I have to confess to making a cardinal mistake previously. In an old blog entry, I jumped the gun and said Scott Snyder’s Zero Year arc would go down in history as one of the great Batman stories before I’d read the ending. As anyone who issued the Matrix trilogy pre-emptive praise will tell you, this has a tendency to end badly. After reading the finale issue in Snyder’s reimagining of the Dark Knight’s beginnings in Gotham, I am here to report that I can still safely stand by my words.

Snyder teased us last month and this week, he’s finally delivering on what we’ve patiently awaited for the past year or so: an epic face off between Batman and the masterfully upgraded Riddler. Last month was a test of Batman’s physical resolve and resourcefulness as we found him thinking on his feet while climbing elevator shafts with his bare hands, diving out of windows and dodging drone fire at every turn. Now, his mind is put to the test against the egomaniacal Nygma who seems to have the entire deck stacked against him. But even here, Snyder makes this hero’s time honored analytical nature feel fresh with the same headstrong, brash attitude he takes in a fistfight. The result is a Batman that feels a little more unpredictable than the one we’re used to, reminding us that being Batman isn’t just about being ridiculously, uninterestingly smarter than everyone else on the planet (looking at you, 80% of Batman writers).

It also takes a unique sort of courage and resolve that most don’t have. Greg Capullo was on his A+ game with the art this month. The real highlight for me was how he so perfectly captures the emotional strain each decision he has to make, the tears amassing when he’s not sure as to whether or not he’s doomed Gotham forever. Every panel, despite being highly detailed and vivid, is easy to follow through all the action. You can lose yourself in every panel without ever losing the narrative.

Bottom Line: Scott Snyder’s finale to Zero Year ends up not only establishing who New 52 Batman is (or at least, should be), but also serves as a love letter to comics’ dearest city and its greatest champion. 9.5 out of 10

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