Posted - February 19, 2012 | Updated : June 10, 2012 | August 27, 2015
Batman Year One
Batman 404 : Who I Am And How I Come To Be
The Year One series is a retelling of the origin of Batman from 1940. As the work itself puts it, this tale is "Adapted from the works of Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson"; the "fathers" of the Batman.
Like you, I'm aware of the origin of Batman, from its many retellings in media and in other Batman comics - there's even a Batman Year One animated movie coming out.
Still, I've never read Detective Comics 27, never read the original tale. One day I'm going to get a copy of DC Archives and read that, or, who knows? Maybe one day I'll become extremely rich and have the thousands to buy an original. What? It's crazy to spend that kind of money on a comic? What if you or I became Bill Gates kind of rich? One can dream.
The first issue of Batman Year One opens with the arrival in Gotham of both Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon. Bruce is fully trained by this time, he is twenty-five years old, but he is not yet the Batman. He goes out "undercover". During this first attempt to stop crime, Bruce gets stabbed in the leg and shot in the shoulder. He gets into his Porsche 928, crashes the car into Alfred's car in front of Wayne Manor and promptly passes out.
And therein lies the magic of Year One.
Year One brings home the fact that the Batman is a man. A man who can be stabbed; a man who can be shot. He's about to do something dangerous and he can die. No superhero immunity here. Being the Batman is real, and dangerous. And exciting.
I don't think there's a better recommendation of the series than the fact that I've reread it several times already, and each rereading is as rich and exciting as the first. It just doesn't grow old, the same as that other Miller/Mazzucchelli work, Daredevil Born Again.
In this first issue, Batman 404, Jim Gordon is as compelling as Bruce Wayne. Jim, an out-of-town lieutenant has just walked into the GCPD's culture of corruption. This culture of corruption isn't just a phrase, it comes alive in Year One. It embraces Gordon, seduces and threatens him and we get how lonely and dangerous it really feels like to be a straight cop in a crooked police system. Jim Gordon, you'll see, can match courage with Bruce Wayne.
What makes Bruce special, and endearing, is that Bruce Wayne is crazy. He is an obsessed, manic, ultra-focused lunatic; and, quite frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Batman 405 : War Is Declared
There are many, many, things that are brilliant about Batman 405, but this is the best, most brilliant thing of all : Batman makes a speech. I call it the "Your Feast Is Nearly Over" speech, you can't miss it if you read this issue. The way Miller and Mazzucchelli frames this speech - where it is delivered, and to whom, makes it THE Batman speech for me. It's the part of the comic that I play around with in my mind again and again. It's actually the best moment of Year One for me. Here's the speech, made during a high society get-together :
"Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You've eaten Gotham's wealth. Its spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on none of you are safe." It appears terse and staid just lying in the flat page like that but distributed over several excellent Mazzuchelli panels with corresponding sequencing by Miller, this is one comics moment I'll treasure and never forget - chances are, you'll feel the same way.
If you've ever read Gotham Central, you know how Detectives Driver, Allen, Montoya and company go about their business. Hardly a shabby group. Maybe you'd want to know how the legendary Jim Gordon stacks up to these guys? The first few pages of this issue will now give you a chance to compare. Jim Gordon was drop dead, freakin' awesome in his day.
The first bat sightings begin and Mazzucchelli frames some of these using long shots in the panels with the eerie, inky black cape on rooftops. There's also a hilarious police identification poster that looks more like the image of the Man-Bat than the Batman. We get to realize why the costume is necessary here.
Also in this issue is the first inklings of a connection between Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. Their integrity makes them loners in the gutter politics of Gotham but they're beginning to be aware of each other, beginning to sense that they are an army of two.
Batman 406 : Black Dawn
The third issue of Year One, Batman 406, has the Batman trapped in a derelict brownstone, he is wounded and a kill-everybody corrupt S.W.A.T. team is sent in to eliminate the "problem". I keep thinking about Superman when I'm reading this. Bruce doesn't have steel hard skin, he's already bleeding; he doesn't have heat vision, his utility belt has been compromised leaving him with limited tools, his batarangs are not among them; he can't fly, he's trapped in a basement. The Batman is so human and he is in so much danger.
What happens next is magic, just absolute magic that you might not want to miss. If you love Batman, don't miss this issue.
Also here is the beginning of the famous affair Jim Gordon has with Detective Sarah Essen.
Batman 407 : Friend In Need
Because of the events in this issue Jim Gordon sees Bruce Wayne's face. I'm sure of it, well sort of, what do you think?
The center of events here is an immediate threat to Jim's family, his wife and young son. If I'm not mistaken this is the baby who would one day grow up to be the controversial James Gordon.
This is a team-up issue of sorts, seeing Gordon and Wayne/Batman fight side-by-side and ending with their legendary partnership just in time for the arrival of the Joker.
It is the conclusion of Batman: Year One, a work which I hold to be a finer one than even the powerful >Dark Knight Returns. Miller's script achieves a wonderful paradox - it is both simple and deep; paring down the Batman to his essentials yet transcending the traditional superhero comic inclination towards whimsy (I'm not saying that's a bad inclination), and grounding the core of Year One in such realism. This is a work that takes itself very seriously, and I, for one, seeing such an approach from the creative team, am compelled to take it seriously too. With that mindset and an expectation of greatness, I read Year One which, in every page, every panel, meets my expectation.