We all know how Bruce Wayne became the Batman. If you’ve read a single Batman comic, watched any Batman movie or television program, perused any of my Batman related blog entries, or have heard anyone say practically anything about this strange hero—then you already know about how little Brucey’s parents were murdered in a stick up gone bad on Crime Alley from which he inherited the family fortune, mansion (Wayne Manor), and creepy old dude (Alfred) all things he uses to assist in his nightly vigilante quest to clean up a city that is already pretty much gone while posing as the spoiled billionaire playboy who has way too much time/money at way too young of an age. With all this “untouchable” material, Frank Miller set out to revamp this coming of age tale in the way he does everything—by making it dirtier, grittier, and more nihilistic.
The graphic novel tells more than just the origin of Batman, providing two other comic book character startups in its 80-something pages. In fact, as much as Miller’s work is about the Caped Crusader, it splits near equal time developing James Gordon’s character and how the young, new to Gotham detective becomes all chummy with Bats with their common goal of fighting corruption and taking down the seedy underworld. So here they both are, trying to clean up Gotham, “a city that likes being dirty,” but things are pretty much beyond fucked—the mob runs shit down at HQ, not Commissioner Loeb—so what Gotham needs right now is Serpico. And guess who fits that bill.
This isn’t the inept Commissioner Gordon patrolman from the 60’s or goober from the pre-Christopher Nolan movies; no, he is the Gary Oldman rendition from the newer films—passionate, crusading, moral, etc. He is sort of like Batman without all the gadgets or tights. Almost Marvish (Sin City) in some ways.
With origins of Batman and Gordon out of the way, one of villains who can’t be far from thoughts when the title character is mentioned also gets her own detailed tale—Catwoman. When we first see her, she is a lesbian prostitute with a short fuse and a lot of cats. She is the anti-Batman who comes from the streets and has no interest in making the city a better place; however, she is nonetheless inspired by the Dark Knight to put on a costume and go gallivanting about. Of the three storylines, Catwoman’s is clearly the worst and her character is pretty two dimensional. In this respect she is like all the other female characters in the work—Gordon’s wife and his fuck buddy for example—but other than that the work is flawless.