Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Author: Frank Miller
Artists: Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley
Genre: Action / Adventure / Superheroes
Year Published: 1986
Year Read: 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Content Rating: Ages 12+ (Violence, Mature Themes and Themes of War)
It is 1960s “Batman” vs. 1980s “Batman!” Guess which one will win!
For many years, I have actually grown up with the darker version of Batman when I was little, thanks to the animated TV series that came out of the 90s. But a few years back, I have realized that there was a 1960s TV series where Batman seems a bit campy, but I had enjoyed it for what it was. Now, I had heard of a particular “Batman” story that was the one that really changed Batman’s character over the years and that story happened to be “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” written by Frank Miller along with artwork by Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley. This is easily one of the most influential stories I have ever read from the “Batman” comics!
What is this story about?
Basically, this story is broken up into four different books detailing Batman’s adventures in Gotham City:
Book 1: The Dark Knight Returns: When Batman (who is now much older) retires, he then realizes that after all of the years he had retired, there is still crime rampaging in Gotham City. So, Batman decides to come out of retirement and save Gotham City, surprising the citizens of Gotham City.
Book 2: The Dark Knight Triumphant: When the mutant gang threatens Gotham City, it is up to Batman to stop the leader of the mutant gang, putting an end to their terror.
Book 3: Hunt the Dark Knight: When the citizens of Gotham City saw Batman as more of a threat then as a hero, they send out the new Commissioner, Commissioner Yindel, and she decides to go out of her way to arrest Batman.
Book 4: The Dark Knight Falls: When the Soviets start attacking Corto Maltese and Superman takes the job to stop them, this leads to a huge showdown between Superman and Batman to decide about their ideologies about protecting the world.
What I loved about this story:
Frank Miller’s writing: Frank Miller has once again proven that he is definitely a force to be reckoned with whenever he was writing for Batman! After reading his work in “Batman: Year One,” I just had to read more of his work on “Batman” and behold, this story was beyond anything fantastic I have read about Batman! I loved the way that Frank Miller portrayed Batman in this story as Batman seems darker and grittier than ever before and this really helped revolutionized the dark character that Batman would soon become in the future “Batman” stories. At first glance, there does seem to be so many events going on in this book (Batman’s return, Batman fighting the Mutant Gang, Batman’s battle with Superman) so, it was a bit hard to keep up with all of the events going on in this book (I was even confused at the beginning when I found out that Batman was much older than he was early on, only to realize this story takes place several years in the future). But the best thing about all of these events taking place in this book was that we were able to get so many amazing stories centered on Batman and his struggles in coming back out of retirement to fight the bad guys. I also loved the dark and gritty feel of this book as the Batman in this book is not afraid of hurting enemies to get what he wants and even recruits a young girl named Carrie Kelley, who is dressed up like Robin, to be his sidekick. Now there is one thing that I wanted to get out of my chest and it is this:
I DO NOT LIKE POLITICAL TIE INS IN THE STORIES I WANT TO READ!
I am getting this off my chest because of the Cold War themed story in “The Dark Knight Falls” and most of the time, I do not like reading about any kind of political wars in these stories because it is either the “us against them” mentality in these stories or sometimes they tend to interrupt the flow of the story. However, this is the one case that I did accept the political themed story in “The Dark Knight Falls” because it was using the Cold War theme to bring out a message about how Superman and Batman have different views on how to handle the situation in saving people’s lives as Batman seems to be anti-government while Superman seems to support the government and I loved the way that their views on the government was brought out through their actions and ultimately their showdown with each other. I also loved the way that Frank Miller presented some news media segments in this story as we are able to gain a great insight on how the people of Gotham view Batman and how he is affecting the American society as a whole as it brought great depth to the story.
Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley’s artwork: Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley’s artwork is very well done in this story as the artwork has a dark and gritty feel to them. I loved the images of Batman being large and muscular and how he usually looks threatening to all the criminals. The colorings may seem a bit washed out and some of the artwork was a bit sloppy, but the artwork has that 80s feel that I really enjoyed and so, I really enjoyed the dark artwork being portrayed in this story.
What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:
Some of the problems that some “Batman” fans might have with this story are that it is a bit too lengthy. There are a total of four volumes contained into one book and since so much is happening in this book, it might be a bit too much for some fans to take in. Also, this is probably one of the darkest “Batman” books I have ever read since Batman is shown to actually torture some of his enemies and there is some gore in this story as characters are punched and several scenes of characters being cut up.