Batman Vol. 4 – Zero Year Breakdown! (New 52)

Hey guys! Welcome to my first breakdown of what will surely be a really long series of posts. I must admit upfront that I have always been more of a DC fan than a Marvel. I still have the Catwoman costume that my mom handmade back from second grade. It stuck with me. Not that I don’t appreciate Marvel, because I do. I am one of those freaks that have managed to love both. DC was the start for me though and I love the darkness of it all. Yes, I spent some teen years wearing a lot of black. Anyway, I wanted to do DC justice and start at a point in comic breakdowns where it felt like a new beginning and for me the start of the NEW 52 was the best location. These comics aren’t that old but have been out for a while now and some of the story lines carried over into Rebirth.

For this post though I start at what you might think is a weird spot, but I can explain. When the New 52 launched everything started in Year One. Of course, we will be hitting those comics later. This volume, Batman Volume 4, was released in the middle of the series, but the events take place in the years leading up to the start of New 52. So, a prequel, if you will. This is the Batman Origin story after we already built a relationship with the New 52 Batman. I like that approach in the writing but here I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way instead of back tracking months from now.

This volume consists of four issues, Batman #21: Secret City Part 1: Where the Hell Did He Learn to Drive?, Batman #22: Secret City Part 2: That One Time, Batman #23: Secret City Part 3: The Pit, and Batman #24: Zero Year: Dark City Part 1.

In issue #21 we begin SIX years before the beginning of New 52 with Gotham at it’s lowest. It really is Anarchy with a little boy catching a fish in the subway system, being attacked and then saved by Batman. The little boy tells Batman that HE thinks that Batman is dead. So what we gather is that someone is in charge… so not total Anarchy, but things are a real shit hole with someone sitting at the top.

Then we dive further back to learn how that Gotham came about. We get our first introduction to the Red Hood Gang and more specifically Red Hood One as he goes against Bruce disguised as another man to save hostages that refused to join the gang. Remember, this is before the idea of Batman. Later with Alfred, not only is Bruce trying out some new boots that allow him to hang upside down, he is wondering who the leader of the Red Hood Gang could be. The rumor is that no one knows the leader, and most members of the red hood gang don’t even know each other. There is also more back story given here. Bruce at this point has recently returned to Gotham after being away for almost a decade. Bruce is about twenty-four at this point so he would have left in his early teen years. Gotham believes at this point that Bruce Wayne is dead and he was even declared legally dead. Instead of making his homecoming known, he uses this to help Gotham from the shadows with his mission to bring down the Red Hood Gang which seems to be having their way with the city and to stop any Gothamite from ever experiencing what he did as a child.

Unfortunately, things never go as planned and Bruce’s Uncle, Phillip Kane, learns that he is still alive. As a matter of fact, he has had people trying to keep an eye on him for years with some rumors of him surfacing. Phillip takes Bruce to the new Wayne Enterprise building after it was merged with Kane Chemical. The Kane family has a long reputation of not exactly being good people with Martha, Bruce’s mother, being the exception. However, the Wayne name means something in Gotham. Phillip admits that he had Bruce declared dead so he could step in and run Wayne Enterprise to build a future for Gotham. He also admits to making weapons but most of them are non-lethal.

There is a quick story here about a big ass penny in front of Wayne Enterprise and that Phillip uses to be into archaeology, but that his father came for him there. The story is finishes up later when it makes more sense, but he pushes for Bruce to come out of the shadows and take his place at the head of Wayne Enterprises. Bruce says no, that is not what he is here to do.

From this point forward there are some flash backs to Bruce as a child with his father Thomas. Mostly that he is given this 360-degree camera that was designed by Mr. Fox. As the story develops we see that he falls down in the cave below Wayne Manor and we have the iconic bats scene that all gets captured on the camera before he is saved by Thomas. This will all come back into play later.

