The simple majesty of BATMAN: YEAR ONE
Wed, 06/09/2010 - 12:00pm
With BATMAN #700 upon is, we’re continuing our spotlight on all things Batman. Today, we look at one of the hero’s key stories.
Everyone knows what happened to make Bruce Wayne become Batman. But the story had never been told with such flourish and panache.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE, for me, is hands down the best piece of super-hero storytelling I've ever read.
The story features writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzuchelli at the top of their games, in the wake of WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, reinventing and reinvigorating the classic concepts that made Batman an icon. Gotham. Commissioner Gordon. Catwoman. Bruce Wayne.
Telling the parallel story of a young Bruce Wayne learning the ropes as Batman and a young(ish) Jim Gordon entering the squalid pond that was the Gotham City Police Department, BATMAN: YEAR ONE brought an unheralded level of maturity and realism to a character that was already ahead of the curve. This Gotham wasn't a dark but livable metropolis -- it was a cesspool of crime and deception, with no light at the end of the tunnel. The GCPD wasn't a stable of white knights battling back the evil elements -- they were as corrupt as the "crime" they faced.
Enter Batman -- fresh from his world travels and looking for meaning and a way to best defend the city that had swallowed up his youth.
Miller's script is forceful and jarring, more Mean Streets and Godfather II than whatever preconceived notions people had about comic books at the time. Richard Lewis' grays outweighed the blacks and whites to create a murky, between-the-lines pallor that matched the ethical murkiness of the characters and set the stage Mazzuchelli's masterful artwork. His storytelling -- frighteningly precise and beautifully fluid -- makes you feel like you're awkwardly cowering in the back of the room, as Batman slams a goon's face into the ground. Cinematic stuff, for real.
A shattered window. A flying bat. A legacy born.
And, all the above aside, the highest compliment I can pay this book? Whenever a friend that doesn't read comics asks me for something to get started with, this is what I hand them.