Batman: Year One

Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli
A New York Times Best Seller!A deluxe trade paperback edition of one of the most important and critically acclaimed Batman adventures ever, written by Frank Miller, author of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS!In addition to telling the entire dramatic story of Batman's first year fighting crime, this collection includes reproductions of original pencils, promotional art, script pages, unseen David Mazzucchelli Batman art and more.


Reviewed: 2016-06-14
This week I've read Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Rises and Batman: Year One. I didn't especially enjoy either one, though that probably has as much to do with how I'm generally tired of superhero stories generally. There are graphic novels that I still enjoy--Ultimate Spider-Man, for example--but for the most part I'm weary of the constant barrage of superhero stories that pop culture currently throws at me. It's interesting to see the seeds of the current craze in Miller's stories, but I can't imagine ever reading either of these Batman stories again. My weariness of the current comics craze is explained in part by Year One illustrator David Mazzucchelli's comment (from the Afterword):

Once a depiction veers toward realism, each new detail releases a torrent of questions that exposes the absurdity at the heart of the genre. The more "realistic" superheroes become, the less believable they are.

I guess with all the recent movies that attempt to show superheroes as realistic, I'm just too tired of it all to invest much in Miller's stories.

Of the two books--Dark Knight and Year One--I enjoyed Year One much more. This is primarily because of the art style, which is much closer to the bold, vivid illustration that I prefer in graphic novels. Year One still uses the small TV screens, but only occasionally, and it doesn't become the annoying gimmick it is in Dark Knight. In fact, my enjoyment of Year One was enhanced after reading Mazzucchelli's Afterword, which I found quite thoughtful. Seeing his first comic page, drawn when he was a child, reminded me very much of my own kids and their developing art and storytelling skills.

Year One is a Batman origin story, but it's as much about Jim Gordon's story, which I liked. In this story, Gordon is a lieutenant, recently transferred to Gotham, and he has to navigate the corruption within the police department, as well as fight his own personal weaknesses. I was glad to see him making (eventually) wise choices. The story is a great set-up to the character.

As for Batman/Bruce's origin, there is less detail than I'd expected. Perhaps that's because the film Batman Begins has filled in those details so effectively (despite the film's occasional reliance on mindless action-movie scenes). At the end of Year One, there is still a lot of mystery about Bruce and his motivations, and where he is headed. But I suppose with a character like Batman, that's as it should be.

I found several of the villains difficult to distinguish, which was sometimes a problem. And though Catwoman/Selina appears, I wasn't quite sure why (but I don't know much about the classic Batman story, so I don't know what role she's required to play early on). If The Dark Knight Returns suffered slightly from having too many villains (and what actually happened to Harvey Dent, anyway?), Year One may have suffered from not having just one strong villain throughout.

I'm glad that I've now read two of the most popular Batman stories, but I think the world of Batman may not be the place for me.
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