This week, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and the rest of the Batman creative team brought their “Dark City” arc to a close as the Riddler’s plans for Gotham finally became clear, to a degree, as did Doctor Death’s own role in the proceedings. The first arc of the mega-story Zero Year was one of the best arcs that the team has yet done on the series since its launch. Secret City was a fascinating look into the early years of Bruce Wayne as he set on to become Batman, and his first villain, his first nemesis. But, Dark City has never really captured me the same way and this issue crystallised that for me.
Batman #29 is a decent issue on its own, but as part of Dark City and of Zero Year it does miss the mark because it doesn’t provide the same kind of closure to the arc that Batman #24 did for Dark City. There is a distinct lack of proper closure here, and the issue is just a “oh, so this is all going to happen and this is how it happens, and this is just transition so just wait for the next 4-issue arc”. It kind of works, yeah, but it doesn’t wow on any level. The art remains utterly fantastic, but it too goes sideways a few times.
It was announced a while back that Scott Snyder kept adding to the story in this issue and thus the art team needed more and more time to get all their work done. So instead of getting this issue’s story in Batman #28, we were going to get it here, and that Batman #28 would instead be a preview issue of the upcoming Batman: Eternal storyline and would show how Gotham is a few months from the current (i.e.) timeline. So we had a big gap on Dark City from Batman #27 to this issue. That one was quite a decent issue and I liked it, but I was also expecting Batman #29 to top it the way Batman #24 topped Batman #23. Which didn’t happen. This issue, touted as being the end of the Dark City arc, is anything but because it simply pushes off the Riddler’s role in Zero Year to the next arc, titled Savage City.
To be clear, I loved the individual narrative points here. Batman fighting Doctor Death in an air-balloon. Gordon confronting Nygma at the top of Wayne Tower. The GCPD’s efforts to restore power to the city. The internal rivalries at the GCPD between Gordon and Dan Corrigan. Doctor Death’s origin story (finally revealed). And so on and so forth.
But at the same time, they all failed to come together for the big finale. I just couldn’t buy it. In Secret City Nygma was the power behind the throne and the villain working in the shadows. At the end of the arc he revealed himself to Gotham and promised a really… tough time. But then he went on hiatus for three issues and now he comes back, and he still doesn’t really do anything. Sorry to say but it is as if Scott forgot about him in the intervening issues and remembered now to bring him back. Doctor Death got a good outing in this arc, but I think he deserved better than to be a misrepresented second fiddle.
And then we have the Bat-blimp. Yes, a Bat-blimp. Just like tha Batmobile or the Bat-bike or the Bat-plane and what not. I suppose the concept of it makes sense on some level, but once again, it was something that I just didn’t buy. Specifically because, as Alfred mentions, Bruce Wayne had already donated a number of blimps to the GCPD, and now we have the Batman with a humongous Bat-blimp. Secret identity connections anyone?
On the art side, Greg Capullo’s pencils, Danny Miki’s inks, and Fco Plascencia’s colours continued to be as good as before, minus that one issue we had a while back, which had the Zero Year debut of the (first) Batmobile. The flashback scenes in which Scott retells the story of Bruce’s parents’ murder was especially good, marked with all the distinct hallmarks of Greg’s work that has defined this series since its New 52 reboot. And even the rest of the issue, full of dark but vibrant colours, is just great in the art department. No real criticisms on that front.
Overall, not quite the issue I was expecting, but a decent “mid-arc” issue nonetheless. Get it for completeness, if nothing else.