I like origin stories. It might be a holdover from when I was collecting comics as a kid, because the origin issues usually became worth more than the average issue. It's held over into adulthood, but now, at 34, origin stories seem a bit juvenile and silly.
Well, no longer! Frank Miller retells the origin of Batman in Batman: Year One, in an effort to give it more depth and resonance with the modern-day readers. It's gritty and dark, just as a Batman story should be, but more than that, it's also the origin of the whole Batman mythology. It's as much the story of Commissioner Gordon and Gotham City as it is the story of Batman, and to be honest, those stories are far more interesting than that of Batman, if only because we already know the story behind Batman's origin.
Other characters pepper the story -- Selina Kyle and Harvey Dent stand out in my mind -- but the real appeal to the story is to see all the characters as they struggle to prove themselves in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has been training, but still hasn't been able to prove himself to the streets of crime. Neither has Jim Gordon, who begins the story here a bit further down the chain of command. We see failures and successes, and see the minor victories claimed by our heroes through the story. Also, the story ends without a full resolution, as if to say, "This is the beginning; you all know the rest of the story."
Frank Miller pulls this story off well, I think. It's hard enough to go back and retell or reinvent a story's beginnings (Star Wars is a good example), but Miller was the perfect choice to do it. His gritty style carries over into the origin story with ease, because Batman is all about gritty. More importantly, he gives the characters human traits, with weaknesses and temptations. This has become more and more common in superhero comics today (though I suppose it really began with Spider Man), but there's a certain amount of depth to the story that kept it humming in my head for a while after I had finished the book.