Batman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Batman: the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel coverBatman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson (illustrator), Lynn Varley (illustrator)
Released:
November 2002 (first published 1986)
Publisher:
DC Comics
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★★★☆☆
Synopsis: Crime runs rampant in the streets, and the man who was Batman is still tortured by the memories of his parents’ murders. As civil society crumbles around him, Bruce Wayne’s long-suppressed vigilante side finally breaks free of its self-imposed shackles.
The Dark Knight returns in a blaze of fury, taking on a whole new generation of criminals and matching their level of violence. He is soon joined by this generation’s Robin — a girl named Carrie Kelley, who proves to be just as invaluable as her predecessors.
But can Batman and Robin deal with the threat posed by their deadliest enemies, after years of incarceration have made them into perfect psychopaths? And more important, can anyone survive the coming fallout of an undeclared war between the superpowers – or a clash of what were once the world’s greatest superheroes?

My Thoughts

Batman tv series (1966-1968)
Batman tv series (1966-1968)

I should preface this by saying, I rarely read graphic novels, and when I do read them, I certainly do not read superhero graphic novels (unless you count Sailor Moon manga). So as I read Batman: the Dark Knight Rises by Frank Miller, I was simultaneously underwhelmed and overwhelmed. This comic is lauded as one of the most (if not the most) influential Batman comic of all time. It was the comic that breathed life into characters that the 1960s nearly killed off with its campy shenanigans.  Once the comics returned to its gritty and pulp-inspired origins, popularity for the Batman series soared. Yet, just as the 1960s seemed cheesy to fans in the 1980s, the 1980s may seem slightly cheesy to fans today. Whenever I read the slang of the gang of Mutants, I couldn’t help but cringe. It would almost seem nit-picky if it didn’t occupy so many speech bubbles. “I’m a slicer-dicer, spud. A real slicer-dicer”. It’s supposed to be edgy and intimidating, but to me it just seemed silly– like, why are they calling people potatoes?

robin

I feel conflicted about the artwork. I can get over the obvious 1980’s influenced accessories and hairstyles, but I found myself disappointed by the inking. I was craving bold lines and vibrant colors, but most of the time I found soft and muted watercolors. That’s not to say that I disliked the artwork entirely. No. There are a number of images ingrained in my mind. Batman looming over a pig of a man, who is dangling upside-down off a Gotham City high-rise. The Joker laying limply in the Love Canal at a carnival, battarang lodged in his eye and slack-jawed. Superman’s body wasting away during the nuclear explosion. I stared at the grotesque images with grim fascination. These few images, juxtaposed against the soft water colors on the previous page, captured something far more sinister than I expected.

Then there was the plot, which was a little hit-and-miss for me as well, but I think this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” instances. I know very little about superheroes and the DC Universe, so I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia or asking my boyfriend a bunch of questions, and this sometimes distracted me from enjoying the comic. I was on board for the first half of the graphic novel, where Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again and fights crime. It was fast-paced and filled with villains I’m familiar with. It was simple enough for a Batman-newb like myself. But I found myself getting disoriented during the second half of the graphic novel. Like, why did the Police force dislike the Batman so much? And why is Superman trying to kill Batman– don’t they basically fight for the same team? Any why is Robin a girl? I mean, I loved it, but I thought Robin was a consistent character– I was wrong.

Batman Graphic Novels

Overall, I enjoyed Batman: the Dark Knight Returns. It was successful in making me more curious about the Batman series; I suppose it’s become a gateway. I mentioned in a recent Weekend Review that I have a tall stack of Batman comics to read, and I’ve already began working my way through. I recently finished Venom, and I just started Haunted Knight. I’ve even began perusing the graphic novel shelves at the book store, which was a section I generally stayed away from because really, I had no idea what to even pick up.

Read Batman: the Dark Knight Returns if you’re a fan of Batman comics– it’s a classic after all. If you’re a newcomer, you might want to start somewhere else because this graphic novel does seem dated, and it requires you to already have some knowledge about Batman and the DC Universe.

If you’ve read Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, what did you think of it? If you’re a fan of Batman comics, are there any titles you think I ought to check out?

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Twenty-something. Michigander. Bookkeeper by day, superhero and blogger by night. Some of my favorite things include: travel, the Japanese language, photography, video games, sweater-weather, and of course books and tea. The Harry Potter books are my favorite, and I can never have too much peppermint tea.

4 thoughts on “Batman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

  1. Admittedly, I have yet to read a single Batman book or comic; I’m a huge fan of the movie franchise though. I know what you’re thinking, any blogger worth their salt should know that the written word is better, but at least it’s something I can share with # 1 on the big screen. He’s not much of a reader, so it’s an acceptable trade-off for me. 🙂

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads.

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    1. I’m actually not a fan of the batman movies (more so the new ones– loved the ones with Michael Keaton!), so I was reluctant to read the graphic novels. It surprised me when I actually enjoyed them, which I’m grateful for because my significant other is a HUGE fan of batman, and now I’m now I can share this interest with him.

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  2. I haven’t ever read superhero comics! I WANT TO. But I don’t want to buy them and I’d have to pay $2 per comic to reserve them at my library which feels…not really worth it. One day, though, I’ll take the plunge, just so I can at least say I’ve tried! I only read my first graphic novel last week (one by Terry Pratchett) so that was awesome. I’m totally hooked on them.
    Thanks for stopping by @ Notebook Sisters!

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    1. Your library charges you to reserve book? Pah! That boggles my mind. If you’re going to try out superhero fiction, I would definitely look for the “graphic novels” instead of the individual comics. The graphic novels combine all those individual comics in a storyline (usually about 4) in one binding.

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