Right, so, about that whole Batman: Year One
And yes, I realize that I'm about to critique a 20 year old comic without saying anything that hasn't been said before somewhere. Just another day in the comicsblogoweb.
A friend of mine recently saw Batman Begins
, and was duly impressed by it. I mentioned that the movie used some elements of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One
, and he asked to borrow it.
Being the Ambassador O' Comics
that I am, I lent it to him, but decided to give it a quick reread just for old times' sake.
Yeah, that was probably a mistake.
Because Batman: Year One
is deeply, deeply flawed
as a comic, moreso than I remember it being when I first read it oh, about 15 years ago.
The main problem for me is, B:YO
doesn't have much of a plot
, per se. I mean, there's no real throughstory for our titular (Hi, Googlers!)
hero, it reads like more of a series of interesting vignettes that take place over Bruce Wayne's first year as Batman.
And I guess on it's own merits that's OK --- maybe even the point --- but it's terribly unsatisfying as a story. Miller's noir dialogue is pitch-perfect (no surprises there), but it's shouting in an empty room
; there's no purpose, no narrative momentum to carry these moments forward. And that, friends, does not a good comic make.
In fact, what I was most surprised at was the fact that Jim Gordon is by far the most interesting character
in the series, which is odd seeing as how it isn't titled Commissioner Gordon: Year One
. In fact, Gordon's the only one that actually comes off as being a "real" person, with depth of character and dramatic conflict.
In other words, Bruce summoning bats with a frequency emitter is cool --- but Gordon agonizing over betraying his pregnant wife resonates
. The former makes for a great splash page; the latter makes for a great character.
And I guess that's my issue; I didn't remember Batman being this devoid of character in this series. Bruce is still
largely a cipher, despite the "finding-my-way" dialogue and asides with Alfred.
Oh, and Selina and her annoying sidekick? Unnecessary and wholly irrelevant to the already paper-thin plot.
Look, there are some really bright spots to this comic. David Mazzuchelli's artwork (and the Richmond Lewis coloring specifically) does some amazing
things on the page, and if it's murky in places, well it's Gotham, innit? And as I mentioned, Miller's self-doubting noir internal monologues are best-in-class (at least, they were back when this was written anyway, before Frank Miller morphed into Crazy Uncle Freddie Who Probably Shouldn't Be Left Alone With The Children Because, You Know
But I think part of the reason I liked Batman Begins
so much is because it actually bothered to string a plot to tie around all these moments that Miller gave us; structure to the narrative; and, of course, Michael Caine.
Michael Caine immediately ups the watchability rating of any movie he's in, even --- particularly
--- the shitty ones. This is fact, and not up for debate.)
So I'll calmly and quietly (shaddup!) accept the fact that Batman: Year One
isn't quite the sacred cow that a lot of people make it out to be (few comics are, really).
Still. That whole bat-summoning thing? Awesome.
Labels: Batman, Frank Miller