***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B
screenplay by Tab Murphy, from the comics story by Frank Miller
directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery
by Jefferson Robbins Before he was a grouchy and politically-nearsighted old man with enough clout to cast Scarlett Johansson in a $60M fetish video, Frank Miller truly did change the face of mainstream superhero comics. Doing so brought him fame as a visionary, a label that implies prophetic or pioneering concepts but--at least in comics art--is most commonly applied to artists fusing pre-existing styles into a successful hybrid, or distilling an old story to its barest elements. Miller did both. In fact, between 1986's "The Dark Knight Returns" and the 1987 "Batman: Year One" arc, his reengineering of the Batman mythos wasn't so much a thrusting of the character forward into the 1980s as a slingshotting back to the 1970s. The core fact of Batman, viewed in the light of Taxi Driver, is that he's Travis Bickle with a cape and lots of money. What is Travis's mohawk if not a costume to strike fear into the hearts of criminals? What is his trick pistol sling, fashioned from a typewriter carriage, but a blue-collar utility belt? And what is the hardboiled dialogue Miller puts in Bruce Wayne's mouth--better read than spoken--but Bicklean self-justification? No coincidence that Batman's first, badly-botched outing as a crimefighter in "Year One" involves the violent rescue of an underaged prostitute.