menace of Xandu and the Wand of Watoomb...

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