Batman Vol. 5 – Zero Year: Dark City Breakdown! (New 52)

Hey Everyone! Welcome back to my adventure into the NEW 52! This will be the last breakdown for the Zero Year arc in Gotham. I love these stories because it really is the origin to so many of our beloved characters. Even for people that aren’t fans of the New 52 stories I feel will like at least the stories in Zero Year. In my first breakdown for Batman Vol 4 ( we have Bruce Wayne coming back to Gotham after traveling the world and learning all these skills we will see him implement in his reign as the Dark Knight. He faced off against the Red Hood Gang and won, only to then be plunged into darkness with the Riddler. Last week I broke down the DC Comics: Zero Year ( which are the stories from other Gotham characters and beyond and the stories they have from Gotham at this time.

The opening of Volume 5 is issue #25 has us in Nigeria in the past with a group of soldiers who have come across some type of bunker. This is part of a larger history with Bruce, but that will be something we talk about later. At the present time in Gotham, the GCPD is after Batman even though they have a city in darkness bracing for an epic storm and a Riddler at large. Batman escapes with the tech in his first Batmobile. We find out with Jim Gordon that Batman had just left the scene of a crime, but Gordon isn’t convinced that this was Batman’s work. He thinks that Batman, like them, is working to solve these horrific murders.

As Gordon investigates, we get our first look at Dr. Pamela Isley, a future Poison Ivy. She works at this lab and is pretty upset about the disturbance to the plants, more so than her dead associate. However, she did see the killer and he looked…skeletal.

At the Batcave, Alfred complains about the bats (go figure) but Bruce assures him that he has something for that. What Bruce is really working on now is a jammer that will help with any future surge that the Riddler will send after the electric is turned back on. As for the murders, so far to people have been killed and both are employees of Wayne Enterprises. He also thinks that this could be linked to a former employee Dr. Helfern who they dubbed Doctor Death, because his experimentation on bones has some pretty deadly consequences.

When leaving the Batcave, Jim Gordon happens to be at Wayne Manor right outside the entrance to the Batcave. Jim and Bruce at this point do not have a good history as Bruce believes that Jim is dirty and worked to cover up his mother and father’s death. We will get that full story soon. Jim does get a face full of bats though…

From here Bruce heads to see Lucius Fox. At this point he no longer works for Wayne Enterprise because he was fired by Phillip Kane. However, Lucius was project manager over Dr. Helfern, and he may have information that could help Bruce. Things get a little aggressive here when Lucius attacks Bruce with a syringe. He tells Bruce that he isn’t going to be able to stop Doctor Death as Bruce passes out. The ending of issue #25 has us back in Nigeria where the group we saw in the beginning is attacked.

Issue #26 begins with Jim Gordon arresting a very young Bruce Wayne, this is the beginning of the story that has Bruce upset but they get to all of this as the volume unfolds. Back with Bruce in the present. Doctor Death has shown and is after Lucius Fox, who was the reason that Helfern was fired from Wayne Enterprise when he became concerned with the number of casualties he was racking up. When Bruce comes to, he attacks Helfern to save Lucius, but this only has the bones on Helfern grow making him even larger. This is the result of his experimentation he has been working on. At first Bruce hides to work on a plan and this leaves Helfern to chain up Lucius. Bruce lures him away and into the path of a jet engine thinking that this would kill him. Lucius and Bruce make a run for it as Lucius explains that the shot, he injected in him is a vaccine for Doctor Death serum. Doctor Death then catches up to them as they are escaping and is about to crush Bruce’s head when Jim Gordon arrives scaring Helfern off.

Back to another flashback, Bruce is in some type of tribal camp where he has been hung in these ball things. He is brought a walkie talkie and told that it is his father on the other end. Of course, buy this age Thomas Wayne is already dead. The voice on the walkie mixes with Alfred in present time at Gotham General where Bruce was taken with a skull fracture. Bruce is ready to get up and go although Alfred pleads with him to rest. As it turns out he can’t exactly leave with his ankle cuffed to the bed. Gordon is there and he thinks that it is time that he and Bruce have a talk.

