Following the time after I read Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns", whenever I hear the name "Batman", my mind immediately conjures up a vision of a lonely, troubled, ordinary man who, night by night, uses his detective skills to apprehend the criminals. He moves in the shadows and strikes fear into all those who are guilty and he. Never. Smiles.
Thanks to Miller, comic book writers proceeding after "Dark Knight Returns" have, for the most part, remained true to this vision. "Batman: Year One" is such an example and is truly a seminal body of work in the Batman canon.
"Batman: Year One" introduces us to two main characters, one being the aforementioned Dark Knight and the other being his most trusting friend and ally, (Lieutenant) James Gordon. The story is interwoven between these two men of Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has returned after having spent twelve years abroad with only one thing firmly rooted in his mind: to catch the bad guys. This desire runs parallel to (new cop in town) Gordon's own, in his case with addition to dealing with a corrupt police force.
Which is the beauty of this story. We see two men, one working for the law, and the other outside it, trying to come to terms with what they have to face. Gordon hates his job and corrupt superiors, regrets that his wife is bringing a child into this godforsaken city and has an affair to forget his troubles. Bruce Wayne/Batman on the other hand, has to come to deal with how he can strike fear into the hearts of men and maintain the image of a social elite at the same time. Something tells me they will get the hang of it.
Mazzuchelli's artwork is beautiful. Although I have always been a comic book fan, I've never really cared for the art unless it fails to help the story along. In this case, it does so much more. The art makes me feel totally uneasy with Gotham City, like I'm in Jim Gordon's place. It is perfect.
The most astounding feature of "Batman: Year One" is that it reads like a detective story and not a blockbusting special effects bonanza. Batman has always been a detective first and a "super-hero" second. He doesn't work like Superman, a character with whom comparisons are constant. It reminded me why I like him more than Superman: because he is, to all ends and purposes, only human. Miller keeps him that way which makes this a gritty and thrilling read.
I liked this book because it revived my interest in the Batman. I hear the film will be based on some elements of this story - I hope that the final script remains true to the detective aspect of "Batman: Year One", because it works best like that. The last two Batman movies were guilty of making Batman less mysterious. I want the real Batman back and if you read this book, you will too.