Saturday, September 24, 2011

Batman: Year One

For some unexplained reason lately I've been on some sort of Batman obsession. If there's anything that might have sparked it it's the constant flow of speculation about The Dark Knight Rises. I've seen photos of what might be a Batplane, people are bitching about Catwoman's costume, footage of filming is being leaked and the rumours never seem to die.

What might also be helping is the reboot of the entire DC Universe. That's right, everything old that was new and became old again is new again. Batman's been fighting crime for only five years now or something...I don't know. I didn't follow the news that closely however I might go and pick up some issues since everything should be easy to follow. But instead I'll tell you what I thought of a Batman collection I'd been meaning to pick up for some time.
Relax, this was before Frank Miller directed 'The Spirit'

First off, if you're worried about being confused by comic book jargon, back stories and whathaveyou, you can relax. This story explains everything for those new to the Dark Knight although if there's one significant difference is that Commissioner Gordon has a son when most people know that his only child is his daughter, Barbra, later goes on to become Batgirl and then Oracle.

I really liked this book and have re-read it twice since I got it two weeks ago. If there's one thing that surprises me about the story is that it's more of Jim Gordon's story than it is Batman's. More pages seem to be dedicated to him than the Caped Crusader and he also seems to be doing more monologuing and at times it seems as if we don't know enough about Bruce Wayne, what he was doing for the past 12 years (He is 25 in the story meaning that he's been gone since he was 13) or how he revealed his plans to Alfred. Did the faithful butler know that his employer was out doing reconnaissance work when he got stabbed and shot or did he answer the bell at the end of the first chapter to find a bloody Bruce Wayne insisting that he not call an ambulance since it would jeopardize his future plans?
"You're young, rich and healthy...but instead you want to fight crime dressed as a BAT!?"

Then there's the issue of Selina Kyle who starts out as a hooker and eventually becomes Catwoman. Now that's all well and fine but I'm somewhat curious as to how many hookers know karate. I'm not joking either, when she attacks Bruce Wayne, he notes that she knows karate but just karate. Most hookers I've met use tazers or pepper-spray. That or just a kick to the nuts.

Her story seems...too brief. It almost feels like there was supposed to be a lot more in there but the editors cut it out. Hell, the last we see of her is just one small panel where she's bitching about she's being suspected of being Batman's accomplice. Jump to a month later in the story and not even a mention of her. Considering how much Frank Miller likes to write female characters who are whores or just parading around in their underwear these days, you'd think he'd have some sort of conclusion where her and Batman have some sort of detailed encounter where he warns her to stay away and hints that he might know her secret identity or something. I don't know, it just feels like there's no proper conclusion.

Wait, is this Catwoman or a dominatrix?

Also, there's not a lot of Batman in the final chapter of the story. The last action scene doesn't even involve Batman, it's just Bruce Wayne wearing a motorcycle helmet. Was it just not logical that it take place at night, during Gordon's day off? Plus, it would have been nice if we ended with a shot of Wayne in the Batcave (Something that was always mentioned but never shown) finishing up or halfway through construction of the Batmobile. I'm very curious how he was able to get from Wayne Manor to Gotham City and back all those times.

But does this mean that it's a bad story? Nope. It's a great story. A must read for any Batman fan or anyone who wants a superhero story that feels grounded in real life. It may have stuff that stick out as flaws to me but I only noticed because that's what happens when I re-read stuff for the third or fourth time. It doesn't take away from my enjoyment.

But also reading this makes you a bit sad. Given what Frank Miller has done creatively in the last couple of years (All Star Batman and Robin, The Spirit movie) you have to wonder what happened. Stories like Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns are considered the best graphic novels of all time, right up there with Watchmen. And yet the most memorable thing he's given us lately is:
Seriously, Frank...why?

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