New Comics Wednesday (11/16/11) & Batman: Year One

It’s Wednesday, so you know what that means! Hmm, it appears to be an all DC week for me. What are you getting in your pull list for this week? After the list, have a read about the Batman: Year One DVD.

  • Batman #3
  • Birds of Prey #3
  • Blue Beetle #3
  • (Catwoman #3: If it’s on the shelf when I go to my local shop in a month, I’ll pick this up.)
  • DCU Presents #3
  • Justice League #3: My pick of the week!
  • LSH #3
  • Nightwing #3
  • Red Hood & the Outlaws #3: My last issue.
  • Supergirl #3
  • Wonder Woman #3

Batman: Year One was directed by Sam Lui & Lauren Montgomery, casting direction done by the ever-present and talented Andrea Romano, and voices by Bryan Cranston (Gordon), Ben McKenzie (Batman), and Eliza Dushku (Selina Kyle), plus some other fine folks.

The “Year One” story in Batman #404-407 (1986-1987) was written by Frank Miller, with art by David Mazzucchelli and colors by Richmond Lewis. This has long been one of my very favorite Batman stories and my only favorite Jim Gordon story since this tale is as much or more so about Gordon than it is about Bruce Wayne’s discovery of himself as Batman. Coming off the success of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Miller crafted a very toned down, but still kick-ass in a different way story. Mazzucchelli’s art was perfect for this story: it was simple, noirish, and distinctive from what was coming out in those days, at least in mainstream superhero comics. But props goes to Lewis’s colors. He used a muted, but very effective palette that depicted the situations and emotional states of the characters very well. If you haven’t read this, go get the trade (which reminds me: the trade I have erroneously states that the material was originally published in Batman: Year One 1-4. Who the hell wrote that copy?).

This movie, clocking in at a lean 64 minutes, is a very faithful adaptation of the source material. This is a double-edged sword to me. On one hand, I understand wanting to be faithful to the source, but on the other hand, being too faithful is boring to us (long-time) comic readers. Yes, it looks cool seeing your favorite storylines all animated and alive with the voices, but when the movie doesn’t bring something fresh, why bother? The style of the animation is also very Mazzucchelli-like, though, less with the line/shadow work than is in the source material, thus making the movie look a bit cleaner.

So, with that I turn to the voices. Bryan Cranston does a good job as Gordon. This movie, though titled Batman, is really about Gordon. Romano’s choice for Batman, however, was a bit surprising. McKenzie does a well enough job, but he’s so quiet and understated, which in one way fits the narrative, but it’s not very Batman, which is probably unfair of me. Dushku does a fine enough job as Selina in the main movie and in the Catwoman short. I also loved Alex Rocco as Falcone, though the guy’s voice is starting to show his age (which not a comment on his performance, just that it’s noticeable to me).

All in all, not bad, but not great. Just thinking back on the DC animated movies, this one ranks near the bottom in some aspects (length, voices), but higher in others (visuals, story). It’s certainly better than Wonder Woman or Green Lantern: First Flight, but not as good as Batman: Under the Red Hood or even Superman: Doomsday. :) Still, if you’re interested in how the movie adapts the great Miller/Mazzucchelli story or have never read that story and want to watch a Gordon/Batman origin story, check this out.

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