This article was originally published at DC Infinite on June 26, 2014.
Batman #32 has a lot to accomplish. As the penultimate issue of “Zero Year”, it must not only set up the climax it has been building towards for more than a year, but must pull together the necessary information and revelations of ten previous issues. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo manage to not only accomplish these difficult tasks, but do so in an exhilarating manner. The result is an issue that is exciting to read and satisfactory to fans who have invested in “Zero Year.”
Snyder’s decision to start the story in media res helps create a brisk pace that does not let up. It’s a wise decision too, as there is a fair amount of exposition and jargon included in the comic’s initial sequence. Batman, Gordon, and Lucius are exploring the Riddler’s infrastructure from different perspectives. It provides an opportunity to not only explain the stakes of the finale, but also convey a lot of information and detail to the audience. Capullo makes this information dump palatable by positioning the characters in interesting places; allowing them to do exciting things while talking to one another. An explanation is supplemented by Batman riding the bottom of an elevator, making it considerably more enjoyable.
This continues throughout the issue. Batman moves between various challenges and traps, exploring more of the Riddler’s Gotham without slowing the pace. His struggles continue to rise in importance until the greatest stakes of the entire “Zero Year” story are revealed at the issue’s end. That is not to say that the exposition is without hiccups. One device is introduced and destroyed in the course of the issue with very little fanfare. The speech bubbles surrounding this particular plot device could have been removed to allow Capullo’s art more room to breathe.
Batman #32 features a lot of action, but it is not entirely focused on Batman and his allies’ charge through Gotham. Snyder is aware of the most important story elements to “Zero Year” and provides them with the space and gravitas they require. Batman’s relationships with Gordon and Lucius have been important throughout the story, and their teamwork here provides a nice conclusion to their shared growth. However, the most important significant relationship in this story has always been Alfred. Although he is absent from the pages of this issue, Bruce is given a page to reflect on their relationship and provide some catharsis. He acknowledges Alfred as a father figure and his impact upon Bruce’s growth into the role of Batman. The final words of the message he leaves for Alfred strike a high note for the issue emphasized by the entirely black panel they occupy.
It’s the payoff that makes long form storytelling worth the wait. When a plan comes together (or falls apart) the impact can be heightened far beyond that of a single issue. Snyder and Capullo reference plot points from as early as Batman #22 and it create a palpable sense of excitement when the issue concludes. Whether it is in the growth of relationships, elements of mystery, or physical conflicts between superheroes and villains, Batman #32 reveals that it has been building to this moment from the first pages of “Zero Year.” The final panel is a perfect cliffhanger, teasing at the final conflict of the story without revealing too much.
FCO Plascencia is the unsung hero of not only Batman #32, but all of “Zero Year.” His colors have provided a fresh take on Gotham City, a location that has been created and re-created by thousands of artists. Bright hues of pink and green have captured the insanity that lies beneath the city’s surface, while also playing up the fun nature of superhero comics. Changes between the three story lines of “Zero Year,” as well as transitions between the present and past, have all been marked by visual cues from Plascencia. His work on the final page is breathtaking and a testament to his contributions on Batman.
“Zero Year” began more than a year ago in June 2013. Comprised of twelve issues and three story lines, it is an epic Batman story in the same vein as The Long Halloween or Hush, but it’s shaping up to be better than either of those fan favorites. In its penultimate issue, Batman #32, sets up the story’s climax through rising action and callbacks. It builds on everything arranged in the previous ten issues and then ushers the reader and its protagonist into something new and mysterious once more.
This is how you prepare a great conclusion.