The front cover of Batman #27 is misleading; we expect to see Batman come toe-to-toe with Doctor Death once more in this episode, in a way that would end his arc within the Zero Year storyline. That would be expected, or even typical, which is why I am pleased to write that this is definitely not the case. Instead, we are presented with a book concerned with three key issues: Bruce’s relationship with Alfred and Gordon barely resembling what it is today, an earlier and younger Batman at moments of real vulnerability, and a villain truly coming into their stride.
Firstly, however, I must yet again state how lavish, rich and consistently strong Greg Capullo’s artwork is. The artwork of this series alone merits buying it; Capullo uses incredibly detailed, thorough and careful line-work which forms such a clear and realistic image that you could be forgiven for forgetting that we are reading about a universe filled with superheroes and villains with physics-defying powers. This beauty is consistent throughout, such as the silhouette of Batman lurking on the power lines with a bolt of lightning illuminating the hem of his cape, the fangs of the tormented dogs tearing into Gordon, and even the book’s opening image of soldiers being sung to by a beautiful woman singing to raise their spirits. In fact, this opening page is, in my opinion, one of the strongest parts of this issue. It is never explained or expanded upon, it only functions as thematic foreshadowing, alluding to key concepts of Batman such “fearful” “tonight” and “the light of the pale, pale moon”, the last line echoing Jack Nicholson’s Joker asking “Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” In short, I believe that show that comic books truly are works of art, both literary and visually.
In terms of plot, #27 again expertly redefines and reinvents Batman’s long history in a way that is fresh but doesn’t feel at all wrong. Gordon explains to Bruce that he doesn’t wear his beige trench coat because he was bought out; he wears it for the exact opposite reason, as although he could not stop the corruption of Gotham’s “finest”, his wearing it reminds all the corrupt that he has not forgotten their corruption and will not be party to it. Snyder, as always, gives us an answer we couldn’t have seen coming. On top of this, Alfred provides a new take on why Bruce has dedicated his life to being Batman. “You asked me why you keep me here, and I believe it’s not to watch over you, sir, but to watch. To watch you do what I couldn’t.” Alfred often has these strong, emotive speeches, but this issue shows that these are in no risk of becoming stale. Alfred will always be the father figure that wanted better for Bruce, and his use here is genuinely touching.
Finally, the villain of this issue. At long last, The Riddler is setting his question-marked plans and traps into action. And, although this is a prequel saga and therefore Bruce logically must survive, I’m interested to see how he gets out of this one.
This issue is, in a nutshell, utterly fantastic.
Reviewed by Josh Clayton