In Present time, Phillip Kane is back at Wayne Enterprise consulting with his top strategist, Ed Nygma. They admit that somehow the Red Hood Gang has been stealing things from Wayne Enterprises, but the purpose of this meeting is how to win back the city’s approval and Ed’s plan, of course, is to kill Bruce Wayne.

This leads us into issue #22 with another Red Hood Attack. This one has Bruce Wayne on a blimp that the Red Hood Gang is attacking. Bruce is disguised as the Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot. The things we learn from this are: 1. The Red Hood Gang has acquired Wayne Enterprise weapons that have “rejiggered” to make them weapons that liquefy people. 2. That the Red Hood One knows that there is a vigilante that is trying to foil their plans. 3. Things don’t go as planned. 4. Red Hood One’s DNA is not on file.

With the DNA being a dead-end, Bruce fears that he is losing his war against the Red Hood Gang. Here he is testing out the grappling hook that becomes one of Batman’s signature gadgets. Alfred makes his feelings know about the way Bruce is fighting this war, he feels that it is cowardly. Instead he should come out of the shadows, take back Wayne Enterprise and fight against the gang in the light of day. This even leads to a nice smack across the face from Alfred to Bruce.

Immediately following this argument Bruce calls Phillip to set up a meeting. Bruce’s intentions are to talk with Phillip about halting production of the weapons since they are falling into the Red Hood Gang’s hands, but Phillip uses this to pull Bruce out of the shadows with a nice welcome home party. We even getting out first look at Vicki Vale. Bruce, upset, runs out of there and into the path of Ed Nygma. Ed, in riddle form, tells Bruce that the leak inside of Wayne Enterprise is Phillip himself. Bruce says as he is leaving that he now plans to go after Phillip, but he isn’t really given the chance when he is attacked by the Red Hood Gang.

In the attack, the apartment he has been staying at near Crime Alley is blown up and the painting of Thomas and Martha is shot and taken by Red Hood One. He explains to Bruce as Bruce is being beaten that Thomas and Martha’s death effected not just Bruce but him as well. That the senselessness of it effected the whole city and that is what gave him his purpose to start the Red Hood Gang. They leave Bruce for dead but he manages to make it back to Wayne Manor.

For the second time now, Bruce is believed to be dead. This has Phillip going after Ed Nygma since it was Ed that pushed the Red Hood Gang to go after Bruce. Phillip had a back up plan if things were to go south with Nygma. This consists of Phillip having a large magnet installed to wipe evidence on the computer. This back fires when Nygma knows the password. Unfortunately, Phillip has a head plate and is now stuck to the floor. Phillip makes a point to remind Nygma that he is still just a nobody which I believe is the motivation for Ed Nygma to become somebody.

After ending up at Wayne Manor, Alfred patches up Bruce and promises to continue to be there for him even through any disagreements they may have in the future. When finding the 360-camera from his childhood, Bruce discovers the video of the day in the cave and this is the inspiration he has to become Batman.

Into Issue #24 we finally have the birth of Batman. Bruce takes some time to heal and get a plan together. He has been doing some renovation to the cave and looking to have access built to the manor. He stops some Red Hood Gang break-ins and has also been tracking what the Red Hood Gang has been stealing trying to piece together what number one’s plan could be. Oh, and let’s not forget the haircut.

Bruce shows to see Phillip. Phillip is surprised to see that he is alive. He tells Bruce about Ed and that he was branded by the Red Hood Gang after the attack on Bruce. Bruce gets down to business and wants access to see what all the Red Hood Gang has been stealing. Phillip admits that he has was tracking it before but Red Hood Number One found out and the system was dismantled but he agrees to give Bruce the access he wants. When getting the card we also see that Phillip has a Red Hood as well.

Back at the Batcave with the information from Wayne Enterprise, Bruce is able to piece together that there is only one location that the gang has yet to hit and it is one that he would think would be a main target. That is when Bruce comes to the realization of what Red Hood Gang is up to but this isn’t a job solely for Batman.

