Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).
On with the show.
This article will be about the recent Batman story Zero Year (and I’m condensing the two books into one single article here, because they don’t work separately – its a single story for sure, missing the start or the end would be a mess).
Having had a brilliantly sleepy day off work where I was too broken and tired to move much or leave the house at all, I decided it may be fun to write another one of these articles from the comfort of under my duvet – its absolutely freezing here at the moment so above it would be unrealistically, threateningly cold (shame I didn’t chose a Mr. Freeze related story, like ‘Snow.’) – and in order to do that I had to read some Batman, and I had been meaning to re-read this one because quite frankly I thought it majorly sucked when I first got it, and I was hoping I was wrong about it.
Long time readers may remember that when I first read the previous New 52 Batman by Snyder & Capullo story, A Death In The Family, I thought that it majorly sucked as well. I’ve since way mellowed on that story. Way mellowed to the point of thinking its actually pretty darn good. I like a lot about it and only the inconsequence of it after the hype was the main issue. Sure there are small faults, but there are small faults with every other Batman thing Snyder has done, like in the otherwise amazing Court Of Owls – the awful twist (luckily though that is one of those copout twists where you get to chose for yourself if its true or not, so at least you can half-live with its inclusion).
So yeah, usually I read a Snyder story, balk at some choice because I don’t like it, think the book is lame, then read it again knowing about the choice, and hey – it’s a good book!
Will this work for Zero Year?
Well… no not really. Because there is no such choice with this book. The choice is the book. The whole book. The pacing, the paneling, the tone. Everything.
No. Not everything. The artwork is first rate, phenomenal, exceptional – all the positive words you can think of. The book looks incredible and there are so many pages I love and want as a poster for the wall they’re that great. The red lightning? The colours when he’s making a Bat Symbol out of tied up villians? FUGGEDABOUTIT.
So yeah… the book, as a book for illiterate people is quite pleasant. But… the other aspects sink it.
This book is supposed to be a rollercoaster; an explosive action meets sci-fi adventure (it says so in the liner notes) with bold editing choices and all these sorts of things. How it works out in reality though is like Dillinger Escape Plan’s debut album as a comic book. Its jagged, abrasive, lacking in flow, removed from sensible structure and downright uncomfortable.
Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? I mean… here’s a guy who likes Prog saying “thing defies convention” – that must be good right? – Well, kinda no. There is a lot of good to be said for Zero Year… but the transgressive thing… that aint it. It’s a large detractor. This book would’ve been way better if it was three issues longer so they could fill in the darn blanks between scenes.
In comic books, I’ve come to expect that between two panels there is a certain minimum and maximum distance that can be crossed, a certain minium and maximum time that can pass… I’ve never thought about or quantified it until right now… all I can tell is that Zero Year disobeys the rules. Rule breaking is probably cool… I mean there’s a reason this blog is called King Crimson Blog and not AC/DC blog, right? But… y’know… “You Shook Me All Night Long” is one heck of a tune too, is it not?
This may just be a failing on my part, but struggling to know which panel follows which is not conducive to flow, as the time wasted searching interrupts the story. Also, in order to fit the word balloons, sentences are frequently reworded and end up feeling damn unnatural (assuming Snyder didn’t just write terrible dialogue – it feels more like medium-related compromise than a hack… and I know he’s not a hack because he writ’ Gates Of Gotham and The Black Mirror which are superb).
Also, the swearing bubbles should match the intended swear words otherwise you waste time guessing the swear and again the story stops flowing naturally.
But yeah… wah wah wah… I’m just a big baby who wants to be spoonfed mediocrity and never to feel uncomfortable. Or am I? Maybe this is just a poorly designed experiment that didn’t pan out. I don’t know… there’s one scene where the too-big gap ends with a vengeful foot on the riddler’s smug face… and in that instance the rule breaking leap actually caused me to laugh out loud… so… there’s that!
The first time I read it too I hated the idea that they are just doing another No Man’s Land and Dark Knight Rises movie idea… Gotham cut off, bridges uncrossable, civilization collapses. Its been done. Then I remembered a good story is a good story no matter what. Its not THAT similar to those other Gotham being cut off stories… and with one being a film and the other being pre-New 52, in this particular comic series it is an innovator.
All the machine gun robots and stuff felt weird and stupid for a set-in-the-past story, but when I thought deep there was advanced technology in all of the New 52 Snyder stories… so, ok I guess. And real life has Amazon drones flying mail across the country….so…
Oh. You know what else though… maybe I’m just stupid… but all the riddles sucked. Just my personal opinion but I wasn’t a fan of a single riddle in this book. Which is a shame for a Riddler story.
Also… Dr. Death’s motivation makes no sense. But… I’ve let Hush off with that..so… hmmm. Oh.. and throwing the “Red Hood One is clearly the Joker, oh wait, maybe he’s not” thing in was cheap. Of course he was… move on. No need to put in some half-baked mystery.
