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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

September 26, 2008

We’re ending the week with one of the darker Batman tales put to paper, that wasn’t written by a deranged pre-teen girl about Robin and Batman buttsechs!

Anyway…

Let’s just jump right into this beast:

Background: Frank Miller, we covered him last Friday. What you want to look at this time is that instead of just writing the story Miller also drew Dark Knight Returns (DKR). This was actually written before Year One in 1986, as mentioned on Friday DKR is the reason why DC let Miller revamp Batman’s origins story.

It’s listed as one of Miller’s greatest works, second only to Year One, in Batman comics.

The Comic: DKR takes place in unstated future where politics has forced superheroes to retire, except Superman who is America’s secret weapon against the Soviets.

This comic is a lot to take in, even in several sittings. There are so many different stories running through it. Batman fights the Joker, Harvey Dent, the new commissioner Ellen Yindel, the police, Superman, and a gang called the Mutants and their “croc-esque” leader. Not to mention all the psychological things that Bruce Wayne deals with.

Let’s see if I can summarize it:

Jason Todd dies and Bruce Wayne retires from being Batman for 10 years. I think you’re supposed to see Batman as in his 60s. During his retirement the crime rate explodes in Gotham and a brutal gang called the Mutants emerges indiscriminately killing and stealing what they feel like.

Eventually Wayne decides to don the suit again. He starts fighting back against the mutants and crime in general. A public outcry ensues with some people liking his work and others vehemently against it.  Batman goes on regardless.

Wayne fights the leader of the mutants and almost dies in the process the first time. Also, some random girl becomes Robin…right.

Okay long story short, Superman is sent in the government to stop Batman’s actions. They fight literally to the death. Superman almost dies and Batman does die. Twist ending and bam it’s over.

I honestly can’t summarize DKR without giving away a lot or not giving enough. There are many facets to this story that go beyond a typical comic book. Politcal, social, societal, psychological. It’s all talked about. Some of the best parts of DKR don’t even involve Batman, it’s the news shows, and debates, and the discussions that Gordon has with others about the legality and worth of Batman. Those really bring the depth and life that make this one of the greatest Batman stories ever.

There’s a lot of attention to the details. Even when all hell is breaking loose and it’s clear that Batman is the only person able to actually stem the tide there are still people against him (that aren’t his enemies that is). Comics aren’t supposed to be terribly realistic but when you feel like you’re looking into a real human reaction it makes the story all the better.

My recommendation: If you’ve read any of Miller’s work and enjoyed it than you will most likely enjoy DKR. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Batman, DKR is worth the read because of the parts that aren’t about Batman. The world that Miller draws you into feels full and fleshed out. The way he skirts between the obsession that is Batman and the effect on the average Gothamite brings the reality of Batman to light better than any comic I’ve read about Batman or any super hero really. It’s a 5 star work at least.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

Scyo.

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