Over at the GCPD there is the introduction to Commissioner Loeb and our favorite GCPD officer Jim Gordon. Loeb sends Gordon to ACE Chemical, that one and only property that has yet to be robbed by the Red Hood Gang. The reason he sends Gordon, Bruce Wayne, who is making an appearance on the news. He is letting everyone in Gotham know that he is back, what he loves about Gotham (It was truly an inspiring speech) and what the Red Hood Gang is up to.

This prompts the Red Hood Gang to attack Bruce, but Gordon is able to give him warning and Bruce gets out unharmed. From there he heads into ACE chemical since the gates were knocked out in the attack. He isn’t in there long before Red Hood One finds him. Bruce lets him know that he knew the date of the attack would be tomorrow because that is the anniversary of his parents death. This is from that conversation they had the last time Red Hood One tried to kill Bruce. This time he is about to shoot Bruce when Alfred finally gets into the electrical grid and shuts the lights off across town in the shape of the bat signal.

The Red Hood Gang has access to Night Vision goggles where they see Batman save Bruce, yes, you read that right. Jim Gordon is also able to get in with the GCPD since the power is out. The lights are then turned back on which blinds the people wearing the night vision goggles giving Batman the upper hand. There is a lot of fighting here with Batman really just kicking ass.

The next issue arises when dear old Uncle Phillip shoots Red Hood One in the head. It ricochets off but is enough for Red Hood One to then kill Phillip. This has Batman grieving in the middle of all of this and leaves himself open to getting caught but the GCPD who aren’t sure what to make of this Batman. Batman though uses a gadget to get away and goes after Red Hood One who is escaping, even after Alfred locks the bay doors remotely.

Batman gets to the roof as Red Hood One is escaping on a helicopter. Using the grappling hook Batman is able to get to Red Hood One and knock him and himself back into ACE Chemical. There is a fight on a walkway that gives out and Red Hood One going over the edge falling into a vat of Chemicals.

This winds down from here. Bruce goes onto get the Batcave set up but he is perplexed about the identity of Red Hood One. Some members of the gang claims that Liam Distal began the gang but he was found dead in a barrel with Lye. So, at some point he was killed and someone else took his place. It could have been weeks, months or even days ago. The hats could have even been changed sometime in ACE Chemical and Batman knocked a patsy into the vat. It is all left unknown (For Now)

Alfred does compliment Bruce on how he was able to trick people into seeing Batman save Bruce Wayne forever separating them in the mythos of Batman so there won’t be speculation that they are ever the same person.

But the story doesn’t end here as we get the set up for Volume 5. The Riddler plunges the city into darkness by shutting down the power grid. We’ll see how all of that plays out in my next two breakdowns. Look for them to be posted on Thursdays!

There are a few short stories that fill in the missing years of Bruce Wayne and show up how he has honed in on some of his skills. The First is at the age of nineteen where he learns to drive from Don Miguel, but in the end sets up Don Miguel so he can be captured for killing police officers.

The next he is with a Russian Sergei where he learns to use his mind to create. The test takes him under the sphinx where he has to escape by using pieces of tech he created to make something new. This ties in well with the sphinx riddle that Ed Nygma gave him this volume.

Then there is the physical aspect of Bruce. He learns in Norway at the age of twenty-four how to fight in fighting pits. The Queen warns him that until he learns to kill he will never win a war, only the battles. That the enemies will continue to come knowing he will never makes the final decision. However, Bruce is able to beat the men to the point where no one else is willing to fight him.

All in All this was the basic set up for Bruce Wayne as Batman with a few other big villains. Next week we will talk about the DC Comics: Zero Year: Dark City where all of the heroes of Gotham and beyond are born and have their moments to shine! Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for more updates!


Rating: 5 out of 5.

All in All this was the basic set up for Bruce Wayne as Batman with a few other big villains. I am ALWAYS a sucker for an origin story and the art was beautiful.

Where to Buy:

Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year:

DC Comics: Zero Year:

Read All of My DC New 52 Breakdowns!

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