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Batman: Year One Paperback – January 10, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4 Up–In the late 1980s, DC Comics revamped many superheroes but realized that Batman should remain true to his 1939 history. According to the introduction, the editors also decided that the public needed to know more about Batman's early life as a vigilante, and Miller and Mazzucchelli came together to produce Batman: Year One. Originally released in 1988 in four parts, the stories have been combined into one book. Opening with the arrival of Lieutenant James Gordon in Gotham's police force, the story goes on to inform readers about the level of corruption permeating the force. They also witness Bruce Wayne's first encounter with the prostitute named Selina, who will become Catwoman. Wayne speaks to his dead father, asking for guidance, and is answered with a bat on the windowsill, and Batman is born. The remaining chapters highlight Gordon's continuing difficulties with the corrupt police force, Batman's early difficulties in protecting and using his arsenal of weapons, and the first villains he chooses to pursue. At the end of the book, readers are treated to some background on Mazzucchelli's art, the production of Year One, and details on Richmond Lewis's coloring techniques. Both beginning and devoted Batman fans will enjoy this edition.–Sarah Krygier, Solano County Library, Fairfield, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"This is a story no true Batman fan should be able to resist." —School Library Journal
“A gritty and atmospheric retelling of Batman’s earliest days as told by the author of the seminal Dark Knight Returns (1987). Mazuzuccelli’s art brings a new level of emotional instensity and realistic, muscular action.” —Booklist
“Year One worked as a fine piece of urban crime fiction…it was just a bonus that the arc also brought new depth to iconic characters that had been around for nearly 50 years.” —A.V. Club
“[One of] the most influential Batman stories ever told.” —Vulture
“You know that saying, "If you read just one book, this is the one to read"? Well, that applies to Batman: Year One. It's not only one of the most important comics ever written, it's also among the best” —IGN
“The best thing that Miller has ever written about Batman is the Batman: Year One.” —Wired.com
“This may be the best Batman comic ever.” —io9
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Once upon a time, there was a man named Frank Miller. In 1986, Frank wrote a little story called The Dark Knight Returns. This critically acclaimed alternate-universe novel featured Miller's revolutionary interpretation of Batman. Shortly after, he was asked to write something else. Anything. He took a very general route: a Batman origin story. Little did he know, this 4-issue story would become a classic, essential Batman collection.
Batman Year One collects Batman issues 404-407 into one remastered collection, complete with bonus features of extra artwork, preludes, afterwords, etc. Here is a breakdown of the book's contents:
- A one page long newspaper clipping titled The Crime Blotter written by Slam Bradley, the original star of Detective Comics #1, perhaps as a homage to him.
- A 2 page introduction by Dennis O'Neil from March 1988 explaining how the idea for Batman Year one was introduced.
- The 97 page long story itself. More on that later.
- A 37 page afterword(s) complete with original sketches, the process of remastering the color, original scripts, black and white artwork, etc.
- An advertisement at the end for other graphic novels, The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Haunted Knight, and Catwoman: When in Rome, all by the Dynamic Duo of comics whose names aren't Batman and Robin, Jeff Loeb and Tim Sale. Perhaps DC is trying to tell us something...
The story itself is phenomenal. I'm not going to spoil anything, but here's a little opening to draw you in:
Lieutenant James Gordon has been called in to work in Gotham City. During the train ride there, we learn of his opinions towards his new workplace. He complains about the long ride, the scummy people, the lousy effort of the police force in a mob-ruled city, how he knows it will be difficult to raise his family. Think Detroit. While there, he learns of the corrupt Gotham police force, and the return of Bruce Wayne, a millionaire playboy who inherited his dead parents' wealth by default. Bruce himself is struggling mentally. He wants to become a vigilante, a self-appointed crime fighter, but he lacks one minor thing: others simply won't fear him. It finally dawns to him that he should become what he feared, a bat.
Cover art for the book is basic. That's all it has to be. A red book with a sketch of Batman that stretches from front to back cover (I purchased the paperback version)
The story hits everyone differently. If your memory of Batman is the Adam West, joke-cracking pun-filled crime fighter, this story will come as a shock to you. You may have to read the story a second time before you can really appreciate it. It is very dark, filled with blood, cheating, alcohol, prostitutes, and drugs. What I'm trying to get at here is that this isn't a story to read to your kids at bed time. Nevertheless, it is still a masterpiece.
