Friday, August 31, 2007

TOP TEN :: Top Ten Single Issues Ever :: #2

Batman #404
by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

What can you say about Batman Year One that hasn't already been said ten thousand times by two thousand people? Frank Miller gets pinned with the whole "dark and gritty" thing, but this is the kind of book Batman always should have been. No Robin. No ridiculous arch-villains. Just a slightly crazy dude in a bat suit, and a mostly honest cop, who take on a city packed to the gills with corruption, graft, and bad cops. In Batman #404, the story begins, masterfully following the arc of a young Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon embarking on their two separate careers. Frank Miller not only tells a great crime/adventure story, but a human one, painting an extraordinarily well-conceived portrait these two men and the things that motivate them to stand alone against so many.

While David Mazzucchelli seems to have left comics forever, this is the story that stands as one of the most perfect unions of writer and artist ever in comics. For someone with such a small body of comics work, Mazzucchelli seems born to draw comics, effortlessly playing with time, rhythm, lighting, and the many visual tools of the cartoonist to somehow make these characters seem larger than life, and at the same time somehow frail, fallible, and mortal. For me this will always stand as the greatest comic ever--while Frank Miller swings and misses sometime, when he hits it's always out of the ballpark. All the others--Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, etc.--sit at the kids' table whenever Batman Year One comes to dinner.


Phil Southern said...

I heard an unnamed pro once sy:
"this is how Batman would have looked if Bob Kane could draw".
Miller and Mazzucchelli can spend the rest of their careers living off of this piece of work.

As a side note, didn't I hear about a Mazzucchelli written and drawn The Odyssey (that word looks weird when you type it!).

Dan Morris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Morris said...

David Mazzuchelli hasn't exactly left comics entirely. Supposedly he's working on a graphic novel that will be published I think by Pantheon. He also is teaching comics at both Rhode Island School of Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York.

I concur that this is probably the definitive Batman story. As much as I like Batman fighting weird villains, I don't Batman and Gordon's (clearly the real partnership of this particular mythology) struggle has been as clear as it was in this comic. Also I think Frank Miller was probably never better than when he was collaborating with Mazzucchelli.

Dustin Harbin said...

Wait-huh-what? Mazzucchelli Odyssey? Anybody out there know anything about this? I think I just wet my desk chair.

Andy Mansell said...

Issue 1--2nd Best issue of all time? I honestly think the strength of part 4 was better than Part 1. What seperated this particular issue out for you or was this really just a veiled choice for all-time mini-series which it really was-- regradless of the appearance within the Batman monthly.

Dustin Harbin said...

Well, I won't disagree that #4 (#407?) has more action and so forth, but #1 has all the setup. Normally this is the worst part of a comic--the writer struggles to introduce the umpteen characters they need to get in there for the Big Fight Scene later, and it's boring. But the first issue of this story is tight as a drum--I still, after dozens of times having read this thing--get a shiver of excitement when I start it again. The art, the completely different direction from whatever was going on in Batman at the time. Pure energy!

Seth Peagler said...

Mazzucchelli also illustrated a not-so-well-known adaptation of Paul Auster's great novel "City of Glass." The adaptation is highly recommended, as is the original novel.

Dustin Harbin said...

Yes! City of Glass is the best--also Mazzucchelli fans will back me up in saying that Rubber Blanket 1-3 are great. I feel like I saw some in the store recently, and while they're a little pricey, the one with "Big Man" in it is worth the price.

Also, of course, Daredevil Born Again, another Miller/Mazz. collaboration. Also awesome, though not as awesome as Year One. Different style, but more cool storytelling tricks from Mazzucchelli.