Batman Year One
After his success with The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller decided to write another Batman story that was supposed to be a retake on the origins of Gotham’s dark avenger. He pitched his idea to DC and thus Batman – Year One was born.
The story follows both James Gordon, who had just transferred to Gotham City and was still only a Lieutenant, and twenty-five year old Bruce Wayne, who after 12 years of absence returns to his hometown. Miller paints a fairly dark and corrupt vision of Gotham. The police force is on the take, the mayor’s office is also involved in the different criminal activities of the mafia families. Gordon, an honest cop, quickly upsets the balance, by sticking his nose into the affairs of the other officer’s. At the same time the first issue shows, how Bruce Wayne slowly evolves into his later alter ego. His first attempts to go out and get involved in fighting the criminal elements drowning Gotham’s streets fails miserably. He realizes that he needs to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies and when a bat crashes into his study late one night, an idea is born.
The following issue shows Wayne’s first attempt to patrol the streets as Batman and Miller ingeniously shows that a perfect training in martial arts is not enough for the dark knight to succeed. However, he slowly gets the hang of it, only to face a new problem: the Gotham City police department isn’t too thrilled about the vigilante. The reasons for this are not only of legal impact (Batman tends to mount up assault charges), but he also interferes with the organized crime syndicates, which pay a lot of money to the police department to be left alone.
In the last two issues these conflicts explode and Batman is hunted by a swat team, while Gordon fights to indict his superiors. Selina Kyle, who made an appearance in the earlier issues, picks up her costume and decides to become Catwoman, a high profile cat burglar and later on, one of Batman’s most notorious encounters.
Miller’s Year One does everything right. It establishes the main heroes, as well as some of the villains. Harvey Dent and Selina Kyle are introduced and we also get a look at the different crime syndicates (Sal ‘The Boss’ Maroni, the Roman family) ruling Gotham’s underworld. David Mazzuchelli’s film noir art fits Miller’s dark and gloomy re-imagination of Gotham perfectly, giving the whole tale a real detective story feel. Since the original release in the monthly Batman series, the story arc has been published as a graphic novel and it is one of those stories that every Batman fan must have read.
Reread Value 8
Overall rating 10/10