Between 1987 and 1989, three stories were published by DC Comics which would explore significant moments in Batman’s career. These stories, which depicted events from his first, second and third years as a crime-fighter, were titled Year One, Year Two and Year Three.
In this post I am discussing all three ‘Years‘. I am also including a rundown of the main story beats.
What is Batman: Year One?
In 1987, DC Comics published Year One – a four-issue story depicting Batman’s first year in Gotham City. Written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, and coloured by Richmond Lewis, the story focuses on Batman’s emergence in Gotham, his interactions with Jim Gordon, and the increasing crime and corruption in the city.
Year One ran in issues #404 – #407 of Batman and is often regarded as one of the defining stories of the Dark Knight’s comic book career. The story offered a stripped back re-imagining of the Batman mythology, with a distinctive noir aesthetic that told readers this was something different.
Such was the popularity of the story that it helped to shape the look and feel of Batman stories for years to come. It also provided partial inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and was adapted into an animated feature called Batman: Year One (2011).
What happens in Batman: Year One?
Chapter One: Who I Am, How I Come to Be
Chapter One of Year One covers the period January 4th to March 11th. During this time, James Gordon arrives in Gotham to take on a job as a Lieutenant, while Bruce Wayne returns to the city following a period of absence.
It has been 18 years since the death of his parents, and Wayne is now ready to take to the streets to dispense justice as a masked crime-fighter. Meanwhile, in his new role as Lieutenant, Gordon learns of the corruption in Gotham City Police Department.
Chapter Two: War is Declared
Chapter Two of Year One covers the period April 4th to June 6th. During this time, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman and the police investigate the city’s new vigilante, with Jim Gordon suspecting the Caped Crusader is District Attorney Harvey Dent.
Chapter Three: Black Dawn
Chapter Three of Year One covers the period June 7th to Aug 7th. During this time, Batman is cornered by the Gotham City Police Department (but escapes) and Selina Kyle becomes Catwoman.
Chapter Four: Friend in Need
The final chapter of Year One covers the period September 2nd to December 3rd. During this time, Batman and Gordon continue to throw a spotlight on the corruption in the city.
In this concluding part of the story, Jim Gordon’s wife and son are put into danger, but are saved with some help from Batman. Gordon is later promoted to Captain.
Points of note
While Year One is about Batman’s arrival in Gotham, it feels more like Gordon’s story than it does the Caped Crusader’s. Gordon is the first character that appears and it is his war against the establishment that is the key focus.
As for the story, it offers a back-to-basics approach to the character. There are no major fancy gadgets and gizmos, and no large supporting cast – just Batman on a mission.
What is Batman: Year Two?
Published in 1987, directly after Year One, Year Two is a four-issue story set during the second year of Batman’s career. Year Two is not a sequel to Year One, but rather a leap forward in time, to a point where Batman is more established in Gotham.
Year Two originally appeared in issues #575 – #578 of Detective Comics. Mike W. Barr wrote Year Two (based on his treatment for a story called Batman: 1980), while Alan Davis pencilled the first chapter, and Todd McFarlane pencilled parts two to four.
Davis was originally on board to pencil all four issues, but he left the project following a dispute. According to Mike W. Barr, Davis quit when the cover to his chapter was “changed without his consent, or, even worse, his knowledge, and he felt he couldn’t continue under those circumstances.”
Explaining the situation in the introduction to the trade paperback edition of Batman: Year Two, Barr said: “I agreed, but decided to stay with the project, to make sure that at least some of its initial spirit remained in place.”
Year Two did not receive the same praise that Year One achieved, but over the years it’s popularity has grown. In 1993, it also provided the inspiration for the highly acclaimed animated feature, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
What happens in Batman: Year Two?
Chapter One: Fear the Reaper
Gordon is now Gotham’s Commissioner, and while Batman is still somewhat of a shadowy figure, he is working with Gordon. However, there is a new vigilante in town in the form of the Reaper – a deadly figure who murders the city’s criminals (as well as those he considers co-conspirators).
Batman fights the Reaper, but is badly injured. Believing his foe to be too powerful to stop, Batman considers arming himself with a gun – a weapon that is synonymous with the death of his parents.
Chapter Two: Deal with the Devil
A gun-wielding Batman faces the Reaper once more, but in doing so alienates himself from Gordon.
