With twenty-two pages and a $3.99 pricetag, "Batman" #26 is a return to the norm for writer Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Of course, normal is a careful refurbishing of the legend of the Dark Knight for this volume of "Batman." It's not so much that the creative duo removes or renovates the stories that came before, they simply enhance what was there and bring the details back into focus.
The "Zero Year" saga continues as "Batman" #26 delivers another chapter in the "Dark City" arc. Set in the early days of Batman's campaign, shortly after Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham City, this comic book employs a strong sense of suspense bordering on horror as Doctor Death steals through Gotham while Bruce Wayne tries to decide how best to attack the crime running rampant in his city. Snyder balances creepiness and mystery and even adjusts the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon like a chiropractor working a spine. It might not have needed an adjustment, but it makes things different and potentially better. In addition to providing details on the formative years of the Dark Knight, "Batman" #26 shows young Bruce Wayne's first encounter with James Gordon, flashes back to Bruce's car ride from the movies back to the station and along the way details the corruption in the Gotham City Police Department as recognized through the slow filter of time.
In this issue, moreso than any other of their run to this point, artist Greg Capullo and colorist FCO Plascencia are reliant upon one another to make the imagery complete and vibrant. The colors, as they have been throughout "Zero Year" are over-the-top bold, a garish combination of pinks, blues, purples and greens, with yellows and oranges creeping into the "quieter scenes." FCO Plascencia's colors amplify Capullo's character expressions and movements, while the penciler cranks up the anxiety of this issue with judicious application of white space and ample opportunity for inker Danny Miki to soak the pages in deep black shadows. The visual team's reinterpretation of Bruce Wayne's viewing of a Zorro film is nostalgic and fun, hinting of a time gone by while leaving the scene timeless through an absence of exact dating. Likewise, at the end of the issue, Capullo visually references work from historical Batman stories while also paying tribute to Todd McFarlane's work with this character in the manner in which Capullo draws Batman's cape and cowl.
"Zero Year" is yet another mega-storyline that has marched throughout the pages of "Batman," but the latest installment in "Batman" #26 delivers enough action and revelation in one issue to make the story seem instantly refreshed. Snyder, Capullo and team continue to do a fine job of adding more to the Batman mythology without negating anything. Doctor Death's appearance and development throughout the "Dark City" arc just adds more depth to the bullpen of loons Batman calls foes. Beyond simply adding depth to one of Batman's earliest opponents, Snyder serves as architect to the man Bruce Wayne will become in and out of the cowl. "Zero Year" is not just about Batman, it's also about Gotham City and all of the ancillary characters that happen through the life of Bruce Wayne, from Jim Gordon to Lucius Fox. Bruce Wayne is learning about himself, his allies and enemies and what it means to watch over them all.