Comic Review – “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”

This is known as the definitive Batman comic. Does it live up to the hype?

General Information

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Credited to: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley
Original Publication Date: 1996 reprint of material first published in
1986
ISBN: 1-56389-342-8
Cover Price: $14.95 US, $24.95 Can
Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Premise

A 55 year old Bruce Wayne brings Batman out of retirement to take back
Gotham City.

High Point

“There are seven working defenses from this position.”

Low Point

The lack of description for Oliver. I’m only casually aware of the DC
Universe, so it took me a while to figure out he was the Green Arrow.

The Scores

This is original in the fact that it centers around a hero
who is too old to do his job. Superheros in comics tend to be
suspended in their ages to avoid the problems that this volume made a
conscious effort to face head-on. Ideas like that, and the end of
the third book, and the entire fourth book, are the kinds of things
that I was not expecting at all when I picked this up. I can’t think
of another comic that had the guts to do things on that level before
this came out. I give it 6 out of 6.

The artwork grew on me by the time I was finished, but it
irked me at first. There are a lot of panels on most of the pages,
and a lot of the images are cramped and lacking detail. I understood
by the end how well this style fit with the story that was being told,
but it was still pretty jarring at first. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is well plotted, and rather majestic. The visual
medium helps, but this could have just as easily been a novel. The
structure is that of four books, each of which contains a complete
story, but which still add up to something of an epic. I give it 5
out of 6.



The characterization is excellent. The reader knows Batman
and Bruce Wayne inside and out right from the start. The first book
also does an excellent job of setting up the idea that they are two
people; Bruce is constantly fighting his duality in that book, but
Batman is Batman alone. Batman’s adversaries are not quite as well
defined, but we still know who they are, and why they do what they
do. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was powerful, especially
considering this is the first real Batman comic I’ve ever read.
(Caveat: I had one other issue about 15 years ago, but it was part of
a larger story arc and didn’t make sense on its own, so I’ve pretty
much forgotten all of it.) All I know of the comic character is what
we saw in Death of Superman and Return of Superman.
This showed exactly who Batman is, and made me care about him in the
first few pages. There were a few shocking moments as well,
especially in the last two books. I give it 5 out of 6.

The flow is consistent, and things clearly progress from
scene to scene. Conversations in battle are kept to a minimum, and in
some cases, the dialogue is even omitted, even though conversation is
happening. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great comic, and it shows the reader
exactly who Batman is, and why Batman is. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns receives 36 out of 42.

8 replies on “Comic Review – “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns””

  1. JANET says:

    Frank Miller Can’t Draw Worth a Damn

    Ok, I’ll admit that I haven’t really dived in to any other Miller works (Sin City comes to mind first), but that was far and away the thing I hated most about DKR. Does it fit with the story? Sure. Is the story itself good? Damn straight. But is it still ugly to look at? Yup.

    Great comic, great writing, ugly artwork.

    JANET
    groomlake.net

    • UncleJam says:

      Re: Frank Miller Can’t Draw Worth a Damn
      I’d have to disagree with you when it comes to Frank’s earlier stuff. Dark Knight Returns is just beautiful, IMO.

      Now, talk about his more recent work and I’m right there with ya. In fact, Dark Knight Strikes Again (or whatever that thing was called) was the nastiest looking POS I’ve ever seen!

      • JANET says:

        Re: Frank Miller Can’t Draw Worth a Damn

        Now, talk about his more recent work and I’m right there with ya. In fact, Dark Knight Strikes Again (or whatever that thing was called) was the nastiest looking POS I’ve ever seen!

        I think DKSA was Frank’s answer to the question, “Could you make your drawings so that they look even less like what they are attempting to depict?”

        JANET
        groomlake.net

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Frank Miller Can’t Draw Worth a Damn

      Ok, I’ll admit that I haven’t really dived in to any other Miller works (Sin City comes to mind first), but that was far and away the thing I hated most about DKR. Does it fit with the story? Sure. Is the story itself good? Damn straight. But is it still ugly to look at? Yup.

      Great comic, great writing, ugly artwork.

      JANET
      groomlake.net

      Frank Miller didn’t do the art in Dark Knight Returns.

    • y42 says:

      Re: Frank Miller Can’t Draw Worth a Damn

      But is it still ugly to look at? Yup.

      Great comic, great writing, ugly artwork.

      Are you kidding me? I love his style, its dark, its different, and that
      shot where Superman is throwing a tank? Man…that was awsome!

  2. Noiseman433 says:

    my own take on the DKR
    I really think the art is excellent. But for reasons of space I’ll have to redirect you here for more of my take on DKR:

    http://silpayamanant.indytron.net/darkknight

    -Jon

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