“Why You Should Read This” #1 - Batman: Year One
Batman Year One (1987) is a rare thing, a book where every element falls into place and everyone working on it is absolutely killing it. Written by Frank Miller, art by David Mazzucchelli, colors by Richmond Lewis and letters by Todd Klein, this is arguably one of the best and most important comic books of the medium.
To start, Year One chronicles Jim Gordon’s arrival in Gotham City at the same time as Bruce Wayne’s return from abroad and the rise of The Batman. The noir and pulp story influences are very heavy, with crime and corruption everywhere and the two good men caught in the center of it. Gordon is a good man, experienced, but caught in the middle of bad situations. Miller’s writing shines here; he’s at the top of his game, and he really brings out the dark and gritty atmosphere without ever being grim or needlessly aggressive.
This isn’t “Dark Knight Returns” Batman, this is a younger, inexperienced but more calculating Batman, and so his approaches are more calculated and restrained. His dialogue never comes off as laughable, the moments he crafts never break your focus. Every character has a voice, every action a motive, and he manages to build the tension in a truly masterful way.
Batman here is Batman at his core values. Mysterious, cunning, resourceful,but ultimately, hopeful that he can make a difference. There’s a lot of criticism levied at comics where the heroes don’t display any heroism, where they are violent and confrontational and brooding. This isn’t this book. Batman does what Batman is meant to do; he saves people. He saves an old lady, he saves a baby, he saves a cat, he fights crime.
David Mazzucchelli returned to collaborate with Miller after their work on Daredevil: Born Again, and here he again displays his excellent grasp of the medium. There are no double-page spreads in this book, with only a handful of single panel pages in the book, because Mazzucchelli, a man who drew two of the best and greatest stories of all time before going into teaching art and design, doesn’t need to show off. A true master, not a single panel is wasted. Momentum flows from one panel to the next, always engaging your interest, always drawing you in, and utilizing every drop of ink to its fullest potential. His line work is phenomenal, with clean and full lines that showcase every action clearly, and his character designs are crisp and iconic, especially for Batman, for whom even among his enormous library of appearances, stands out as a classic costume that works as both modern and nostalgic.
Richmond Lewis’ coloring works perfectly with Mazzucchelli’s inks, making the darks darker and the brights stand out. Every page is a wonder to look at. Their work certainly inspired many artists working today, such as Chris Samnee, Doc Shaner, David Aja, Jorge Fornes, and countless others.
Jorge Fornes on Batman #67 (2019)
Todd Klein’s letters are distinct, using a different style of writing for each of the character’s who’s inner monologues we read. This helps even further to distinguish each character and make them stand out.
This book is worth your time for its craftsmanship, it’s influence, and because it’s Batman true and true. It works as the beginning of a new era for the character, it works as a gripping Batman story, and it works as a complete work of art. Everyone who’s worked on the character, from Tom King to Bruce Timm to Greg Capullo to Christopher Nolan, has been inspired by Year One.
Batman: Year One is available in trade paperback and in various hardcover editions. Pick one up at your local comic book shop today, and if they don’t have one, ask them to order one for you. This book is a must-own for avid Batman fans.
Batman created by Bill Finger with Bob Kane