Batman: Year One Hundred

Wednesday sees the collected release of one of my favorite series from last year, Batman: Year One Hundred. It's a futuristic take on Batman that draws on two primary sources for inspiration: the classic first appearance, purple gloved The Bat-Man, wearing a cobbled together suit of cloth and leather rather than streamlined rubber and Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Year One with a bit of The Dark Knight Returns tossed in for good measure. What Pope brings is a sense that The Batman, as both a comic book character and as a masked vigilante, is more a symbol than a character. This is true of most comic book characters for that matter, but with Batman Pope is using one of the oldest and most popular as a jumping off point for comics as symbolism.

The basic premise is that Batman re-emerges into Gotham in 2039, 100 years after his first appearance there. He disappeared into legend years ago, and exists as a myth in what is now a police state run by Homeland Security. Thus, Pope sets about creating an elaborate metaphor for the future of the United States, wherein the disappearance of civil liberties creates a need for the resurrection of a masked vigilante not to fight criminals on the street but rather the criminals who run the government.

What makes this so effective is that Pope uses Batman, the most malleable of all symbolic heroes. This is a character who popularity has endured (and inspired) Adam West camp, sci-fi closets, Frank Miller, seventies sex god, Frank Miller, Bane and the nadir of grim and gritty, a nearly limitless supporting cast of crossover potential, and again, Frank Miller. He does this by making The Batman as much a mystery to the reader as he is to the rest of the cast, allowing the reader to fill in their own version to fit their individual perspective on the narrative.

In some ways I think this is the only sort of Batman story I can really get behind anymore because it's high quality work that's allowed to tell a story on it's own terms rather than as part of an editorially controlled direction. This is Batman as pure symbol, no internal monologue, no angst, just a man with a mission and a mask. On top of that, it has everything I want from a Batman story.

Dense mystery? Check.
Corrupt police force? Check.
Lone honest cop named Gordon? Check.
A Batman who's mysterious and just a bit scary? Check.
A sense of the character's history and mythology? In spades.


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