Hello and welcome back to Ye Olde School Café. I’ll be your substitute barista this week, and today I’m bringing you one of my favorite books, Batman: Year One. After Frank Miller had changed the way we see Batman in 1986’s the Dark Knight Returns, the last Batman story, Miller took the character like a phoenix and gave him a new definitive origin to start fresh with. A lot of this book was used in Christopher Nolan’s films, and the whole point of the book was to show you what Batman was supposed to be now as opposed to all that came before it, so it worked really well. In 1987 we got to see how Bruce Wayne came to become the caped crusader, how Lieutenant Jim Gordon was struggling to be a good cop in Gotham, and Selina Kyle’s entry into the world of masks. Three origins for the price of one, let’s see how it all began!
The book starts with a grimy train heading into Gotham. Gordon is remorseful that he’s going to be raising a family here, and glad he made his wife and future child take the plane. Meanwhile, Bruce is anxiously on the plane, realizing he should have come in on the train to get a better feel of his city. While Gordon gets taken in by Detective Flass and his smug corruption, Bruce is embraced by the paparazzi upon his return.
Gordon sees the Gotham City Police Department’s corruption goes all the way up to its seedy Commissioner Loeb, and watches Flass beat a guy just to show off his strength and power. A month later and Bruce is on the streets incognito as a scarred citizen, not inducing enough fear while fighting a pimp. Gordon’s restraint from corruption gets him a beating from Flass and his fellow cops to make sure Gordon gets in line. While Gordon is taking a beating, so is Bruce as the prostitutes start fighting him. A young girl named Holly gets hurt, which draws the ire of Selina Kyle. Bruce is quickly taken down by the cops and narrowly escapes home, bleeding to death. Gordon has followed Flass and beats him down to show that he will not be corrupted or scared into submission. Bruce realizes that he can’t scare criminals as just a man, and as he begs for his father’s help a window shatters, and with it comes a bat flying toward him. With that, Bruce has a plan, and summons Alfred to save his life.
Another month goes by and Gordon is shown to be capable of dealing with criminals on the streets and how much he loathes guns. Bruce finally tests out his outfit on a group of thieves, but it works too well, and he nearly ends up killing one of them; only through luck is he able to put them all down without killing anyone. Poor guy gets hit with a TV set. One month goes by and Batman has become a known vigilante working his way up the ranks in crime, and the cops are trying to hunt him down. Flass thinks Batman is some sort of monster that can’t be human, and recounts about an invincible creature that cackled and threw its claws.
Batman then goes on to meet with Gotham’s elite corrupt, the wealthiest and most powerful, leaving them with fear and knowing that he will take them all down in one of the most evocative images of Batman. Gordon is partnered with Sarah Essen, and the two investigate whether DA Harvey Dent could be the Batman. While they find he can’t afford it, we see that Batman and Dent are working together. Gordon is made head of the Batman Task Force, and it isn’t all their traps that catch him, but the rescuing of a random woman in real danger. The police open fire on a fleeing Batman who is shot in the leg. The Commissioner allows for extreme force to be used, and the building Batman hides in gets bombed.
While S.W.A.T. goes in to kill Batman, Selina and Holly decide to head down to watch the spectacle of the whole thing. While Batman is injured and cornered, it goes about as well as it could for the S.W.A.T. as he takes them down with what tools he has left after the bombing took out his utility belt. He uses a gadget he’d been developing, and waits for its effect to occur when the S.W.A.T., who are just as corrupt as the rest of Gotham, decide to shoot a random cat just for bugging them. Batman will let no one, human or otherwise, die, so in saving the cat he’s found and chaos ensues with bullets flying and Batman kicking columns and cops all over the place. Thankfully that gadget from earlier finally does its job, summoning thousands of bats to his location. They fly over everyone, allowing Batman to escape, and leaving everyone else having to get shots for all sorts of disease those bats could have been carrying.
A week goes by, and Selina quits and takes Holly with her to start some kind of new life. While Gordon and Essen give in to their impulses for a kiss, and realize they’ve made a huge mistake. A month goes by and a new masked figure takes to the night, as Catwoman leaps into action.
Gordon and Essen discuss their feelings and the difficulty of the whole situation. Meanwhile, a drug dealer that Gordon nabbed who’d be finally put away for good is let out on bail by a corrupt judge. The guy looks like a flight risk, but then Batman shows up to show him true fear, and the guy walks into Gordon’s office the next day to start talking about all he has on Flass.While Gordon’s been taking out so many enemies, he’s become as hated as Batman. Commissioner Loeb has photos of Gordon and Essen kissing, and is ready to use them to blackmail Gordon into submission.
Gordon and his wife Barbara go visit billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne to see if he could possibly be the Batman. When they leave and they talk about the secrets Wayne may be keeping, Gordon finally confesses to Barbara about Essen. Gordon is free to pursue chasing down Flass, while Loeb tries to ruin his marriage with Barbara already knowing. A few weeks later and James Gordon Jr. is born.
Selina is still getting the hang of her cat burglary, as she doesn’t know how to fence forty thousand dollars worth of Loeb’s pop memorabilia, and Batman is getting credited with her crimes. Meanwhile, Batman has a slick new ride in the form of a glider that he takes to the Roman’s (known crime figure), at the same time that Catwoman decides to rob the place. Batman takes out Roman’s men before they can hurt either of them, and Catwoman scars the Roman’s face.
The Roman and Loeb put a hit out on James Junior. When Gordon follows a suspicious motorcyclist back to his parking structure, he finds the Roman’s men already have the baby and flee. Gordon shoots that motorcyclist and takes his bike, and Barbara holds him at bay while Gordon gives chase for Junior. The motorcyclist reveals himself to be a shadowy Bruce Wayne who promises to save her baby, and he makes chase on a bicycle. The whole thing collides at a bridge (don’t they always?), and Gordon fights the men while poor baby James goes over the bridge. Bruce jumps and is able to save the boy. Gordon sees him and says that he’s nearly blind without his glasses and that he should go, knowing that Batman just saved his son.
Flass is brought in and blows the whistle on everyone, with Loeb in the spotlight for all his crimes, forcing him to resign. A new commissioner that’s even worse is ready to take his place, and the Roman is at war with his sister. Gordon is promoted to Captain while Essen goes to New York, and he and Barbara are in couples’ counseling. Gotham has a new problem as some lunatic threatens to poison the reservoir, calling himself the Joker. Gordon waits atop the roof of the GCPD building waiting for Batman to arrive so they can talk about what to do with this new guy.
Well that’s it, folks! I wonder what’s going to happen to these crazy kids. You should probably give their continuing adventures a shot if you liked this one. Thanks for having me here at the café, see you around!