Comic Book: Batman Zero Year

Batman: Zero Year is a major comic book storyline set in the DC Universe, spinning out of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's relaunched Batman title. It is a reimagining of Batman's origin story, explaining how Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl for the first time and how the Dark Knight became Gotham City's greatest protector in the New 52 continuity.

Consisting of three acts (Secret City, Dark City and Savage City), it depicts Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham City after years of absence and his first attempts at crimefighting, as the city descends into the brink of destruction during a catastrophe: as a terrifying superstorm comes raging, the city's first supervillain The Riddler shuts down all electric power and leaves the citizens to their all means against the storm in the dark, plotting a mysterious plan. Amidst the panic and chaos, the legend of Batman begins.

The year-long arc lasted from June 2013 to July 2014 in the Batman title, with a prologue in the form of September 2012's #0 issue. During the second act of Zero Year, many other titles had their 25th issue as a tie-in depicting their (at the time non-superhero or villain) characters during the storm and blackout in Gotham: Action Comics (focusing on an early, cocky Superman), Batgirl, Batwing, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Detective Comics (focusing on Gordon and the GCPD), The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps (focusing on John Stewart as a marine), Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

This Comic Book storyline contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Implied to be the case with Batman and The Joker in the last part of "Secret City". In the third chapter of the arc, the Red Hood Gang leader tells Bruce how it was the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and the terror that the deaths of these prominent citizens to a random mugging sparked in the minds of most Gothamites, that inspired him to turn to a life of crime and similarly terrorize Gotham. The Red Hood Gang leader is implied to be the future Joker, resulting in this trope.
    • In a more tangential sense, circumstances resulting from Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham set Edward Nygma down the path to becoming the Riddler.
    • And, in the inverse, as revealed in the finale, Bruce Wayne was this to his rogues, as he also went to Arkham Asylum. The difference that makes him a Shadow Archetype is that he actually tried to change and went there to get better, and didn't treat it as a prison.
  • Adaptive Ability: Dr. Death's bone-regeneration serum causes his bones to rebuild in distorted ways every time they are broken. However, he can only do this so much, and when he finally dies, it's because the regeneration has caused too much damage.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: How the Batman is ultimately played out by Bruce Wayne. Though the deaths of his parents were meaningless, their lives were beyond meaningful, and he aims to celebrate and protect life through the shadows, not revel in and perpetuate death. This is what he learned when he was about to shock his personality and identity out of himself through electroshock therapy at Arkham Asylum before becoming Batman.
  • Big Bad: The Riddler is the overall Big Bad.
    • For the first section, the Red Hood Gang takes the duties more directly. Riddler is busy setting up his plan, barring paying them to attempt an assassination on Bruce Wayne.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gotham is saved (although it still needs to be rebuilt), the Riddler is under arrest, Batman is accepted by Gotham City as its biggest hero. At the same time, Bruce realizes this is his place, what he needs to be from now on, giving up on any chance of having a normal life and anything that comes with it. When Alfred talks about the joys he will never know as a lonely vigilante, Bruce simply says that he's not meant to.
  • Body Horror: Dr. Death's serum causes this, making the bones grow harder and larger until they burst through skin and kill the victim or the body gives out due the skeletal deformation. Death himself qualifies, since his exposition to an old version of the formula left him as a bone-covered monstrosity that gets worse with every wound he gets.
  • Book Ends: Bruce Wayne and Edward Nygma meet each other for the first time in the sphinx room at the museum. The Riddler's lair, where the final showdown between him and Batman ultimately takes place, is... the sphinx room at the museum.
  • Criminal Mind Games: In a story with the Riddler as the Big Bad, it couldn't be otherwise. The final confrontation between him and Batman is basically a very intense session of this with the fate of Gotham City at stake.
  • Cutting the Knot: In the finale, after Gordon and the GCPD disabled Riddler's signal, Batman takes this approach to Riddler, lampshading the original story with Alexander the Great, since it was the answer to the final riddle.
  • Dirty Cop: Gordon is shown to have been this, albeit a reluctant one, which is why he kept wearing his old trench coat. At the end, Bruce gives him a new one, showing him that its ok to start over.
  • Disc One Final Boss: For the first act of the story, the Red Hood gang serves as the antagonist. Once the leader Red Hood makes his fateful drop into a vat of chemicals, he's written out and the Riddler immediately takes up Big Bad duties.
  • The Dragon: Dr. Death is revealed to have been this to the Riddler all along.
