Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: Dave Mazzucchelli
When DC relaunched its entire comic book line in 1986 after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the company hired writer Frank Miller—fresh off his famous run on Daredevil—to reimagine the Caped Crusader’s early days. “Year One” focuses on Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham after training abroad for his war on crime. But once he lands on US soil, he realizes that he has the skills and means to fight crime, but not the method.
As Bruce undergoes some failed attempts at being a vigilante, a young cop named James Gordon is transferred to Gotham City from Chicago to begin work in the most dangerous city in the country. Unbeknownst to them, they’re on a collision course as their ideals soon make them unlikely allies in their mutual struggle to clean up the city.
At the time this story was published, fans weren’t used to such a stripped down, minimalist take on the Dark Knight. There is no Robin, no array of high-tech tools, and certainly no Batmobile in sight; instead, Batman is just a man in a Halloween costume who intimidates the criminal underworld through the use of theatrics and deception. Miller’s script is more hard-boiled crime drama than superhero adventure, and that’s a tone that the character still latches onto today.
Without a doubt, the most inspired choice by the company for this book was hiring artist Dave Mazzucchelli. His work on this story is crisp and clean, with the minimal amount of superfluous pencil lines. But it is also incredibly grim and gritty, as he brings a certain believability to the city of Gotham. Twenty-five years later, this is still one of the most iconic makeovers the character has ever undergone.