DC Comics takes another opportunity to update the origin of the Dark Knight for the New 52 with "Batman Volume 4: Zero Year - Secret City." The book collects issues 21 through 24 of the monthly title and Batman Zero Year: The Director's Cut #1. If you're worried about getting a repeat of Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One," you can leave your reservations at the door.
Gotham City is entering a new era shrouded in mystery. A masked vigilante dubbed the Batman has declared war against the criminals overrunning the metropolitan. A gang led by a crook calling himself the Red Hood rise up to wreak havoc and take control of the corrupt underground.
Writer Scott Snyder takes the origin of Batman in a different direction that proves to be as entertaining as Frank Miller's critically acclaimed "Year One." It's hard not to make comparisons, but the two stories do have different atmospheres. Where Miller's was dark and gritty, Snyder's tale is still grim but full of splashes of color and over-the-top characters. Guys who wear red hoods and suits are a bit more eye-catching than mobsters like Carmine Falcone and his gang. I'm not saying one take is better than the other because both have their advantages.
The direction the story moves in reminds me of Tim Burton's "Batman" from 1988. It's really the last act of "Batman Volume 4: Zero Year - Secret City" that put the idea in my head. I think anyone who's seen the movie will know where I'm coming from once they read it.
Greg Capullo and Danny Miki handle the art duties for "Batman Volume 4: Zero Year - Secret City." Every page is accented by FCO Plascencia and Dave McCaig's vibrant coloring. My favorite illustration is one that re-imagines Bob Kane's original cover for 1939's Detective Comics #27. A framed side-by-side comparison poster would look great mounted on my wall.
"Batman Volume 4: Zero Year - Secret City" contains a behind-the-scenes look at the script for Scott Snyder's graphic novel. He also provides an introduction to the project which explains his vision for the tale. Another special feature is a variant cover by Guillem March.
A "T" for Teen rating is given to "Batman Volume 4: Zero Year - Secret City." There's nothing out of the ordinary here when it comes to the book's content. We get the typical violence and language that's not unusual for modern comics.
By no means is Scott Snyder trying to replace Frank Miller's legendary origin tale with "Batman Volume 4: Zero Year - Secret City." He's just telling it in a different way and giving it his own spin for a new generation. It's recommended reading thanks to great artwork and an entertaining story that hearkens back to the Dark Knight's mysterious adventures of the 1940s.