The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

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“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: ★★★★★/

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29 thoughts on “The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

  1. Patrick says:

    This is such an interesting take on Batman. I love the revolutionary direction it pushed the character in. The artwork is well composed, but seems like it is still in sketch form. A couple scenes are confusing because of this sketchy, less sharp quality (I had to Google the end of the Joker arc to confirm what happened, for instance). I also wish that some of the themes and questions that Miller raises – does Batman really serve the community?, is Yindel or Gordon right?, etc. – could have been concluded, but I get that with a franchise superhero you’re probably not going to be given room to answer some of those things. What do you think ? What are your answers to those questions ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      Batman s definitely serves his community. He’s a one-man-army waging war against some of the most insane psychopaths. A city filled with more psychopaths than it could handle. If you take into consideration all the different stories surrounding Batman and all the things he’s done and tried in order to restore peace in Gotham City, you have to say that he’s a force you’d want by your police commissioner. Of course, this brings up your second question. Who’s right between Yindel and Gordon. If you ask me, Gordon has my vote all the way. He’s been through so much, has stood by Batman through his thoughest times and knows what Batman sacrifices in order to take down the criminals that lurk the streets of Gotham. What Yindel brings into debate doesn’t take into consideration both sides of the coin. She wants to condemn vigilantism and stop spreading the idea that violence can stop violence. Though, the means she takes to shutdown Batman aren’t reasonable to Batman fans if you ask me. She’s like the rookie detective who wants to start fresh in a city that’s known hell way before she was even born. Frank Miller does a great job raising these questions throughout Batman stories.

      As a huge fan of Batman and his universe, I believe unresolved questions and more interesting than a forced on perception of Batman. Batman is a symbol in Gotham City. What he brings to this city should be seen and understood through the eyes every single one of us, readers. It all comes down to what you believe in. When it comes down to the art, I have to agree that the style did seem like something more of a sketch form. I think, if you want to really enjoy this graphic novel, you have to indulge the artwork even if it looks like a rough copy and try to pay attention to the details in the sketches. Honestly, if you really focus throughout the book, you can get a pretty good idea of what it’s trying to convey. Personally, I love to figure things out on my own and so when everything is more implicit throughout the story, I love to analyze and draw my own conclusions. If you ask me, people who have a hard time understanding what’s going on should try watching the animated movies, part 1 and 2, after reading the book. It definitely clarifies any questions a reader might have after reading the graphic novel.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read the review and to share your thoughts. I really love to communicate with my readers and discuss subjects I might have skipped in the review itself. So friend, I say again. Thanks again for sticking around and I hope you’ll be there for our future reviews !

      -Lashaan

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  2. Akuri says:

    ”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.” I cant agree more on that . I read most of Batman universe and I have to admit that this forbidden cycle is sometimes annoying but oh so interesting. I really like your review on this graphic novel too. The artwork is not ”genial” but acceptable for such a great storyline. I’m happy I found your blog! I will come back for more Batman! Well as a Japanese myself I’ll let you on this short video of Chibatman >:D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXXhaiZiLTA

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      The Batman and Joker bromance is just too much entertainment and brings so much deep wisdom that that cycle barely gets to me xD. You’re right on the artwork. I like to tell myself that if I can’t draw what it’s drawn for these amazing stories, then I have no right to complain 😀 ! It was still a very nice artwork to explore as we read this amazing graphic novel though. That Chibatman nailed the voice, suit and three-wheeled chibatpod LOL ! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the review and to share your thoughts. Glad to hear we’ve got ourselves a loyal follower for our future posts !

      -Lashaan

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  3. Stephane says:

    Another great review from a DC Comics Batman world ! Keep up! I did really enjoy this story. I’m glad that I can share my love here. The time ticking picture and concept is well done too. Glad I’m subscribed to you guys! You covered it all and I dont think you didnt miss anything. Appreciate the fact that you took time to write it all I can feel the enthusiasm and I can assure you.. If you were at school and they ask you to a paper on this ( as if any teacher would do that.. but just a thought) You would get a straight-A !

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      I definitely appreciate the kind words and for “grading this paper” 😉 ! I absolutely love that you and plenty of other people are sharing their thoughts and love for Batman and his universe. I will keep on bringing more Batman related stories to review so that the world can have a pretty good idea of how awesome (or maybe awful) it can get ! Thank you again for taking your time to read through the review for The Dark Knight Returns ! See you around for our future posts !

