SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #994 by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, David Baron and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
Everyone knows the gist of Batman’s origin; his parents were killed in front of him as a child, so he dedicated his life to eradicating all crime to make sure it never happened to anyone ever again. It’s the details where things get really interesting, with creators constantly coming up with different takes on what, exactly, makes Batman, well, Batman.
Whether it’s the campiness of Adam West and Burt Ward in Batman ‘66 or the grim realism of Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of films, Batman’s adaptability is one of the character’s greatest strengths. However, for a long time, there was one story that was considered so iconic and so perfect, that it went untouched for nearly thirty years; Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, Richmond Lewis and Todd Klein’s “Batman: Year One.”
This reinvention of Batman’s first year as the Caped Crusader would go on to influence pretty much every Batman story for decades to come, until DC did the seemingly unthinkable and gave Batman a radically different first year in Gotham with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Zero Year” storyline. Now, with Detective Comics marching towards its one thousandth issue and the new team of Tomasi and Mahnke aboard, it seems that Year One is once again canon, dethroning Zero Year, but there are some major ramifications if that’s the case.
Who He Is And How He Came To Be
Detective Comics #994 opens with an obvious homage to the start of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman #1. In the space of eight words, four panels and a double-page spread, Morrison and Quitely defined everything you’d ever need to know about The Man of Tomorrow -- doomed planet, desperate scientists, last hope, kindly couple. It takes Tomasi and Mahnke an extra panel and considerably more words in their attempt to convey the same message for Batman, and it’s the last panel that we really want to pay attention to, as Bruce Wayne sits in front of a bust of his father with a bat perched atop it, and a bell in his hand.
This scene from “Batman: Year One” is possibly one of the most iconic Batman moments of all time. Bruce Wayne, having struggled to find out how to watch over his city since returning to Gotham, returns beaten and bloody, on the edge of death, apologizing to the memory of his father for failing him. With the bell at his side, Bruce knows he can ring the instrument and Alfred will come, he’ll be patched up and have the chance to try again; or he can leave it, and die right there in the chair. Suddenly, a bat crashes through the window, landing on the bust of Thomas Wayne, and in that moment, Bruce knows what he must do. He utters the iconic line, “Yes father, I shall become a bat,” and rings the bell, signaling the birth of Batman.