This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (2024)

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For the comics art connoisseur, there’s only one Batman comic coming out this summer: the Batman: Year One Artist’s Edition.

For almost 40 years, Year One has been the definitive origin story for Batman, serving as a grimy, grounded foundation for the likes of Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, and Matt Reeves, not to mention the makers of the Arkham games, Gotham the TV series, and, thanks to Batman: The Animated Series, the entire DC Animated Universe of the ’90s and ’00s.

And IDW’s Artist’s Edition, produced in partnership with DC Comics and Penguin Random House, promises to shed light on the making of the most influential Batman comic ever drawn, by reproducing David Mazzucchelli’s original page art in its original 14-by-21-inch size.

This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (1) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House

You’ve almost certainly heard of Year One’s writer, comic book titan Frank Miller, creator of Sin City, 300, and The Dark Knight Returns. Mazzucchelli, despite co-authoring the first stop in modern Batman canon, is less of a household name — though you might be familiar with his stylistically inventive, Eisner-winning 2009 graphic novel Asterios Polyp.

Miller was (and still is) best known for drawing his own stories when it came time to put Year One into production, but coming off of The Dark Knight Returns, he was apparently (reasonably) burned out on writing and drawing another novel-length story. Tapping the equally up-and-coming Mazzucchelli, who’d worked with Miller on Daredevil, is part of what made Year One a triumph not repeated since.

That’s a testament to Mazzucchelli’s talent, but also to his career choices. Year One was very nearly his last work in superhero comics, with his path quickly thereafter diverging so strongly into independent comics and academia that a friend of mine who had Professor Mazzucchelli’s class at the School of Visual Arts flatly refused to believe that we could have been talking about the same guy. The superhero world is extraordinarily lucky to have had him.

This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (2) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House

Mazzucchelli’s skill is on immediate display in the Year One Artist’s Edition pages that IDW has shared so far, including the above exclusive preview. Mazzucchelli shared Miller’s early talent for composition, character design, silhouette, deceptively casual linework, and striking visuals — making them great partners. But while Miller’s artistic hallmarks are in his stylization, Mazzucchelli’s Year One work turned toward realism.

Mazzucchelli drew his Bruce Wayne after Gregory Peck, and his Selina Kyle has the unmistakable likeness of Grace Jones. His Gotham is ripped from the visuals of New Hollywood crime cinema, built from smears of light and dirt and wrinkles on walls and faces and clothing. And it’s gifted the weight of that realism to decades of Batman stories that came after.

IDW’s pages (featuring the lettering work of the legendary Todd Klein) also preserve the parts of the comic-making process that are hidden in the final art, like visible ink strokes, pasted-in date captions, easel tape, and non-photo blue pencil. The numberings on these pages may even hint at Batman: Year One’s earliest form — not as issues #404-407 of the comic series Batman, but as the single, contiguous graphic novel Miller originally pitched.

David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One Artist’s Edition features Mazzucchelli’s layouts for the entirety of Batman: Year One at their original size (mostly), for a whopping 144 page, 14.5-by-21-inch hardcover that goes a long way to explaining the $150 price tag. There’s also a new introduction to the book by Mazzucchelli himself, and the whole look of the thing was designed by Chip Kidd.

If you need a present for a Batman fan this year, you could do a lot worse than the Batman: Year One Artist’s Edition — that is, if they don’t get it for themselves in the meantime. Check out three more original Mazzucchelli pages, the cover of Batman #407, and promotional art below:

This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (3) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House
This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (4) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House
This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (5) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House
This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (6) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House
This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (7) Image: David Mazzucchelli/DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Penguin Random House

David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One Artist’s Edition hits shelves on Aug. 13.

This summer Batman: Year One, the best Batman comic, gets even better (2024)
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