The review is a day late and I’m sorry for that, but chances are you were going to pick this book up no matter what anyway, right?

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Secret City: Part Two is an excellent continuation of what we saw last month. The plot doesn’t seem to be moving very quickly, but I think that what’s happening is interesting enough that the pacing shouldn’t bother too many readers. It’s not like we’re retreading the same-old stuff all over again. In fact, the only element of Batman’s origin that was “been-there-done-that” from this installment was a very, very brief glimpse at the moment young Bruce fell down into the cave.

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On the plus side, this flashback did give us one of the coolest images of the entire comic!

Swarm of Bats

This flashback is one of the very few weaknesses the issue had, not because it was poorly executed but because I felt that it was utilized in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was no fluid transition to such a flashback and really the events surrounding vigilante Bruce were interesting enough that the comic would’ve stood on its own just fine without a flashback or even a flash-forward. Speaking of which, there wasn’t an appearance by the purple-gloved Batman of the apocalyptic “Zero Year.” Even though the comic has an identical title page to what we saw in chapter one that showcased 3 teaser panels, the story is not structured to weave in and out of three different narratives. After reading issue #1 I felt like that level of non-linear storytelling was precisely what we were in for throughout the arc but Scott Snyder appears to have abandoned that concept with this chapter.

RooftopMeeting

Of course, outside the structure of this comic alone we have the greater tapestry of Zero Year which first began with the #0 issue that was released last September. A problem that occurs while reading issue #22 is that it’s now unclear where exactly issue #0 fits. While the scenes in #0 seemed to flow (from what I recall, let me know if you look over your own copy and see that the pages are time-stamped) from one to another over the course of a day or two, but after witnessing how issue #21-22 play out that simply can’t be. Was the bank heist from #0 the first meeting of Bruce and the Red Hood? When exactly did Bruce meet Gordon? I’ll explain myself better in spoiler tags since I don’t want to spoil anything for those skimming the article before heading to the comic shop.

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In issue #0, the meeting between Bruce and Gordon occurred before Red Hood stepped out of the cab and blew up the building. Since the bomb went off as soon as Bruce returned home from the museum in issue #22 and the world was unaware of his return until after that museum party, there was no time for Bruce to ever meet with Gordon prior to the explosion. The #0 issue has to be completely disassembled to fit the timeline of Zero Year. How exactly will this be collected when the entire story is turned into a graphic novel?

Other than those details, I found issue #22 to be thoroughly enjoyable. It had some of the best dialogue that Scott Snyder has ever written as well as some really amazing action sequences and a magnificent misdirect during a very foreboding scene with Bruce’s uncle Philip, who I think is shaping up to be a really interesting character. Speaking of the characters, Secret City has a really great cast right now. Not only am I digging the uncle, but Alfred has a great moment in this issue and I’m pleased to say that Scott Snyder is really doing terrific work with Edward Nygma. As I’ve said before, the key to Edward Nygma is that he must be written as incredibly arrogant and Snyder seems to really understand that. The Red Hood also shines in this comic, having some of the funniest and most memorable lines, and there are a few other surprise characters who I won’t spoil. However, we’ve still not seen anything from the Gotham Police, LESLIE THOMPKINS (if we get through all of Zero Year without any Leslie Thompkins, I’m gonna be furious), or Lucius Fox just yet but their absence isn’t really felt yet. What’s happening is interesting enough and plugging them in so soon might be too much.

One character whose voice may sound slightly off to readers is actually Bruce. This is because Snyder is showing us a much angrier Bruce who has a bad case of tunnel vision at the moment. He’s so focused on the goal of fighting crime that he’s not…minding his surroundings. He’s so busy being on the offensive that his personality is becoming that other definition of “offensive.” (English can be a fun but confusing language, eh?) So I think that Bruce’s behavior is understandable up to a point.

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Although, I must say, I would have thought Bruce would react better during the scene in which his uncle unveiled him to the world. During all those years of planning, Bruce should have had some sort of plan in mind of what to do in case someone in Gotham recognized him. He could have gone along with the moment and faked it a little so as not to attract even more attention and, worse, suspicion. But Snyder’s Batman, from what I’ve seen in Court of Owls and Death of the Family, isn’t much of a planner. He’s a far more reactionary Batman than others. Grant Morrison’s Batman, for example, would’ve likely had a plan B in mind and immediately recognized that he and his uncle weren’t alone in the museum. Hell, he would’ve probably known the museum trip was a setup in the first place.
Bruce sure is saying “dammit” a lot though. I know it’s a T-for Teens comic so there can’t be a whole lot of variety in his potty mouth but if Zero Year Bruce keeps it up he’ll start to sound more like Jack Bauer than Batman.

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Here are a few other things worth thinking about:

  • What does Edward gain by helping Bruce in his mission to bring down the Red Hood gang? Perhaps he’s lying? Perhaps he just wants to pit the uncle and nephew against each other either to try and find a way to take the company for himself or to simply prove that he’s smart enough to tear a family apart with nothing but hearsay.
  • The voice and body certainly match, but do you think that “Red Hood One” will indeed be the Joker or is Snyder going to pull the ol’ switcheroo when that moment at the chemical plant finally arrives?
  • If the Red Hood One is blowing up Bruce’s pad because he believes him to be the vigilante and this same Red Hood turns out to be the Joker, where does that put us on the whole “Does Joker know Batman’s identity” thing?

The character that’s made the biggest change though in Zero Year must be Gotham itself. As usual the art is gorgeous, but FCO has cranked up the brightness even further in this chapter. Purple has even been added to the palette! It might just be the most vibrant and cleanest looking Gotham I’ve ever seen. It looks beautiful but it’s definitely far from the traditional Gotham we all know. FCO and Capullo nailed the dilapidated and decaying atmosphere of Batman’s world in the previous two arcs, but this Zero Year thing… it really is a unique look at how Gotham began. Where’s the trash? Where’s the sense of danger? Where’s the street crime? It doesn’t look like that bad of a place except for Red Hood causing trouble. This is probably the aspect of Snyder’s new vision for Batman’s origin that piques my interest the most, honestly. Batman #1 opened with the question “Gotham is ___” and I find myself asking that same question again now.

Capullo and Miki knock it out of the park, as always, particularly with the issue’s final image and a really creative page that showcases storytelling that only a medium such as the comic book can deliver. Although Capullo didn’t get to draw Batman even once in this chapter, there’s no shortage of dynamic and compelling imagery on display. From the opening action sequence aboard one of Gotham’s many zeppelins (something I actually want to see in the next Batman movie… maybe I should make a list of these things) to the creepy feeling that comes from Bruce’s visit to a museum after hours, Capullo captures everything perfectly, is willing to try all new page layouts to keep it interesting, and… I’m really running out of ways to praise what he does, truthfully. There was an odd panel in Batman #2 and a confusing incident with a bat-gauntlet in Batman #14, but other than that I can’t think of any other time I’ve had anything to criticize about Capullo’s work.

Overall

It’s a must-buy. Great artwork, great appearance by Edward Nygma, memorable scene between Bruce and Alfred, dazzling action sequences… it’s a pretty fantastic issue all around. Some readers might find the whole thing to be moving a little slowly, be disappointed by the lack of attention to the other two timelines, or they could get aggravated by how issue #0 doesn’t seem to sync up with these new events but all in all I think any Batman fan should be able to pick this issue up and find something to appreciate and plenty to talk about.

SCORE: 9.5/10

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