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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Paperback – May 1, 1997

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,084 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If any comic has a claim to have truly reinvigorated the genre, then The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller--known also for his excellent Sin City series and his superb rendering of the blind superhero Daredevil--is probably the top contender. Batman represented all that was wrong in comics and Miller set himself a tough task taking on the camp crusader and turning this laughable, innocuous children's cartoon character into a hero for our times. The great Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, the arguably peerless Watchmen) argued that only someone of Miller's stature could have done this. Batman is a character known well beyond the confines of the comic world (as are his retinue) and so reinventing him, while keeping his limiting core essentials intact, was a huge task.

Miller went far beyond the call of duty. The Dark Knight is a success on every level. Firstly it does keep the core elements of the Batman myth intact, with Robin, Alfred the butler, Commissioner Gordon, and the old roster of villains, present yet brilliantly subverted. Secondly the artwork is fantastic--detailed, sometimes claustrophobic, psychotic. Lastly it's a great story: Gotham City is a hell on earth, street gangs roam but there are no heroes. Decay is ubiquitous. Where is a hero to save Gotham? It is 10 years since the last recorded sighting of the Batman. And things have got worse than ever. Bruce Wayne is close to being a broken man but something is keeping him sane: the need to see change and the belief that he can orchestrate some of that change. Batman is back. The Dark Knight has returned. Awesome. --Mark Thwaite


"...probably the finest piece of comic art ever published in a popular edition..."—Stephen King

"Groundbreaking."—USA TODAY

"It's film noir in cartoon pane ls."—VANITY FAIR

"There's never been storytelling quite like this."—THE WASHINGTON POST

"Changed the course of comics."—ROLLING STONE

"Revisionist pop epic."—SPIN


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: DC Comics (May 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563893428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563893421
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.4 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,084 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nicholas J. Delillo on January 10, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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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.
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