REVIEW: Batman: The Dark Knight #0

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Everyone knows the story of how Bruce Wayne was orphaned–parents killed in an alley by a lone gunman, pearls fall into the street, boy cries out to the heavens, etc. Now in The New 52, Batman: The Dark Knight #0 promises to reveal the conspiracy behind the Wayne killings. Major Spoilers finds out who orchestrated the madness just for you!

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #0
Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Pencillers: Mico Suayan and Juan Jose Ryp
Inks: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Cover: David Finch with Sonia Oback
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Batman: The Dark Knight: Batman fought through a weird supernatural cadre of villains and eventually met up with Bane, and now Scarecrow’s been terrorizing Gotham, but all of that’s irrelevant as this is a zero issue, so we’re dealing with BEFORE The New 52!

A CONSPIRACY AGAINST BATMAN’S ORIGINS

One of the things I’ve always found compelling about Batman’s origins is that it all happened due to a random act of violence. A faceless murderer gunned down Thomas and Martha Wayne due to a fluke mugging, not even necessarily knowing it was them. Eventually DC made the decision to give the murderer a name, and Joe Chill was born. Later things were retconned that the killing was part of a giant conspiracy against the Wayne family, and with Grant Morrison’s run on Batman and Batman and Robin, things got a little muddled.

Now we have the opportunity for a fresh start, and when I read the solicit for this issue that “The conspiracy behind the murder of the Wayne family” would be revealed, I was filled with dread (and not that 3D kind that I hear is in theaters right now). Gregg Hurwitz is a writer who I have a lot of respect for, and he had already done a good job on Batman’s origins with Detective Comics #0 earlier this month, but if he was going to set up Thomas and Martha’s death as part of some conspiracy (possibly tying into the Court of the Owls) I was going to be upset.

I’ll go ahead and spoil it now for you (this is Major Spoilers after all), there was no conspiracy. Bruce finds Joe Chill, and it turns out that Joe didn’t even know he had killed the Waynes until the next day. There was no elaborate plan–Chill just saw Martha’s pearls and knew that the young couple had money, and Chill needed money for more booze. It was just a random act of violence brought on by criminal desperation, and Batman was created entirely due to happenstance. This is exactly the way I like Batman’s origin to be; it’s why I accepted the Russian Batman in Superman: Red Son without questioning it–he was born of a random tragedy. It didn’t have to be Bruce Wayne, it could have been anyone who experienced the pain of losing their loved ones at a young age and internalized it in that specific way that drove them to right wrongs by putting on a costume. This is why Batman is one of my favorite heroes, and I let out an audible sigh of relief when I finished reading the Joe Chill scene near the end of this comic.

A CONSPIRACY AGAINST SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF

For the most part this issue is jam packed with believable elaboration on the years between the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne and when Bruce decided to train to become Batman. A young Bruce tries his hand at detective work and learns a valuable lesson about trusting people, losing his father’s watch to a bum in the process. When he is in college he’s still working as hard on connecting the dots of the conspiracy as he is at his studies and his athletic training. There are some nice easter eggs in the montage–we see a Talon costume on his dorm room bulletin board, tying in with his investigations into the Court of Owls. As Bruce turns 18, we see him once again try his hand at tracking down the man who murdered his parents, which leads into the two moments that took me out of this comic. He meets with the bum who’d taken his father’s watch years before, and for some reason the bum still has Thomas Wayne’s watch. I’ve known my fair share of homeless people, and it’s just not really believable to me that he wouldn’t have sold it in the interim. After that Bruce goes to a bar looking for Joe Chill, and in the ensuing bar fight a pool cue is swung that results in what appears to be an exploding head. I’m sure it’s just meant to be an explosion of blood rather than the whole head, but even then a pool cue wouldn’t cause that much blood to burst out of someone at one time. It’s really bizarre, and drew me out of the story for a full minute as I stared in disbelief.

Aside from that moment the art in this issue is really enjoyable; it’s not as nice as David Finch’s art, but if Suayan and Ryp are taking over for Finch as he transitions to Justice League of America, I won’t be disappointed.

BOTTOM LINE: ALMOST EVERYTHING I WANTED

Batman: The Dark Knight #0 had a lot to overcome with the frightening solicits, but the story it ultimately told hit on everything I wanted Batman’s origins to be. If it weren’t for the weirdness of the bum still having Thomas Wayne’s watch years later, and the head-bursting pool cue, this would be a five out of five star book for me. As it is, it still earns a great 4.5 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend picking up this issue for the new defining moment of Batman’s backstory. DC Comics and Gregg Hurwitz made the right choice with the direction they took here.

Rating: ★★★★½

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