Following a one-issue hiatus showcasing the forthcoming Batman: Eternal weekly series, writer Scott Synder and artist Greg Capullo return to conclude the second part of their Zero Year opus in monumental fashion with Batman #29. Since it began in the closing pages of Batman #24, this middle chapter, aptly titled “Dark City,” has been the Empire Strikes Back of Synder’s three-part Batman origin tale, and as such, the ending doesn’t provide the same cathartic closure as past arcs. Batman #29 is largely an emotionally crushing excursion through a Gotham City on the verge of being completely flooded, but it’s not without its uplifting moments as Synder continues to enrich the mythos of the character while cleverly paying homage to past works. If there are still some readers out there that feel like a retelling a Batman’s origin isn’t necessary, I would encourage reading this issue, particularly the last few powerful pages.
Part of Synder’s approach to the Dark Knight’s well-worn tragic beginnings has been to gradually break the character down through personal and professional hardships, and no villain has embodied that sentiment more than Edward Nigma, aka The Riddler. Although Batman #29 features much more of the lower-tier Doctor Death than Riddler himself, the mad genius’s plans are the constant threat of the issue, and the flooding that threatens Gotham is all-too symbolic of Batman being in over his head against such a formidable threat. Doctor Death provides the “showdown” moment of the issue, though his long-winded monologue explaining several of the intricate mysteries Synder has been weaving throughout Zero Year is a little forcefully handled in what is otherwise a deft script. Bruce Wayne’s final moments with his parents provide the framework for the issue, and although the fates of Martha and Thomas Wayne after leaving the theater with their young son in tow is already well-engrained in the populous readership, the visual and narrative artistry on display is a stunning and effective piece of Synder’s grand story.
The visual aspect of the artistry of Batman #29 belongs entirely to the team of artist Greg Capullo, inker Danny Miki, and colorist FCO Plascencia, who all come together like their own Bat-family to ensure the top-quality content of this title continues on a monthly basis. Capullo in particular has some stand-out moments in this issue, one of which involves a homage to the cover of the Dark Knight Returns that occurs naturally, paying due respect without feeling like a desperate attention-grabbing moment. However, one moment that does certainly garner attention, and rightfully so, is the emergence of Batman’s blimp, an outright laughable thing to write but awe-inspiring under Capullo’s pencils, Miki’s ink, and Plascencia’s colors. Capullo’s detail with something as simple as the clouds over Gotham demonstrates the kind of care that the artist puts in to each of his panels, and it allows the moment, where all of Gotham looks to the skies as Batman pilots an armored blimp, to feel elegant and powerful, not cheesy. After all, this is the [CENSORED] Batman we’re talking about here.
Batman #29 is absolutely incredible from start to finish, even if that end comes with a soul-crushing final page. It’s a near-perfect conclusion to this dark middle chapter of Batman’s origin, which will enter its final phase and hopefully provide some semblance of optimism, but I’m not counting on it.
GNN Comics Grade: NEAR MINT (8.5/10)