28 March 2011

Book Review Number 62: Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One was written around the time that DC comics were revamping a lot of their character's back stories.  Batman was one of the exceptions.  Still, that didn't mean that he didn't get a second look.  In Batman: Year One, we get to see the beginnings of Bruce Wayne as Batman, as well as the beginning of James Gordon as a policeman in the corrupt Gotham City Police Force.  We get to see Bruce Wayne with some vulnerability as he tries to work out the vigilante he is going to become.  We get to see the lengths that Gordon will go to to keep his family safe.  And we get to meet Selina, who is to become Catwoman.

The story revolves primarily around the corruption in the police department and how different people choose to fight it.  Lieutenant James Gordon chooses to fight it from the inside, watching and learning who are the worst of the worst.  Bruce Wayne decides to fight it anonymously from the outside.  He wants justice for his parents, yet isn't sure how to get it.  While "talking" things over with his father, a bat flies to the window.  Thus is Batman born.  

And the story doesn't end there.  The story shows us the measures both men take as they take on their fight.  I had always thought of Gordon as a non-combatant.  I'm not sure why, knowing that he did work his way up through the ranks to eventually become Commissioner Gordon.  But this tale showed that he can do what needs to be done to keep those around him safe - even if it isn't strictly legal.  Then again, with the law in Gotham at this time, "legal" is not a recourse he has.

The artwork is beautiful, though appropriately dark for the subject matter.  The story flows nicely and didn't seem to contradict anything I knew about Batman and his origins (though, to be fair, I am far from a Batman scholar).  It is a fitting beginning to the new, darker era of Batman that Miller ushered in.

And, to be honest, as much as I loved the story of Batman's origins, I found Gordon's origins much more compelling.  His despair at the job that he has come to do, the fear for his pregnant wife, his attempts to stand up to corruption, and the strength of character it takes for a lawful soul to do a lawless act.