on January 12, 1998
A dark, compelling look at a Batman at the end of his career (and the end of his rope). Th striking imagery and sharp text bring you the story of a world, and a Batman, that has to quote Stephen King "moved on." This is one of the best examples of graphic storytelling you will ever read. Not simply a "comic book," but a thoughtful story about heroes and the way we perceive them.
on February 3, 2004
Back in 1986 or so, Batman's partner Jason Todd(Robin II) was killed brutally by the Joker. After that, Batman kept going on with his work alone, but very dark.
Suppose he hadn't gone back to work? Suppose he vowed never to put himself or any others in harm's way again. That's where Dark Night Returns take us.
About 20 years after the last appearence of Batman, Bruce and Jim Gordon sit, talking of the old days. Gordon by now has figured out that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one in the same. Jason is broght up and suddenly Bruce wants to leave. The subject is still touchy for him.
Bruce realizes that Gotham is not safe anymore. Without protectors, his city is nothing. The Batman in him tells him what he must do. Bruce resists, but inspiration comes to him again.
Later a mugger is attacked, a brutal beating is stopped, and two young girls are saved by "a huge man in a Dracula costume". All stopped by none other than Batman.
Former villains that have been supposedly "cured" come back on the scene, including the Joker. A legendary fight ensues here.
This book is, simply put, awesome. A must have for ANYONE who is REMOTELY a fan of comics. Buy it. You won't be sorry.
I would even reccomend buying the hardback, you'll want to keep this one for a long time.
on January 28, 2004
Along with The Watchmen and Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns was part of the "new wave" of comics in the 80's that introduced new possibilities to the staid comic lexicon: adult themes, complex storylines, and, most radically for the time, a blurring of the line between hero and villain. These new approaches not only became core attributes of the burgeoning graphic novel genre, but also helped to modernize comics and introduce the medium to a new -and more mature- audience.
Miller's at his best here when he explores the many paradoxes that inform the Batman; clearly, the past constructions of Batman as mere 'superhero' did the character a great disservice, since he's much more interesting here as a morally ambiguous and complex person. The expert television commentaries sprinkled throughout the narrative not only poke fun at the shallowness of contemporary news programs, but also well exemplify Batman's nebulousness and how he symbolizes different values (social deviant, victims' rights crusader) to different agendas. The dramatic, full-page illustrations also add to the richness of the book.
Clearly, Miller is no slave to tradition. He kills off some rather important comic characters in this text, nearly does away with others, and re-imagines Batman's trusty sidekick, Robin, as a young woman. Entire pages go by without any dialogue: Miller positions us inside the mind of the characters where we're privy to their innermost thoughts. The Dark Knight is nothing if not unpredictable, a refreshing change from the "good guy wins, bad guys die" formula of the comics of old. This really was (and still is) a groundbreaking and important work. Miller deserves accolades not only for having written an engrossing story, but for also having paved new and exciting directions for the modern comic.
on September 28, 2003
Doubtlessly one of the most talked about comic book storylines of the past twenty years, its reputation is well founded. While material that was as hyped as The Dark Knight Returns is often ultimately disappointing, or seems outdated decades later, every time one reads The Dark Knight Returns he'd be more convinced that this is indeed a perfect piece of modern literature; and comics, American comics most of all, very rarely got this good. The Dark Knight Returns is one of a handful of graphic novels (e.g. Watchmen, The Sandman and Marvels) that achieve the status of genuine and timeless classics.
In the time of its release in the early 80s, The Dark Knight Returns was revolutionary, in every aspect. Frank Miller, already an acclaimed artist for his work on the early issues of Wolverine, already proved himself as a writer in 1984's brilliant and groundbreaking mini-series Ronin, but The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 was his break into the world of mainstream comics, and remains his most important achievement. But while his work on the series was within the world of super-hero comics, and within the financial safety of publishing under the DC Comics banner, Miller took mainstream comics to disturbing new places and super-heroes were never looked at the same way again. Taking inspiration from the groundbreaking work of the Dennis O'neil / Neil Addams team who revolutionized super-hero comics in the late 70s, and from his own former partner Chris Claremont, Miller made super-hero comics darker, more reflective and more mature than was ever made before. For that he took darkest character in the DC Universe, the Caped Crusader himself, and took him 20 years into the future, well into retirement. The new Batman is well into his 50s, sad and tired, and a much rougher kind of hero than he was before. Miller's very modern look on the Dark Knight was disturbing and discomforting to say the least; Dark Knight Returns is not an adventure story, it's a moral examination of his character and the problematic nature of his actions. Never before was Batman judged so harshly by his own author, and it's difficult for the reader to accept it - since, while Batman's actions are here presented as problematic to say the least, if not criminal, but he is also more human and more recognizable than we'd ever seen him before.
