Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Creators: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley
Series: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 28, 1986
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: classic comic book characters
This masterpiece of modern comics storytelling brings to vivid life a dark world and an even darker man. Together with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley, writer/artist Frank Miller completely reinvents the legend of Batman in his saga of a near-future Gotham City gone to rot, ten years after the Dark Knight’s retirement.
Crime runs rampant in the streets, and the man who was Batman is still tortured by the memories of his parents’ murders. As civil society crumbles around him, Bruce Wayne’s long-suppressed vigilante side finally breaks free of its self-imposed shackles.
The Dark Knight returns in a blaze of fury, taking on a whole new generation of criminals and matching their level of violence. He is soon joined by this generation’s Robin—a girl named Carrie Kelley, who proves to be just as invaluable as her predecessors.
But can Batman and Robin deal with the threat posed by their deadliest enemies, after years of incarceration have made them into perfect psychopaths? And more important, can anyone survive the coming fallout of an undeclared war between the superpowers—or a clash of what were once the world’s greatest superheroes?
Over fifteen years after its debut, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns remains an undisputed classic and one of the most influential stories ever told in the comics medium.
Collecting Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4
While I am a huge fan of Batman the character, this is the first Batman comic I’ve read. I think it is especially important to consider context when reading this. This was the first appearance of the dark and gritty Batman we know today, representing a complete 180 from the campy and silly Batman of generations before. The Dark Knight Return also represents a shift in superhero comics being published for adult audiences.
When this story begins, it has been a decade since Bruce Wayne donned the cowl, but he can no longer ignore the growing crime gangs in Gotham or resist the call of his dark and violent nature. While this older and grizzled Bruce Wayne suffers an existential crisis, the world must decide if there is still a place for Batman.
The comic is very political. Gotham transitions to a new police commissioner, who has no tolerance for violence or vigilantes. Many pages feature “talking heads” giving news reports, to varying degrees of effectiveness. The new Robin is a girl, and she’s awesome. Some of the gangs and villains featured were bizarre, but this also brings back classic villains like the Joker. We also see what Superman has become in this new era.
I wasn’t crazy about the artwork, but the story was very well done. I can’t say that I was absolutely blown away, but I’m glad I finally read this seminal graphic novel. This earns a solid 4 stars from me!