“A fascinating look into the origins of the Caped Crusader. Wonderfully illustrated and with an amazing story to boot, any Batman fan will love Batman: Year One.” ~The Founding Fields
Alright, this is my first comics review, so before we start, expect things to be a bit sketchy. This is also my first self-brought comic from DC, so I should let you know that before we start this review. I’m not a comic veteran, with shelves after shelves packed full of spandex-clad superheroes. I’ve watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (both of which are awesome), and seen a couple of Simpsons episodes where they reference Batman, played an ancient Justice League game on a Gameboy Advance ages ago, and recently started playing Batman: Arkham City on the Xbox, but that’s it. That’s where my knowledge of the caped crusader ends. Before I read Batman: Year One, I was a complete newbie to the comics-verse.
So naturally, I picked what turned out to be the perfect place to start in my opinion, Batman: Year One, which informs the reader of the origin tale of Batman, and is the comic book that I’ll be reviewing in this review. I guess, without further ado, here’s the blurb, taken from Goodreads:
A young Bruce Wayne has spent his adolescence and early adulthood, traveling the world so he could hone his body and mind into the perfect fighting and investigative machine. But now as he returns to Gotham City, he must find a way to focus his passion and bring justice to his city. Retracing Batman’s first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante, we watch as he chooses a guise of a giant bat, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon, inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps to bring down a corrupt political system that infests Gotham.
So we have it all in Batman: Year One. Catwoman, Batman, and even Lieutenant James Gordon, this short comics issue helps explore the characters and their origin tales. The action is frequent, and the comic itself is action packed, as well as managing to develop the characters well. The aforementioned three characters are really the protagonists here in Batman: Year One, as the story focuses the attention on them and introduces Gotham first-hand to the reader, as a dark, damp and brutal fictional underworld – and manages to do it very well indeed. Gotham is a very dangerous place to live in, and it’s a place where you wouldn’t want to spend your summer break. Mazzucchelli, the artist has done a wonderful job of showing us this, and some of the artwork in this comic illustrates the dark atmosphere of Gotham superbly.
I loved Gary Oldman’s portrayal of James Gordon in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so I was wondering how Miller would portray the Lieutenant here. He’s pulled this off well indeed, and gives Gordon about as much page time as the Dark Knight himself, which is good to read about, as as much as I liked Bruce Wayne and his alter ego of Batman, I really wanted to see how the likes of non-superheroes are portrayed in a primarly superhero comic.
Although the story seemed somewhat rushed and perhaps could have done better with a longer page count, it is no doubt an intruging look into the origin of Batman. Whilst it doesn’t look into his training with presumably the League of Shadows (as this is my first Batman comic I’m not that sure how big a role they’ll play in the comics), which will probably be explored in more depth elsewhere, Batman: Year One is nonetheless an entertaining tale, with wonderful artwork that doesn’t go too over the top.
I also loved how Selina, aka Catwoman, was shown in this story. As mentioned in the blurb above, Bruce Wayne played a role in leading her to become Catwoman, and Miller has done a great job in threading her origin tale in with the rest of the characters making it all part of one storyline.
I sped through Batman: Year One fast, having picked it up in town earlier today, and reading it on the course of the bus journey home and finished it off once I got back. I almost missed my bus stop, which proved how enthralled in this comic I was. Indeed, my only complaint is that the story could have gone on longer, as I didn’t want this adventure to end. However, Miller has done a brilliant job of making the reader want to read more of Batman’s adventures, particularly with one of my favourite movie-villains being mentioned on the final page of the main storyline.
Despite recently watching Avengers Assemble, I’m reminded once more of just how awesome the Batman Universe is, and I defiantly seem to be in a more of a Batman mood at the moment. I’ll probably pick up a few Marvel comics soon to see how they compare, and I’ll probably end up reviewing them as well.