  • Evil Uncle: Well, morally-ambiguous uncle. Bruce's maternal uncle Phillip Kane has been running Wayne Enterprises during his absence. He's more then a little shady, having declared Bruce legally dead and keeping Edward Nygma on the payroll. But at the same time, he's loyal to Bruce and has more principles than most corrupt executives.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Batman, Gordon and Fox, who end up joining forces to try and defeat the Riddler.
  • Foregone Conclusion: It's a prequel, so it's inevitable. Batman defeats the Red Hood Gang, Doctor Death, and the Riddler, saves Gotham City, and is accepted by its people as their hero.
  • Freudian Excuse: Played straight with Dr. Death, who started a path of self-destruction after his only son was killed while investigating a possible terrorist cell. Seemingly averted with the Riddler; Batman theorizes a background that would explain his behavior and the Riddler, though irritated (because he thought Batman was going to challenge him with a riddle), counters by speculating his own version of Batman's background, neither confirming nor denying the previous theory.
  • Futureshadowing: Par for the course for a prequel, many hints are dropped for future events.
    • Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Barbara Gordon are shown marveling at the Bat-Signal when it's switched on for the first time.
    • Dr. Pamela Isley is shown to care more about her plant specimens than the human victims when the laboratory she works in is shut down, and is ultimately revealed to be developing a serum that makes plants grow to gigantic proportions.
    • Talia al Ghul takes an interest in Batman and reports back to her father. She also interacts with Jason Todd, whom she will eventually bring back from the dead, and recognizes his abilities regarding the Untitled.
  • Healing Factor: Due to his exposure to his serum, Doctor Death has one of these in an imperfect form that applies only to his bones. However, every time he regenerates his bones, they tend to go through wounds he's taking to heal up the damage, and eventually, the amount of damage is so severe that his bones end up causing damage to his internal organs, killing him.
  • How We Got Here: The first issue opens with Gotham City in ruins as Batman goes to face the one responsible for it. The story then rewinds five months prior to explain how things got to that point.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Riddler was behind Dr. Death, who initially seemed to have no relation to his plans.
  • Mythology Gag: Quite a few of them, as usual.
    • Batman's suit has plain purple gloves, just like the outfit from his first years of publication.
    • At one point, upon seeing an unidentified aircraft, Commissioner Loeb says it can only be "the goddamn BATMAN".
    • When jumping from his aircraft to the Riddler's weather balloon during the storm, Batman displays his iconic pose from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
    • Dr. Death is the first real 'super-villain' Batman fights in this story (not counting the Red Hood Gang). In the early Bob Kane/Bill Finger stories too, Dr. Death was Batman's first recurring villain.
    • In the fifth issue, the debut of the Batmobile is similar to the first appearance of the Tumbler in Batman Begins; being chased by police cars and choppers into a tunnel, and stunning the GCPD with a miraculous escape.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The Riddler is a very dangerous criminal mastermind, but he's not a fighter. That's exactly why he arranged everything so that simply defeating him in a fistfight wouldn't solve the problem. After the signal to his technology is blocked, Batman beats him this way anyway.
  • Origins Episode: The arc focuses on how Bruce became Batman, and how Batman became Gotham's protector. It also shows how other people developed in Gotham City, such as James Gordon, Riddler and Joker.
  • Save the Villain: Before he officially becomes Batman, Bruce saves the Penguin from getting killed by the Red Hood. He also tries this to the Red Hood himself. That doesn't work as well, as the Red Hood falls into a chemical bath.
  • Superhero Paradox: Defied Trope. According to Batman, he is to be a "lightning rod" for criminals so that they go after him and not civilians, but they always existed and likely always will. He's just an adaptation to help defend against a progressing system of violence.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Batman does this repeatedly to Riddler during their final encounter. A Justified Trope, since he was just stalling him so that he would have less time to answer the critical riddles to save Gotham from an air strike.
  • Straw Nihilist: The Red Hood, leader of the Red Hood Gang and implicitly the future Joker, takes this thought process. In his mind and that of his parents, he says that the meaningless deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne caused him and his parents to realize the meaninglessness randomness of the universe, and he created the Red Hood Gang in order to be that meaningless horror. Batman calls him out on his bullshit and takes The Anti-Nihilist approach instead.
  • Terrorist Without A Cause: The Red Hood Gang's modus operandi.
  • Title Drop: Upon taking control of Gotham, the Riddler cuts off its power and technology and basically reduces it to ruins, declaring the city is back to Zero Year and mankind must find a way to evolve again.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Despite Batman's efforts, the Riddler takes control of Gotham for the entire final act.
  • We Will Meet Again: The Red Hood says this to Batman before his fateful drop into a chemical bath at A.C.E. Chemicals.