Batman: Year One (1986) Review
“He’s out to clean up a city that likes being dirty. He can’t do it alone.“
Batman: Year One is a four-part comic series/graphic novel that serves both as a reimagining of Batman’s origins and a look at the early months of the Dark Knight’s crime fighting career in Gotham City.
- Release: 1986
- Writer: Frank Miller
- Illustrator: David Mazzucchelli
- Colorist: Richmond Lewis
- Lettering: Todd Klein
Gotham City is a dangerous place that’s drowning in crime and corruption, something that is immediately apparent to police lieutenant James Gordon as he arrives in the city via train. He has been reassigned to the Gotham City Police Department at the request of corrupt police commissioner Loeb. Gordon is an honest, by-the-book cop who struggles daily with both the criminals on Gotham’s streets as well as shady cops on the force like his own partner, Flass, who is Loeb’s right hand man and a known associate of Gotham’s mob bosses. Between threats against Gordan and his pregnant Wife, Barbara, from his job and the constant pressure on him to become corrupt himself from the Commissioner and his cronies, Gotham will either make or break this intrepid lawman.
Along with Gordon, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne has also arrived in Gotham, returning to his hometown after twelve years abroad. Wayne is also struggling with the sordid state of Gotham and after a reconnaissance mission that doesn’t quite go to plan, decides to don the midnight cowl of Batman to rid the city of its corruption.
After making an impact against the corrupt elite of Gotham, Batman lands atop the GCPD’s most-wanted and a manhunt for him begins, Gordon being the lead detective in the case. The two will inevitably meet as adversaries but circumstance will make them brothers and provided this, Gotham may just stand a chance after all.
The story alternates between the viewpoints of James Gordan and Bruce Wayne. A subtle but interesting way the creators differentiate these viewpoints is by the use of a different font and writing styles reflecting each character, Gordon’s lettering being bold and his language very to-the-point, reflecting his personality as a cynical no-nonsense cop, Bruce’s on the other hand being in a stylish cursive and his thinking more methodical and deducing, reflecting both his affluent background and his mindset as he makes the transition into Batman. This slight detail was a brilliant indirect way to showcase the personality of these characters through the comic/graphic novel medium.
The coloring used throughout the series paints Gotham as a bleak, seedy city that is short on hope. This is accomplished using a mixture of deep reds and sombre blues, giving the comic a muted, noir-ish feel that captures the essence of its locale and story brilliantly.
While the four part series lacks the grandeur of other story arcs within the Batman universe such as an eccentric plot starring one of its many iconic villains; Year One provides a more intimate narrative where we see a darker Gotham and a much more inexperienced Bruce Wayne as he struggles to cement his place as Gotham’s Caped Crusader.
It stands out from many other comics of the superhero genre, showing that a slower-paced, more grounded storyline can work just as well as a traditional supervillain-with-a-grand-master-plan plot. Overall I really enjoyed Batman: Year One, its simplicity, its execution, and its style. It instantly became one of my favourite Batman comics and I can easily recommend it to any Batman/superhero-genre fan.
~Giuseppe Gillespie April 2022