In terms of live action incarnations Marvel have been the dominant of the big two over the last few years, especially with their build up to next years Avengers flick. But DC are by no means to be counted out, they are a company who really know how to handle their properties especially Batman. With a damn good story arc currently unfolding in the Batman string of their recently rebooted new 52 line, a fantastic looking videogame in Arkham City and now this, a gritty animated rendition of Frank Millers 1987 mini series Batman Year One. They might not be on level pegging in terms of box office income at the moment but Detective Comics sure are on a hot streak right now.
Year One is not only a good precursor before The Dark Knight Rises next year but its also a great stand alone piece. Its manga style of animation really fleshes out the characters involved along with Gotham itself. Its moody hues and dark saturation reflect the overcast and underhanded nature of Gotham really well. But its the story and the portrayal of Year Ones key players which make this as good as it is. Our story chronicles the first year of both Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon as they both learn how tough the city is but more importantly how tough they have to be to overcome the citys trials and tribulations. The overall story arc itself is essential for anyone remotely interested in Batman for it was spawned shortly after Millers groundbreaking The Dark Knight Returns. Year One is very much the early bi product of that particular book and shows us the seeds from which Christopher Nolans work was birthed from.
Despite having Batman in the title this story well and truly belongs to Jim Gordon, a chicago cop transfered to Gotham after bringing down a corrupt colleague at his previous post. Needless to say this dosent go down well with the figureheads of Gotham’s law department, who are very much in bed with the wrong people. However despite his crusade for justice we find that Gordon much like the bat himself is by no means whiter than white. Both lead characters face personal dilemmas and have tough decisions to make but its the all too human failings of Jim that give Year One its strong, central focus point.
Both the story and presentation are very faithful to the books, big chunks of dialogue and certain panels seem to be ripped right off the pages and put into the movie. Even the fonts used to depict the different dates throughout is dead on, some people might find this aping of the book a bit too much but for me it only improved the movie. One thing that definetly helps the flick stand out is the voice acting especially from Breaking Bads Bryan Cranston who voices Gordon and Elisa Dushku as Selena Kyle/Catwoman. The big surprise however comes from Ben McKenzie (best known as Ryan from The O.C) who is the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman. When I first saw his name attached to the character I thought somebody had made a big mistake, but as it happens his contribution is pleasantly surprising.
Overall Year One is another great addition to DC’s animated collection, it is a great representation of both the original book and the Batman universe as a whole. Whether your chomping at the bit for The Dark Knights big screen return, your a Batman fanatic or you just want to dig deeper into the history of the caped crusader you couldn’t go far wrong by picking up a copy of Batman Year One.