Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Frank Miller's dark futuristic series about Batman.

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One of the best Batman stories

  • Nov 10, 2008
  • by
Well, the title sums up my opinion on The Dark Knight Returns, though it certainly isn't the best-rounded Batman story of all time, it still leaves a significant impact on readers. The story peaks at many points, and makes large dips at others, but the ending makes up for all its minor flaws.

"One of the best Batman stories", let me explain what exactly I mean by this: This is one of the best stories to flesh out the character of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego Batman. What keeps me from ranking it higher than a nine is because on the whole most of Frank Miller's revisions of the villains fail to hit the mark (which is why you don't see his versions of Two-Face and Joker in most other comics), but he does provide interesting villains of his own; a gang of misfits referring to themselves as the Mutants, led by a large, unsightly individual who earns the title of Mutant with a capital M.

I think it is important to discuss the villains in this story first. Joker is a carefree killer, who will kill simply for his own amusement, with no morals to restrain him, and Miller shows this aspect of the character very well. The problem that I have is that this Joker never really frightened me, you know, he just never did anything that really made my blood boil (like in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke). This book does have some classic moments for the character, but ultimately this Joker interpretation seems to be a giant symbol for homophobia, and ultimately is quite forgettable when compared to the villain's colorful history. Frank Miller has stated finding the relationship between Batman and Joker being homosexuality gone wrong, but I feel writing off the character as being gay really has missed the actual complexity of the character's relationship to Batman. I feel this hero-villain relationship has a lot more to do with their mentality than their sexuality, and that is where I feel Miller seemed to miss the point of the character. I also do not like the way this Joker is drawn in this comic. There is a difference between revisions and simply changing it entirely, and this Joker does not fit the description, or standard of any of the previous comics, up until his final appearance in this story (his face finally twists into his trademarked smile, mouth growing unnaturally large in one of the book's most haunting images). As previously stated, however, some of the things Miller introduces are important to the future of Joker interpretations, and were in true spirit of the character.

Two-Face also seemed a bit off, but not so much as Joker. Miller's Two-Face comes across as plain evil. He's a villain, but he does have a good half to his personality, and Miller doesn't show any of the struggles between the two halves, which simplify the character immensely. This interpretation just seemed a tad bit simplified, but the relationship between him and Batman, I must admit, was perfectly in context. The way Batman cared about Harvey Dent seemed dead on, and I wish more of Dent's struggle between the dual personalities was present to further impact the story.

By the end Miller only succeeded completely (100% Pleasing) with villains of his own making, and that's good since he had no standards to meet with those characters. This army of misfits was an interesting idea, full of mystery and frightening ideology, which I wish we could've been given more of. I don't know HOW exactly these characters came to be, and maybe it would be interesting if Miller would have another comic explaining how this massive gang was formed in the first place, because it would seem most of the teenage/young-adult population is in on it. The concept of so many people of that age group slipping into the ways of the "ol' ultra-violence" seems very interesting on paper, and transfers well to the panels of the comic, never overstaying their welcome. I think it could've been great if this comic had concentrated harder on how new villains have emerged in Gotham, and that Batman has to adapt to a new class of evildoer.

I found this story at its strongest when dealing with Bruce Wayne's inner struggle, on whether or not he should continue being Batman, or throw in the towel. The relationship between him and Superman in this story is also very interesting, because of the fact that The Man of Steel has pretty much become a tool of the United States Government. The "Good guys" in the story actually draw a lot more attention than the villains, and in the world of Batman that is incredibly rare. This is the only story, in my opinion, where Joker or some other villain doesn't steal the show from The Caped Crusader. Familiar faces like Commissioner Gordon return, as well as Alfred, and we're even given a new Robin. Ultimatly this is the ONLY Batman comic where the heroes were more engaging then the villains.

Miller handled this dark hero and his allies with great intensity, and handled to story with the skill of a true storyteller. It is good to see that Batman was handled the best in a Batman comic for once in his long career. The Dark Knight is the central character of this novel all the way through, and keeps your attention; no other Batman comic made me feel like Batman carried the story all by himself. Typically the villains are the ones making the story worth reading, but that simply isn't the case in The Dark Knight Returns. The new Robin seemed unnecessary to the plot; for me she seemed a tad bit useless to the plot, but overall she didn't distract from the story at all.

This story deserves its recognition as an important Batman story, because we'd never have made way for stories such as `The Killing Joke' (perhaps the best story in the Batman series), Arkham Asylum Serious House on Serious Earth (the most philosophical of Batman graphic novels), and of course Christopher Nolan's outstandingly well-done franchise without Miller paving the way for better, mature Batman comics and movies. All fans of the franchise most salute Miller for helping this dark, and gritty series get back on track, because he has made so many great comics possible by doing so.

It is dated due to Cold War connections, but as a comic it holds up fairly well, and anyone who enjoys the Batman comics will no doubt love the interpretation of what the future holds for the character. I felt its balance with Batman and his villains were somewhat off (hence why it narrowly misses a perfect score), but other than that this is one of the best comics I've read in the series, even if the "Bat-Assault Vehicle" was obviously something spawned from the 1980s action movie. Overall it is well-paced and unforgettable as a landmark comic.

I give The Dark Knight Returns a splendid 9/10 stars.

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Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
I like it very much
review by . April 03, 2006
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS has caused quite a stir since its release in 1986. It's been heralded as the greatest comic book ever written, a claim which many collectors will support. Ten years after throwing down his costume and retiring from his life of crime-fighting, Batman once again dons the suit when Gotham's crime rate shoots through the roof. This time around the Dark Knight must battle an array of nasty villains, including a recently-released Joker, a barbaric gang of teenage killers calling …
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If any comic has a claim to have truly reinvigorated the genre, thenThe Dark Knight Returnsby Frank Miller--known also for his excellent Sin Cityseries and his superb rendering of the blind superhero Daredevil --is probably the top contender. Batman represented all that was wrong in comics and Miller set himself a tough task taking on the camp crusader and turning this laughable, innocuous children's cartoon character into a hero for our times. The great Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, the arguably peerlessWatchmen) argued that only someone of Miller's stature could have done this. Batman is a character known well beyond the confines of the comic world (as are his retinue) and so reinventing him, while keeping his limiting core essentials intact, was a huge task.

Miller went far beyond the call of duty. The Dark Knight is a success on every level. Firstly it does keep the core elements of the Batman myth intact, with Robin, Alfred the butler, Commissioner Gordon, and the old roster of villains, present yet brilliantly subverted. Secondly the artwork is fantastic--detailed, sometimes claustrophobic, psychotic. Lastly it's a great story: Gotham City is a hell on earth, street gangs roam but there are no heroes. Decay is ubiquitous. Where is a hero to save Gotham? It is 10 years since the last recorded sighting of the Batman. And things have got worse than ever. Bruce Wayne is close to being a broken man but something is keeping him sane:...

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ISBN-10: 1563893428
ISBN-13: 978-1563893421
Author: Frank Miller, Lynn Varley
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Graphic novel
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