Friday, April 23, 2021

Batman: Year One -- Gordon & Essen

With the continued discussion of the post-Crisis DC Universe I'm having with three of my friends, we followed up Byrne's Man of Steel with Batman: Year One by Miller & Mazzucchelli. I want to look at one, very specific aspect of this series--the relationship between Detective James Gordon and Detective Sarah Essen. 

Miller & Mazzucchelli bring all their creative knowledge to the task of telling Batman's origin story, within the space of only four issues, none of them oversized. To achieve what they want, they heavily layer their storytelling, crafting full, intense scenes that take place over the course of just a couple of pages, or just a handful of panels. There's no fat on these bones, and that is true for one of the major character bits for James Gordon. 

Gordon is new to Gotham, trying to be a good cop in a corrupt agency, pressured by his superiors and his fellow officers, while dealing with the anxiety that comes from the impending birth of his first child, all in a cesspool of a city. He finds solace in the arms and lips of a fellow detective, Sarah Essen. 



Their blossoming relationship occurs over the course of only three scenes where they interact directly with one another. A grand total of maybe five pages, though there are another handful surrounding the personal interactions between the two. It's brief, very brief, and yet, it feels genuine, and it works. Miller & Mazzucchelli manage to infuse these scenes with the weight and the emotion and the humanity that allows us to believe that James Gordon could fall in love with this fellow detective, and that she could do the same, even with the reality of his marriage and his wife's pregnancy. It's masterful. And then, when we land on this page at the end of chapter 3, the devastating reality and the heavy guilt that Gordon is carrying with him just hits us in the gut. 

Miller & Mazzucchelli have a relatively small bibliography, within the mainstream, superhero comics medium. But, in the two stories they created together, this and Daredevil: Born Again, they may have crafted the best superhero stories the medium has ever seen. 


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