FOR SCOTT SNYDER, this is The Hero Year.
DC Comics just announced that Snyder has been handed the keys to its New 52 Gotham City. So now, after writing back-to-back hits with “Night of the Owls” (one of the most successful new Batman villain introductions since Bane) and “Death of the Family” (a thrilling return of the Joker storyline) for DC’s flagship Batman comic book, Snyder takes on the task of rebooting Batman’s origin story for DC’s New 52 universe with an upcoming 11-part storyline, titled “The Zero Year,” that will begin in June.
That DC Comics is willing to let Snyder (a) put a 21st-century/New 52 spin on Batman’s humble beginnings, and (b) spend almost an entire year doing it (11 issues means this story won’t be complete until the spring of 2014) shows the faith that DC has that Snyder can guide the direction of what’s quite possibly its most valuable property.
Snyder was quick to point out in interviews that “The Zero Year” won’t be just a remake of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s “Batman: Year One,” and rightfully so. If there is a Holy Grail of Batman stories, “Year One” is a part of it and should not be touched. This isn’t a Star Wars scenario, where you hand it off to J.J. Abrams and say, “Make it better.” This is a chance to take an iconic character’s origin and say: “
Where haven’t we gone before?”
So do we really need another Batman origin story? Of course we do.
Origin stories don’t stick forever. The basics persist (sent from another planet, bitten by a spider, born a mutant), but as the decades pass, things change and attempts at modernization will happen. The whole point of the New 52 was to not be obligated to previous continuity, but rather to have a clean slate.
Snyder’s work has been some of the best Batman storytelling in recent memory, but the overall tone of the books hasn’t differed much from anything pre-New 52. “The Zero Year” is a chance to take Batman in the direction the New 52 intended, even if you have to go into the past to do it.
Snyder continually rises to the challenge, and if he continues his streak of great Bat-story telling, he could — in a very short span — begin to be mentioned with the likes of Denny O’Neal and Chuck Dixon in terms of people who’ve had a profound long-term effect on The Dark Knight.
There has been speculation that the young, inexperienced Batman in “The Zero Year” will be going up against the Riddler. Snyder is batting 1.000 when it comes to Batman villains. He’s created one (The Talons) and then used Batman’s greatest nemesis (Joker). But both times, those were against an experienced Batman. How will a rookie Batman fare against his first great mental challenge?
That’s a riddle Snyder plans on making us wait a year to answer.