I recently saw the animated version of Frank Miller’s Year One of Batman, which I thought was nice adaptation and really captured the gist and the tone of the comic. But after reading the Deluxe version of the comic (I’ve forgotten how often and in how many versions I’ve read the comic so far), I have to say, while the movie was nice, the comic is stellar. There’s just something about Mazzucchelli art that’s hard to copy. Sure, it can be adapted to animation, but when compared to the comic itself the movie looks like a shallow copy.
It’s not just the grittiness and darkness, I’ve long outgrown that phase (at least I think), but how he manages to give everything a vibe of realness without making the whole superhero conceits look ridiculous is magnificent. There are elements grafted wholesale from the real world and yet Gotham still looks like a real city in its own right, not the disturbing spires of Tim Burton’s Gotham, but believable city that is both rundown and vibrant with life at the same time.
And there’s the second half of the duo. It’s easy to forget after Miller’s more recent outpourings, that he has been good. Great even. And Year One is Miller at his height. It’s character study of two people, told in turns via a first person perspective. Both characters have distinctive voices, both appear human with strengths and weaknesses and yet Miller manages to capture Jim Gordon and Batman perfectly. I wish Miller could still write like that, but it appears the man is gone. But thankfully his best creations will always remain.