Any casual fan could pick up part one of Zero Year’s Secret City or Dark City and grasp that this was a Batman origin, but show them part one of Savage City and watch their head spin! “What the heck happened?!” is what they’d likely say and it’s a question that Bruce Wayne is asking as well.
The book opens with a seemingly unrelated scene, much like those Tokyo Moon flashbacks that served as loosely hanging plot threads until issue #29 came around. It’s a dream sequence (or perhaps a flashback that mutated into a nightmare near its conclusion) to Bruce’s younger days and a nice nod to the character’s first romance from 1939. It ends abruptly and shockingly and then the reader is met with a map reminiscent of those from the No Man’s Land saga, a story which Savage City admittedly has quite a bit in common.
After reviewing the landscape we are returned to reality and our own astonishment is mirrored in the newly awakened Bruce Wayne’s reaction. He’s been out for months, having slipped into a coma following injuries sustained during Riddler’s devastating massacre of the entire city, but he hasn’t been recovering back at the cave. He had lost his cape and cowl during the flood and was taken in by a caring family who has been nursing him back to health as Riddler solidified his regime. Much of this issue is actually made up of painless exposition that details exactly what Nygma’s new world order is and how it operates. Now, I still don’t like that Edward Nygma killed thousands upon thousands to achieve his goal. I just don’t think that that’s in his character. But everything else about his villainous plot is fun and thought-provoking and I think writer Scott Snyder is shaping this up to be a pretty entertaining finale with a concept like this. Plus, seeing Riddler use the post-apocalyptic setting as a means of publicly humiliating others and stroking his ego day after day is definitely something I could imagine Nygma would do. More importantly though, I’m intrigued by Riddler’s excuse for giving Gotham a makeover. He’s shut off the power, allowed vegetation to overgrow with the help of Isley’s old formulas, and he’s planted cameras everywhere, even going so far as to station an all-seeing-eye that watches over his kingdom. Gotham has become a microcosm of all the worst possible outcomes of today’s economic, environmental, and governmental surveillance issues. He says he wants people to finally wise up and figure out ways to solve all these problems, as if he’s helping society in some twisted, extreme way, but it’s a lot more likely that he’s just making that up. Underneath it all, Edward Nygma is a maniac who just wants everyone to know that he’s better than them. So as you can see, I’ve come around quite a bit on Zero Year Riddler, but there is definitely one aspect of issue #30 that grinds my gears and it’s something that I imagine a lot will likely overlook or just not see what the big deal is, but I’ll go ahead and say it while I have the chance to do so: What the hell has Alfred been up to?
I would rather have seen him out helping people, much like Jim Gordon. Gordon, now bearded, is shown running around the city as one of the few signs of opposition left in this broken town, but Alfred? Alfred has no beard. Heck, he’s even still wearing his tux. He’s been sitting around the cave doing absolutely nothing. Bruce has been gone for months and Alfred thought he was dead! In the wake of that tragedy he’s surrounded by all this bad-ass crime-fighting equipment and you’re telling me he’s doing nothing? The world is coming to an end and Alfred is doing nothing? Alfred’s not going to sit on his thumbs. He’s going to honor his master and avenge the death of the child he raised as his own by using all this tech at his disposal. THAT’S your story. THAT’S what Alfred should’ve been doing. He should’ve been championing the cause and building the myth of the Batman more than ever before, thus solidifying his commitment to Bruce’s war. Hell, you could’ve even had Alfred be against the Batman concept for Zero Year acts 1-2 and it’s this moment here where he believes Bruce sacrificed himself as the Batman to save the city that makes Alfred give himself to the crazy idea of capes and cowls wholeheartedly. Damn. If I could change just 2 things about Zero Year it would be that Alfred would play a bigger role and the first Batmobile would’ve been the car we saw Thomas Wayne working on in that issue #21 flashback.
Anyway, enough of me ranting about how much I wish Alfred had a better part. My other complaint would be that the issue features too many instances of deleted expletives. “*#$!” sort of things. I find them annoying and they often times take me out of the story for a moment because I’m just trying to figure out what curse word would actually fit within the dialogue. They’re a distraction. I would also note that while Gordon and Batman are awesome in this issue, everyone else isn’t. Yeah, this sort of goes back to my Alfred point, but I grow tired of Gothamites being so pitiful and there’s also an appearance by what has to be the most worthless team of commandos. Ever. You’ll know ’em when you see ’em. But other than those points, it’s a really exciting comic and a great way to start off the final act of Zero Year. Batman may not show up again until late in the game, but the level of action on display on those final pages is very promising.
Speaking of action, none of those visuals would be possible without the work of Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO. I find myself flipping through issue #30 more than others, because I like picking apart all the little details of the buildings. Despite the word “City” being prominent in the title of all three acts, it’s Savage City that really puts all the characters out on the street. You’ll find yourself pouring over these panels, examining the minutia of the dilapidated buildings. The colors are also at their brightest it seems and many pages actually feature a pure white backdrop to emphasize the fact that much of the issue takes place in broad daylight. However, while these colors are just as dazzling to the eye as they were in acts 1 & 2 they don’t feel as appropriate now that the city is… well, kind of dead. I guess a part of me was hoping that the flashy colors of the city that we were in awe of in those first chapters would fade from Gotham and rush to its crime to symbolize the change-over that occurs once Riddler rose up as the first great super-villain. Oh well. I would also add that while I’m often (always) praising Capullo’s pages, I did find one page involving Riddler taunting the city to showcase some rather miniscule panels. One shot in particular of a man falling through a trap door was much too small in my opinion. There was so much going on during that page across so many little panels that a really cool scene didn’t have the impact that it should have. Still, that’s a pretty minor complaint, as issue #30 remains one of the best-looking books I’ll surely read this month.
- You’re a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories
- The Riddler is your all-time favorite villain
- Capullo’s art always makes you happy
- You like seeing Jim Gordon get his hands dirty (Where the heck has Harvey Dent been during all of this?!)
It’s definitely different! Whatever parallels could be drawn between Zero Year and Year One are thrown out the window in the first issue of Act III: Savage City, which has more in common with I Am Legend than any Batman origin story.