“This should be agony. I should be a mass of aching muscle – broken, spent, unable to move. And, were I an older man, I surely would… but I’m a man of thirty – of twenty again. The rain on my chest is a baptism – I’m born again…” – Batman in The Dark Knight Returns
Imagine Batman going up against Father Time only to plunge into his own mind and learn what he’s truly meant to be. What he truly needs to be for Gotham City. Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 as a four part comic series with the help of illustrator Klaus Janson. This graphic novel tells the tale of Batman returning from retirement 10 years after the events SPOILER HERE: Hover over text to read. Gotham City is terrorized by the dominance of the “Mutant Gang”. Bruce Wayne revisiting the thrills of wearing the dark cape and cowl seeks justice and attempts to take down this very violent street gang. Throughout the story, the Dark Knight also encounters good old Harvey Dent, also known as Two-Face, who supposedly rehabilitated after so many years in confinement. As if Batman didn’t have enough on his old plate, he also revives Joker from his state of catatonia due to the absence of dark crusader. As always, The Joker brings an amazing dimension to this storyline, especially when these two characters cross paths. The Dark Knight Returns also inserts into this masterpiece the very much loved Superman, who ended up selling his soul to the U.S. government. In fact, the last part of this graphic novel explores one of the most important fights that has inspired the soon to be released movie Batman vs. Superman (2016).
The story as a whole is one to remember, brilliant. Frank Miller never seems to cease to surprise. The plot revolving around Batman and his adventures unfolds right by the side of the media that scrupulously analyzes and explains the more political side to vigilante and criminal activities going around Gotham City. Sometimes hilarious how a person can see what he wants, this addition makes up for a great way to perceive events as if we were ourselves sitting at home watching the news. One might believe that an old Batman wouldn’t be any more entertaining than watching own grandfather’s daily routines, but The Dark Knight Returns shows Bruce Wayne revitalized after his encounter with a couple Mutant gang thugs. I got to admit, that very scene in the graphic novel was amazing. I think my own blood was pumped for a good ass whooping just as much as Bruce Wayne’s was. In fact, throughout the whole story, watching Batman fight crime and kick criminal behinds, as it age didn’t matter at all, couldn’t have been better done by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. This definitely didn’t mean that Batman was going to look like his old self. Get it? In fact, it’s so well illustrated and detailed that you can see Batman’s struggle due to his age and physical disadvantages throughout the tale.
Speaking for myself, I absolutely loved how the Dark Knight was portrayed. Throughout the story, he was shown as a veteran with brains (he pretty much is still the World’s Greatest Detective) and a good dose of brawn’s. Although his age might have been a huge factor in a lot of his adventures, he nevertheless missed the opportunity to show some cockiness and intellect in his actions. His psychology also doesn’t disappoint the readers and marks him as a total bad-ass. What The Dark Knight Returns also brought to the table was a touch of woman power. SPOILER HERE: Hover over text to read. The theme of feminism couldn’t have been done better. In the end, the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin will forever be memorized by all Batman fans. What would this novel be without a little help from the cherished side-kick? The novel also introduces a new police commissioner to replace James Gordon who hasn’t escaped the grasps of Father Time himself. This commissioner is Ellen Yindel and she’s definitely not a fan of Batman. These two female characters bring a sort of power surge to female personas in this graphic novel and they were very well integrated into a pretty much political tale of Batman.
“You sold us out, Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson… lying on this street… shaking in deep shock… dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.” – Batman in The Dark Knight Returns
Every comic reader is bound to wonder what it would be like if two God’s were to confront each other. The fourth and last part of The Dark Knight Returns, where Superman becomes Batman’s adversary, you get a pretty good idea of the tricks that Batman brings into the fight compared to the Man of Steel. There isn’t a better way to display how a battle between these two could be the fight of century. Superhuman intellect going up against superhuman powers. The fight itself was entertaining and ingenious. The cause of this showdown being entirely political, the events remained one that would get every kid to stay in awe. Superman being a sold out God among humans awakens frustration from Batman who on the other hand is seen as an outlaw to the eyes of the government. Although mutual hate exists between these two, understanding and respect also reigns between them. Being one of the main scenes throughout the plot, Batman philosophizes that the Gods (superheroes) shouldn’t give humans their powers, what they can do, but rather use it at their will in order to force change in a city filled with vice. A very interesting and thought-provoking scene, it was. It definitely enlightens you on these two blockbuster superheroes and their relationship throughout their legacy.
