Opening in a style featuring large panels of artworks which fade in from obscurity is becoming a signature motif of the duo of Snyder and Capullo, and this repeated technique lets the reader know from the first page that, like the other ‘Zero Year’ issues of Batman so far, they’re in for a beautiful, thoroughly-written, informed and detailed chapter of one of DC’s best series’ right now.
And this issue does not disappoint. One of the strongest aspects of Batman #25 is the references to the breadth of Batman’s history such as the Golden and Silver ages, which have again been cropping up across the ‘Zero Year’ arc (my personal favourite being the panel of the previous issue, #24, which harks back to Detective Comics No. 27 of 1939). These references to classic Bat-myth include the Batmobile which, while not resembling a Batmobile as we would understand it as it lacks any visible bat-shaped physical features, is actually an allusion to the first Batmobile that existed, first appearing in 1941. Another is Batman’s suit within this issue, notably the cowl with larger, backwards-facing ears. It isn’t just history that makes this comic strong though, as it features strong moments of fast-paced action, Bruce’s growth as Batman, character interactions which reinvent the Bat-mythology in interesting new ways and the hiding-in-the-shadows detective work we’ve come to expect in Batman. So, everything we like to see in Batman. I also enjoyed that, while this issue is rich in history, it (like every other ‘Zero Year’ tie in) is definitely not an origin story, as this is the first issue across the arc which has even briefly mentioned the death of Thomas & Martha Wayne.
Batman #25 introduces an old villain to the storyline, one who I’m actually new to, called Doctor Death. Reading Doctor Death’s grotesque modus operandi and not having a clue towards his motives has undeniably contributed to my enjoyment of this issue. The final page portrait of this skeletal, disfigured villain is truly repugnant, rivalling the Joker’s torn-off face gruesomeness.
The true shining moments of this issue are not actually Batman moments as such, but they are based on character relationships with Bruce Wayne, not Batman. Firstly, Bruce has a great moment with Lieutenant Gordon (that’s right, he’s not commissioner yet…) outside the entrance to the Batcave, which is incidentally in a comparatively primitive stage of its development. What I found interesting about this dialogue between Bruce and Gordon is not only that Bruce and Gordon are clearly nowhere nearly as amicable as they become later in their lives, Bruce threatening Gordon as he tries to offer a reassuring hand in relation to the death of his parents when he was a boy, but that Bruce is not immersed in his cocky playboy persona and nor is he reflecting the brooding grimness of his inner self that we see him do constantly as Batman, he is actually having fun, here pulling a prank on Gordon by manipulating the bats to emerge from the cave just as Gordon peers into it.
The best part of this book? My honest answer has to be the twist involving Lucius Fox. Lucius is an incomparable ally to both Bruce and Batman, we know this, but as we see within this issue he abruptly turns on Bruce, stabbing him in the neck with a needle at the prospect of his “project” being investigated. I couldn’t help while reading this but to physically ask aloud: “How the hell are they going to come back from that?!” Here’s hoping time will tell.
In summary; utterly excellent, featuring brave twists and strong definition of character.
Reviewed by Josh Clayton