Given I have not been the biggest fan of the New 52 version of the DC universe I have to say this Scott Snyder Greg Capullo story is pretty damned solid and actually accessible even is you have not read much of the last twenty some odd issues. Though already in print for months at this point but its currently timely since the Gotham television show has just started and it covers some of the same time period of Jim Gordon's early career and his meeting with the young Bruce Wayne. The art by the veteran superhero noir artist Greg Capullo, who's work with both Spawn and Sam and Twich from back in the nineties was good has developed into a very tight defined and detailed realistic style. This story plunges the people of Gotham into a escape from New York short of closed off primative island setting kept in the dark and secluded by the machinations of the Riddler who's got a point to prove. Scott gets to develope the characters of Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox more then they have been in the past and they kind of shine through more then the titular character who's best story moments for me happen I the flashbacks. All in all I actually feel I can reccommend this for superhero fans who have been wanting to read Batman but don't want to feel like they are stuck in the crossover nightmare of multiple titles to read.
Zero Year jumps back and forth between several time periods including the events that lead up to the shooting of the Wayne's, Bruce's development after that shocking event, Batmans early relationship with the Gotham PD and Gordon and finally the Riddler's abduction of the city of Gotham to force evolution. The volume opens with a scene where Batman deftly evades the then mostly corrupt Gotham PD and has a truly contentious encounter with Gordon. Over the corse of the stories we get to see the development of their grudging mutual respect and Snyder takes opportunity to flesh out the early career of for the future comissioner and how he got wise of the corruption around him. He also writes about the pre- and post- murder Bruce and touches on his young adulthood a bit in enlightening ways. In the zero-year story involving the Riddler we get to see Lucius Fox in light of his career as an inventor and read a pretty disturbing serial killer tale that is worthy of the bizarre antagonists that Batman is known to face. Though these are in essence ret-con events they do fit into the story and build on the legend. In the full course of the story we get to see Batman come into being the hero he will someday become, one who is driven to win eventhough failure and loss may be on the road to winning. All the players big and small from the Bat-mythos get their moment to shine in Zero-Year and the story elevates the Riddler to more then just a bit part villain in the same way that Avengers Arena elevated Arcade from a joke to a threat.
Greg Capullo has come a long way since he was the replacement for Todd Mcfarlane on Spawn and the main artist for the titles spun out of that one of the first Image comics. His line work has become much cleaner and tighter and he has become very adapt at displaying emotion without ending up in the realm of caricature where some artists out of the 90s can tend to go. Probably some of the most startlingly good work in this book are the distance shots and cityscapes he draws; he effectively creates the moods and atmosphere of post apocalyptic setting among the skyscrapers and buildings of Gotham City. He and the colonists have created a very pretty book about some very ugly things that really left me wanting more. His Bruce Wayne looks much less weathered then he does in the modern storyline and give we are seeing hi at the outset of his career and as with the story its a worthy addition to the story.
So if your like me and have fond memories of reading Batman in the past but have not really been captured by some of the stories in the New 52 this may be one to check out because its not weighed down be missing chapters published in other volumes and you don't really even need to read Zero Year part one to really get stuck in. I don't know if I'll be back for the next volume but after checking this out I can reccomend it for multiple reasons and I like it enough to say I will be checking into the book from time to time. Strong enough a tale to drive away the bad taste some of the new Bat-Family titles have left in my mouth recently.