In 1986, maverick comic book writer/artist Frank Miller, took the Batman character to new heights with the groundbreaking story The Dark Knight Returns. The book became an instant classic, often imitated, but never duplicated. Then in 1987, Miller returned to the world of the cowled one with the impressive Batman: Year One. While nothing will ever top TDKR--Year One comes mighty close--and is what Miller's recent and very diappointing sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, should have been modeled after.
The story follows Batman during his first year as protector of Gotham City. As he tries to bring justice to the streets, we also meet police LT. James Gordon, who finds himself battling corruption in the police department. As both men try to come to terms with these challenges, Miller shows us a lot of familiar character traits in both men, while keeping them slightly off balance, unsure what the future holds. Batman struggles with having to maintain a secret identity, while Gordon struggles with decisions he must now make to stay on the job.
Dave Mazzucchelli's artwork compliments Miller's nior style. It also has a grittiness to it, that harkens back to pulp detective comics of the 30's and 40's, of the non superhero variety. It is beautifully rendered Any one of the panels will make one appreciate comic book all the more.
Originally published in single issue format for Batman #404-407, the collected trade paperback has had multiple printings...I for one, am glad it's finally back again after quite a while, as is The Dark Knight Returns, by the way. Miller provides a brief introduction for the 96 page book. Both Year One and the original DKR make for excellent reads (just be sure to skip DK2 at all costs).