224 of 238 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best "comic" I have ever read
It's amazing how well this story, originally written as a 4-part mini-series in 1986, has held up. This story is responsible for the re-emergence of Batman not just as a superhero, but as a tortured anti-hero with flaws that make him no less obsessed than the supervillains he hunts. Not only do we get heaping servings of the dark, obsessed Batman, we also meet an him as...
Published on January 10, 2005 by Nicholas J. Delillo
36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Simply Good Enough
This is good Batman, definitely part of my must have list. But the book has its downfalls, of which keep me from giving it the raves that are so prevalent here. First off, it's putting out a statement about violence and mindlessness, unfortunately that's a difficult topic to address without being needlessly violent and mindless itself. Its Batman is a passionate, angry...
Published on January 12, 2002 by Alfred S. Olsen
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224 of 238 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best "comic" I have ever read,
It's amazing how well this story, originally written as a 4-part mini-series in 1986, has held up. This story is responsible for the re-emergence of Batman not just as a superhero, but as a tortured anti-hero with flaws that make him no less obsessed than the supervillains he hunts. Not only do we get heaping servings of the dark, obsessed Batman, we also meet an him as an older man, a true "lion in winter" who must come to grips with his mortality and the unstoppable decline of age.
Miller allows us to use our hero to percieve the world around us, and in doing so The Dark Knight Returns also ends up as a critique of 20th century society (and 21st, for that matter). Batman is just a few public opinion points away from being considered no different than the likes of Two-Face and the Joker.
The relationships between Batman and those he hunts is simply outstanding work by Frank Miller. Generally, there are three types of villains. The first are everyday thugs that are shallow and meaningless both in dialogue and mentality. The second is a savage gang leader. Powerfully built, full of rage and singularly focused hate often seen in the young, this character forces Batman to confront his own mortality and, in an awesome final confrontation, turn to the experience of age for victory. But the most powerful relations come with Batman and his fights with the classic supervillains Two-Face and The Joker. In one really powerful scene, Batman realizes he is equally as tortured as Two-Face, but with one difference: Two-Face feels remorse and despair for what he has once again become (One panel has him actually jumping off a skyscraper, in a possible suicide attempt). He has recieved redemption from society as well as himself, but was unable to maintain it from either. In contreast, Batman, has accepted what he has become, and revels in his darkness. And then of course, there's my favorite, The Joker. We have here an excellent portrayal of a supervillain with no conscience whatsoever, who commits evil deeds not for any agenda or flawed goal, but simply because he enjoys doing them. His ending scene with Batman is another one to remember, and I can't imagine it happening any other way.
The supporting cast in the graphic novel are also superbly detailed. Superman is portrayed as equal parts god, innocent child, tortured soul, government flunky, dumb jock, and a lampoon of the comic industry's idea of superheroes as flawless humans. The interesting point is, Miller creates a Superman that is not to be mocked, but understood and even sympathized with. His contrast with Batman benefits the development of both characters. Other characters, including a naive yet gifted Robin, a Gordon who is more fully fleshed-out as a cop than anything you'll see on NYPD Blue or Law and Order, and Green Arrow, who has become the epitome of grizzled in a novel full of grizzled ornery old men.
By now, I think you can guess I kind of liked it. Frank Miller has published here a brilliant novel. If the Gods of Hollywood are truly kind, perhaps one day this will be converted into a movie. The excessive use of Batman-as-narrator increases the difficulty of writing a screenplay, but the plot is not only flawless, it is still relevant. Miller, in 1986 mind you, points out how America has a love affair with celebrities (including superheroes), public perception, a fascination with criminals, and how modern media loves to praise heroes (and successful people in general) only to aid in their entertaining downfall from public grace.
By the end of the graphic novel, with some of the most original artwork for it's time (notice how good the story is that I didn't even mention how it looks until now?), Miller has us realizing we have experienced a story that explains obsession, public perception, conscience, mortality, and what it truly means to be a hero better than any psychology textbook could, and I am including those textbooks with the pictures.
