ABSOLUTE BATMAN: YEAR ONE presents one of DC Comics’ most lauded tales in two hardcover volumes contained by a slipcase.
The first volume will reprint the recolored version of the story from previous collected editions, remastered with new, high-resolution scans of the original coloring by David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis.
The second volume will reprint the original 1987 version of the story as it ran in BATMAN #404-407, reproduced from scans made by Mazzucchelli and Lewis from the printed comic book pages, presented on stock that simulates the look and feel of the original comics. This volume will include Miller’s complete scripts and Mazzucchelli’s complete pencil layouts for all four chapters!
Together, the two volumes will include more than 60 pages of bonus material, including everything seen in the existing hardcover and trade paperback collections.
Here is a collection I’ve been waiting literally years for, and when the above solicitation came out I was scratching my head along with the rest of the comic collecting community. My desire for an Absolute size of this amazing story overcame my good sense and I preordered it from my local comic shop. Now I hold it in my hands and I’m still scratching my head.
The complete Batman: Year One story consists of four twenty-two issue comics, giving us eighty-eight pages of comic story. With covers, it was ninety-six pages in the original Batman: Year One hardcover collection from 1988 that carried a $12.95 USD cover price and included one additional page featuring the Amazing Heroes 102 cover Mazzucchelli cover did. This volume was completely recoloured by Richmond Lewis with an extensive colour palette and has been the gold standard for this story. Mazzucchelli and Lewis were interviewed about the recoloured hardcover for DC Currents, which I’ve previously posted. Here are the salient points:
“I drew the book with a simplified line, leaving the art open for the color and to make it a strong element in the storytelling.” David continued. “And when you have a good colorist working on the book, you’re going to end up getting even more than you could ask for.”
Richmond’s goal in the re-coloring of YEAR ONE was simple. “I wanted to bring a sense of drama to the story, from simple color to the more complex. But overall it’s pretty restrained. I tried to use a limited palette, so you won’t see every color on every page, except in those places where the full range is called for.”
“I tried to use the color to follow the storytelling. There are quiet places in the story that have quiet color, while a loud, fast paced big bang sequence is going to be colored to bring out the art’s impact.”
What was the result of this artistic husband and wife pairing? “I think the recolored edition is fantastic,” said David. Richmond was likewise pleased with the collaboration, saying, “I loved coloring David’s work . . . and not just because he’s my husband.”
In 2005 an updated collection for Batman: Year One was released with the same recoloured version and a slew of extras. Unfortunately, I don’t own this version to compare, since it was the same standard comic size as the original hardcover collection.
Now we have the Absolute Batman: Year One collection, featuring two hardcovers in a slipcase. The first hardcover, Book One, features the same recoloured version of the story as used in 1988, but with “new, high-resolution scans of the original coloring”. Extras include a Denny O’Neil introduction dated 1988, process art from Mazzucchelli for various collected edition covers and promotional material, all looking to be from the 2005 collection.
Comparing it page to page with the 1988 collection the colours are the same and the new paper stock is slightly thicker. Book One is a larger version of previous collections and as such presents the best collection to date.
Let’s move on to Book Two, a complete reprinting of the original newsprint issues. They look to be scanned and enlarged, but that’s it. Every page has blurred text, which I can only guess is from scanning and enlarging. Some pages are better than others, but that’s small comfort. This volume includes a substantial extras section, providing sixty-two pages of Miller’s scripts and Mazzucchelli’s page layouts. These are a wonderful look at the process of creating these comics.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for the dreadful choices made for Book Two. The scanned and enlarged original comics look terrible. If they wanted to use the original colour palette then they should have made the volume in the same manner as the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus series. Or better yet completely skipped this and added the sixty-two pages of process extras to Book One and provided a 190 page Absolute Batman: Year One for $75.
I made this purchase as a nostalgic fanboy, and looking at the description and price point should have known better. Bob Chapman, please produce a Gallery Edition.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.