I got this comic a little while ago. I had wanted to put some space between all the other Batman posts I was doing. Seems I totally forgot to write about it after my large break early on and my desire to get some movies on here too. Now is as good a time as any to talk about Batman: Year One.
As the title implies, this is the first year Batman comes into being. Not exactly an origin story, as it’s been years since the death of his parents after a mugging goes about as bad as it possibly could. Since then, Bruce has been training his body and building his reputation as a young billionaire obsessed with wine, parties, and women.
On his first outing into the bad part of Gotham, he intends only to get a feel for the criminal element who now inhabit his home city. He disguises himself as a thug with a scar, but hopes to only walk around and observe. He knows he’s not quite trained enough and still new to this, but he still can’t help himself when he sees a prostitute being pushed around by her angry pimp, and he jumps into the middle of things. He soon realizes that the swarms of street wise criminals aren’t afraid of a tough guy when there are so many of them to jump him, and things go very badly for him indeed. He needs an edge. He needs them to fear him. But not just any fear. As Bruce puts it, he needs to put the “fear of God” into them. It is then that he finally gets his dramatic realization to use the bat as his inspiration.
Batman: Year One was written by Frank Miller, the same writer as The Dark Knight Returns, but this time with a different artist, David Mazzucchelli. In fact it was his success with The Dark Knight Returns, Batman’s “swan song” story, that made DC look to Miller for a more detailed look into the beginnings of one of their flagship characters the following year. Because of this, you’ll notice the art is a little older looking than what many may be accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without flair. It’s not so old that it looks like the Silver Age comics that inspired the Adam West tv series. By this point Batman had already become the darker character that we know today. I liked how the art often has a painted quality to it, and makes excellent use of shadows thanks to David Mazzucchelli’s work.
I found Batman: Year One to be a very mature and serious feeling book. While The Dark Knight Returns was still mature in the sense that lots of people die, it still had that “comic book” feel like when Batman shows up on site with a giant absurd looking tank. Year One instead has a much more grounded feel to it. This also might be largely to do with the fact that he doesn’t actually deal with any of his regular cast of rogues. Instead, his first task as the Batman is to clean up Gotham of the overwhelmingly corrupt police department.
He’s not alone in his fight though, as G.C.P.D. recently hired a young new Lieutenant named James Gordon. Unbeknownst to each other, they are working together to take down the corrupt agency with one working on the inside, while the other puts on pressure from the outside. They don’t see each other as allies at first, but by the end they seem to have an understanding of sorts. While Batman’s beginnings are interesting, and the reason many will pick up this comic, I actually found the story of James Gordon’s rise through the ranks even more interesting. Not only was it pretty much entirely new to me, but to get this level of detail was just fascinating to me. All the while that Batman is dealing with criminals and running from a trigger happy police force, Gordon is also being assaulted by crooked cops and dealing with threats to his newly pregnant wife. I almost found this more intense simply because Gordon is just a regular man.
It’s hard to rank Batman: Year One against other Batman comics like The Dark Knight Returns because it has such a different feel when compared to all the others I’ve read. It feels just as much of a crime and detective book as it does a crime-fighting superhero book. The art and tone are also so much more grounded in reality compared to other titles with the likes of Two-Face, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and the occasional flying person. This story is about mob bosses, crooked cops, and two men trying to fix their city in the only way they each know how. Definitely worth reading! Pick it up if you get the chance.