      -Lashaan

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  4. nguyeningit says:

    Very thoughtful review. When I was a kid, I’d go to the library with my mom. She would study and I’d read comics. As a kid, my understanding of Batman was reruns of the sixty’s show and a compendium of the original first issues of Bob Kane and Bill Finger work. That is, until I read the Dark Knight Returns. It was gritty, raw and was such a heavy contrast to the early tales I had read. I didn’t realize how many characters took up the mantle of Robin. Also, the anti-Superman armor was the bee’s knees. It changed my outlook on Batman forever (no pun intended). I look forward to the other recommendations you guys have. I saw Year One on the list. Also fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      On my end, Batman has always been an idol and an amazing dark superhero to my eyes. As a kid, I would wake up so early in the morning just to watch the animated series and anything related to Batman. I didn’t get the chance to plunge into the comics world, not knowing where to find them and where to start until now. The armored suit in The Dark Knight Returns is remarkable. No wonder the upcoming movie Superman vs Batman (2016) inspires itself on this graphic novel’s design. Can’t wait to see all the premises to that movie and how it’ll build up for future movies (Justice League and so on) ! Thank you so much for reading through the review and sharing your thoughts with us. It really is appreciated ! I’ll keep on putting up reviews of the dark knight throughout the future and hope you’ll stick around to share your love for DC’s billionaire playboy ! 😉

      -Lashaan

      Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      The movie is, and does seem like, it’s inspired on this graphic novel. Especially when it comes down to that famous showdown. Hopefully, we’ll get a nice holywood style confrontation between these two Gods ! If you ever want to be ready for that movie, diving into this graphic novel can probably give you good ideas of what’s to come ! Thank you so much for taking your time to read through the review and to share your thoughts ! It’s really appreciated. Hope you’ll stick around for our future book reviews ! 🙂

      -Lashaan

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris Evans says:

    Awesome, in-depth review! I actually resisted reading this for years because of what I’d heard about the depiction of Superman but when I saw the excellent animated adaptation I realised there was much more depth to the story so followed up by purchasing the graphic novel.

    Sits proudly at the top with Year One and the Killing Joke as the all-time greatest Batman stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      Superman was portrayed in an interesting way in this story. His situation and his decisions doesn’t seem to please everyone, but nevertheless puts up a very entertaining tale for this graphic novel. Thank you so much for taking your time to read the review and sharing the kind words ! Stick around for more Batman story reviews and other novels ! 😉

      -Lashaan

      Liked by 1 person

  6. killkenny16 says:

    Awesome review, though I must say that, well… It’s not that I don’t LIKE The Dark Knight Returns, because I really do, it’s great, it’s just that off the top of my head, I can name ten more Batman stories that I’d prefer to read over it. My biggest problem with it may be that I don’t remember much about it besides anything to do with the Joker (Because duh) and the climactic fight with Superman, and even as awesome as it is, that last fight bothers me, because I don’t believe for one second that Superman would be some government stooge. That’s just terrible characterization, in my opinion. Does Miller just hate all joy, or something? How does one look at a pure, ideologically incorruptible character like Superman and see someone that’s a mere sniveling coward? Probably the same nihilistic piece of work that referred to Wall Street protesters as “pond scum” (I don’t like Frank Miller. Mind as well admit that now) .

    Also, is it wrong that I just can’t bring myself to care about Carrie Kelly? I can’t logically explain it, I just so much prefer any other Robin (Or, better yet, Barbara Gordon).

    That said, it’s still great, and if it weren’t for the unreadable trash that is The Dark Knight Strikes Again or All Star Batman & Robin, Miller would definitely be one of the better Batman writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      Batman sure does have a lot of awesome stories out there and it’s totally understandable that you aren’t able to put it up among your top 10. Superman’s character sure could sadden some huge fans out there, but when you think about him alone (taking out Batman’s situation and his way of life), it can be a little more easy to comprehend why he sold his soul to the government. The man has superhuman powers that is bound to frighten the strongest of men on Earth. In order for him to live among humans and to continue to protect them, he needs to share his powers with the people. He needs to surrender himself and assure everyone that he isn’t a threat. After all, how would we feel if we knew that there was a man flying around our city, capable of more mayhem than an actual nuke? The soon to be released movie will probably touch upon these points and I can’t wait to know how much realism can be touched upon the presence of Superman, especially when you got Batman in your city. Although, your point on this subject is absolutely interesting.

      Carrie Kelly appearance in this graphic novel was one to remember if you ask me. You’re definitely right for feeling all weird inside for not getting yourself to like her. Personally, I think that the idea of Robin is so well imprinted in us as the little boy wonder that Batman waves off whenever Robin wants to help that it’s hard to get ourselves to love Carrie Kelly in this story arc. The story behind the other Robins were definitely more interesting than what we got from Kelly. Maybe if she had more space, more title appearances, we could learn to love her more and care for her character. Though, I do agree with your feelings about her !

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us again. I absolutely love hearing about other people’s thoughts on the book and to discuss upon it. It really makes up for a great experience. Thank you again for taking your time to read through the review and I can’t wait to share other Batman related reviews for everyone to read about ! I will definitely put a review of the less appreciated sequel in the future ! Thank you again and I hope to see you around for our future novel review posts ! 😀

      -Lashaan

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Josh says:

    ANDD this is the review where it convinced me to put down the other Superman V Batman and get this one instead haha I’m so prepared to read this before the movie comes out

    Liked by 1 person

    • transhaan says:

      HAHAH Well, if you put it that way, you HAVE to go with The Dark Knight Returns over Superman/Batman : Public Enemies! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Thank you so much for checking out my reviews, I really appreciate it.

      – Lashaan

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