Speaking of masterpieces, David Mazzucchelli absolutely nails it on the artwork. It focuses a lot on lighting and shadows, perfect for the noir mood of the story. It also focuses on little, tiny details, the lining of the bricks of the apartment building being staked out by a psychopath, the raindrops on Gordon's car window, the debris of the collapsed house Batman uses to hide from the police (yes, I just said that, Batman hiding from the police)
The story occasionally switches narration between Batman, Jim Gordon, and Catwoman. The amount of use of this tool can be what makes or breaks a story. Miller balanced it perfectly. There are no "supercriminals" so to speak, no Joker, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze; just the mob, police force, and some no-named petty thieves. After all, it's just Batman's first year. It broadcasts the successes, failures, and luck of Batman.
All-in-all, it was a fantastic read. It's really something you can read again and again. This book will start you comic/TPB collection, and hopefully it will be a long one. You will see some connections to the Nolan films in this book, as it played a vital role as inspiration for Batman Begins. Upon putting this book down, it immediately poses another question: Where to next? Perhaps you didn't like this new spin on the Batman. Maybe you want a more vibrant kid friendly version. I would suggest picking up Batman: Chronicles Volume 1 or Batman: Archives. They are a collection of older Batman comics from the Gold, Silver, and Bronze age. Perhaps you did like this Batman and what to further oversee his development into the Dark Knight. Batman Year One in my opinion is the starting point for the modern age Batman. If this interests you, I'd pick up at least one of the following graphic novels:
- Batman the Long Halloween - a murder-mystery spanning over a year
- Batman: Dark Victory - an intended sequel for The Long Halloween, introduction of Dick Grayson AKA Robin
- Batman Haunted Knight - a collection of 3 Batman short stories
- Catwoman: When in Rome - further reading on Catwoman
- Batman: The Man who Laughs - introduction to the Joker
- Batman and the Monster Men - my recommendation if you want to read Batman in a chronological order. However, it is very expensive at this time on amazon.
- Legends of the Dark Knight - a comic series consisting of several batman short stories, no order is required, though some are sequels to others.
- Anything you firggin' want - no explanation needed.
I payed $8 for the book via Amazon, and it was a steal. If you see the book for under 10 bucks, don't hesitate to pick it up. I hoped I helped all you new readers, or veterans who never read this your time around. 5/5 stars, 100/5 stars, actually. It doesn't matter. Read it if you haven't. You won't regret it.
Firstly, the art is vastly superior to TDKR. Frank Miller can write, but his art talent has rarely appealed to me. It's inconsistent, messy, and filled with many bizarre figures. His Batman looks imposing and dark, but is surrounded with mediocrity. David Mazzucchelli, on the other hand, draws everything with stunning, sleek realism, capturing Miller's troubled Gotham and the young Bruce Wayne like no other. While not the most detailed work, it works efficiently and propels the reader through the story with gripping visuals. Despite the simplistic style, it's never cartoonish. This is some mature material, and the art reflects this. Included in this title are several early renderings from Mazzucchelli, as well as some of his commentary. It is almost enough art to be considered a second Year One.
The writing is, of course, superb. Miller's TDKR Batman is gruff and callous, befitting of an older Wayne. Miller writes the young vigilante just as well, showing that he is driven in his mission by pain, yet still carrying a sense of empathy for others, even criminals. Gordon is the other highlight of this story, showing the yet-to-be commissioner as tough, vulnerable, and not as squeaky clean as his ideals. Jim Gordon has always been an important character in Batman, likely in the top four, following only Alfred, Joker, and Robin. Jim experiences, and is susceptible to, temptation. Showing that he is human does not take away from his heroic nature, but rather makes him more of a three-dimensional character. Wayne and Gordon both begin their time in Gotham intent on cleaning up the city, but obviously in very different manners. This parallel journey introduces the bond these two will forge, and the eternal boundary that will separate them.
This is my favorite Batman story, surpassing TDKR with ease. Here, Batman's a hero, plain and simple. He's not afraid to use intimidation and violence, but he's undoubtedly one of the good guys. the writing and art is top notch, the standard for which all good comics should be held. Yes, it's an origin story, but it's an origin story like no other. At less than $10, I can't think of a better Batman comic to be purchased.