Batman Volume 5: Zero Year – Dark City Review

Overview

Batman: Zero Year – Dark City is the fifth volume in Snyder/Capullo’s New 52 run and the second Zero Year collection. If you’ve read Secret City then you’ll be familiar with the timeline being at the very beginning of Batman’s rebooted career and the impending disaster The Riddler causes to Gotham with a blackout. Batman/Bruce Wayne must take on the mighty Riddler with no gadgets, no power and no superhero friends. As you’ll soon find out, the critically acclaimed Zero Year – Dark City is a phenomenal book and one of the best you’ll ever read.

Batman, Volume 5: Zero Year – Secret City collects Batman #25-#27 and #29-#33. These are over two arcs – Dark City and Savage City.

Zero Year – Dark City Key Information

Book NameZero Year – Dark City
Book SeriesBatman, New 52
Edition ReviewedCollected Trade Paperback
Year Published2015
Originally Published2014
Writer(s)Scott Snyder
Artist(s)Greg Capullo
Pages240
Issues8
Where to BuyAmazon
Notable HeroesBatman
Notable VillainsDoctor Death, The Riddler
Chronology PreviousZero Year – Secret City
Chronology Next

Graveyard Shift

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176 Reviews
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  • DC Comics
  • Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
  • Publisher: DC Comics

Batman Volume 5: Zero Year – Dark City Review

Zero Year – Dark City depicts Batman in his very early days as the

Batman Iconic Pose
Batman Iconic Pose

crimefighter before the Batcave, Robin, Batmobile, Gadgets and even a final design suit. In Secret City we had a Red Hood (not Jason Todd) storyline and a glimpse of what Riddler was about to do. In Dark City we see the build up (Dark City) and the aftermath (Savage City) in one of the biggest and best Batman/Riddler storylines ever told, not just in New 52 and onwards but since Batman comics began. What Riddler does to Gotham is simply colossal and Nygma almost does what no super villain has done before and taken over the City completely while delivering Batman one of the biggest defeats he’s ever witnessed.

Dark City has some elements which are similar to Year One and No Man’s Land, Batman is fresh on the streets and just finding his way and Gotham City is a wasteland, locked away from the outside world (thanks to Riddler’s various toys). Sometimes, using previous storylines can backfire and many readers will be too familiar and find it predictable – this is definitely not the case with Dark City/Savage City. Dark City feels alive and everything is done for the first time, Snyder has had a great run so far with an established Batman and it’s argued (not just by me) that he’s even better with a young Bruce Wayne.

Doctor Death
Doctor Death

The first arc in the collection and third act in Zero Year, Dark City, is a completely balls-to-the-wall chase with a full on Batman deciphering and trying to stop Riddler’s endgame against a horrifying creature – Doctor Death. Uninspiring name, yes, great character – hell yes! Doctor Death was a seemingly unstoppable menace who seemed to get stronger after every encounter with the Dark Knight. Deep down, the good Doctor was having his strings pulled by the Riddler but Snyder still managed to make him a force to be reckoned with in his own right. Capullo also had the joy of drawing this grotesque figure who just kept getting more grotesque. Doctor Death isn’t exactly a new character as he’s been round a couple of times but this version is definitely new. Another example of Snyder’s excellent and effective use of past material.

During the action packed sequences, there are flashbacks to previous Bruce early days storylines where the GCPD are on Batman’s tail ignoring the bigger picture in the mysterious Wayne employee deaths caused by Death/Riddler. Snyder/Capullo also throw in paralleled flashbacks to Bruce’s parents death and Alfred’s questions over Bruce’s motives to do what he does. This is really old ground and we’ve all read it so many times but Snyder pulls it off very well and fits in perfectly to the story adding more to it rather than just padding it out.

Doctor Death Victims
Doctor Death Victims

The dream team continue their unbelievable work for the fifth volume straight with no signs of slowing down (in fact I’d say it keeps getting better) with a storyline that’s action packed, gripping and written so well I just couldn’t put it down as soon as I started it. I love Snyder’s established Bruce in the first 3 volumes and enjoyed the young, cocky and stubborn, young Bruce in Zero Year even more. What’s more, the colouring in Dark and Savage City is so bold and daring that it takes your eyes hostage going from page to page.

With the “end” of Dark City, Savage City then takes place where Riddler has got away with it – this in itself was a part I appreciated – Batman failed, big time. He may not have caused Zero Year but he was unable to stop it. If you’re bored of Batman always saving the day then you’ll really enjoy Savage City. This is a Batman who’s failed and has to get to terms with this and learn about one of his most famous traits in later life – never giving up. Something that keeps me reading Batman comics over all others.

Batman Dirt Bike
Batman’s Dirt Bike

Savage City is the best Riddler storyline I have ever read. I haven’t read them all but I’ve read enough to know the often is a bit of a parody (King Tut’s Tomb is an example) and a harmless character in a world of genuinely dangerous villains such as Joker or Bane. In Savage City he has all of Gotham under his complete and absolute control. The Gothamites are reduced to savages living off what they can find (like No Man’s Land) and there is no escape. All they’ve got it the chance to break free if they answer one of Edward Nygma’s devious riddles once a day. Batman has just recovered from the end of Dark City to try and save them all, but it is not an easy task and you see him use all of his training to pull it off.

Savage City is extremely entertaining in both the Detective Comics-esque investigative elements and with the excellent writing as we see Batman be put against Riddle for the first time (in New 52 of course). We’re also privy to the relationship between Batman and James Gordon improve positively as Gordon sees first hand that Batman is here to help and not quite the violent vigilante Commissioner Loeb wants everyone to believe. Savage City had

Batman vs Riddler Zero Year
Batman vs Riddler Zero Year

some flashback parallel elements in it much like Dark City did but this time they don’t quite hit so hard and do drift into padding territory. Saying that, it is still absolutely terrific.

Riddler, for me, was the star of the show with Batman as a supportive character and it worked. I love Snyder’s Riddler and I’d probably say he’s been the strongest villain of Batman New 52 so far. He has been written and drawn exactly as he should be – an arrogant genius and a genuine threat.

The end is excellent as we see Alfred exploring what could have been if Bruce Wayne had not put on the cape. It’s a little bit sad to see but nevertheless Bruce Wayne was never for a normal life, and now Zero Year is over he can really kick on to rebuild and kick ass.

Summary

Batman, Volume 5: Zero Year – Dark City is a phenomenal Batman book and one that should be on everyone’s shelf. Two strong arcs in Dark City and Savage City across 8 issues with incredibly wonderful and vibrant artwork makes this excellent value for money as you can probably get this on Amazon for about $12/£10. This book was so strong I had to re evaluate The Gotham Archives scoring system to be out of 10 as it is better than some others I have scored a 5!

Score: 9.5/10

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  • Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
  • Publisher: DC Comics

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Last update on 2017-11-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API