This is truly an incredible book. If you’ve seen the first two Batman movies, are yet to read the comics and are wanting to look into some more Batman whilst you’re waiting for the Dark Knight Rises to be released later this summer, then Batman: Year One is the perfect comic for you. If you’re a Batman-comics fan and you haven’t read this yet, then you really should go out and read it as soon as you can. It’s awesome.
I was first introduced to Watchmen when I saw the movie, and after watching it, the film quickly became one of my favourite superhero films. So it wasn’t really going to be that long before I craved in and brought the graphic novel, to see if it was as good as the film. And as it turned out, it wasn’t simply as good as the film, oh no. It was better, and it’s even better than the other two graphic novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently, the first Sandman Comic by Neil Gaiman, and Batman: Year One. I’ve enjoyed both of them a lot, but I just think that Watchmen outclasses them all. It’s that awesome. Also, as I am unable to find a reasonably short plot summary to use, I’ve decided to go with the movie version. Shouldn’t really make much difference as they basically are pretty much the same, with a few minor changes. So this is taken from IMDB.
"Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion – a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers – Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity… but who is watching the Watchmen?”
So, that’s the plot of Watchmen, and in a nutshell, it’s amazing. The intense storyline proves that comics can be aimed at adults and be done well, and there’s certainly no large element of cheese that has kept me away from the more younger-audience orientated graphic novels of those produced by Marvel. In fact, I’m yet to read anything by Marvel, but let me tell you, Marvel will have to come up with something special to match the unbeatable, mind-blowing Watchmen. This is easily one of my favourite pieces of fiction that I’ve read all year, and I should point out that this is a year in which I’ve read stuff by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Kim Newman (Anno Dracula) and Brandon Sanderson (The Final Empire). I really loved Watchmen, and you should too.
There are several things which makes Watchmen quite literally the graphic novel to beat, as I found whilst reading this. It’s a marvelous tour-de-force that will have you hooked from page one right to the very end, and although the graphic novel as a whole is somewhat bleak and depressing, (don’t go into this graphic novel expecting to feel uplifted coming out of it), and there are several dark moments throughout. This is certainly not for those who don’t like dark stuff like this, but then, if you don’t think it isn’t for you, don’t read it.
I couldn’t find anything wrong with Watchmen, that’s how good this graphic novel was. There were several interesting scenes, such as the interview with Doctor Manhattan, which would cross back and forth between Laurie and Dan fighting in the back-alley, and there are many interesting characters, Rorschach - arguably being the main focus of this graphic novel, being the best of them all. He is a dark character, and is easily an anti-hero, although not as dark as the Comedian, who doesn’t appear as much as Rorschach, but certainly has made his presence known in the few page time that we’re given for him. Apart from the Comedian, for reasons that will become clear once you’ve read Watchmen, pretty much every character on the front gets a wide coverage throughout the graphic novel, and their origins as well as their present adventures is explored in this mighty tome. Many of the characters are even parodies of the more established superheroes, such as Nite Owl being similar to Batman in the his costume design and gadgetry use. In fact, in the movie, Nite Owl’s costume looks even similar to Batman than he does in the graphic novel.
The pace is action packed and the action itself is captured brilliantly. There aren’t many slow moments in this graphic novel, and you’re constantly speeding through. The version that I brought (I don’t know if this applies for all versions of Watchmen or not) contains several ‘extra’s’ which add more depth to the alternate reality that provides a backdrop for Watchmen, and are all very enjoyable to read.
As well as catering for superhero fans, Watchmen also addresses fans of alternate history, for this is a graphic novel in which Nixon has been recently elected for his fourth term, after becoming hugely popular following the quick victory of Vietnam, which was won with the help of Dr. Manhattan, who is the only true ‘superhero’ of the Watchmen, it’s worth pointing out. The rest are all just good fighters in costumes, and is an interesting character, and like the other Watchmen, has a great backstory.