65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miller's Masterpiece,
One of the problems with writing about a genre classic nearly fifteen years after its original release is that so many will have tried to surpass it since then (mostly unsuccessfully). Such is the case with Miller's Dark Knight Returns. In the wake of superior product like Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and From Hell, inferior product like McFarlane's insipid Spawn series, and middling product like Miller's own Sin City limiteds, it's hard to understand what a splash was made by The Dark Knight Returns on its original release. Even in light of Miller's work on classics like Ronin, Elektra: Assassin, and the great Wolverine limited series, Dark Knight was something special, something so dark and twisted and mature, it all but demanded that the rest of the genre mature toward its standard, and almost literally forced establishment critics to take the genre seriously at last. No small feat, especially when considering the character Miller chose to work with -- after all, Batman to most people meant Adam West hitting Cesar Romero with a resounding POW! Not exactly the best way to reenergize a medium, right?
Except Miller did it -- boy, did he ever. Dark Knight was and is one of the most powerful pieces of comic art it's ever been my privelege to own. From the Miller/Janson team's gritty illustrative style, expertly suited to the material, to Lynn Varley's exquisite sense of color and mood, to Miller's expertly-written story, Dark Knight is everything a graphic novel should be.
Take as just one for-instance the story: It's a brilliant reimagining and reinterpretation of the entire Batman mythos, bridging the gap between every era of the Masked Manhunter's long career, from the dark noir of the early days, through the "Boy Scout" period of the forties and fifties, and even a little of the "science fiction" and tv-era Batman (though thankfully not much of either), and on to the modern Darknight Detective period. Miller takes Bruce Wayne into his mid-fifties, retired but still troubled in his heart, and sets up a chain of circumstances which force Batman's emergence from that retirement, even as Jim Gordon is being forced out of his job, Two-Face is supposedly "cured" by self-aggrandizing doctors, and the deadly Mutant gang, a "purer breed" of criminal, practically owns the streets of Gotham. Miller ties all of these disparate elements together in unique ways, and weaves from them a story so enthralling, and so full of mythical echoes, that few have been able to equal it, even today.
As one example of the mythical resonances in Dark Knight, have a look at Miller's dramatic depiction of Batman's old pal Superman. Here the "big blue schoolboy" (as one of the characters hilariously describes him) is shown as Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster always meant him to be: an earthbound god among mortals. One panel in particular is key to this image: Superman holding the tank up over his head (with the memorable caption, "We must not remind them that giants walk the Earth."), a very dramatic (and very deliberate) redrawing of the cover of Action Comics #1. The panel is meant to remind us of the basic difference between DC's two primary exponents: Batman is a mere costumed crimefighter, but Superman is, well, Super, man! From Part 3 on, the conflict between the two characters seems inevitable, and promises to be spectacular.
Then there is the Batman himself -- and here Miller has done something so astounding it beggars description. For example, consider Bruce Wayne's intensely-rendered flashback to his parents' murder, done in a series of still-frame-like panels, with no dialogue, narration or sound effects, just the horrifying images: a finger tightening on a trigger, Thomas Wayne's huge hand falling away from his shocked son, the strand of pearls splitting apart as the gun is fired again -- this is a dark sort of visual poetry, so immediate and visceral it makes you understand at last just why Bruce Wayne was so damaged in those fleeting, horrifying moments. Similarly, the HUGE bat crashing through Bruce's window (symbolizing the futility of resisting destiny, the second coming of Batman, the spirit of "the finest warrior, the purest survivor" and about a half-dozen other things), takes Bob Kane's original idea and expands it once more into the realm of myth -- this is not just a bat but a Bat, the soul and spirit of someting bigger than Bruce Wayne, Gotham City, or even Superman himself. This is the stuff, as Alan Moore once noted, of legend.
