Batman Volume 4: Zero Year – Secret City Review



Batman Volume 4: Zero Year – Secret City can be a confusing considering how it follows Volume 1 – Court of Owls, Volume 2 – City of Owls and Volume 3 – Death of the Family in the trade paperback numbering. Zero Year was a crossover storyline which re tells various characters beginnings (Batgirl has a Zero Year issue in ‘Wanted‘) and Secret City is the first. Secret City is the retelling of Bruce Wayne and Batman’s crime fighting beginnings, intended to be treated as a ‘fresh’ story. Think of Zero Year as the New 52‘s version of ‘Year One‘ and you’ll be fine.

Inside the Zero Year storyline are three arcs, ‘Secret City’, ‘Dark City’ and ‘Savage City’. Zero Year – Secret City includes ‘Secret City’ and the start of ‘Dark City’.

Batman: Volume 4: Zero Year – Secret City trade paperback (the book under review) collects Batman #21-#24 and Batman Zero Year Director’s Cut #1.

Key Information

Book Name Zero Year – Secret City
Book Series Batman, New 52
Edition Reviewed Collected Edition (TP)
Year Published 2014
Originally Published 2013
Writer(s) Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Artist(s) Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Rafael Albuquerque
Pages 176
Issues 4
Where to Buy Amazon
Previous Death of the Family
Chronology Next Zero Year – Dark City
Buy Zero Year - Secret City
1,515 Reviews
Buy Zero Year - Secret City
  • Snyder, Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 10/07/2014 (Publication Date) - DC Comics (Publisher)

Batman Volume 4: Zero Year – Secret City Review

Batman #21: Zero Year – Secret City Part One Review

#21 starts by letting the readers know when this took place- 6 years ago. Presumably this means 6 years before the events of Death of the Family. Gotham City is a wasteland and it looks great, reminds me a lot of The Last of Us. Batman is in his very young career in the opening scene and has either not established his full suit yet or he has simply not been able to keep up the maintenance. Either way, it’s a short and sweet look at what Zero Year has in store for us as we are then taken even further back in time  to 3 months before that.

The opening scene is amazing, the art and the brightness of the City during the day makes it look like a completely different place, then we get to see Bruce doing an incredible but stupid stunt before a hilarious one finger salute to the Red Hood (not Jason Todd) and his gang. Talk about making an entrance. Clearly, Bruce has started to fight crime already and trying to get under the skin of the criminals. Red Hood is an interesting one to start with as we’d all assume that this could well be the Joker-before-he-becomes-Joker.

Snyder’s establishing what kind of beginnings his version of Bruce had. He’s a lot cockier and brash than the Modern Age equivalent and with access to much higher tech – this Bruce is clearly the Bruce for the Millennials. Bruce dons a hat which very much resembles the Robin ‘R’. I wonder how many nods the Bruce’s of the past we’ll see, almost straight away we get to see the famous giant penny not in the Batcave. Snyder makes it clear that Wayne Industries and taking it over after being away for so long is not a blip on his radar. Here’s back for something else and I’m sure we can all guess what.

Uncle Philip isn’t a character I’ve read at the moment but I am getting the impression all is not what it seems with him, Bruce seems to be taken aback by him as well and is quite blunt about how not so close their relationship was and is in the present (of this part in time). What I like about the opening issue is that Snyder hasn’t tried to re write the past but evolve it, add more to it; we see towards the end of the issue the beginnings of a plot line that is quite new, using old characters but very faithful to the Batman legacy.

The artwork is brighter in this issue than the three volumes before it, maybe it’s to hammer the message home that the ‘Dark Knight’ has yet to arrive – thinking of the brightness, the issue opened at dusk which is the light before the dark…hmm.

Batman #22: Zero Year – Secret City Part Two Review

Zero Year – Secret City begins with perhaps another nod to Year One by having a story which includes members of the Falcone family. ‘Red Hood One’ whoever it may end up being is a well spoken, confident villain who seems to be very resourceful and cunning and with a great following. Pre-Batsuit Bruce is almost a parallel who is just as quick to make a joke during a tense situation.

The one thing that’s obvious at the moment with this version of young Bruce is that although he’s brave and brash, he doesn’t seem to have a clear plan of how to deal with the situation from start to finish, he is almost behaving like a young Nightwing before Bruce has properly trained him. This is quite a fresh book to read for this reason as reading how Batman uses his experience to get out of a situation can get a bit boring if you read one like that one after another. Perhaps this is why DC put Zero Year after a few issues rather than at the start.

Perhaps the greatest example of how Snyder’s blending a new vision of Batman with the existing legacy is when a child Bruce drops down his fathers shiny 360 camera down what is presumably the future Batcave…

The dodgy Uncle Philip exposes the fact that Bruce Wayne is not actually dead to Bruce’s disdain, before he tries to leave he has a chance meeting with an Edward Nygma and Capullo’s put in a a really cool full page mock snakes and ladders board game which has a conversation or an image in each panel, a very cool feature and one I don’t think I’ve seen before. I hope Snyder does a good job with Nygma as I find that Riddler’s written as a harmless joke character in most Batman books I’ve read. It’s cool that Bruce solves the first ever riddle given to him, I didn’t even realise it was one until it was solved. Well played, Snyder.

It ends with one of those cliffhangers you know doesn’t have a tragic end but all in all the second issue continues with a really well played origin story which brings the old and the new together.

