4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Gordon and Gotham,
This review is from: Batman: Year One - Deluxe Edition (Paperback)
This is a great milestone in the Batman mythos, as the introduction indicates Frank Miller (whose other work I will definitely consider reading after reading this) had already written the "omega" of Batman with his story featuring an older Bruce Wayne compelled to come out of retirement in Batman: Dark Knight Returns and this is Miller's "alpha" with Bruce Wayne's conception of Batman and first foray into vigilantism.
The book is comprised of a few introductory pages, the story itself, followed by some storyboards with narrative from the artist, an afterword by Miller and the covers, preliminary sketches, some scripting of dialogue and stages in production and an early "comic" sketched at a young age by the artist and recounted in their piece. This is excellent and really serves to clarify what DC was doing at the time this book was commissioned, in the eighties revival and revitalisation was being sought for comics heroes such as Batman, and, most importantly, it also focuses on the differences between the "pop" Batman TV series and the Bob Kane original.
This perhaps wont matter as much to readers or fans who are familiar with Batman from the reinvention or revival sparked by Tim Burton, the reaction to it and I would suggest very ill conceived attempt to return to a more "pop" Batman with movies like the one featuring Arnie as Dr Freeze, and more recent Batman Begins and Dark Knight movies. However, the conflict between the characterisations from the TV series and Bob Kane's original concept are totally undeniable and I concur totally with Frank Miller's afterword that Batman was supposed to be an menacing crime fighter, Miller is more sure of this than Mazzuchelli who suggests an equal debt to both incarnations. While Mazzuchelli's recollections of both incarnations are heart warming and humanising, and I for one really like to see an artist adopting a position contrary to revisionists or "hero bashing", I thought Miller's comments were nearer the mark for me personally.
All this context is provided without it becoming a "study in Batman" or overshadowing the story itself, which is an excellent story and one I would recommend to firm fan or new comer to Batman alike. The main narrator is Gordon, not yet commissioner, who begins from his first days in Gotham, its easy to see from this format how spin offs including the Gotham City Police Department/GCPD series have come about, and his own story builds parallel to that of Bruce Wayne. I think that a proper balance between realism and fantasy is struck in this comic, much better than any of the film adaptations, with some great reflections on how close Wayne comes to making bad situations worse with his personal interventions or how unappreciated vigilantism can be the very people its originally meant to be in assistance of. Organised crime is the villain of the piece but, I've got to say, so is a corrupt police force which operates a lot like a mob all by itself.
I also liked the extent to which both Mazzuchelli and Miller aimed to reflect that Batman is more than simply someone stuck in a traumatic moment seeking revenge. I think this is one of the crucial distinctions between DC's Batman and Marvel's Frank Castle/The Punisher, while it is perhaps possible to be sympathic to each, Bruce Wayne is campaigning for a better world, the one he would have liked to have grown up in with his parents and one in which the Batman is obsolete. In reading this story I really had a sense in which the Wayne was the feature character, Batman his alter ego, and not vice versa. This is something a lot of Batman stories can not really achieve or if they try dont quite do so without it becoming dull or diversions from the moments of high drama, action and adventure once Wayne dons the crime fighting garb.