If Scott Snyder were able to write a story for Greg Capullo that only featured Batman on a motorbike for twenty-two pages, it would be a smash hit. The duo come together for "Batman" #31, the second installment of "Savage City," and give readers just a taste of Batman and said motorbike. For good measure, Snyder throws in some lions, just to give Batman something to punch.
As campy as that might seem, Snyder spins it all into the downtrodden setting of Gotham City during "Zero Year," making it all too real with depressed masses huddling together, hoping for something more. The writer uses "Batman" #31 to underscore the importance of Batman relying on others for help as he works to save the city and stop the Riddler. Snyder also throws in a flashback to Bruce Wayne's formative years, as the alter ego of the Dark Knight has to work his way through a very personal story problem in a math class that threatens to be the death of him -- or at least his sanity. How the resolution of that thread connects to the fight against the Riddler is set aside for a future issue of "Batman," as this issue focuses on the chess game between Riddler and the fledgling Dark Knight, but leaves the reader hanging on that flashback. In the current period for "Batman" #31, in his collaborations with Lucius Fox and Jim Gordon, Batman realizes he needs more than just his own wits and evolving skills. Snyder also leaves plenty of room for Batman to kick some butt in a story that reads like a grown-up, recently uncovered adventure from the old Batman television show.
FCO Plascencia's colors are still bravely celebrating the unheralded boldest and brightest crayons in the box. Magenta, orange, teal, gold, purple, red-orange and lime green fill the panels with attention-grabbing color more inline with the hues one would expect from "Batman '66" than from Snyder and Capullo's grim, gritty and determined "Batman" in the New 52, covering that gap nicely. Despite the life-or-death severity of the story, Capullo's art carries the usual animated bounce. On occasion that bounce is extreme, such as Gordon's leap to a subway tunnel, but the extreme is what this story demands. The visuals give Snyder's story a jarring contradictory appearance, which does a solid job luring the reader in as the color palette works hypnotic magic. If readers were to read the script to "Batman" #31 completely independently of the art, odds are they would never conceive of the visuals Capullo, inker Danny Miki and colorist Plascencia have committed to these pages. Yet, it all comes together to be a daring new Batman adventure. Even letterer Steve Wands finds his stride, helping preserve details in Capullo's artwork, regardless of the amount of dialog that any one panel contains.
"Batman" #31 is yet another durable comic in the "Zero Year" story, which is quickly accumulating as a Batman tale begging to be re-read in its entirety from start to finish. As a sample of that grandiose adventure, this comic book has a lot to offer readers, but even more for readers with deeper experience following the character and this issue's creators. This is a building block in the evolution of Batman and Snyder and Capullo are sharing the construction process with the readers as the structure nears completion.