Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is considered by many to be the best Batman story line ever written. Though that is certainly debatable and I am not one of those who believes this to true, it is unquestionably a remarkable futuristic tale and one of the few comic books that can be held up as a masterpiece of story telling. Miller takes his unique and gritty look into the Batman universe, taking the Dark Knight deeper into the pit that is his ravaged soul.
“…And all the other old farts, they grunt and nod and grumble at each other, swapping old jokes they’ve swapped a thousand times. Even fat, beet-red old “Penguin” chirps out a curse or two before bursting into tears.
Then they get to talking. And if you’ve got half a brain, you listen.
They talk about amazing adventures, sounding like a bunch of retired car mechanics the whole time.
They talk about a Man of Steel. An Amazon Princess.
But they never talk about the mean one. The cruel one. The one who couldn’t fly or bend steel in his hands. The one who scared the crap out of everybody and laughed at all the rest of us for being the envious cowards we were.
No, they never talk about him. Say his name and watch Dibny’s face sag so bad his jaws hits the bar.
Not a man among them wants to hear about Batman…”
The Dark Knight Returns is the story of an older, retired Bruce Wayne who looks upon the city of Gotham and silently weeps in his soul for what once was. For all his efforts, for all the blood he has bled, so little has changed and the Batman is no more. Though no longer who he once was, Bruce can no longer sit still, he once again dons the cape and cowl and faces the enemies who thought he was gone. His return brings another out of his silence, as if sensing the return of the Batman, the Joker awakens. A great battle follows and it results in the death of the Joker, who snaps his own neck, causing the blame for his death to fall on the hands of the Batman. Superman is dispatched to reign in his old friend and here another mythic battle unfolds. The Batman versus Superman. Batman falls, the battle being too much and his heart gives out. He dies in the arms of his old friend. Or does he?
Frank Miller’s classic is must reading for any comic book fan. The upcoming film, Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice borrows heavily from this book. The imagery shown in trailers and screenshots match the artwork that has been around for thirty years. The old Batman, bruised and bleeding but whose will is insurmountable. The Joker re-awakening when the Batman appears, like some crazed Sleeping Beauty whose lover has just given her a kiss. Carrie Kelley, the young girl saved by the Dark Knight, who takes up the mantle of Robin. And Superman, the boy scout who follows orders even when it results in the death of his one true friend.
Frank Miller’s Dark Knight is a vision of the future of Batman that is at once bleak and hopeful. Like his other great comics, 300 and Sin City, Miller dares to take Batman into the depths of carnage and despair that few others can. Another reason that his take on Marvel’s Daredevil is the story line that all others will be measured by.
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is as relevant and stunning today as it was when it first came on the scene thirty years ago.
A must read for all Batman fans.