But it's not just the view of Batman's character that makes Dark Knight Returns so disturbing - it's the view of the world. Miller's future is dark and bleak, and eerily realistic. He goes to great lengths to create a realistic and convincing world, right down to creating a new slang for the new young generation. Through countless minor characters and little stories, each one rounded and well-constructed by its own right, Frank Miller creates a Gotham City we can know, a Gotham we can relate to. It's a city living in fear, a city that's in the grip of a merciless gang more ruthless and vicious than the criminals Batman faced in his prime. In Bruce Wayne's own words, it's a city that's 'given up hope, like the whole world seems to have'. And as the city lies in the shadow of the fear of the Mutants gang, so the world lives in the shadow on nuclear holocaust. It is in the middle of this reality that a real hero is proven. And despite all the doubt and all the misgivings, the Batman presented here is more heroic than he ever was. It takes one kind of hero to fight madmen on a daily basis and thwart their diabolical schemes; it takes quite a different one to face himself and the world and not give up.
Batman isn't the only character who is given fantastic care on The Dark Knight Returns. Commissioner James Gordon, a character who had become much more important and more sophisticated in the last twenty years, is an important part of the story, and his part in it is fascinating, although more thought would be given to him on Miller's second Dark Knight expedition - Batman: Year One in 1988. The Dark Knight Returns also features a young and energetic Robin, who serves the role that Robin should have from the beginning - to provide contrast to the character of the Batman. Interestingly, though, the death of Jason Todd is often referred to, though it was released three years before Jason actually died in the comic continuity - and even then, his death was decided by a readers' poll. Hmm... Alfred Pennyworth, of course, completes the classic team. As for villains to battle - Two of Batman's most classic enemies, The Joker and Two-Face, return on The Dark Knight Returns - mainly as subplots, and to serve as reflections for Batman himself. This story is not about fighting madmen. There is, though, a grand final showdown at the end, in which Batman fights a surprising enemy...
As for the art: Frank Miller's artwork is an acquired taste. So is Lynn Varley's coloring, which is subtle and pale and may seem somewhat outdated to modern readers. Miller's drawing on The Dark Knight Returns is not as impressive and appealing as his work on Sin City, but if you enjoyed his early artwork, especially on Wolverine and Ronin, you'll like this one too. The artwork really is brilliant, if you take the time to see its subtleties. At any rate, on The Dark Knight Returns Miller had the benefit of not only the wonderful coloring of Lynn Varley (who also collaborated on Ronin) but also one of the finest inkers in the world of comics, Mr. Klaus Janson, who contributed to the series beyond words, gave it a lot of its atmosphere and created some of the darkest and most impressive images of Batman and Gotham City. In every possible way, The Dark Knight Returns is a masterpiece. If you like comics, and not just super-hero comics, by all means read it.
on August 4, 2003
In a phrase, The Dark Knight returns is simply a "western." The old hero comes out of retirement to save his town one last time. On his way, he meets an assortment of old acquaintances, both friend and foe. At the end, there's a nice sunset for him to ride off into. Or is there?
Frank Miller's book is more of a character study of a retired vigilante who just can't take it anymore. Think "Unforgiven" with tights and thermite. Like Arkham Asylum, this is a story of a man and his obsession. Miller's text puts us into that moment, and also reveals his doubts about his chosen calling. Batman here is a man divided, the reluctant hero, and he behaves as such. THIS Batman even realizes that his personal moral code may be suspect. (But never for long.) And the fact that he seems to be instrumental in bringing the Joker out of a catatonic state is telling. Do we beget our own demons? The story questions this repeatedly, and leaves it to us.
Fleshed out not only with cameos, but with a new Robin, a new Commissioner, and several other characters, this is a true work of literature and art. Varley's coloring in particular electrifies this book.
Worthy of addition to any serious collection, be it graphic novel or literature.
on August 2, 2003
Many people don't bring this up but the best part is at the end! Batman vs. Superman! Frank Miller turned this 40 year friendship into a battle of the titans. Let's face it, if your a true fan of either one you know they wouldn't get along! To tell you the truth, I never liked Superman! I was always a die hard Batman fan and this comic book gives me more reasons NOT to like Superman! I still can't get the story right but it seems that at a time Superman turned his back on The JLA and turned into a puppet for the U.S. Goverment. I am sorry Superman fans, no disrespect but.....HE WOULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT! Lets face it, Superman is a "Yes Sir" kind of guy! "Is there anything I can do Mr. President?" He turned his back on his friends for what? To take orders from the President to be apart in the Cold War! He always was a boy scout and it shows in this comic. It shows that the man of steel can be beat by using your brains and thats what batman did! With a little planing and using your head, you can beat the man of steel! And he did! and to top it off....BATMAN FAKED HIS OWN DEATH! Is there nothing Batman can't think of? I know Superman wouldn't think of that! Get this comic book, it's shows what would happen if there really was a Batman in the World.
on July 14, 2003
The dark knight returns truly features a menacing batman. Miller crosses the lines as a writer who is not afraid to portray the almost schizophrenic bent of Batman/Bruce Wayne, a man who chases his demons yet is caught in an endless struggle with them getting the best of him.
Batman , by essence is a dark and brooding character. Along with being that he is also very multi layered in his own psyche's perception of himself and the world around him, Miller presents a Batman that is truly how a Posessed superhero would be, to prove to himself first and foremost that if he cannot beat his demons into submission, he will not fall to them either. This is very much a fascinating character study in my opinion.
