"Zero Year: Dark City"
Having been caught trying to catch a movie by himself in Gotham City, young Bruce Wayne was forced to sit in the GCPD Headquarters with his parents, waiting to be processed. He explained to his parents that he had snuck off to see a Zorro film because he knew that his father had liked them as a boy, and was curious. His review was somewhat scathing, and feigning insult, Thomas joked that he would disinherit the boy. More seriously, he explained that both he and Martha were aware of the troubles Bruce had had since falling into the cave on their property recently. They had heard his nightmares. Thomas assured him that he had nothing to prove by going into Park Row alone. They would always be there for him. With Bruce somewhat comforted, Thomas resumed his prior tone, explaining that the only way to resolve their dispute over Zorro would be to forgo his benefit that evening, and see the Mark of Zorro again, right that moment.
Now, after having been caught in Gotham's catacombs as they were flooded by The Riddler, Batman emerges, violently, gasping for air.
The storm over Gotham is worsening, and Jim Gordon and the GCPD are working to evacuate those areas vulnerable to flooding. He is interrupted by a call from Batman himself warning him to get to Wayne Tower. He had deduced that the Riddler's hubs in the power surge formed a curved line with a straight base - a question mark. The tower stands roughly where the dot would be. He warns that when the police turn the power back on, complete control of those hubs will fall to Nygma, and they only have minutes before that happens. While Jim attends to that, Batman will be trying to answer Nygma's riddle.
In a storm-beleaguered police blimp, Commissioner Loeb and his mean refuse to get to safety without turning the power back on. They are disturbed when, from within the dark cloud looming over them, a much larger blimp materializes. Smirking, Loeb knows immediately that this is the Batman, come to stop them.
Batman knows the Riddler is well equipped, having stolen a remote hacking hub, a hyper-repeater which amplifies signals, and a weather balloon. By placing the remote hub onto the balloon, and amplifying the signal, he can take control of the entire city.
Jim, meanwhile, is having some trouble convincing Dan Corrigan, his former partner, to stop trying to put the power back on. The bad blood between them is too strong, and Dan is only too happy to tell him that the Commissioner isn't a fan either. He has ordered that Jim is to be sent back to Chicago as soon as possible. Without Dan's help, Jim is on his own.
Batman struggles to get his blimp high enough into the storm to catch the weather balloon, even as Alfred warns that going any higher will see the blimp torn apart. As if in answer, the starboard stabilizer burns out, but just in time to get Batman up next to the weather balloon. In order to stop the Riddler, he must get the jammer he designed into range. Unfortunately, the balloon is just so far out of range - but Batman thinks he can bridge the gap by leaping the twenty feet required to get his grappling gun in range. Alfred doubts he can do it, but soon, Bruce is in the air, firing his gun, which loops its cable around the weather balloon's base, giving him the purchase he requires to climb up. When he reaches it, though, Doctor Death is waiting for him.
Gordon makes his way to Philip Kane's old office, where he finds the Riddler, who admits he didn't expect the visit. Jim demands that Nygma hand over the suitcase on the desk, and end his plan, and then submit to arrest. However, he is curious about the long red string tied around Nygma's finger. The Riddler directs Jim's attention to a series of pulleys through which the string is threaded, precariously holding up a massive boulder right over Jim's head. Nygma comments that the rock must way a good five tons, and he can feel the string loosening. Jim narrowly escapes being crushed, but the weight of it tears through the floor to the level below, causing the Lieutenant to fall through after it.
On the balloon, Batman tried to convince Helfern that the deaths that will come from Nygma's plan aren't worth letting his work be used for it. Helfern, though, doesn't care, reminding that millions could be saved by his work. He explains that when he was fired by Wayne Enterprises, the Riddler helped him continue his work and helped him trust himself enough to test his theories on himself. And now, though deformed beyond recognition by his serum, Helfern considers himself more alive and powerful than ever. The serum can be perfected, with more time - whether he lives to see it or not. In their fight, Helfern knocks the jammer from Batman's hand, and he is forced to leap for it before it falls into the river. Helfern tackles him from behind, and he is too late, watching the jammer tumble into space.
Enraged, Batman beats him violently, and with each broken bone, another malformed one grows in its place. Helfern begs him to finish the job, but Batman merely snaps off one of the bone growths, and carries it away with himm using it to hammer at the controls of the remote hack system. From outside, Helfern comments that he had lost his son because he had been placed on a dangerous assignment to find Bruce Wayne, and was killed by booby-traps in the tunnels occupied by a group of nomads. Before Batman realizes it, Helfern has snuck up on him, and thrust his claw-like fingers into his chest. He explains that his serum helps protect those who are hurt by making them stronger. Coughing, Batman tries to appeal again to Helfern's care for the city, but the madman complains that the Gothamites must come to understand that the promise of sunlight is a hollow one, and nobody is watching over them.
In response, Batman activates the explosive he'd desperately planted on the remote hack device, and is blasted backward as Helfern is caught in the explosion. The shrapnel in Helfern's body worsens his disfigurement to potentially fatal degrees, but the man refuses to do anything to prevent his own death. He only demands that Batman tell his son's story. Before Batman's eyes, what little flesh on Helfern's body is choked by his bones, splattering blood everywhere.
As Corrigan finally gets the power grid working again, he is horrified when he realizes that Jim was right, and he played right into the Riddler's hand. On the Balloon, Batman realizes that he didn't stop the remote device in time to prevent the information relay. Meanwhile, the Riddler himself activates another "riddle", causing explosions within retaining walls which releases the flood waters they held back onto the city. At the same time, he uses his newly gained control over all electrical devices in the city to cause every police blimp to go down in flames - including Loeb's. Somewhere in all of this, Batman had failed. He had failed to see what the Riddler's real plan was, and now the city was going to pay for it. The city is spinning out of his control, with nothing to do about it but watch it drown, just as he was forced, as a boy, to helplessly watch his parents die.
"Zero Year: Dark City"
- Batman (Flashback and Main Story)
- Thomas Wayne (Flashback Only)
- Martha Wayne (Flashback Only)
- James Gordon
- Harper Row
- Cullen Row
- Gillian Loeb
- Barbara Gordon
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Dan Corrigan
- Doctor Death
- The Riddler
- Joe Chill
- Bat Blimp