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A little more Batman

September 19, 2008

I recently got three Batman graphic novels as a gift. The Killing Joke, Year One, and Return of the Dark Knight.

To be honest, I’ve never actually owned or read any them despite their status as classics in the Batman universe and comics in general. 

Lets do this somewhat chronologically based somewhat on that mythical beast “Continuity.” Today is Year One, followed by The Killing Joke, and in the end Return of the Dark Knight.

Background: Really? Of all the comic creators I’ve introduced not knowing who Frank MIller is almostblasphemy, it’s like not knowing Alan Moore. I’m just kidding. However, I won’t put up too much info on him. Okay, born in ’57, raised in Vermot. One of the first comics he worked on was DareDevil. Made famous by his Batman series. In the 1990s he created his critically acclaimed series Sin City which was turned into a movie and Batman Beyond is heavily inspired by Miller’s Year One. His break role, I think, was Ronin but I could be wrong. So that’s him. 

David Mazzucchelli was the illustrator on Year One. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design. His first comic jobs where with Marvel and DC where he worked on Daredevil and Batman respectively. After Year One David began doing non-Superhero comics and illustrations for various publications. Sometime this fall a graphic novel called Asterios Polyp is supposed to come out. I don’t know if it’s out yet or not. I don’t think it is.

The Comic: The Year One was written after Miller created Dark Knight Returns. Year One is a part of a series of revamps of the major DC super heroes that occurred after the first Infinite Crisis. They did the same thing a couple of years ago after Infinite Crisis 2, originality is not a theme with DC. 

DC wanted the various super heroes to be updated, darker, sleeker, to really change how the fans saw their heroes. The success that Miller brought to DC with his first grab at Batman made him there man. Unlike DKR in which Miller wrote and drew everything he decided to use an illustrator to tell his story. In comes Mezzucchelli, who worked on Daredevil with Miller at Marvel. 

Year One is an origins story, sort of. It doesn’t tell you all the base info like Wayne’s parents being killed, and what he did on his sojourn to the far corners of the world. Instead, Year One tells the story of Bruce Wayne’s first year of fighting crime and how he came up with the idea for the Batman. Seriously, watch Batman Begins after reading Year One and you’ll see how the plot is almost word for word the plot of Year One. 

Year One is also something of an origins story for Jim Gordon. Gordon is transferred to Gotham with a “past” and he comes to realize how corrupt Gotham cops are while trying to care for his pregnant wife, Barbara. The 4 part series also introduces us to Catwoman, whose origins in the story are lightly brushed over. She starts as a prostitute and then decides to do crime. Exciting, scandalous, what? Other notables are Harvey Dent and Carmine Falcone, 

The main reason that I’ve always liked Miller’s work is because he’s not afraid to hurt heroes. Bruce Wayne bleeds and has more surgery in when Miller writes him than some 100 issue series do. He’s also not afraid to show Batman as human, therefore weak. 

My biggest complaint with Year One is that in reading it, it’s a ride but afterwards I felt rushed through as though everything in it was fleeting. I suppose in a way it is but I haven’t decided if I like that or not.

My Recommendation: There are several Batman series that are quintessentially Batman and need to be read by anyone who considers him or herself a fan of Batman. Miller’s Batman series are a part of that collection. I won’t say read it because Year One is a “classic.” Read it because Miller is a good writer. Read it because it’s an introduction to the Batman world that feels right. Finally, read it because you want something to hold you with the whole time. Classics aren’t always good, only snobs and “educated” people will hold by them. Year One is a classic but it should be read because it’s good not because it’s a classic.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣



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