The fated arrivals of Batman: Year One

Last fall, Warner Bros. published an animated adaptation of Batman: Year One, the graphic novel on which Batman Begins was partially based, and the current canon origin story for The Bat.

Bruce Wayne has returned home after 12 years abroad, and feels the need to do more for his city than simple philanthropy. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon – with a pregnant wife – arrives in the city as a police lieutenant fighting against corruption.

The stories of Gordon and Wayne are tied very closely together, as they both struggle with a city that seems bent on destroying itself.

There are also references to Vicky Vale, Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent, The Joker, and other Batman figures, seeing what each was up to when the Batman first came on the scene.

The film is spot on with the book, capturing Frank Miller’s novel nearly frame for frame, word for word. Even the art style is highly reminiscent of the graphic novel, which shows us a Batman who is still learning, a flawed and emotional man, who is making decisions about how he needs to fight for Gotham for the first time, and a Gordon who is going through the most difficult time in his life, professionally, emotionally, politically – both of whom we know will come out well in the end.

The lines are clean, the dialogue has a terrific economy, and each thread of the tale is compelling and well-wrought, just as it is in the book, widely considered one of Frank Miller’s, and DC’s, best novels. The voice acting is superb, bringing out the talents of Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Katee Sackhoff, and Eliza Dushku.

The special features on the DVD, however, leave a little something to be desired. I was expecting some concept art, a featurette about the transition from graphic novel to animated feature, or even just some making of interviews. There was nothing like that. Only some trailers for other DC shows and films. There is a 15-minute Catwoman adventure done in the same style as Year One, which is excellent, a quick and fun story in which Catwoman investigates some thugs who were attempting to kill a cat with a gem-studded collar.

Despite the lack of special features, the disc would make an excellent addition to any DC fan’s collection, and is a must rent for anyone who even likes the new films a little bit, as it delivers a bold look at where the current incarnation of Batman comes from, and is one of the most well-produced Batman animations to date.

Batman: Year One is available now on Blu-ray or DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.