There's so much else in this rich tale, from brilliant caricatures of David Letterman, Ronald Reagan, and Dr. Ruth (not to mention a totally undeserved slam at Harlan Ellison -- "eating our babies for breakfast," indeed!), to Miller's brilliant reimagining of Robin (no longer a boy wonder but a girl wonder!), that 1000 words simply can't shower Dark Knight with enough praise. If you're a Bat-fan, this volume should definitely be in your collection. If not, it will make you see what you've been missing. In any event, what are you sitting around reading this for? You could be reading Dark Knight instead! Waste no more time!
112 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Western: A Fistful of Gotham,
In a phrase, The Dark Knight returns is simply a "western." The old hero comes out of retirement to save his town one last time. On his way, he meets an assortment of old acquaintances, both friend and foe. At the end, there's a nice sunset for him to ride off into. Or is there?
Frank Miller's book is more of a character study of a retired vigilante who just can't take it anymore. Think "Unforgiven" with tights and thermite. Like Arkham Asylum, this is a story of a man and his obsession. Miller's text puts us into that moment, and also reveals his doubts about his chosen calling. Batman here is a man divided, the reluctant hero, and he behaves as such. THIS Batman even realizes that his personal moral code may be suspect. (But never for long.) And the fact that he seems to be instrumental in bringing the Joker out of a catatonic state is telling. Do we beget our own demons? The story questions this repeatedly, and leaves it to us.
Fleshed out not only with cameos, but with a new Robin, a new Commissioner, and several other characters, this is a true work of literature and art. Varley's coloring in particular electrifies this book.
Worthy of addition to any serious collection, be it graphic novel or literature.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a comic book work unlike any other,
By A Customer
I've been a comic book reader for many years, and to this day I cannot recall another single work of comic book art that is quite so brilliant as Frank Miller's Dark Knight. Certainly Cerebus, Sandman, Cages and From Hell are to be lauded for their genuine genius, but Dark Knight remains my all-time favourite creation. Frank Miller has written a gripping story of tragic heroism and bitter social commentary. His Batman is truly a larger-than-life, tormented hero, brilliantly conceived with his many flaws and perverse obsessions intact. Miller plays with the comic book universe beautifully, realising a world wherein the so-called "super-hero" does exist, and exploring the ramifications of this fact. Batman's final confrontation with Superman at the end of this graphic novel is bar-none the most cunningly conceived battle in comic book history. It is achingly poignant to see the two old warriors confront one another at last: Superman with his compromised good-guy! agenda and Batman with his twisted, demoniac fixation. Batman loathes the figure that Superman has become, while Clark Kent pities the poor, lost soul who has sacrificed his very existence for that which he pursues with a vengeance. "You Bruce, with your obsession..." Miller has created in Dark Knight a vividly real and passionately affecting tale of Heroes and Madmen, riveting from start to finish.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Knight - A Modern Comics Classic,
Frank Miller's groundbreaking 1986 comic book series still packs a punch today. (I first read it only a few years ago.) This was the story which proved superhero comics can be powerful drama and social commentary. This tale of a middle-aged Bruce Wayne returning one last time to fight crime as the Batman is an original and interesting mixture of ironic frivolity and serious themes. It is the themes in the subtexts of the story that most make this work intersting. These themes include the issue of pure justice (as typified by the Batman) versus the corruptible system, and whether the power of justice best belongs in the hands of the legal system or to individuals. Miller offers scathing satirical sketches of spineless politicians, vacuous mass-media, and criminal-coddling pop psychology. Miller's fascinating portrait of Batman as a complex, tortured, and three-dimensional human being cannot be soon forgotten. The Dark Knight Returns is a compelling story of of a troubled hero in an unheroic world.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe the hype,
Doubtlessly one of the most talked about comic book storylines of the past twenty years, its reputation is well founded. While material that was as hyped as The Dark Knight Returns is often ultimately disappointing, or seems outdated decades later, every time one reads The Dark Knight Returns he'd be more convinced that this is indeed a perfect piece of modern literature; and comics, American comics most of all, very rarely got this good. The Dark Knight Returns is one of a handful of graphic novels (e.g. Watchmen, The Sandman and Marvels) that achieve the status of genuine and timeless classics.
