GN 23. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Illustrated by Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley. 224p. Published May 1997.
“…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 talking. And if you’ve got half a brain, you listen. They talk about 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 bare 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 jaw hits the bar.
Not a man among them wants to hear about Batman.”
With fearless mutant gangs roving the streets, rampant urban decay, and no one standing against it, Gotham City has become a city for the hopeless. It’s been 10 years since the last Batman sighting and many doubt he ever really existed. Commissioner Gordon is days from retirement and the new doctors in charge of Arkham have decided to release a cosmetically-fixed Harvey Dent, AKA “Two Face”.
Bruce Wayne, old and retired, burns inside. Flashes of past tragedy clash with horrors of the present, and a dark obsession suddenly breaks free. In a night of shocking violence and myth-come-to-life, Batman returns to the streets of Gotham. There he must prevent Two Face’s latest plot, combat the Mutant gang menace, and train the newest Robin.
But the shockingly public vigilante violence draws out dissenters. Ellen Yindel, the new Commissioner, declares Batman a criminal and issues warrants for his arrest. The leader of the Mutant gang calls Batman out for a final duel for supremacy. And the President, while busy combating Russia, enlists Superman to quiet his old compatriot for once and for all. The final chapter reveals the consequences of this epic battle and the dark reality that embraces the world.
With The Dark Knight Returns, Miller breathed new life into a character most remembered only as a campy TV hero. Here, Batman’s true form is revealed – he is not the hero we want, but the one we need. Embracing the reality of Batman’s vigilante style, Miller creates a vision of the true Bruce Wayne, kept alive and lent strength by his burning obsession. The art and coloring tells a story of its own, providing a necessary element in this monster story.
Rating: 5 out of 5