Detective Comics #0 is split into two parts this month with the first part, The Final Lesson, digging into Bruce Wayne’s earlier days as he traveled the world finding various teachers to train and study under in the quest to become the ultimate crime fighter.
Batman’s origin and status as costumed vigilante have been well documented, but the details of his preparation are scarce but often alluded to.
Issue #0 gives more insight into Wayne’s physical and emotional transformation providing some character development to a character who was created more than 80 years ago.
Wayne seeks the renowned and multi-talented Shihan Matsuda high in the Himalayas.
After proving himself worthy of becoming a student, Wayne’s motivation to make Matsuda proud of him clashes with the icy cold exterior that Matsuda shows to his student. It’s one thing to train in extreme physical conditions, but Wayne’s heart and mind are in conflict as two different and opposing influences in his life, Matsuda and his wife, fight to mold Wayne according to opposing agendas and ideals.
Matsuda’s vision for Wayne requires his student to withdraw from all emotion in order to protect himself from those who would take advantage of his feelings. It’s Matsuda belief that human relationships weaken warriors who must strive to be something more by becoming less human. Those teachings come in direct contrast to the words given to Wayne by the Lady Matsuda who hopes Bruce will accept human emotions in order to learn how to conquer them.
Just as Wayne turns to love, events leave him, once again, alone. An assassin’s botched attack wakes a sleeping Wayne who comes too late to his master’s rescue. When Wayne discovers the assailant is his love interest, Mio, it’s revealed that the Lady Matsuda had planned to kill Matsuda and take his fortune.
It’s a convoluted story with a tidy little ending that kills off all the particulars giving premise to why Batman’s alter ego is distant in his own personal relationships. But after seeing how things turn out, there are a lot of questions — What was the logical purpose in Lady Matsuda’s plan to make Bruce fall in love with Mio? And it seems strange that Mio would have Wayne waiting for her the same night she planned to attack. Had Matsuda not awoken, would she have killed off Bruce too? Based on how things turn out, it’s difficult to go back and process how the plotting
In the end, Matsuda’s words to Bruce, “This is what closeness will bring you,” ring hollow — it’s Matsuda’s coldness to his own wife that spurs her to turn into a black widow. If these are the events that made the most impact on Bruce’s decision to live a solitary and relationship-free life, it comes across as manipulated and contrived because there’s no solid argument to make him that way. What’s lost in the surprise of the twist ending is his relationship to the teacher who opened his doors and his life to the young apprentice. That might explain why he takes on various Robins, but this development in Bruce’s character seems more like a cop-out than persuasive grounds for him to remove himself from social norms.
Detective Comics #0’s second story, The Long Wait, puts the spotlight on Alfred’s dedication to the Wayne estate as he wards off hostile businessmen who want Wayne declared dead and his possessions seized. Mr. Shaw tempts Alfred with offers in theatrical roles, but Pennyworth’s loyalty doesn’t bend or budge, and he even goes on the defensive pushing Shaw up against a wall. All those years waiting for the young master pays off when Bruce enters his old home with a brand new look.
Henrik Jonsson’s artwork is solid, and his characters display a lot of emotion through their hands which clench, grasp, and reach for things. Judging by Alfred’s suit, the New 52 modernizes Bruce by setting his homecoming sometime in the 70s or early 80s. Other than that, The Long Wait doesn’t really push the envelope in terms of storytelling. It’s a glimpse into Alfred’s standing as part of the Bat family and his role in Wayne’s life.
Together, both stories in issue #0 hope to build on the Batman mythos by introducing some history into the continuity that serves as a base for those unfamiliar with Batman. For tried and true fans, it’s more of the same.