With their first arc of Zero Year, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo delivered something wonderful. With their second arc, it felt as if they had kind of lost their way a little bit since it felt less focused and less… immediate. While their entire run on Batman thus far has been nothing short of spectacular, with Zero Year they went big and delivered some amazing stories and dealt with some classic Batman villains. I loved the first arc, second arc not so much. But I remain a fan because Scott is usually a damn good writer and because Greg Capullo and Co. are all similarly amazing, usually.
With Batman #30 the creative team begins its third and final arc of Zero Year: Savage City. The Riddler is now in control of Gotham and things have changed big time. No more heroes. Gotham is an island, cut off from the rest of country and struggling to survive. This is the Gotham that Batman aka Bruce Wayne wakes up to after the disastrous events of the previous arc, and things are gonna get a whole lot worse before there is even a slimmer of hope that they will get better. And as always, the art is good, but it felt a bit too colourful and overdone in some places.
In a year that celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Great Detective, Gotham’s Dark Knight, Batman #30 seems to be a rather tepid issue. I loved the framing context of the story and how the Riddler has come to be the top dog of Gotham in its yesteryear, but it all felt too ordinary. There was no… zest to things as I remember the from the first arc, which featured the Red Hood Gang. Part of that, possibly, is that the Riddler has been so ever-present in this entire meta-arc since the beginning that for the reader he just isn’t all that scary any more. He didn’t show up so much in the second arc, and that was one of my criticisms since it was as if he had disappeared, only to reappear at the end of things.
This issue is largely a catch-up issue. The pacing is slow, almost absurdly slow, and nothing really happens except that Batman meets Jim Gordon and the small team of special forces troops that have ‘chuted in to Gotham. I mean, that’s really the most exciting part of the comic, and it just doesn’t give me any good feels for the characters and the story. I felt bored and sleepy, still do, as I am writing this review.
Scott and Greg and Co. have usually been on very good form throughout their entire run, but with this issue things seem to be below par. The character development is thin. There is a reference to some girl from Bruce’s college days or something. Alfred and Bruce are struggling to make sense of what is happening to Gotham. There’s a wisecracking kid who seems to be Batman’s newest hanger-on. And so on.
I mean, there really isn’t anything here to fire up the imagination. I suppose that’s also because I am so tired of this long event. Unless I am mistaken (which is possible!) this entire meta-arc was supposed to be no more than 10 issues, if that. But instead we have three mini-arcs of 4 issues each and in the middle of them we also had a filler issue that dealt with the Batman: Eternal story and was set in Gotham’s future rather than its past. The event has been going on for far too long and the main villain has arrived too late.
Greg Capullo is the penciller once more, with Danny Miki as the inker, Fco Plascencia as the colourist, and Steve Wands as the letterer. As usual, the art is pretty top-notch with some wonderfully expressive characters and some great colours. But at the same time, there are a few pages that have too many colours mixed in and thus appear to be a collage of different scenes and images. It is distracting in the extreme. One thing I find strange is that Bruce has a full head of hair, but none on his face, despite the fact that he’s been unconscious for months. But other than all that, good decent work.
Overall, this is one of the more disappointing issues of the entire series, largely because this is a catch-up issue and little more than that.