“An epic tale of tragic events, fantastic artwork and a great storyline makes The Long Halloween arguably the best Batman graphic novel that I’ve read so far.” ~The Founding Fields
I recently picked up both The Long Halloween and the first volume of Knightfall on Amazon, but it was The Long Halloween that I read first, chiefly because of the fact that The Dark Knight is my favourite movie, and I thought that I would love to see what Nolan drew his influences from. (Which is also the same reason why I picked up Knightfall at the same time, as this provides inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises - which is an awesome movie, by the way – if you haven’t seen it already.) The edition of The Long Halloween that I picked up even came with a short interview with Christopher Nolan at the front, and glowing endorsement from the director on the front. So, going into The Long Halloween, I had high anticipations. And, were they met?
The answer is definitely yes.
Taking place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting, this new edition of the classic mystery tells the story of a mysterious killer who murders his prey only on holidays. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman’s deadly enemy, Two-Face.
This edition includes original 13-issue series as well as two additional story pages that appeared only in ABSOLUTE BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN.
There are several Batman graphic novels that are considered essential reading for fans of the caped crusader. They include Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, both by Frank Miller, Batman: Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison, The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, and last but not least, The Long Halloween by Jeph Leob. Out of those five graphic novels, I’ve read Year One and The Long Halloween. I’m working on my way to read the others. So far though, no matter how awesome Year One was, The Long Halloween is by far the best Batman tale that I’ve read so far, even though I’ve only read three.
“The Long Halloween is more than a comic book, it’s an epic tragedy.” These were the words stuck on the front of the cover of my edition of The Long Halloween, which is this one, and these words also happened to be said, or typed by Christopher Nolan, and they are the truth. Part noir detective/superhero graphic novel, part epic tragedy, The Long Halloween is not just the favourite Batman graphic novel that I’ve read so far, but one of my favourite graphic novels that I’ve read so far, with it probably being tied with Alan Moore’s awesome Watchmen. The artwork is great – I loved the portrayal of the noir-ish atmosphere of Gotham City. There was a particularly awesome scene where District Attorney Harvey Dent, the Batman and Gordon are on the rooftop of a skyscraper, and I felt that the scene was pulled off really well. In this graphic novel, Batman is still in the early days of his crime-fighting career, so he isn’t as experienced, and it was fun to discover the early days of Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego.
Although The Long Halloween may not be as serious as Year One, it still packs a lot of punches and is a whole lot of fun. You get a wide range of villains including the famous ones such as Joker, Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow, but also Leob manages to throw in Solomon Grundy for good measure as well, who I was first introduced to in Batman: Arkham City, and is an interesting, if a little outlandish, villain. However, whilst reading about Batman’s confrontations with the villains is good, the main stars of this novel are the Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent. Pretty much everybody who’s heard of The Long Halloween will know before going into it, that this storyline shows the tragic journey from Dent to Two-Face, and Leob has really captured it here. Christopher Nolan couldn’t be more right.
In conclusion, The Long Halloween is a masterpiece that should not be missed by any Batman fan. Newcomers to the Batman comics who have already seen Nolan’s trilogy will have no problems starting here, but you may – like I did, want to start with Year One first.
Story: Scott Snyder | Art: Jock, Francesco Francavilla | Cover: Jock | Letters: Jared K. Fletcher | Collects: Detective Comics #871-877
Don’t miss this epic Batman mystery from Scott Snyder, creator of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, originally published in DETECTIVE COMICS #871-877! First, in “The Black Mirror,” a series of brutal murders pushes Batman’s detective skills to the limit and forces him to confront one of Gotham City’s oldest evils. Helpless and trapped in the deadly Mirror House, Batman must fight for his life against one of Gotham City’s oldest and most powerful evils! Then, in a second story called “Hungry City,” the corpse of a killer whale shows up on the floor of one of Gotham City’s foremost banks. The event begins a strange and deadly mystery that will bring Batman face-to-face with the new, terrifying faces of organized crime in Gotham.