When Batman fails to stop the Reaper, he decides to team up with the gangs of Gotham to defeat a common enemy. But this leads him into a partnership with Joe Chill – the man who killed his parents.
Chapter Three: Deadly Allies
The Chill/Batman partnership continues, as the Dark Knight begins to question the uneasy path he has taken. And for a third time Batman confronts the Reaper, but is unsuccessful in bringing his reign of terror to an end.
Chapter Four: So Shall Ye Reap
The Reaper appears to die in conflict. Believing the Reaper to be gone, Batman takes Joe Chill to Crime Alley to reveal their connection.
Ready to shoot Chill, Batman is interrupted by the reemergence of the Reaper. The Reaper promptly kills Chill, then battles Batman one final time.
Points of note
While Year One focuses heavily on Jim Gordon, Year Two is very much Batman’s story. This tale demonstrates how close Batman comes to crossing the line and that he could kill for vengeance.
Year Two is also about demonstrating Batman’s support network: Alfred Pennyworth and Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler, and closest confidant, while Leslie became a friend to Bruce following the death of his parents.
While Year Two explores Bruce’s dark side during his encounters with the Reaper, it also offers up a look at a lighter side too. The story introduces a love interest in Rachel Caspian – a character who helps to soften and humanise Bruce in his darker moments.
What is Batman: Year Three?
1989, two years after DC published Year One and Year Two, the publisher produced a third story: Year Three. This tale – written by Marv Wolfman and pencilled by Pat Broderick – appeared between issues #436 and #439 of Batman.
Unlike Year One and Year Two, which were told in a linear format, Year Three is split into two time periods: the past and the present. The past is told through the use of flashbacks, with scenes taking place during Batman’s third year. The present day scenes take place shortly after the death of Jason Todd, aka the second Robin (as seen in the story, A Death in the Family).
While Year Three has so far not been adapted for the big screen, Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) does briefly (and very lightly) touch upon one aspect of the story (Robin’s origin). On the small screen, Year Three inspired the two-part story, Robin’s Reckoning, which appeared in the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series. If you have never watched Robin’s Reckoning, I highly recommend you seek it out.
What happens in Batman: Year Three?
Chapter One: Different Roads
Batman is investigating gang murders, while former Robin, Dick Grayson (who now goes by the name, Nightwing) returns to Wayne Manor following a two year absence. Meanwhile, Anthony Zucco – the man responsible for the death of Dick’s parents – is about to be released from prison.
Chapter Two: Changes Made
In flashback scenes, Dick becomes Bruce Wayne’s ward and trains to become Robin. In present day scenes, Batman & Nightwing grow distant.
Chapter Three: Turnabout
Batman continues his campaign to stop the gang violence in Gotham. Meanwhile, Zucco is released from prison, but is killed the moment he steps outside the gates.
Chapter Four: Resolutions
For years, Zucco boasted of a ledger containing secrets about all the criminal activity in the city. Batman and Nightwing search for it, with the trail leading Nightwing back to the orphanage he stayed at prior to living with Bruce Wayne.
Points of note
Year Three is largely Dick Grayson’s story, with some important character moments for Alfred too. In terms of its overall look and feel, Year Three is closer in tone to Year Two than Year One.
Which is the best?
Year One is largely considered to be the best of the stories and its distinctive look and feel certainly make it standout. Personally, I like all three as I feel that each story offers an insight into different aspects of the Batman mythology.
What I believe is worth noting is that while each story features Batman, only Year Two feels like it is specifically about the Caped Crusader. In general, the stories are about the Batman mythology, rather than being specifically about the character.
The Year Two sequel
In addition to Year One, Year Two, and Year Three, DC Comics also published a sequel to Year Two called Full Circle. Printed as a one-shot in 1991, the story was written by Mike W. Barr, with Alan Davis illustrating.
Set shortly into Batman’s third year as a crime-fighter, Full Circle sees the Reaper return to Gotham City. This new costumed killer is secretly the son of Joe Chill.
The events of Full Circle take place after the flashback sequences of Year Three, but before the present day scenes. If you want to read Year One, Year Two, Year Three and Full Circle in order, I would recommend the following:
- Batman: Year One
- Batman: Year Two
- Batman: Full Circle
- Batman: Year Three
I hope this information on Batman: Year One, Year Two and Year Three has proved useful. Should you want to read more posts about Batman, please take a look through I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or alternatively check out one of the recommended reads below.