by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
They said Miller couldn’t repeat the success of Dark Knight Returns. They were right.
I thought this was really awful at the time it came out and never actually finished the series to find out how it ended. But on a whim, I picked it up again to give it another go.
The original Dark Knight Returns was one of the first books I read when I started work at Nostalgia and Comics in my youth. Along with Watchmen it managed to create an incredible excitement around the comics industry. For those of you who haven’t read it I’ll not give anything away here:
DKR is the classic Batman as a pensioner story. It’s the future, superheroes have been banned, the ageing Bruce Wayne has given up being Batman and is watching his world and his precious city go completely mad. It doesn’t take long to get him back in the costume. He beats things up.
DKR is still a great book. Well structured, economical in the use of the big name superheroes, brilliant in the use of the villains. A noir futurist story with slick, crafted artwork.
Dark Knight Strikes Again is very few of those things.
It’s not as bad as I remember, but that doesn’t mean it’s all that good.
The main problem is the feeling one gets whilst reading is that Miller was just doing this for the money (a reputed million $ plus) and that his story when he started writing it was a skeleton at best. Throughout the book characters and situations are just tossed into the mix without warning or reason and by the end it’s just a mess of conflicting storylines and a couple of very lazy deux ex machinas to quickly finish.
The story is pretty much DKR all over again. Bruce Wayne has been quiet, training his army, watching the world go to hell yet again. Superman’s working for the government still, heroes are banned still.
And the artwork is equally rushed – scratchy is okay sometimes but Miller takes it to a complete new level here – we get to abstract expressionism at some points.
This isn’t to say it’s completely without merit. The story bounces along and it’s readable, just not great and it’s very existence on the shelves next to DKR merely serves to diminish the brilliance of the original.
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.