Monday, March 7, 2011

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller

There is something a little nerve wrecking about picking up a book about a character you love.  You come into the experience with certain expectations, and you don't know whether they will be met or not.  It's sort of like when U2 releases a new album and I always walk to the check out counter thinking, "Please God don't let this be the album where it all goes to crap."  Maybe U2 was a bad example since people might argue that happened a long time ago, but I think you know what I mean.  Batman has always been a character that I love.  From the reruns of the classic TV show with Adam West, the action figures, the animated series, the footy pajamas, and now the excellent Dark Knight movies, Batman has been a part of my entire life.  Sure things got a little bit scary when the neon lights flooded Gotham City, but we can always lock those movies away with the newest Star Wars trilogy right?  It was with this feeling of unease that I peeled back the cover of Frank Miller's graphic novel, and was soon reassured that everything was as it should be in Gotham City.

The Dark Knight Returns takes place ten years after the voluntary retirement of Bruce Wayne as Batman.  Most superheroes (excluding Superman) have been forced into retirement due to a distrusting public and government.  Bruce Wayne is haunted by the death of the second Robin (Jason Todd) as well as the death of his parents.  He is becoming more and more disillusioned with the current state of Gotham City, the new government, the rising crime and corruption, and the general sense of fear among its citizens.  After Harvey Dent (aka "Two-Face") is released as "rehabilitated", a crime spree starts and Bruce is once again forced to don the cape and cowl to return as the caped crusader.  Unfortunately Gotham City's welcome is mixed, and Batman soon finds himself fighting old and new enemies, as well as a few former allies. 

 Frank Miller's story is everything that a Batman comic should be.  It's dark, gritty, political, and full of action and intrigue.  Miller does an excellent job of making the story his own, while still keeping enough of the established lore intact.  Where he does take chances I found myself loving the directions he took and never disagreeing with the gambles.  The only negative for me was that with each turned page I knew that I was drawing a bit closer to the end of the Batman saga.  It was like watching an old friend slowly get older, more feeble, and knowing that the end would come before you were ready.  When you have lived with Batman for as long as I have, I'm not sure you are ever ready for him to put the cape and cowl away, but who knows, maybe in another ten years Gotham City might just need him again.

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