Thursday, September 20, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #0 and Batman & Robin #0

Zero month has been a really good idea. There, I said it.

I was a huge fan of this idea, especially for the Batman universe, which has been in the midst of trying to make sense of this whole "Batman has been around for six years" thing.

Detective Comics #0 gave us the first glimpse of it when they showed Bruce in training 10 years before the current setting.

It did leave a question as to how 10 years ago could be his LAST part of training, but that can be reasonably explained away. The last part of training could have been the toughest, and therefore taken 3-4 years; or, he could have finished in a year but then spent a few years honing everything into one complete package.

The #0 issue for Batwing was genuinely unexciting, and served more as a "Oh, did you know there was a Batman of Africa? Here he is!" kind of issue.

Anyway, on to the histories of the two core characters in the Bat-family:

Batman #0

This book had two stories in it, and as good as Scott Snyder has been, James Tynion IV produced a side story that feels like something that should be one of the opening scenes of the next film incarnation of Batman.

In the main story, readers are taken back to six years before the main story, just before Bruce became Batman. Instead, he is combating crime through a variety of disguises.

This story shows him taking on the Red Hood Gang, which in this continuity is revealed to be a little different than most know. It's made very clear that the eventual Joker is under the main mask, but he actually appears to be the main guy here instead of the fall guy.

I really don't mind this shift because Joker acknowledged in The Killing Joke that he doesn't remember the details of his descent into madness perfectly.

Anyway, I enjoyed seeing Bruce infiltrate the gang and his escape via motorcycle into... a base right next to where his parents died.

Bruce already acknowledges that the Bruce Wayne identity is his mask here, which is good, but I kind of wish there would be more of a struggle between his identities in the New 52. So far, the only showing of it has been in the Batman: The Dark Knight book during its first few awful issues.

Moving on, though, I really enjoyed Bruce's encounter with Lieutenant Jim Gordon. Seeing the initial distrust with each other will draw a contrast to Batman's good relationship with him in the present. I haven't seen much of Bruce and Jim communicating, so an issue on their relationship might be pretty interesting.

My biggest issue with this issue is that it ends with a "To be continued in 2013" tag. 2013?! I have to wait that long to know what happened on this mission?

Then again, it makes sense. This shows an early Joker right before he returns next month, so I could see something in that first encounter connecting to this upcoming arc and being brought up.

The backup is a pretty cut-and-dry story, but it is brilliant. It is about the first time the Bat-signal is used, and how the first three Robins respond to seeing it and what they were doing at the time.

My main complaint (and seemingly everyone else's) is that Jason is beating his accomplice in a robbery for killing a bystander, and he isn't questioned for possibly being involved. But what really bugs me about it isn't the lack of questioning; it's that the accomplice KNOWS what happened and yet we don't see any indicator he says anything.

That is some ninja-martial arts to break a man's specific memories of what literally just happened. (Or just a severe oversight)

The highlight here, though, is how badass Tim Drake is. He's always had the least interesting backstory of the Robins, and geez, has he been poorly used in the New 52. But he's given a great degree of competence here.

Overall, the issue is a must-see and appears to have connections to the next arc, so definitely check it out.

Batman and Robin #0

This story is perfect for people (like me) who weren't regularly reading comics during the "Batman and Son" arc. For hardcores, it more or less just provides a lead-in for what you saw.

The weirdest thing about this is that Damian is not born the old-fashioned way, instead being born in a pseudo womb. I understand the logic in that Talia doesn't want to lose training time, but this was just bizarre.

Even more bizarre, though, is Talia's birthday gifts of beating up her son. He must win to meet his dad. I will say, though, I actually liked the montage of duels, though.

I'd go into how Bruce must have stopped by R'as al Ghul to train initially in order for Damian's 10-year existence to make any sense, but it works (sort of) so I won't knock it too hard.

Damian is made to be very competent here, and that's a good sign. The issue I hold is how a 10-year-old isn't being seriously damaged by all of this training. With the other Robins, the reboot has made them at least go through puberty, so Damian feels comparatively non-threatening here.

That said, Damian being obsessed with knowing who his dad is and coming across an old Batman cowl and running around in it is adorable. This book is really a test as to whether a person can suspend disbelief about children becoming monstrous threats before puberty or not.

The book ultimately led to a familiar set of panels that were seen in "Batman & Son," so a nice bit of fan service there.

Overall, it's a great jumping on point and if you like Damian's Robin, this is a good Damian-Talia story. I really think Damian divides Batman fans into those who like Robin, and it also divides by whether you want Batman completely grounded in realism or not.

Personally, I don't mind having to reach a little in my mind for this, and if 10-year-olds don't get physically crippled by training with assassins, then OK.

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