Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Batman: Year One

Writer: Frank Miller
Pencils: Dave Mazzucchelli
Inking: Richmond Lewis

Telling an origin story is nothing new. But when I was told to read, “The greatest origin story—and Batman comic ever!” by a friend—I felt it had to be done. Batman: Year One isn’t just a retelling of how Batman became Batman; it’s just as much about Bats as it is Commissioner Gordon—then Lieutenant Gordon.

Gordon and Batman’s stories run parallel to one another. They’re such similar people—and have similar goals—but how they go about doing that is what separates them. Yet both need each other to succeed.

Gordon is just as integral a part of who Batman is as any of his friends and partners. Both Gordon and Batman will never relinquish the city of Gotham to criminals, no matter how things become. It’s that conviction in justice that forms their relationship.

I’ve always found the art-style from 80s comics to be so appealing. It’s simplistic, and dark: less about color, and more about tone. Yes the color is there, but it’s used in unusual ways: reds, purples, and high colors illuminate the darkness of night, while day by contrast is otherwise colorless. It’s just a beautiful comic—I don’t see it as old art either, it’s just a different style; a different age. Like Watchmen, the art is timeless. 

I love the art from 80s comics.

I’m a novice to Frank Miller’s writing—Batman: Year One being the first of Millers I’ve read.  He has a great way of seeing things and conveying them to the reader. Most dialogue is told through the inner thoughts of Batman and Gordon. The stress and struggles both men have to go through in order to clean the streets of Gotham is so…human.

Frank Miller humanizes a man who decides to dress up in tights and jump from rooftops. Batman has vulnerability, he’s not Superman, he’s just a guy in a suit. And Gordon isn’t a squeaky clean cop either, he’s made mistakes and even makes things worse in some cases, but he stays relatable nonetheless. They’re both heroes, but never are they shown without their flaws.

When a character is struggling they aren’t going to be able to form complete sentences, they stammer and otherwise speak quickly. Many of Batman’s thoughts are disjointed blurbs of thought: a quick few words and then strait to getting things done. No need to read an entire paragraph of dialogue or mounds of exposition. Batman: Year One is a lean concise origin story that doesn’t meander around. It just gets to the point. 

If I could recommend two graphic novels that a first time comic reader should seek out it would be Batman: Year One and Watchmen, in that order. Now, Watchmen has more to say overall, and was very influential on comics as a respected medium, but Batman is so iconic that I'd tell people to start off with a character they already have a grasp of. I can’t recommend Batman: Year One enough. It should be a comic that everybody reads before all others.

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