I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One gained a great deal of acclaim a couple of years ago when Christopher Nolan noted it as one of the main influences on his film Batman Begins. When it comes to comic book story arcs, however, Year One stands on its own two feet, especially considering that its success convinced DC comics to continue the Year One line for a couple of decades. (I saw a reference to Green Arrow: Year One in an issue of Countdown that I recently read.) Of Frank Miller's Dark Knight stories, it is the most widely accepted for its depiction of Batman and it is the only story that is canon in both the mainline DC universe (Earth 1) and Miller's Dark Knight universe.

Curiously, this beloved Batman storyline is not about Batman so much as it is about Commissioner Gordon. The story begins and ends with Gordon and Gordon is the clear protagonist. Batman's coming of age as a hero is a foil to ally Jim Gordon's rise in influence as a good cop in the den of thieves that is the Gotham City Police Department.

Batman: Year One introduces readers not just to Jim Gordon and Batman, but also to District Attorney Harvey Dent (who will one day become Two-Face) and prostitute Selina Kyle (who will one day become Catwoman). He also plays out the interesting relationships between Batman, Gordon and Dent, possibly the only three people in Gotham with both the desire and the power to fight against the city's corruption. Year One sets up for many of the greatest Batman stories ever told, worth reading both because of its solo story and the influence this story has had on everything since.

And with the hype surrounding Nolan's third Batman flick The Dark Knight Rises, it can't hurt to get caught up on your Batman stories. Batman: Year One is a superb place to start!

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