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Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Frank Miller's sequel to his 1986 futuristic Batman story "The Dark Knight Returns".

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A starkly individual vision of American authoritarianism

  • Feb 4, 2003
Unlike a fair number of people, I enjoyed Frank Miller's return to the world of his groundbreaking Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It's not the same work, it's not even the same world, but Miller hasn't lost his ability to be both provocative and interesting. This is a true example of the DC "Elseworlds" concept--this is not the Bob Kane Batman, nor is it the Siegel and Shuster Superman. Instead, every character here is revisioned and recreated by Miller to fit the story and the themes that he wants to explore.

The problem with this graphic novel, and what has turned a lot of Miller fans against this book, is that it breaks down in the last book, delayed in its original publication because of the events of September 11. Maybe it's because I didn't read the book as it came out in its installments that this didn't feel like that much of a break to me, for even in the earliest moments of this graphic novel, Miller's disdain for authority, especially that of governmental "big brotherness," is readily apparent. If it becomes even more over the top at the end, why that seems just a natural extension of how the book starts.

What The Dark Knight Strikes Again reminds me the most of is Howard Chaykin's wonderful 1980s comic, American Flagg!, that was quite prescient in its vision of a world of reality TV and police-for-hire. Miller's extrapolation of current news-as-entertainment and rock-stars-as-political-gadflies doesn't seem all that wild in comparison. Outside of comics, the quick comparison for this volume is to John Varley's thinly veiled diatribe against the Hollywood system in the third volume of his Gaia trilogy, Demon. Like Varley, Miller's got a hefty axe to grind, and he swings with some impact against such easy targets as John Ashcroft and the television media.

With each successive project, Frank Miller's artwork has gotten more crude and yet more expressive. I believe his writing has as well. There's a rawness here that is quite emotional and yet so raw that you wonder if it ever saw an editor. It's rare to see such an individual expression of belief in a superhero comic, where most of what we see is company-produced on the assembly line. I hope we get to see more of this kind of thing, even if it produces the kind of mixed response that has greeted this particular work.

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About the reviewer
Glen Engel-Cox ()
Ranked #38
Glen is a forty-something communications professional living near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He grew up in Texas and has also lived inLos Angeles, Colorado, Washington State, and Washington, DC. Glen also … more
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The Dark Knight Strikes Again is Frank Miller's follow-up to his hugely successful Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, one of the few comics that is widely recognized as not only reinventing the genre but also bringing it to a wider audience.Set three years after the events of The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again follows a similar structure: once again, Batman hauls himself out of his self-imposed retirement in order to set things right. However, where DKR was about him cleaning up his home city, Gotham, DKSA has him casting his net much wider: he's out to save the world. The thing is, most of the world doesn't realize that it needs to be saved--least of all Superman and Wonder Woman, who have become little more than superpowered enforcers of the status quo. So, the notoriously solitary Batman is forced to recruit some different superpowered allies. He also has his ever-present trusty sidekick, Robin, except that he is a she, and she is calling herself Catwoman. Together, these super-friends uncover a vast and far-reaching conspiracy that leads to the President of the United States (Lex Luthor) and beyond.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again is largely an entertaining comic, but much of what made The Dark Knight Returns so good just doesn't work here. Miller's gritty, untidy artwork was perfect for DKR's grim depiction of the dark and seedy Gotham City, but it jars a bit for DKSA, which is meant to depict an ultra-glossy, futuristic ...

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ISBN-10: 1563898446
ISBN-13: 978-1563898440
Author: Frank Miller
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels, Superheroes
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Graphic novel
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