The book features awesome Art and the writing is top notch one of the best in comics ...great one liners, panel guidelines, dialogues and the action! Whew is the action intense, never have i in my many years of comic reading have been grabbed so violently in the action panels .
Batman's Gotham always has been a never perfect functioning world and its not surprising it turned into a dystopia as Wayne grew older. an empty souless, crime infested town that has turned citizens into a people without hope, always relying on the system, to fix things but one man knows that sometimes the system breaks. Bruce Wayne.
Wayne lives an empty life, for his demons are also his personal saviors, and relishes donning the mantle again to prove to himself if not to anyone else that he stands for something. But Alas Wayne's earlier heroics have no grace on Gotham's folks who now deem Batman a menace, a psychopath and much more. This is on the level of great modern crime contemporary litreature and should be read and given respect as such. This is an absolute must buy for any comic or crime fan .
On surface a story of a conflicted man, beneath it lies a whole commentary on the social state the present society is going to come to at some point, even if it exists on some levels in present day cities.
the absolute ultimate batman story ever.
Miller's panels and layouts artistically are absolute genius. the way he can convey an action or a visual insight, no one comes close at all. it is absolutely beyond the coool factor. the art takes some getting used to, might seem irritating at first but its like that for a reason.
This book more then ever cries out to be made into a neat Batman movie but only a director of calibre and good potential should attempt it, but movie or not it is perfect how it is. no one can visualize panels like Miller , and if the script is not by him, not even worth it.
on July 10, 2003
When I first got this comic, I was just a beginner Batman Fan. When I took my book home that night, and began to read the book, I was somewhat disappointed. I didn't understand some of what was going on in the story, and was repulsed by the grotesqueness of Gotham City. You see, I had grown up watchine Batman the Animated Series and the Newer Version, and was not used to the disturbing world of Gotham, because I was used to seeing the simpler, kinder verson of Gotham I had grown up with. I put this book on my shelf and ventured onto the Internet to catch up on the years of Batman. I learned things that I never learned from the TV show: Jason Todd, Huntress(daughter of Batman), and most importantly for me, Barbara Gordon's paralyses from the Joker. Once I got the just of what happened in the Batman Comics, I went back to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, I understood everything much better. The story was much richer in my new Batman-updated eyes, and the roughness of the art completed the darkness of the storyline. For knowladgable Batman Fans, this is a MUST!!
on June 29, 2003
I've always been a fan of Batman, but I've never been in to comic books that much. Recently I stumbled on to Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and I was really impressed. The four book saga, now combined into a graphic novel, tells the story of an aging Batman who has been retired for 10 years. Still tortured by the death of his parents, and by the growing rampant crime in the streets of Gotham, Bruce Wayne once again unleashes the Batman on Gotham's underworld. However, Batman finds himself returning into a world where super heroes are unwanted and have all but vanished.
Miller's portrayal of an overly polictically correct world with little room for Batman, is compelling and original. The book's dark portrayal of a brooding, violent, Batman who has lost his faith in the justice system's ability to rehabilitate criminals set the stage for the modern portrayal of Batman in both comics and film. In my opinion, this is a story of Batman the way he should be portrayed, as the tortured punisher of evil not the friendly neighborhood super hero. We can leave that to Superman, and if you've ever wanted to see Superman get brought down a few pegs, this is the book for you.
The artwork is gritty, intriguing and fits in perfectly with the story. This book inspired me to check out more graphic novels, and works by Frank Miller.
on June 20, 2003
This is one of the best stories that I almost missed out on as a kid. I was a Batman fan but at that time trade paperbacks and internets were rarely spoken of or known of. I almost passed on this TPB at my local store for one of the more recent stories. But when I asked the "comic book guy" (here comes the Simpsons rip-off) at the store, he recommended the Dark Knight Returns paperback. I was not disappointed. Ten Years later and I am still not disappointed.
This is one of the milestone comic stories of this era. Written by Frank Miller, the story shows a brooding, old and retired Bruce Wayne. The world is in chaos and Bruce Wayne decides to take back the world by donning the mantel of the Bat. But his second coming is met with opposition from all classes, the mutant gangs and its leader, the Gotham City police dept., the Joker, Two-Face and last and most dangerous opposition from Superman. The plot has been talked about plenty so I'll digress from spoiling further.
The strength of the writing lies in Miller's ability to personalize the characters to the readers. At one moment, we are deeply immersed in the thoughts of Batman (strategizing against criminals) and at the next, we are immersed in the thoughts of Comm. Gordon contemplating his retirement. The art fits the story perfectly and is laid out perfectly throughout the story. There are splash-pages only when necessary and is not blatantly used everywhere. Another strength in Miller's writing is ability to expose the readers to a brand new Batman with deep, dark and fascistic thoughts. He also manages to make social comments that reflect the time period (the arms race, Reagan's presidency, overseas threat). He mixes fiction and some loose non-fiction in order to produce a book that is still one of the best, more than 2 decades after its publication.