‘Classic Comic’ Review – Batman: Year One

Written by Frank Miller

Art by David Mazzucchelli

Published by Titan Books

 “He will become the greatest crime fighter the world has ever known…. It won’t be easy.”

So everybody knows the origin’s of the Batman right, there are probably undiscovered tribes in the Amazon jungle that could tell you all about the young Bruce Wayne and the physiological impact the murder of his parents had on him and how that one act of violence shaped him and put him on the road that would eventually lead to the creation of one the worlds greatest crime fighting heroes and the worlds greatest detective.  

But has everybody read Batman: Year One the claustrophobic crime ridden comic drama from Frank Miller that single handily moved Batman from the slightly camp camp to the hard as nails and a bit scary camp?

This book collects together issue numbers 404 to 407 of DC’s Batman comic and was originally published between March and June 1987. It’s hard to imagine how much of a re-invention these four issues must have been back in the day, today we are used to comics being a lot more edgier and grittier, but back then things were a little different, and these comics must have come as quite a shock to the system back in ‘87.

The comic’s pick up the now familiar tale of Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City after a number of supposed wilderness years after the death of his parents, and his first foray into the world of crime fighting.  But this story isn’t just Bruce Wayne’s and Batman’s perhaps overshadowing them both is the new cop on the block Jim Gordon, whose story intertwines beautifully with this re-telling of the Batman origin story.

Things don’t initially go well for Bruce and his crime fighting escapades. After adopting a cunning disguise that involves a bobble hat and a fake scar he gets his ass well and truly kicked by a gang of prostitutes that include a pre Cat Woman Selina Kyle.  After being shot by and eventually fleeing from the police Bruce returns to Wayne Manor barely alive and begs for help and guidance from his father in the classic bat through the window  – ‘I will become Batman’ scene.

In the other story arc from these comics we learn about Jim Gordon’s arrival at the Gotham City Police Department after transferring with this pregnant wife Barbra from Chicago. After witnessing the violence and corruption in Gotham City first hand, his partner Flass assaults a teenager for fun soon after their first meeting, Gordon makes it his mission to rid the police department of corruption. This course of action brings him into conflict with Commissioner Loeb who orders a group of officers along with Flass to warn Gordon off – this involves baseball bats and threats to his pregnant wife and these guy’s are supposed to be the law!!!!

After initially being tasked by Loeb with catching Batman by any means necessary, Gordon soon realises through a series of brief encounters, that Batman may be a force for good in Gotham City and so begin the first tentative steps of friendship that for years to come will be central to the whole Batman story.

The story rattles along at a stunning pace with loads of action and includes a standout scene which involves the demolition of an apartment building with Batman stuck inside being hunted down by a SWAT team.  But don’t be fooled into thinking this book is all action there’s a lot of depth to this story as well. None of the main characters on offer here are black or white, good or bad, they are in effect human and bring all their human failings and foibles to bear in this story, especially it has to be said Jim Gordon – good stuff.

If you have seen Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins film parts of this story will be familiar to you, you can clearly see where Nolan drew some of his inspiration from and that isn’t a bad thing in my opinion, again this story is a stone cold classic and I loved it.

Then there’s the art work by David Mazzucchelli which I thought looked deceptively simple and old school on my initial reading. But don’t be fooled, again like the story there is a hell of a lot of detail going on if you are prepared to look for it. However, sometimes in my opinion, the colouring in this book can feel a little dated but it’s still lovely stuff.

The website IGN Comics has ranked Batman: Year One at the top of a list of their 25 greatest Batman graphic novels, saying that “no other book before or since has quite captured the realism, the grit and the humanity of Gordon and Batman so perfectly.” and after reading Year One, I totally agree. Even if you think you know everything about the origin of Batman you really should give this a go. You won’t be disappointed.

GS Rating 5/5 – A Classic Batman story.

Dry Slaps – None.

GS Reviewer – Nick Roberts.

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