Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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Batman: The Dark Knight ReturnsBatman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
Illustrated By: Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
Published: 1986
Publisher: DC Comics

This has been on my shelf for years. The Dark Knight Returns is hailed as a major turning point in comic writing, and is generally at the top of any must-read list, but for whatever reason I kept putting it off. I’m surprised to say that it largely lives up the the hype.

Bruce Wayne is in his 50s now and hasn’t made an appearance as Batman in a decade. Crime has run rampant in Gotham City, and this miniseries chronicles his return to the mask. The story is quite dark, a change from earlier Batman comics, but exactly what we’re used to seeing these days. This comic changed Batman forever. There’s something about the tormented vigilante that people just clung on to, I guess.

It isn’t perfect, but once I started, I couldn’t stop reading. The dialogue really drags you along, but I could have done with less chunks of exposition in the form of the news broadcasts. They served a purpose, and were a clever way to set the mood, but they felt a little overused and really killed the pace at times. The art was a bit hit or miss with me as well. Sometimes the panel composition was very creative and reminiscent of his artwork in Wolverine, which I loved, but sometimes it felt a bit uninspired.

The position of Robin in this was taken over by a 13 year old girl. Which is cool in a way, but for some reason this comic really drove home how weird the whole Robin thing is. I mean, I know having a child sidekick is creepy, but that really stood out in this. I haven’t read any other Batman comics, so maybe it’s just seeing Robin in a grittier environment as opposed to the goofy old TV series or cartoons, or maybe it was that scene where completely nude 50 year old Batman hugged her, but something was a little bothersome about it.

At the end of the series, Batman and Superman fight, which sounds like it would be quite a silly scene, but Miller actually pulls it off in a cool way. It doesn’t feel contrived, and is a perfect way to end the series.

I’m harping on it a bit here, but I think that’s partly because I left this post too long after reading it and am now trying to look back critically, but I did really love it. It’s definitely worth going back to if you’re a comic fan.

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