Jim pushes for them to work together and claims to not be like the other police of Gotham. He is not after Batman but after Helfern, like Bruce. This is when Bruce brings up the trench coat that Jim is wearing which take us on a trip down memory lane. In the day when Bruce was arrested for being truant, he rode with Gordon and his partner Corrigan. They kept making stops with Corrigan going in and Jim waiting in the car. Gordon explains to young Bruce that they were checking on the people on their beat, and Bruce thought that it was so nice that the officers cared that much for the people of Gotham. He felt that his belief was only further validated when Corrigan comes out of a tailor shop with a trench coat for Jim. This day though, turns into the night that Thomas and Martha are murdered, and Bruce realizes that it wasn’t kindness the officers were offering, they were dirty and taking payoffs. Present day Bruce even goes on to demonstrate what it is like to stare down the end of a gun barrel and then bails from the hospital. Jim is then brought a note from one of the officers with the Riddler’s “?” on it.

Bruce though suits up in his “Formal wear” and heads to a lab in the harbor that is uses to weaponize weather. He believes that this is the next target for the Doctor Death as former Wayne Enterprise scientist work here. Turns out he is too late, and the scientist have already been turning to bone. That isn’t all though, the ending of issue #26 is a stand off with Batman and the GCPD.

The opening of Issue #27 is Batman running from the GCPD but at every turn it seems like they know what he is going to do. He ends up escaping through pools of water and into the harbor with only an air tank. Knowing that he will be found at any minute he begins to swim where he is picked up by Jim Gordon. Batman’s cowl is severely injured, and Jim suggests he take it off but offers up his glasses to keep Batman’s identity secret. He explains that it was the Riddler that tole GCPD that Batman had been working with him but also gave him up and told them how to fight him. Curious Batman asks why Jim would save him and Jim goes on to tell his side of Bruce’s earlier story at the hospital.

Jim explains that he saw the amazement in Bruce’s eye and decided that he wanted to live up to that. So, that evening he walked his beat and found out that the tailor show was housing a dog fighting ring and commissioner Loeb was in on it. When Jim threatens to turn them into the media he is attacked by the dogs. Corrigan then makes it clear to Jim that if he ever tells anyone then harm will come to little Barbara and James. He says that he keeps a coat as a reminder to himself and them that he knows what they are up to, and he is bidding his time until he can do something about it.

Later at the Batcave, Bruce completes the jammer and we have another story time. This time with Alfred. He tells Bruce that he had the phone sent to Bruce in Nigeria so that he could warn him that Phillip had found him, knowing that Bruce wanted to not be found. He understands that Bruce is a way is angry with them for not being there when his mother and father died in the alley. That being Batman is a punishment to Alfred for making him bear witness. Really, I can not do this speech justice. Go read it. Basically, he is trying to get Bruce to accept him and Jim Gordon as help.

Of course, Bruce dodges any real answer here he has come to the realization of where Helfern is hiding. He does to the Gotham City Catacombs which are creepy. They are the bones of dead Gothamites and where Bruce thinks that Helfern has been getting his bone samples based on the analysis that Alfred ran. Down there Bruce first finds that Tokyo Moon Helmet we saw in the Nigeria attack and then he discovers something much bigger. That Helfern is working with The Riddler. That the murders were a cover up for what was being stolen. Oh, and there is a doomsday weapon. Riddler then appears on the screen just as he blows out the wall to the catacombs submerging Batman.

While Batman is unconscious, there is the flashback to young Bruce with Thomas and Martha at the movie theater. When Bruce admits that he thought Zorro was bad, Thomas is so offended he demands to watch it again. They also talk about Bruce skipping school and Martha reminds him that they are always there for them.

In the present, Batman busts out of the catacombs and gets a hold of Jim who is working on evacuation of the areas that will be flooded by the storm. He tells Jim to head to Wayne Tower where the Riddler is hiding. He also tells Jim that this machine is going to go off as soon as the power comes back on, which should be happening at any moment. Batman though has a job of his own, he heads out in the Bat blimp (Yes, it was already in black) He has figured out that the device that Riddler built would work best from another blimp in the sky and it just so happens to be marked with a “?”

On the blimp is Doctor Death. There is a lot of fighting here and at one-point Batman even breaks his bones so that they grow around a railing temporarily trapping him. Unfortunately, though he does lose the jammer in the fight. We also learn in the conversation here that the Tokyo Moon helmet was that of Helfern’s son who was part of Phillip’s crew that was sent to contact Bruce Wayne in Nigeria. So, in a way, Bruce is linked to his son’s death and the reason that Helfern began his research. This does not stop Bruce from blowing up the balloon though.