In the time of its release in the early 80s, The Dark Knight Returns was revolutionary, in every aspect. Frank Miller, already an acclaimed artist for his work on the early issues of Wolverine, already proved himself as a writer in 1984's brilliant and groundbreaking mini-series Ronin, but The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 was his break into the world of mainstream comics, and remains his most important achievement. But while his work on the series was within the world of super-hero comics, and within the financial safety of publishing under the DC Comics banner, Miller took mainstream comics to disturbing new places and super-heroes were never looked at the same way again. Taking inspiration from the groundbreaking work of the Dennis O'neil / Neil Addams team who revolutionized super-hero comics in the late 70s, and from his own former partner Chris Claremont, Miller made super-hero comics darker, more reflective and more mature than was ever made before. For that he took darkest character in the DC Universe, the Caped Crusader himself, and took him 20 years into the future, well into retirement. The new Batman is well into his 50s, sad and tired, and a much rougher kind of hero than he was before. Miller's very modern look on the Dark Knight was disturbing and discomforting to say the least; Dark Knight Returns is not an adventure story, it's a moral examination of his character and the problematic nature of his actions. Never before was Batman judged so harshly by his own author, and it's difficult for the reader to accept it - since, while Batman's actions are here presented as problematic to say the least, if not criminal, but he is also more human and more recognizable than we'd ever seen him before.
But it's not just the view of Batman's character that makes Dark Knight Returns so disturbing - it's the view of the world. Miller's future is dark and bleak, and eerily realistic. He goes to great lengths to create a realistic and convincing world, right down to creating a new slang for the new young generation. Through countless minor characters and little stories, each one rounded and well-constructed by its own right, Frank Miller creates a Gotham City we can know, a Gotham we can relate to. It's a city living in fear, a city that's in the grip of a merciless gang more ruthless and vicious than the criminals Batman faced in his prime. In Bruce Wayne's own words, it's a city that's `given up hope, like the whole world seems to have'. And as the city lies in the shadow of the fear of the Mutants gang, so the world lives in the shadow on nuclear holocaust. It is in the middle of this reality that a real hero is proven. And despite all the doubt and all the misgivings, the Batman presented here is more heroic than he ever was. It takes one kind of hero to fight madmen on a daily basis and thwart their diabolical schemes; it takes quite a different one to face himself and the world and not give up.
Batman isn't the only character who is given fantastic care on The Dark Knight Returns. Commissioner James Gordon, a character who had become much more important and more sophisticated in the last twenty years, is an important part of the story, and his part in it is fascinating, although more thought would be given to him on Miller's second Dark Knight expedition - Batman: Year One in 1988. The Dark Knight Returns also features a young and energetic Robin, who serves the role that Robin should have from the beginning - to provide contrast to the character of the Batman. Interestingly, though, the death of Jason Todd is often referred to, though it was released three years before Jason actually died in the comic continuity - and even then, his death was decided by a readers' poll. Hmm... Alfred Pennyworth, of course, completes the classic team. As for villains to battle - Two of Batman's most classic enemies, The Joker and Two-Face, return on The Dark Knight Returns - mainly as subplots, and to serve as reflections for Batman himself. This story is not about fighting madmen. There is, though, a grand final showdown at the end, in which Batman fights a surprising enemy...