Batman #23: Zero Year – Secret City Part Three Review

Bruce is in quite the pickle here and memories of his time falling down the cave appear alongside him. In a somewhat surprising scene Bruce spits on Red Hood One, an act I wouldn’t expect Batman to ever do and perhaps a reminder that this Bruce is very rough around the edges and has a lot of growing up to do.

There are a lot of reds and yellows in this scene which emphasise, to me, the heat and stress of what Bruce is going through as the Red Hood One beats the snot out of him while explaining how they’re not so different the pair of them – many have said that Batman and Joker are the opposites; we’ve yet to find out if Red Hood One even is the Joker yet but if he is then this is a great nod to their future encounters. “Here’s to symmetry” is the Hood’s last words before he leaves Bruce to his fate.

When it all comes to pass, Bruce’s face is bruised and bloody and looks very realistic. Zero City has so far been very real, gritty and brutal and it is summed up by the story state Bruce is in. Snyder’s not afraid of crossing the line from time to time with his Batman (spitting at RHO for instance) and Capullo has not been afraid to really show what a man should look like when he’s been battered by medieval weapons.

In the final few pages of the issue Sndyer and Capullo change the pace completely from the inferno to the dark halls of Wayne Manor as Bruce’s crying out for guidance. It’s a moment which will raise the hairs of any Batman fan seeing what’s about to happen and the realisation something has. Once again, Snyder uses the best parts of Batman’s legacy into his new vision of the man who’s about to become The Batman.

Batman #24: Zero Year – Dark City Part One Review

Seems odd that Zero Year – Dark City begins in Secret City considering the next trade paperback volume is actually called Zero Year – Dark City but I guess Volume 4 would be very thin if it ended on 3 issues in and less than 100 pages, but I digress.. Alfred has forgiven Bruce’s outburst, shaved his head and moved down a whole smelting plant into the cave… plausible? Not likely. Does it need to be plausible in a Batman book? Not really…

Some time seems to have passed since #25 as some of Red Hood gang members are finally given a proper voice after they discuss someone taking seven members down the night before, presumably the ‘new’ Batman has properly emerged. Doing this has increase the anticipation of finally seeing Batman in Volume 4 in full gear, if we had seen him slowly make his mark it would not have had the impact.

Batman shaving his head is a breath of fresh air, typically in Batman books for decades Bruce Wayne has the same look about him every time. His new, drastic, cut makes him look like a completely different person – matching his completely different personality in Zero City and I love it.

Bruce forgives Phillip for his stupidity which shows that Bruce is still mature inside despite his reckless behaviour at times in the book. He’s made it clear that he wants to fix Gotham and rid them it of the Red Hood gang. He does this at the new Batcave which at this point is just a few laptops and a rope ladder inside, humble beginnings. Batman’s not the only one with humble beginnings, James Gordon, not yet the commissioner, has just got his first ‘shit job’.

The zoom image on Bruce’s face is striking, he’s unrecognisable from his usual mug, but there’s a steely look in there. Bruce’s big speech is inspirational to everyone, more so because at this point it’s a foreshadowing, the reason why Batman isn’t wanted – but needed. Zero Hour reminds us, by going right to the beginning, that Gotham is a great city that challenges people to become better if you just keep working at it. The confrontation between the Red Hood and Bruce Wayne is yet another showing of the bravery of Bruce Wayne and his intelligence in being able to analyse the motives of his enemies and break them down – making them appear less than what they are. Snyder’s on fire in Zero Year – Secret City.

There’s another nod during the big confrontation where Reed Hood One has a giant high calibre pistol…and in a frantic and epic final confrontation between Batman, the Red Hood Gang and Red Hood One it concludes in a familiar way with a vat of toxic chemicals. However, in this version of events he did not fall in accidentally.

A truly phenomenal issue with incredibly engaging writing that pulls you in and never let’s go. It’s a pulse pounding issue from start to finish and even though most of it will be very familiar to everyone it still feels like the first time. Wow.

Batman #24 (New 52) is a double issue and continues with different artwork from here on in. Bruce Wayne’s head is noticeably stumpier and overall it’s a lot more sketchy than previously. It’s a short second half which serves as the basis of the next villain, Riddler, and presumably what he’s done to cause what happens in Zero Year – Dark City.

Bruce Wayne in… Where The Hell Did He Learn To Drive?!

A very short bonus story is right at the end showing Bruce’s brief time at 19 years old bringing in a murderer in some style during a high speed chase.

Bruce Wayne in…That One Time

The second of three very short stories recalls the time Bruce at 21 learning with some mad russian how to work with gadgets and to be a creator to get out of impossible situation.

Bruce Wayne in…The Pit

The final of the three short stories covers Bruce at 24, fighting in a pit to hone his fighting skills.

Buy Zero Year - Secret City
1,515 Reviews
Buy Zero Year - Secret City
  • Snyder, Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 10/07/2014 (Publication Date) - DC Comics (Publisher)


Batman: Zero Year – Secret City is a phenomenal collected edition and a superb storyline with great writing and artwork which brings to life a new vision on the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne’s beginnings. It also offers a fresh take on the original Red Hood (doesn’t explicitly say it’s the Joker). Volume 1, 2 and 3 all scored excellently from us at the Gotham Archives review and volume 4 continues that trend and earns Snyder and Capullo another max score from us.

Score : 5/5

Zero Year – Secret City Gallery

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