With Jim, he gets to Wayne Tower and finds the Riddler in Phillip Kane’s office. He is pushed out though with a large rock hanging from the ceiling, which seemed weird to me. Riddler then escapes enacting Riddle #2 as Carrigan and the electricians turn the electric on. This causes the bombs on the retaining walls to go off flooding the entire city, as well as, the GCPD blimps in the sky to crash to the ground. This all happens with panes of Bruce’s parents dying intermixed. It was quite dramatic.

This takes us into the Savage City comics which start at issue #30. You make recognize some of these scenes from the beginning of Volume 4 with the little boy that was fishing in the subway line. Here Bruce wakes up about twenty-five days after crashing the blimp to the ground in an apartment with the little boy. Most people think that he is dead. Alfred breaths a sigh of relief when Bruce reaches him on a special number. The last thing Bruce remembers is ditching the bat suit after the fall. All the city’s tunnels are blocked, the balloons left in the sky have toxic gas in case anyone tries to get in or out, and Nygma still has control of the power. It is also explained that everyday The Ridder appears on a jumbotron to ask the people of Gotham to challenge him to a Riddle. If they stump him then he will set the city free. We see this displayed when Bob Chee, the man who Riddler replaced at Powers Industry, tries to stop him. Instead Bo fails and falls to the jackal pit below.

Jim has been able to reach out and was able to get a small team into the city but not without Nygma noticing. He has these bots that were made by power Industry that are keeping an eye on the city and uses them to surround Jim and the team. Of course, there is a riddle involved to stop them and some falling buildings in the process. Luckily Batman is there in the shadows to help Jim. This has the squad (this is what I am calling them) working with Batman even thought they were making fun of Jim for this when they landed.

From here Bruce finds Lucius who is gearing up to challenge Riddler. Instead he has Lucius working on tracing Riddler while Batman challenges Riddler. This has Jim on the tower planting a device, Lucius in a van running the trace and Batman with nineteen minutes to try and distract Riddler. To sum up everything that happened here, Batman lands him not the Jackal pit but a Lion Den and narrowly escapes with the help of Jim who had to jump off the tower. In the end though, Batman kept him distracted long enough for Lucius to get a location.

Unfortunately having a location isn’t enough. For starters it is the wrong location and Batman has the feeling that something isn’t right. He knows that Nygma has an end game for this that is not as simple as making Gotham smarter. In the conversation with Jim over the radio Batman realizes that Nygma is going to use the Rip code on the squad’s belt to enact a missile strike on Gotham, essentially sinking the city. The Riddler attacks as Batman has come to this conclusion. He escapes and saves Lucius who is also attacked.

From here Batman believes that he knows the location for The Riddler. The location Ed Nygma met Bruce Wayne. The Sphinx. Nygma has a 12-riddle game set up for Batman with the clock being the called in airstrike. Luckily the back up plan is that Lucius uses the penny from Wayne Tower to jam Riddler’s signal. This means that he loses control of the bots and Batman attacks him. Meanwhile, Jim tries to stop the incoming missile launch. After dropping his flair, he must improvise, and he create the first Bat signal. Unfortunately, The Riddler has one more trick up his sleeve. For the power to come back on there is a switch on his chest. One that requires Batman to defibrillate himself and then somehow restart his heart. Bruce shocks himself and it is Alfred that is there to restart his heart, just like he promised

With the Riddler’s reign coming to an end, Bruce reinstates Lucius as Wayne Industries, Jim Gordon is made Police Commissioner, and Ed is the first of Batman’s adversaries to end up in Arkham. I especially like that Bruce gets Jim a new trench coat signifying the beginning of their partnership, although Bruce will never admit it. Alfred pushes for Bruce to meet someone, but Bruce pushes him to see that Batman is his partner now.

At the end of the Volume there is this little short about Harper and Cullen being left alone by their father. I want to point out this that is Harper Row, who goes on to be Bluebird. So, although she was not one of the stories in the Zero year, she was shaped by this as well.

I hope you enjoyed this breakdown and hop you catch my next breakdown on August 1st for Batman/Superman Volume 1!

Link to buy:Batman Vol 4:

Comics: Zero Year:

Batman Vol 5:

Batman/Superman Vol 1:

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