The Black Mirror has been on my To-Read list for a while now and when I eventually got around to reading it, it didn’t disappoint. Scott Snyder, current writer of Batman for the New 52, knocks the ball out of the park with some stunning writing – producing one of the best Batman storylines that I’ve ever read, with some stunning narrative – and some equally jaw-dropping art from the great creative minds of Jock and Francesco Francavilla.
And you know what makes this graphic novel even more interesting? Bruce Wayne is not Batman. Yeah, that’s right – the Caped Crusader is played by Dick Grayson, the current Nightwing in the New 52 – and this allows for some very different comparisons between Bruce and Dick during their times as Batman – something that I found interesting was that Dick hasn’t quite mastered the art of the disappearing act during his meetings with Commissioner Gordon yet, which was one of the many things that I felt that made sure that Snyder helped make Dick feel not like a clone of Bruce Wayne, but actually his own character – who is really fleshed out over the course of the series.
What I also found quite surprising is that the whole graphic novel doesn’t focus on The Black Mirror arc alone, in fact – that is quickly wrapped up before we move onto more adventures for the Dark Knight. We have an interesting collection of stories here that stand equally well on their own as told in a group – and with some stunning moments throughout all of them. This was also the first time I witnessed Barbara Gordon don her guise as Oracle outside of the video games Arkham Origins/City – and her interactions with Dick were handled pretty strong, especially when you take into account that one of the main villains for the latter part of the graphic novel is in fact James Gordon Jr, the son of Commissioner Gordon. James is explored in great depth here – and he’s really brought to life in a creepy manner, and handled just as well as pretty much every character here. The Joker gets a strong role to play – yet doesn’t overshadow everyone else’s, and Snyder manages to handle both new (The Dealer of the Mirror House, Roadrunner and Tiger Shark) and old (the aforementioned Joker, Man-Bat and Killer Croc) villains alike – giving them both strong outings.
Having read this after Snyder’s current Batman run I can see why they wanted to keep the writer around – he’s a strong lead for the book and delivers a stunning journey for Dick Grayson as Batman – and with the artists, both Jock and Francavilla – I wish they could have kind of stayed on with Batman for the New 52 – but then again, we wouldn’t get an equally awesome Greg Capullo. It seems – no matter what Snyder does, he always ends up with some good artistic talents with him, therefore I’ve never been disappointed by his storyline (Aside from Batman #0) and his fellow artists work yet.
This book therefore, gets my highest recommendation. Read this, whether you’re sick of Bat-books or not. It’s a classic, easily on par with the likes of The Long Halloween, Year One and The Killing Joke.
Pretty awesome Batman book. Good art, strong storyline but had a few flaws - guessing the identity of the bad guy was too obvious. You'll see why if yPretty awesome Batman book. Good art, strong storyline but had a few flaws - guessing the identity of the bad guy was too obvious. You'll see why if you read the book, but the reader didn't have to be the World's Greatest Detective to find that out. It's also nice to get an apperance from a wide cast of heroes/villains as well, including many that I haven't encountered before in comics. (Harley Quinn, Talia Al Ghul, Pre-New 52 Huntress etc).
“The Man Who Laughs is really a comic of two halves, and both separate stories manage to be entertaining, but whilst the first story that knocks it out of the park, the second suffers.“ ~The Founding Fields
This is a Batman comic that I was keen to get into, as outside of the video game Arkham City and Christopher Nolan’s amazing Dark Knight, I haven’t really encountered the Joker at all. I know he is arguably the most famous comic book villain ever, and there have been several encounters between him and Batman which I haven’t read, seen or heard about. And it was about time, I thought – to see what the Joker would be portrayed like in the Comics, and where a better place to start than The Man Who Laughs, a graphic novel that is chronologically, the next Batman comic to buy after Frank Miller’s fantastic Year One.
