Batman Zero Year- Secret City: A Reluctant Bruce Wayne (Book Review)

Sure, this is about Batman, but this is even more about Bruce Wayne. Before Gotham arrives on your television this fall!

The origin of Batman has been told before. Whether it’s Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan on the big screen, or Frank Miller, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, or Greg Pak. So, I almost cringed when I opened my latest Scott Snyder Batman graphic novel and discovered… he was writing an extensive Batman origin story. Really, another one? But I should’ve known better. This is Scott Snyder, who has taken his American Vampire success and parlayed it into an epic Batman run complete with a Court of Owls, old villains in a new way, and a must-have run of Batman stories. This is an origin story unlike anything we’ve seen before.

After the long, expected adolescent-to-adulthood absence (which has colorful vignettes displayed in an assortment after the main story), Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham and his childhood caregiver, Alfred Pennyworth. But in opposition to Alfred’s advice, he wants nothing to do with Bruce Wayne. His anonymous crime fighter looks more like Matches Malone than it does the Dark Knight, and he refuses to announce his return “socially” as Wayne, eschewing life in Wayne Manor for a townhouse on Crime Alley.

What emerges is a mystery that rivals Detective Comics, as our crime fighter finds himself up against the Red Hood gang, and matching wits separately (parallel?) with Edward Nygma. He’s trying to figure out who he is, and what role he should play in his dual lives. It’s the opposite of Christian Bale’s Batman or Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man: he has to recognize that as a pillar of the community, that he has an obligation to take leadership responsibility as Bruce Wayne. Yes, Batman is epic and important, but Snyder’s story seems to imply that all of us have a moral, civic responsibility to stand up and be counted where we are.

While I found the stories to be clever twists on my old favorites, I found the art by Greg Capullo to be just as fantastic. I can appreciate a lukewarm story with good art, but this is good art that tells a story. Images of the bat, hints at developments in the story later (Nygma’s cane in shadows, etc.), are mixed with clues in the text that foreshadow the way the story will unravel. This deserves to be purchased, read and re-read, both to see the development of a hero’s psyche and the story of the rebirth of a city. This is the story of a community terrorized by evil, corrupted by fear, that makes a recovery because a good man refuses to do nothing.

Fans of heroes, of art, of comics, of the Dark Knight need to borrow, beg, … they must read this. Before Zero Year Dark City arrives in October!


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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