Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Batman: Year One

(2005) Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Titan Books, 12.99, hrdbk, 136pp, ISBN 1-84576-101-4

Frank Miller's Batman: Year One was originally published in four issues of the regular Batman comic, nos. 404-407 cover-dated Feb-May 1987. Miller had by then totally revived Daredevil for Marvel, introducing the Elektra character, had then had published the excellent Ronin series for DC, and had also written the highly-acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. DC, for its part, was going through one of its periodical revamps of its universe, but had decided to leave Batman's origin more or less alone. Certainly the most important Batman story ever written had to be his two-page origin in Detective Comics no.33 in 1939 but, being only two pages long, there was plenty of room for a great deal more detail. So Miller tells the tale of Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham City at about the age of 25, coupled with James Gordon's arrival as a new Lieutenant, complete with pregnant wife, to confront police and civic corruption. Along the way Catwoman's origin was re-written to make her a dominatrix hooker, one of the less successful elements in my opinion, and James Gordon has an affair. All very gritty, of course, and eighties comics were going through a major revolution that involved the reintroduction of "realism" to a camp and damp medium. Naturally Year One was a success and was followed by Mike Barr and Alan Davis's Year Two (great art, shame about the writing...).

Now, to co-incide with the release of the movie Batman Begins, DC have reprinted this seminal tale in hardback, with the addition of 40 pages of sketches, script and breakdowns. Despite what it says on the cover, there is no new material here from Frank Miller - the supposedly new introduction is, in fact, (a) an afterward and (b) the introduction used in the 1988 edition of the collection. There is a new introduction from Denny O'Neil; big deal. So the new material is really down to Mazzucchelli's sketches and breakdowns, and a few pages of Miller's script with Mazzucchelli's annotations. Their inclusion gives all the appearance of being random and just slapped in. Still, 12.99 isn't a bad price for this hard-cover, and the 20th anniversary was coming up anyway, and better that you buy this than the awful Scarecrow trade paperback (also at 12.99).

Tony Chester

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