As for the art: Frank Miller's artwork is an acquired taste. So is Lynn Varley's coloring, which is subtle and pale and may seem somewhat outdated to modern readers. Miller's drawing on The Dark Knight Returns is not as impressive and appealing as his work on Sin City, but if you enjoyed his early artwork, especially on Wolverine and Ronin, you'll like this one too. The artwork really is brilliant, if you take the time to see its subtleties. At any rate, on The Dark Knight Returns Miller had the benefit of not only the wonderful coloring of Lynn Varley (who also collaborated on Ronin) but also one of the finest inkers in the world of comics, Mr. Klaus Janson, who contributed to the series beyond words, gave it a lot of its atmosphere and created some of the darkest and most impressive images of Batman and Gotham City. In every possible way, The Dark Knight Returns is a masterpiece. If you like comics, and not just super-hero comics, by all means read it.
36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Simply Good Enough,
This is good Batman, definitely part of my must have list. But the book has its downfalls, of which keep me from giving it the raves that are so prevalent here. First off, it's putting out a statement about violence and mindlessness, unfortunately that's a difficult topic to address without being needlessly violent and mindless itself. Its Batman is a passionate, angry Batman. But we get this only by losing the intelligent creature of the night, the dark detective that we may be expecting. At its worst all we get is a simple, large brute running around busting heads.
The book is especially at its most mundane during the entire chapter devoted to its most unimaginative portion, i.e. the mutant army. The idea started as silly and just continued from there. It climaxes with Batman driving around in an indestructible house-sized tank shooting rubber bullets at a "mutant" army whose headquarters are located in the city dump. This whole scene just reeked of absurdity to me. The influence of the Stallone/Schwarzenegger brand of 80's action is heavily felt here, it's a testament to Miller's ability that this plot arc didn't ruin the whole story for me. Also, although self-admittedly I have never been a fan of the inclusion of most Robin characters, I've never felt it to be as superfluous as it is here. Same bright colors, but now it's a 13-year old armed with a slingshot. Though, to be fair, she does have misfortune of having her introduction to Batman at the junkyard scene, which I already had a distaste for. Nonetheless she stretched believability for me, but once again it is Miller's skill that keeps me with the story, and ultimately her inclusion works. But it never quite overcomes the feeling that she included just for the sake of being included.
On the other side I did enjoy the satirizing of the media. Also Miller's reintroduction of Bats to Gotham, his portrayal of Superman, and the opening & closing chapters were simply Miller at his best. The premise, that Bruce Wayne, after years of retirement has gone a bit insane is played expertly by Miller in these portions. This enjoyment is especially heightened when Batman's character arc is paralleled with those in his rogue gallery of villains. But the story's shift to the Rambo-style antics, especially in the mutant army chapter, drag this book down for me. It was simply a bit too much of Miller drudging me through the inane segments to weave the plot into what makes this book the influence that it was.
Miller deserves and has received his share of praise for reinvigorating the genre and establishing Batman as a darker, psychologically driven character. This is the comic that made comics respectable. This is the comic that made comics mature. But on the same hand, being first, or being "the comic...," is only admirable to a point. Miller's impact will never be denied, but impact alone doesn't make it enjoyable. I found more satisfaction out of the works that have followed Miller's suit (ex. The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Arkham Asylum, and Miller's own Year One). It's my respect for Miller's work that will always put it at the top of my comic lists, but my respect alone shouldn't sell this book.
