If you do not know why Bruce Wayne became Batman by now, you must be living under a rock. At this point, most everyone even knows how he became Batman, in terms of what he is capable of. We have seen the tragedy and we have seen the years of training that he went through to train his body and his mind. Training, however, is not experience, and learning to be Batman comes with its share of growing pains.
PLOT Plain and simple, this is the first year in the life of The Bat. Bruce Wayne returns home after twelve years abroad, having learned the skills he needed to seek vengeance. We also see the beginnings of Catwoman, who was a prostitute before she became a cat burglar. Unlike most stories about the Dark Knight, this one actually focuses more on then Lieutenant James Gordon. Before Gotham had The Bat, its first hero was Gordon. The story shows how he was the first ray of hope for the city. We see how they came to work together and trust one another. By the end of the story, we see that the neither Gordon nor Batman could exist without the other and so the legend begins.
ART/ANIMATION Much in the style of Batman: The Animated Series, the colors are kept simple, even in the very neon-heavy red light district where Selina and Holly live. The art design is much more modernized than what you would see in the original pages of Batman# 404-407, penciled by David Mazzucchelli. Even so, the look of the characters from those pages is maintained. The animation looks and feels more like something out of the Rocksteady game series which is unlikely to be an accident. Year One hits stores on the same day that Batman: Arkham City releases on game consoles and PC. The fights look like something out of the challenge maps of the games, with Batman fluidly moving from one enemy to the next, dodging fists, pipes, bats and bullets. This is not an action-heavy title, but when it happens, it’s serious. Between this and the included Catwoman short film, your eyes are in for a treat.
SOUND/V.O. The audio was probably more important than the visuals in this particular movie considering the large amount of internal dialogue from both Batman and Gordon. Maybe I am spoiled or maybe Kevin Conroy is just that damn good. Either way, I hold the voicing of Batman to a very high standard and while I am not saying he was terrible, I was not terribly impressed with the work of Ben McKenzie. In part I feel like he was trying to sound like Conroy and he was just too stiff. Bryan Cranston and Eliza Dushku, on the other hand, were fantastic. If Cabwoman ever becomes a more regular character on any of the animated shows again, I hope they continue to use her. Music for the DC animated movies is always fitting for the tone of the story and this was no exception.
Batman: Year One is a perfect way for DC and WB animation to close out 2011. After also seeing the Superman and Green Lantern stories, I can only imagine what they have in store for us in 2012. Considering the fresh story writing that is going into Young Justice, I would love to see a feature length film with those characters next year. Seeing this young Batman and hearing him describe himself as “sloppy” and making mistakes gives him a more human element, something we do not see much of during his more established days. Even from his earliest exploits, witnesses (and victims) describe him as inhuman. I guess that is why many consider the Year One story to be the definitive Batman tale. I for one cannot wait to see what DC will give us on screen next year (hopefully more of the Dark Knight), but in the meantime, you should not miss Year One if you even remotely enjoy watching the caped crusader.