REVIEW: ‘Gotham: Year One,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Gotham: Year One #1

Gotham: Year One #1 is the start of a new series published by DC Comics, written by Tom King, pencils by Phil Hester, inks by Eric Gapstur, colours by Jordie Bellaire, and letters by Clayton Cowles. Set in a Gotham that is generations away from Batman, a private investigator is brought into a dark and brutal world as the daughter of the Waynes has been kidnapped.

This is a noir story set within an untapped past. King is rewriting a part of history with a crime and a gangster plot. The pacing is slow and methodical, but it is instantly investing. Just the name Wayne invokes interest, especially when attached to names I’ve never seen before. The first impression of that family is distressing and intense, a reminder of the dark past Bruce belongs to. Placing a specific date is both helpful and confusing, as it always is in superhero comics.

With it being two generations ahead, it makes the mind wonder and somewhat seize up, doing the maths until Bruce himself is born and brought into the picture. But it also helps give a sense of place and time. The action is more akin to a noir comic than a superhero book, to begin with, as is the entire plot. There is a sudden twist at the end of the issue that totally changes everything, creating a massive mystery and raising questions that left me begging for answers.

The characters have only just been introduced, yet many of them are gripping from their first appearances. The main character is not a Wayne but instead a private detective named Sam “Slam” Bradley. At first impression, King writes him as a standard noir hero, investigative and gruff. The narration is presented as a journal written after the fact, heavily explanatory but fun to read. Possibly the most intriguing figure in Gotham: Year One #1 is Constance Wayne. There is a brilliant flipping of expectations involving Constance that demonstrates superb depth. She is equal parts dangerous and vulnerable.

It should be noted that there is racist language used within this comic, applied within the context of the time period. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the issue.

The art is brilliant and really crucial to building the world. This is a book with long shadows that cast more shapes in the darkness than in the light, instantly plunging the comic into darkness. Hester and Gapstur do phenomenal work with silhouettes, brilliantly alternating between being specific or intentionally obscuring. Whilst set in the early sixties, the design of the buildings and the characters make the book easy to place a couple of decades before, aside from the vehicles. The outfit of the main character, in particular, could be considered nondescript and slightly dull, but it could be intentional to fit the genre this book is sitting in.

The colours are deceptively complex yet very effective. Bellaire predominantly employs muted tones for the majority of this issue, with blocks of shadows and grey clothing instilling that dark mood inside the book. On one of the first pages, there is a brown shade to the background when outside, denoting the historical setting, created with only a few beautiful tones. There are kids wearing greens or pinks, but these colours are dulled and don’t overpower the rest of the page. The richness that this colourist is capable of is clear when Constance walks in. Her purple and pink outfit is a dramatic contrast from anything else in the comic. Light sources land and illuminate certain areas, even if that source comes from off-panel. But there are pages that are covered in a singular shade which raises the intensity immensely. The lettering is very easy to read, even the journal-esque writing for the captions.

Gotham: Year One #1 is a fascinating exploration of the past. Whilst set in the history of the city, this is a really engrossing new story. Brilliantly pastiching the genre of a noir tale to tell an unseen, potentially shameful hidden origin creates a fantastic atmosphere. Both the artists and the writer do a superb job of toying with the homage before mixing in both their own flair, ripping up any expectations.

Gotham: Year One #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.


Gotham: Year One #1
4.5

TL;DR

Gotham: Year One #1 is a fascinating exploration of the past. Whilst set in the history of the city, this is a really engrossing new story. Brilliantly pastiching the genre of a noir tale to tell an unseen, potentially shameful hidden origin creates a fantastic atmosphere. Both the artists and the writer do a superb job of toying with the homage before mixing in both their own flair, ripping up any expectations.

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