The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller


“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.

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Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

                Arguably one of the most essential Batman story in the comic world, Batman: Year One is a must-read. Fan of the dark knight or not, this story arc collecting all four comic issues (#404 to 407 published in 1987) from the comic series Batman tells the tale of Batman’s first attempt at wearing the dark cowl and cape. In fact, this trade paperback gives the readers the chance to live Gotham City through the eyes of Bruce Wayne (almost known as the man behind vigilante Batman) and James Gordon (Gotham City’s Police Department’s detective) as they seek their first baby steps in this city of corruption and evil.

                Personally, I was astonished by the artwork that got me engaged and hooked into the story line (big kudos to David Mazzucchelli’s and Richmond Lewis’s talents). With just a basic color pallet and an artwork typical of newspaper comics, this piece of art sustains greatness throughout all four issues. I’d have to say that the transitions between panels (from one scene to another) were brilliantly done on both an artistic and a storytelling level. SPOILER HERE: Hover over text to read.

                Batman: Year One is gold. It’s mind-baffling-awesomeness does not end there. I’d have to add that the story itself is as fine as wine and only gets better every re-reads. As godlike as Batman is portrayed in our modern society, this story arc shows you just why you always want a Batman in your neighborhood. Bruce Wayne doesn’t go through this adventure as the world’s greatest detective with no flaws. He has to learn the ropes and actually fails multiple times to Gotham’s wrath. He has to climb the ladders and find a way to show everyone he isn’t a villain among the criminals that inhabit the city. He might eat a bullet and still manage to kick down a wall, but even those moments seem completely realistic to the reader’s eyes. And that’s why Frank Miller’s work is praised so much. Although Batman might seem like the center of attention, James Gordon gets just as much attention or, might I add, even more throughout the story arc. In fact, Gordon arrives in Gotham City and has to climb his way to the top just as much as Batman has to, in order to survive and help his city. As a man who respects the law and follows a path exempt of corruption, Gordon has to face his partner detective Flass as well as commissioner Loeb who both take a much more particular path when it comes to justice… a more criminal touch to things. In the end, both Bruce Wayne and James Gordon fight the evil in Gotham, meet their first failures in their attempt to help and learn from their mistakes with open arms. After all, their journey only just begun.

                If there was a common beginning to every comic reader’s legacy, I’d have to say that Batman: Year One is a beautiful place to start at. This flawless masterpiece (at least to my eyes) has one of the most interesting story line, a beautiful narration, an amazing artwork and a captivating and remarkable superhero to follow till the end of time. A very very very big thank you to my girlfriend for giving this trade paperback as a gift on my birthday! I couldn’t be any more grateful for this beautiful gift (among other books that she kindly gave me for my anniversary). She’s definitely the best! What are you waiting for? Go give Year One a try! You can buy yourself a copy of Batman: Year One by clicking on this hyperlink.

My overall rating: ★★★★★/