The tale of Zero Year brings us back to the very beginning of Batman’s career, before he even donned the cowl and became the Dark Knight. Like I mentioned before, Batman: Year One has long been the standard origin story for Batman, but this story has been told and retold literally dozens of times of the years, so the idea of doing again was not an attractive one at first.
That feeling went away the moment I started reading Secret City, Snyder writing one of the most perfect Batman scripts you could ask for, giving a new take on Batman’s origin that while it stayed faithful to what had been established for decades also built a new foundation for the Dark Knight. Unlike previous incarnations, the return of Bruce Wayne to Gotham City was secretive, and was only revealed against his will be his uncle. Another change was his relationship with Alfred, the loyal butler not supportive of Bruce’s new mission nor his methods in completing it. This created some very tense scenes between the two, and also deepened their relationship further than had been done in years.
The most important part of this retelling was that of the Red Hood. Originally just a thief that may or may not have become the Joker (never truly confirmed in my mind), Snyder revamped the idea into a major crime syndicate known as the Red Hood Gang, the leader forming a very close and volatile relationship with Bruce Wayne. The idea of the gang was that the majority of the members were ordinary people blackmailed into service, making the gang a dangerous and difficult enemy for Batman to overcome. The idea was frankly mind-blowing, and made the Red Hood a truly great villain in Batman’s Rogue Gallery, something a lot of readers didn’t think was possible. Yes, there was some foreshadowing of who the Red Hood might be or who he might become, but Snyder never confirms anything, again keeping enough mystery to want the reader to learn more.
Despite the new direction, there were a lot of old call backs to the original stories. The confrontation at ACE Chemicals, the origins of the Batcave, how Bruce decided to become a bat, they were all there, but revamped and re-imagined for a new generation of Bat-Fans. Snyder truly outdid himself with this book, just the first volume the Zero Year arc, and left us on a cliff hanger which re-established the Riddler as a truly formidable opponent for the Caped Crusader.
Secret City in the end helps redefine Batman’s origins, and is one hell of a launch point for one of the craziest Batman stories ever told.