Everyone loves an origin story, and the origins of Gotham’s most famous resident is no different.

And this origin story in particular, Batman: Year One, is wonderful, easy to read and a perfect introduction to the masked crime fighter.

[Amanda writes Comic Virgins on a regular basis based on suggestions from Ben and Mike.]

What I know of Batman comes from the movies – mostly The Dark Knight trilogy. I’ve seen the other films, too, but I’ve never ventured into the comics (obviously). I was hesitant when I picked this one up, mainly because the other “origin stories” I’ve read for Comic Virgins have been really hard to understand or follow. But not this one.

It came out over 27 years ago, so I’m a little behind the curve, but I find Frank Miller’s story to be refreshing, considering all that I’ve read for this endeavor. The storyline is uncluttered, which gives the reader the space to fully understand what’s going on with the corruption in Gotham’s mayoral and police departments, as well as time to meet those few characters that are extremely important to future story lines (even if they’re not HUGE parts in Year One, like Selina/Catwoman).

The story behind Batman: Year One is that sometime in the 1980s, the heads of DC Comics wanted to freshen up some of the older story lines. According to the introduction, Batman had been going strong since the 1930s, but no one really had any idea of what do to with his story. Enter Frank Miller, who, along with David Mazzucchelli, produced what we have today.

batman and gordon

Looking at the comic (four issues, to be exact) as a whole, the first word that comes to mind is “classic.” This comic book is what I (and I assume most new or non-comic readers) would instantly picture when I think about the quintessential comic book. The art is very traditional — which does not exclude it from being exceptional. Mazzucchelli has a knack for it all, but specifically, I was drawn to the facial expressions and his use of shadow. The colors are also dramatic and subconsciously affected my mood as I read. Lettering was also really well done – probably my favorite use of all-caps for speaking I’ve read yet. I also loved how thoughts and other noises were laid out, from the television newscast getting a specific sort of bubble, to the onomatopoeia of sirens visually taking up a large portion of the box, just as the sound would take up a large portion of your attention, should you suddenly find yourself living within the panel.

The storyline was also very “traditional,” but in the best of ways. Miller doesn’t stray from Batman’s original origin (dead parents, orphan bent on vigilante justice, all that good stuff), but he finds a way to bring Batman into at least the latter half of the 20th century. Batman is a badass, and it seems like Miller let him come into his own. Things don’t feel stilted or orchestrated, as they have in other comics that I’ve read (looking at you, Walking Dead). Bruce Wayne gets to take his time becoming Batman, and the pacing could not have been better, I think. I like taking my time, especially with complex situations like police corruption and whatnot that Miller uses here.

Also, Batman can break trees with his foot. Let's just let that sink in.

Also, Batman can break trees with his foot. Let’s just let that sink in.

But this show wasn’t Batman’s, I’ll say. It belongs to one Lieutenant James Gordon, badass extraordinaire. At night, Batman puts on his Lt. Gordon pajamas, climbs into his Lt. Gordon sheets and dreams of one day being as cool as he is.

Are you fucking kidding me? SO. BADASS.

Are you fucking kidding me? SO. BADASS.

I’ll say, the one spot that felt a little lacking was Gordon’s background. Maybe I missed it, but I honestly went back looking specifically for where he got his training from (military? CIA? trained assassin? What gives?), but I couldn’t. I also found it interesting that he automatically suspects Bruce Wayne as Batman – like, it’s right away. In the movies, little Brucey is able to keep the coppers off his tail pretty well. I almost want a Gordon-specific comic, he’s so cool, but it’s nice to have the foil of Gordon and Batman. I know that in The Dark Knight movie series it becomes Harvey Dent and Batman as opposites/parallels, but I really feel like Gordon is the Batman of the daytime. He’s the Batman with a face, and a name, and a family – which, when his family is kidnapped at the end, we see is a dangerous thing to have out in the open.

Speaking of Gordon’s family, I say I almost want a comic of just him, but I don’t want it completely because he’s an ASSHOLE. Seriously, why is he kissing a co-worker while he has a pregnant wife at home? Those panels seriously made me yell out loud. But I guess they all have to have the chinks in their armor – something that makes them less than superheroes, but more than your typical man. A sort of Hercules – better than his peers, but not quite a god. He’s not infallible.

So, now we find ourselves at the part of the post where I talk about my future with this comic. Do I continue? I really, really like Miller’s style. I don’t think this story line continues directly (and yes, after some Wikipedia searching, I see that it doesn’t), but Miller has Batman stuff coming out the ass, so there’s plenty for me to read. I think I might pick some more Batman stuff up, mainly because the storyline has been the easiest to understand so far. I also have loved the movies based on some of Miller’s other works (300, Sin City), so maybe I’ll pick some of those up. In fact, I think that Miller has been my favorite so far. That’s not saying much, but it’s saying something.

You can pick up Batman: Year One at Amazon, DC’s website or your local comic shop.

About The Author

Hey there! I'm Amanda, and I'm the managing editor for DetroyTheCyborg! I come to the job with a background in journalism, English, American culture and all-around interest in what makes up our site.

For a living, I'm a government reporter for a newspaper my hometown. Seeing as that can be a bit monotonous, I welcome the opportunity to write occasional book (and other) reviews for DTC. If you see a book coming up I should review, let me know!

My interests are many and varied. I love table top games, bad movies (and good films!), music of all genres and the occasional graphic novel. Ben P. is trying his hardest to increase my interest in comic books - stay tuned for the outcome of THAT adventure. When it comes to books, I've yet to find a genre that I won't read. I have a particular affinity to Lord of the Rings and non-fiction first-person explorations - see Mary Roach's Stiff or Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals for examples.

My other abilities? I find that I make a mean batch of cinnamon rolls, and I can (most of the time) keep the crayon inside the lines.

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