Batman: Year One by Frank Miller
Art by David Mazzuchelli
I’ve long been a fan of Batman, having grown up with the Adam West TV show and the comic book stories of the seventies and eighties, to the Tim Burton movies of the late eighties/early nineties, and more recently the Christopher Nolan reboots of the franchise on movie screens. Through every incarnation, I’ve always considered him one of the better superheroes, even though technically he’s not super and arguably he may not even be a hero in the truest sense. However, there’s always been something about the character that’s just made me see him as simply ‘better’ than the rest of the ever-expanding pantheon of superheroes and vigilante crime-fighters.
Year One was a late eighties reboot of the character following DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, penned by veteran writer Frank Miller (who had previously given us an older Batman in The Dark Knight Returns) and drawn by the excellent David Mazzuchelli, and as a result it gives us a fresh look at Batman’s origin story and suggested a slightly different take on his development as the dark knight and the start of his burgeoning relationship between himself and James Gordon. As is typical of Miller’s work, this is a grittier and darker story than earlier readers would have been familiar with, and has since gone on to be considered almost seminal by Batman fans.
As an origin story, this book gives us plenty of opportunities to see Batman stumble, though by the end of the story he’s most definitely found his feet as Gotham’s unofficial protector. There’s also the obligatory run-ins between Batman and the police, especially Jim Gordon (who is just a lowly detective in this one), and the fact that most of those police are just as corrupt as the villains they’re supposed to be working against makes for some interesting (and explosive) action throughout. By the end of the story Batman’s not only delivered a crushing blow to the city’s organised crime syndicates but has also helped Gordon begin the slow process of cleaning house at the Gotham Police Department.
While it could be argued that Miller can be (and regularly is) unkind to his female characters (Selina Kyle is relegated from her role as an accomplished cat burglar to a side-role as a prostitute), that doesn’t entirely detract from the fact that this is a fun and enjoyable book, and I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who’s even mildly interested in Batman’s early days in Gotham City.