Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Batman" #0 gives a peek at pre-Batman Bruce Wayne and wisely shows something entirely new, rather than just a revised spin on old favorites tropes.
While Snyder easily could have gone to the familiar well with Bruce -- his inspiration by bats to become "a Bat," the pearls in the street, etc. -- he opts instead to show us something that would be completely mundane, if it wasn't also a little bit horrifying. This is Scott Snyder, the man knows his horror!
The issue features a young Bruce Wayne six years before becoming Batman trying to fight crime and do good, simply as himself (though still in disguise). Bruce has infiltrated the Red Hood Gang to try to stop a bank robbery and murder spree. However, the entire adventure ends horribly and Bruce is massively unsuccessful. Snyder gives Bruce some fascinating layers as both a character and a superhero. While reading this story, it's easy to see why Bruce would eventually become a perfectionist and kind of -- let's face it -- "a dick" when he cut his teeth as an amateur detective the hard way, resulting in absolute tragedy when he underestimated his opponents.
It's solid nuanced stuff, and exactly the kind of backstory resonance Bruce can (and should) have as a character, but that we rarely see. Snyder also smartly integrates the horror with some cool stuff, like Bruce testing out and developing some of the weapons we're so familiar with today and an in-depth conversation between Bruce and Jim Gordon. It's all fun and lends a nice weight and significance to Snyder's "Batman" run in this re-launched universe.
Greg Capullo's work is strong, as it has been throughout the last year. The art feels slightly rushed in places, but on the whole Capullo has a great grasp of the characters and draws an interesting Bruce. I will never understand, or enjoy, the Red Hood's ridiculous helmet, but that's hardly Mr. Capullo's fault!
The eight-page back-up story "Tomorrow" by James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke is excellent. The fact that Tynion and Clark manage to include emotionally resonant moments for a young Barbara Gordon, along with three Robins (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake) in so little space is no small feat. The reveal for Barbara packed a particularly potent punch.
Quite frankly, the biggest problem with this comic book is simply that these two stories, while thematically wonderfully tied together, are a bit confusing to read one after the other. Both stories present similar powerful themes -- that of young superheroes before they became superheroes, a look at supeheroes in process, if you will. However, time wise it's very confusing to read them one after another, especially with the already convoluted new continuity that is the New 52.
In Tynion's story, Gordon sets up the Bat Signal, which is what ultimately creates the spark that inspires each of these young superheroes. However, Snyder's main story takes place before Bruce becomes the Dark Knight -- he hasn't yet become inspired by the bat imagery, in fact. So when read one right after another, it's confusing. It's a real shame because ultimately the strengths of these stories lies in how linked they are thematically for these excellent characters, but that same strength ends up being their undoing as it creates confusion about timing and continuity.
However, if you can clearly separate the main story from the back up story, you're in for a treat. Both, on the whole, are very strong. Their only significant flaw is they don't work as well together as I'd like. Perhaps after reading Synder's story set the book down, have a sandwich and come back later to read Tynion's back-up. Both deserve high-praise individually, regardless of being a bit confusing when paired together.