But if you're a comic fan and don't own this book, chances are you're here to buy it. So if nothing else take this review is to warn you of high expectations. There are a number of extreme praises here that should be taken very, very lightly. It's good; I would hesitate to say anymore. It's simply good enough.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little secret.,
Here's a little secret for you as a reader of Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, whether you've read it before or are reading it for the first time: Frank Miller knows what he's doing. This story is quite depthy, and had a long lasting appeal to it. Frank's art while it can be considered a little sloppy is still some of the best ever put to paper. Why? The construction of the story. There aren't many in this field that can construct a story in the ways that Frank Miller can, and it shows in Dark Knight. From simple panel set ups, to an almost slow-motion like pace towards the beginning of the novel. Frank knows what he's doing. This isn't as one dimentional as readers below have cited, some books they say as being better than DKR have even weaker representations of the Batman in them--the Long Halloween readily comes to mind. There is more story here than what's in the text, this is a comic book--a visual medium, and there is no nead for copious amounts of text to describe what can be describes with a subtle facial expression. This book very comfortably confronts the strong and weak points of the Batman character, and sheds away the archtypes that followed it as what they are: shallow imposters. It struggles with the dual nature that Bruce Wayne/The Batman has to deal with on a daily basis, and it works. Tremendously so. It also deals with several situations that were happening in the real world at the time, and how Frank saw these characters fit to deal with them. I've read a lot of complaints about the violence level within this book and so forth, and well, yes, the book is violent, but not just for violence's sake. Batman's been retired for ten years, everything's different, the criminals are different, the gangs used to be suits with guns in mafioso-like settings, now they rape, murder, and do plenty more than what Batman was used to before he retired. The level of violence fits. Frank knows what he's doing. This book has very powerful views and statements on the superhero genre and how the real world reflects it. Read just a little below the surface and you too will see that Frank knows what he's doing.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Stories of Our Time,
By A Customer
This review is from: Batman : The Dark Knight Returns (Paperback)
This is a must have for any fan of Batman, and a page turner for those who like
a deep moving story. This is a must get. Here is the review of the
book I had in my Web-Zine Mantle of the Bat ([...]
The Dark Knight Returns is an elseworld story that takes place ten years after Batman
retires. Now at age 55, Bruce Wayne makes a decision to put back on the mantle of the
bat to save Gotham once more. Unfortunately, his comeback is not a welcome one, as the
media and the government both want him to retire permanently.
Batman must go toe to toe with four of his toughest opponents. He battles a physically,
but not mentally, cured Harvey Dent, a gang leader that would give Bane a run for his
money, an even more deadly Joker, and has a battle royale with Superman. In between
these battles he must train a new Robin, dodge the police and the new police
commissioner, contemplate the meaning of his life, and survive a nuclear holocaust.
Frank Miller did a phenomenal job when he wrote this four book series. Too often comics
ignore the real world to make an environment where the hero is adored. In Frank Miller's
world, the hero is scrutinized by the media, and classified as a menace to society by
The art on this book is also impressive, the world of the Dark Knight is truly dark.
Another great feature is the coloring. No more solid backgrounds and the faces of
characters have realistic shading.
I would highly suggest that any fan of Batman should pick this book up. Despite the fact
that it is ten years old, it shows no signs of aging. In fact, it is more true to life now then
the day it was written.
Frank Miller - Story, Pencils, and Inks
Klaus Janson - Inks
Lynn Varley - Colors and Visual Effects
John Costanza- Letters
Alan Moore - Intoduction
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the greatest comics story ever told,
If your one of those people who think comic books are only kid stuff than you should really pick this up. Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" may well be the greatest storyline in the history of comics, and those who have never read it will see Batman in a very new light. The storyline picks up 10 years after Batman's retirement. Bruce Wayne, now in his fifties, watches the world around him continue to be filled with social decay. Eventually we see how obsessive he was with crime fighting begin to come back to him, and soon enough he dons the cape and cowl and Batman makes his return. But this isn't the Batman that most people will expect to see, we see him battle a gang called The Mutants with no holding back, and he deals with the return of a now "rehabilitated" Two-Face, and the return of his all time arch nemesis The Joker. The graphic novel is shockingly violent and disturbing at some points, Miller's gritty art really gives the book life (although I will admit I was turned off by the artwork the first time I read it, but I realized it is like this for a reason and it grew on me), and the climatic final battle between Batman and Superman has to be seen to be believed. Do yourself a favor, if you even remotely like Batman and have never read this, than buy it as soon as you can, "The Dark Knight Returns" is a stunning landmark in the Batman saga, as well as it is a landmark in comics history.
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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller