The Dark Knight Returns Review & Indepth Analysis by Deffinition
The Dark Knight Returns Book 3 opens on probably one of the weirdest moments in a Batman book thus far. Certainly at the time. Batman, dressed in a full fat suit tackles a woman with huge Swastikas over her nipples.
Even today it’s slight garish and in my opinion is the book’s lowest point. On first reading this I can remember it completely derailing the story and it’s aged very poorly. I don’t know why Batman would even have this suit, it has the appearance of a burn victim and if it was picked to be inconspicuous then i don’t know how it achieves that. It stands out like Will Smiths ears and the Brigitte Nielsen look alike villain will have you wanting to run to the mountains like Rocky 4.
It’s a certain sign of the monstrosity that Frank Miller would turn into. Hinting at the sexual BDSM that would later plague his books and it feels completely out of place, especially when a child is running round in a Robin costume in the background.
Faster than a speeding Bullshit
It’s within this chapter that Superman is introduced. Whilst Miller is often criticised for his depiction of the Blue Boy Scout to me it’s very analytical. Superman at this point had become very dimensional, a government lackey who due to his allegiances may not always be on the right side. Imagine if Superman existed today. He would have to side with many of Trump’s policies even though they often go against equality and human rights.Making him a complete contradiction.
At one point in this book we see Batman comment that we kill because we’ve made it too easy. This is the perfect analysis of Superman within the book.
Throughout the story he murders soldiers and whilst the government often presents this as acceptable, I simply can’t agree. If murder is wrong that it is wrong period, the government are happy to sanction it under the guise of war and people get let off with a pass.
Miller deconstructed the worlds most famous superhero in a clear way whilst allowing Batman to be a voice of dissent amongst the order. This created a beautiful dichotomy between the two and it makes for a gripping read.
Like something out of a Calvin Klein advert the two converse and it’s interesting to see their opposing ideologies that hint at why The Dark Knight had to retire.
Yindel in a spindle
Mirroring this we see Comissioner Gordon retire, passing the role to Ellen Yindel. The two disagree heavily on the subject of Batman and when she puts out a warrant for the Caped Crusader’s arrest it’s clear she is making a solid stance against vigilantism. Throughout the book she learns of Batman’s importance and whilst I don’t necessarily like the characters beginning, by the end she represents the doubters and those who would come round to the idea that extremism must be dealt with in extreme ways.
Getting the Drop On Cops
I’ve always loved Batman when he takes on the police so I was head over heels with the Joker’s escape during the Dave Endochrine show. Throughout the news we often see the tales of policemen murdering innocent people so it’s refreshing to someone who solely represents justice dealing it out to a force that is often shown to be corrupt.
In the backdrop of this battle we witness the Joker murder hundreds of audience members on a chat show. To me this really represents our obsession with celebrity, no matter how wicked they are. We often put entertainment over morales and it’s easy to see how the public consciousness would be desperate to see the Joker be interviewed. They get exactly what they wish for and his gassing of the audience, leaving them all laughing to death speaks volumes to our ignorance when dealing with serious matters. We ignore the constant tragedy and death that goes on around us and continue to smile as if nothing has happened.
The audience die smiling as we cut to Superman murdering soldiers in a foreign country who are doing nothing more than protecting their land.
“Tonight I’m Taking No Prisoners”
Building towards the climax we get several people openly question Batman’s reasons for never killing The Joker. Sprawled across the news sections the doubt clearly creeps into The Dark Knight’s subconsciousness. Why has he never killed the Joker? Is it because without him he has no purpose?
These questions make us doubt all the good that the hero has done but it subtly cements his morality. After seeing how many Joker murders upon his escape the tension rises within the story due to us questioning whether Batman will finally do what many view as necessary.
This is outstanding and heightens the action that goes on on the page in their final battle.
It’s a shame that Batman murdered so many in Batman V Superman. I wish they had enforced that Batman never kills in that movie but Superman was so dangerous that there was no other choice. In order to save the world Batman would have to break his one rule. That movie completely misses the mark with that aesthetic, turning the Caped Crusader into a serial killer and taking away extra tension that could’ve been added in the battle. Imagine how good it would’ve have been with Batman about to stab Superman with the spear, knowing that if he did so he would lose all humanity?
That’s why it’s so good here. The fact that you believe that Batman is finally going to do it adds so much more depth to the final showdown. This time he will not be returning The Joker to Arkham. There can be no going back.
The Tunnel Of Love
Ending in Batman and The Joker facing off in the Hall of Mirrors before finalising their encounter in the Tunnel of Love there is very little subtly to the statement that Miller is making. That doesn’t detract from it though and it’s a brutal, personal conflict.
Batman loses control and snaps the Jokers neck. Whilst he doesn’t kill the Joker it still is a small victory for the clown prince of crime. The Joker twists his own neck, breaking it and killing himself in the process. He dies laughing, safe in the knowledge that the witness will say Batman did it meaning that the Dark Knight’s reign of justice will now be fully questioned by the authorities.
It’s a haunting showdown that has stuck with me for all the years since I first read it. The Jokers final moments will stick with me forever, he white face, brandished with a smile as whatever was in him rustles as it leaves. Ending the book.
Whilst Book 3 ‘Hunt The Dark Knight‘ starts off at the stories lowest point it quickly picks up and delivers on a startling final battle between Batman and his greatest foe. It’s the perfect summation of their relationship and is the only way that I could have possibly ended.
For all the wrong that Miller does in the opening he completely rectifies in the finale. There is a slight imbalance in quality but overall the good by far outweighs the bad and that’s why it gets a…