The thing I just hate about the book the most is just that it is too big for itself. The Red Hood Gang story starts halfway through… is plagued by cutaways and then ends with no consequence apart from weakly being tied to the next Dr Death story with a few lines of dialogue – which then that itself is all just a set up for the No Mans Land style bit which follows… so the first 2/3 of the story where a set up for a short-ass 1/3 that isn’t even all of it because its full of cutaways and has to have a resolution.
And in all that time, you’d think the Bruce Wayne character development and the relationships with Gordon and Alfred would have time to mature but no… if anything they feel rushed and weird… there’s just huge blustering conflict and swift unsatisfying resolution. While paradoxically, the main things about Batman being the city’s heartbeat and Bruce wanting to be someone else (BATMAN) are kind of subtle and understated, which feels wrong in a strange way since everything else was so overstated and hammy. Batman says I’ve failed and feels shame for not anticipating a different bomb plot!
And does Gordon’s coat NEED a damn backstory? Come on… its a coat. People wear coats. That’s all anyone needs. Where there legions of fans for the past 75 years going “if they don’t explain the origin story of that coat soon, I’ll stop buying comics”?
I think there was some brilliant stuff here, but it should’ve been about twice as long, with more structure, more background detail, slower pacing and less silliness (Bruce would never give someone the finger, surely? and why would you censor the phrase goddamn but not bastards? – and what kind of a line is “Gothamites are tough bastards, go figure” anyway?). And – ah, never mind. It feels like somebody took a whole new 12 episode first season of a new TV series called “SciFi Batman in an alternative past” (Catchy title, I’d buy that!) and condensed everything into just three comic books. And you just feel like “Dude, all the good bits are missing, they cut this wrong.”
Or maybe its Pulp Fiction and that’s the whole point. Maybe creating moods and asking audiences to write their own background and make their own stories is the whole point and I’m just a lame duck who wants something this was never supposed to be.
The backups of “Bruce Wayne In” stories were cooler than the main book. I’d love to have a whole book of just that but with it all designed from start to finish and told in chronological order, with a few side plots and stuff to flesh it out.
Oh wait… they invented the TV Show Gotham, right? Hopefully that will do just that. (Except it probably wont since its called Gotham, not Bruce Wayne training around the world).
What… the first half of Batman Begins still exists? Ok. Good. Maybe I’ll just watch that then.
***Abandoning my usual structure in favour of long diatribes and jumping off half-formed thoughts to unconnected ones – not an intentional parody of Zero Year, but a nice mirror nonetheless***
I went through the internet to get a sense of what other people were saying and if I was missing stuff. The professional reviewers certainly make it seem like a better story and act as if all the characther development was deep and important and not rushed and unsatisfying as I had called it.
The people however had often a few complaints, which were 1. It shouldn’t be so world-shattering for Batmans first adventure. Its his first outing and he has to overcome such a gigantic city destroying event?
2. It was too long.
I don’t get the whole “it was too long” thing.
I felt that it was about three or four issues too short and that there was too much missing information. It made you “assume what happened” between and before panels too much and never actually showed you, and while yes we’re all intelligent people and hooray for intelligence, it might’ve been nice to just have a complete story with more flow.
Zero Year to me felt like Snyder had written a really good entire tv show season and then only showed the highlights.
It ironically almost needs a prequel of its own.
Also, those backups of Bruce’s pre-Batman globetrotting training were a cool idea… how about someone writes a complete story of all that training from start to finish with a satisfying sense of development and the transitioning of Bruce from angry orphan to Batman. I’d buy that.
I also totally agree with the point that as a prequel it feels like the wrong story to tell. What… Gotham is that badly devastated right at the start? With no lasting impact? No Man’s Land lasted way longer and had a longer lasting impact and it was only the Government stopping people coming or going… not a resourceful supervillian controlling the weather and electronics for the whole city.
And how did they get rid of all the overgrown plants… agent orange? Its not as if the only thing that happened to Gotham was Riddler turned off electricity and turning it back on fixes things… he flooded it, used Poisen Ivy’s science to turn it feral and he knocked over multiple buildings with a bulldozer-crane. That shit aint fixed by turning on the power. (Sure Bruce says in a speach that there’s work to do… but essentially, y’know… New Orleans isn’t fixed six years later… so how is Gotham not still pretty screwed in Owls and DOTF?). I know I know, suspension of disbelief.
Oh… and another thing; was the Riddler really doing it all to find a solution to climate change, overpopulation and world hunger? I don’t buy that, doesn’t feel right. I like the Arkham videogames version of the Riddler as some twisted Saw style serial killer so utterly obsessed with proving his worth that it causes him to become violent. Maybe the climate change line was BS… like the way Bane told the people he was freeing them in the third Nolan movie… it was just something he said in public but wasn’t his actual motivation or plan. Maybe its that?
Actually… a climate change focused enemy might be cool. Maybe it should’ve been Poison Ivy instead?