Media-wise, I was pretty satisfied by how Frank Miller brought into play the possible sides a person can take on a vigilante that comes back to life to make justice his duty, his vow. In Gotham City, the awesomeness of Batman and his adventures makes you overlook the crimes that his presence brings to his city. In fact how significant are all the extra crimes that happen in Gotham City when Batman roams the night? Can those crimes be overlooked when you ponder in all the good the Dark Knight does for his city? How many more criminals does Batman need to put behind bars before a person can neglect the crimes that surfaces once vigilantism isn’t prosecuted? These are questions that Batman raises when you acknowledge Gotham City in it’s entirety.
As if this crime-ridden city couldn’t introduce any more criminals, Frank Miller squeezes in one of the most notorious justice-oriented individual turned criminal. Two-Face appears in this novel and brings an interesting theme to the table. Rehabilitation has always seemed to be controversial in society. When do we decide a person has completely changed his ways and decided to commit himself to the law? Can we get ourselves to believe that the most insane and criminally active individual can take a drastic u-turn in order to take on a persona as innocent as a child? If you ask me, we have to believe that change is possible but not to force it upon a person. SPOILER HERE: Hover over text to read. This scene gets you to realize that some people need to slowly adapt to society norms and not be drastically forced back into society without knowing how to live with themselves. As much as we’d life a person to become a Saint, it’s not by bombarding him with the idea that he’s a changed man that results will be seen. It’s not by getting rid of Two-Face’s physical defect and by repeating to him that he’s changed that he’ll be brand new. Two-Face’s dualism just comes to show how he wasn’t able to let go of his criminal persona. How he was never meant to change. How he was to remain conflicted for the rest of his life.
“No, I don’t keep count. But you do. And I love you for it.” – Joker in The Dark Knight Returns
What would this graphic novel be without The Joker? Revived from his catatonic stage after hearing the resurgence of Batman through the news, the Clown Prince of Crime smiles widely and comes forth with another psychopathic plan. Frank Miller does an amazing job portraying the Joker’s everlasting love for Batman. Joker doesn’t only want to add more numbers to his body count, he shows that he enjoys with a passion seeing Batman feel guilty letting this insane man live to kill another man. Batman’s archnemesis shows even more insight to his insane mind by letting us get a glimpse to what makes him giggle uncontrollably. In fact, he knows that Batman will only keep on putting the clown back in the asylum every time he escapes. There’s no end to this forbidden cycle. And he knows it. He enjoys seeing the guilt eat up Batman. Seeing Batman suffer as bodies drop because of his diabolical plans. Seeing these same bodies hammer down on Batman’s conscience only to get him to fall into an abyss of madness. As I have mentioned in my Batman: Year One by Frank Miller review, how many more deaths does it take for Batman to break and take down the Joker once and for all? Can we really blame the billionaire playboy vigilante for his forsaken rule? Murder definitely hasn’t been on his checklist since he started putting the cape and cowl after the death of his parents. Vowing to fight crime in Gotham and to make this city a better place for everyone, Batman deserves no blame to the Joker’s body count. Nevertheless, Joker knows all this. SPOILER HERE: Hover over text to read. Which completes his ultimate plan.
The Dark Knight Returns is a classic masterpiece by Frank Miller. Touching various ideas with the help of several known villains in Batman’s universe, as well as the appearance of a couple superheroes from our beloved DC universe, this graphic novel is a must-read by all Batman fan and deserves a reading from anyone who would love to see an amazing tale of an aged Batman. If the artwork wasn’t alone unique, special and perfect for this tale, an animated movie (two part series) has been made based completely on this graphic novel. The style of this graphic novel deserves praise for what it was able to bring to life. One thing’s for sure, it definitely got me hooked and intrigued all the way. How about you check out this graphic novel and then contemplate the movie as it does a brilliant job reproducing everything that was meant to be seen and understood through the comics? Not to mention the brilliancy behind the Joker in the movie, but first, go ahead and enjoy yourself with a copy of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by purchasing it through this hyperlink. It’s time to spice up your lives with a little dose of Batman.
Check out Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 trailer here:
Check out Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 trailer here (for everyone’s information, part 1 and 2 constitutes the whole Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, so don’t be scared to watch both parts if you ever finish the graphic novel in question):
My overall rating: ★★★★★/