And, my verdict? Well, if you want to find out, you’ll have to stick around after this blurb:
Witness Batman’s historic first encounters with his deadliest foe, The Joker, in this hardcover volume featuring two tales written by Ed Brubaker (GOTHAM CENTRAL, Captain America), winner of 2007 Eisner Award for Best Writer.
A mysterious homicidal maniac is murdering prominent citizens of Gotham City, each time leaving a ghastly grin on the victims’ lifeless faces. Batman soon tracks down the killer: The Joker!
This volume gives readers new insight into the early encounters between Batman and The Joker that led the Clown Prince of Crime down the path to insanity. Guest-starring original Green Lantern Alan Scott.
The Man Who Laughs
The first part of this graphic novel explores Batman’s first encounter with the Joker, and thrusts Batman into a race against time against his ultimate nemesis. Like Year One, The Man Who Laughs has some superb artwork, and the artists have really captured the Joker on the page. Although this doesn’t explore his origins much, and it may be not as good as Year One, but it is still an enjoyable read and a must have for any Batman fan, showing Batman in the early stages of his career as a masked vigilante.
Although Catwoman doesn’t feature in this like she did in Year One, The Man Who Laugh‘s main focus is on the Batman, Joker and to a certain extent, Lieutenant Gordon. These are the main characters in this comic book, and The Man Who Laughs pushes both Batman and Gordon to their limits as they’re tested against the greatest Comic Book villain of all time.
The pace is fast, with no dull moment, and The Man Who Laughs is action packed and really enjoyable, with some spectacular scenes and a well crafted plot make this one not one to miss out on. However, once I finished the first half of The Man Who Laughs, I was left wondering, “Is this it?” It’s a short story for sure, and one that could have been made a bit longer, maybe at the cost of the second tale, which featured a much older Batman and the original Green Lantern, which I really didn’t get why it appeared in The Man Who Laughs at all – I mean, why have two seperated, unrelated stories in a graphic novel that’s clearly about the Joker?
Much like Year One, I loved the way that Gotham City was presented in this comic, with a noir hint that makes it feel a dark and mysterious place to live in. The confrontation between the Joker and Batman was a great peice of work, and although this Joker so far cannot match the Joker that Heath Ledger plays in The Dark Knight, he’s certianly an entertaining one and an antoganist that I want to read more about.
Verdict for The Man Who Laughs: 4/5
Made of Wood
The second half of The Man Who Laughs is entitled Made of Wood, in my opinion, not as good as the first. After a great, if a little short, story in the opening half, we’re now thrust into the later days in Batman’s career with seemingly no justificiation as to why these two stories are placed together. We get an apperance of Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, a DC character that I have absolutley no knowledge about whatseover, apart from his weakness, which was partly why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have done if I knew more about the character.
Made of Wood does have its strengths, though. The character interaction between the Green Lantern and Batman is great, and I loved how Gordon, now retired from his duties as Comissioner, is portrayed in this story. Although the story may be a typical murder mystery, it’s still entertaining, an even pace and some pretty awesome scenes, although sadly it won’t live up to the standard set by The Man Who Laughs.
Made of Wood was longer than The Man Who Laughs though, although I really wish it was the other way around. I don’t get why this was included in the same comic that was clearly about the Joker, as the main antonagist of the previous comic doesn’t even appear, or is even mentioned, in Made of Wood.
However, that said though, the artwork was once more well created and the storyline was enjoyable enough, if not as good as The Man Who Laughs‘ plot. This revolves around the Green Lantern and Batman joining forces to solve a 50 year old case, which again, doesn’t have a connection to the first comic, and after the tension created in The Man Who Laughs where you feel that Batman is being pushed to his limits, you feel as though you know Batman will make it out on top in Made of Wood, which is another reason why this comic was a let down for me. Too predictable for my liking, I’m afraid.
Verdict for Made of Wood: 2.5/5
Overall, we have a real mix of the good and the bad here with this collection, but this is certainly not one to overlook just because Made of Wood may not be that good, for The Man Who Laughs is an awesome follow up to Year One.