Comic book memoirs - Revisiting Batman: Year Two

So my little blogging series stalled for a while after this first post... but, inspired by Grant Morrison’s personal response to comic books in Supergods, I want to continue reflecting on the comics that have impacted on ME over the years – those tales, and even individual panels, that are forever entrenched in my mind.

Batman: Year Two scores a place on this personal list primarily for the sequence below. After all, what could be more shocking to a 12 year old than seeing your favourite superhero so resoundingly beaten and bloodied that they’re forced to flee?

Predating Batman’s crippling by Bane by six years, Batman: Year Two graphically depicts the Dark Knight’s defeat by his vigilante predecessor, the death-dealing, sickle-gun-wielding Reaper. The defeat is so thorough, in fact, that Bruce Wayne has a complete change of heart about his crime-fighting methods, picking up a pistol and committing to the use of lethal force if necessary. Hell, in preparing to take down the Reaper, he even goes so far as to form an alliance with the mob... and Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents.

Written by Mike W Barr and pencilled by Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Alfredo Alcala, Mark Farmer and (then newcomer) Todd McFarlane, Batman: Year Two was released as a 4-part story arc in Detective Comics staring in June 1987. The story is essentially a follow-up to Batman: Year One, and, like the little suggests, is set during the second year of Batman’s war on crime in Gotham City.

Despite having a massive influence on the excellent Batman: Mask of the Phantasm animated film, Year Two seems to be one of those largely forgotten Batman stories that has dipped in and out of canon over the years. Which I think is a pity.

Some readers may not necessarily like Year Two’s “softer” take on Bruce Wayne, a man who, at the start of his career, is a lot more changeable and self-concerned than rigidly focused on moral code and mission. Some may even consider his behaviour here fundamentally out of character. Still, the story arc is notable for several aspects, and is beautifully illustrated and coloured – depicting Batman in the sleek Neal Adams style, with a massive, panel-devouring cape.

Of course there’s the disturbingly one-sided battle above, and the general high level of viciousness (I certainly wasn’t expecting it after all the Bronze Age Batman tales I read in childhood). However, Year Two is also arguably the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of Batman tales – or perhaps that’s Son of the Demon, also written by Barr? Anyway, this is the story where Batman is prepared to hang up his cowl for unexpected happiness, having found love with Rachel Caspian, a young woman who was considering life in a convent. Good ol’ Doctor Leslie Thompkins, a character who I think has tended to be underutilised in the Bat Universe, is against the union, and it turns out for good reason.

While it could be claimed that many events in Year Two are too neat and coincidental to be credible, there’s the counter argument that the story is an excellent example of cruel Fate toying with Batman before prodding him permanently down a dark, lonely path – away from the light, love and joy he could expect of a “normal” life.


Chris2.0 said…
Wow, another post that brings back fond memories...

Altho I never read the issue where Toddy M did the art, think it's off to comiXology with me!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this, i have read this comic as a little child and been searching for it for few years now, thank you for making this page. <3

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