Why you should read Batman: Year One (if you haven’t already)

Re-appraising a seminal comic book work.

37-1Ah, graphic novels: the reason I will never move house again, such are the pains I have to go through just to move my massive collection whenever I’ve been slapped with an eviction notice/given a serious disease by the fungi in my flat. Rather than just ruminate on the downsides of owning graphic novels, however, I’m going to dwell on the advantages.

Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, is the first proper graphic novel I ever read. Where did the recommendation come from? Amazon. I saw it, loved the cover and thought, “Hell, let’s go for it”. I read it in about an hour, but reread it moments later, just to pay greater attention to the grimy, noirish Gotham City depicted by the absolutely incredible artwork.

Batman: Year One is as much as a Jim Gordon story as it is the origin story of the Caped Crusader. We see Gordon, more cynical than he’s portrayed in the movies, dealing with corruption and bullying within the GCPD, while his marriage silently falls apart on the side.

It’s engaging stuff, pioneering in its tendency to dwell on the internal struggles of its supporting characters. The Batman origin story, as modern audiences know now through Batman Begins, is definitively told here in dark, dramatic fashion. Considering the years of creative turmoil that followed with the Batman line, I almost wish that Frank Miller had continued writing the character from beginning to end, but sadly, this four-issue arc was all there would be.

Still, it’s worth reading and rereading Batman: Year One just to be reminded of the relentless creative potential within the character’s universe. Although there are a number of essential Batman stories out there, this is where everyone should start when it comes to the Dark Knight.