The Dark Knight Returns Review By Deffinition
Upon its release The Dark Knight Returns changed the landscape of comics. It offered a gritty take on the caped crusader that was a complete polar opposite to the 1966 show. Before this book Batman was regarded as a clown by the public consciousness. A lovable joke that provided comedic relief on a Saturday morning. It was a far cry from the dark look at crime that the character had once been and The Dark Knight Returns restored the character to the status quo whilst deconstructing comics in the process.
Is this book still one of the best or is it a product of it’s time?
That’s what I’m here to find out. So without further ado let’s dive into The Dark Knight Returns Issue 2!
Rise Of The Mutants
Following on immediately from Book One, Book Two centres around Batman taking down the mutant threat. Hinted at in Book One, the group terrorise Gotham citizens with their Mohawks and Star Trek sunglasses.
They make for a great villain. Even today, I’m scared to go to the shops when I see kids standing outside of them. Like proper proper scared, especially if one of them has a bike, and a short hair cut.
So the fear surrounding these villains is still relatable in modern times.
Juxtaposing this we begin to see Batman’s influence on the youth slowly creep in when Carrie Kelly dons a Robin costume and takes off into the night.
Similar to the first night that Bruce returned as Batman, it’s a triumphant moment that really captures the embodiment of Youth and bewilderment at just throwing yourself into something head first. It’s full of mischief and acts as a brilliant way to introduce the character. She really stands out amongst all the grey and you can definitely see why Bruce would confide in her as his new ward.
I think this moment went on to influence Clark’s first flight in Man Of Steel as it acts as a beautiful and graceful telling of finding ones feet.
Batman’s legacy and inspiration is felt throughout the city both positively and negatively throughout the opener. In this issue we see a man, dressed as Batman, attempt to murder someone. It’s clear that the legend of the Bat can be taken either way and whilst the Caped crusader‘s morality is black and white it’s nice to see that his inspiration is covered in shades of grey. It adds a depth to the book that several comics are unable to capture and elevates it to a new height.
Citizens Of Gotham
Set in the background of this issue is tales of Gothamites. They paint a clear picture of just how ruthless and terrorising the Gotham Mob is and it works in building tension towards the Climax.
We get an astounding one shot that focuses on a woman being murdered on her way home from work. It’s a really touching moment in which she ponders how the art set she bought her son will allow him to go on to be a great artist. Silly little things that I’m sure we’ve all thought of to get us through the tough days.
So it’s completely devastating when a mutant hood grabs her purse and puts a grenade in it. Killing her as she finally wrestles it back from him.
It really paints a bleak tone to the city and heightens Batman’s importance in stopping the mutant scum and it’s one of Frank Miller‘s most subtle depictions of a nefarious villain.
It’s a complete polar opposite to Holy Terror let’s put it that way.
There’s also an eerie tale in which someone shoots up a cinema. This harrowingly would be echoed in real life at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises and it adds a harrowing somber tone, now heightened by reality amidst the book. Making it more relevant today than it was 30 years ago.
To The Batmobile
The Batmobile roars down the street to take the Mutant leader head on. The design of this is completely alien to what had come before it. Similar to a tank it really feels like a formidable vehicle that would add credit to the fact that the police had never been able to stop Batman. It gives clear inspiration to Batman Begins and the Nolan-verse due to its feeling of sheer power.
Batman could easily take down the Mutant leader with it but the criminal taunts The Caped Crusader and he simply can’t ignore it. Due to his death wish and need to prove to himself that he still has it Batman boldly goes against the younger, stronger man and badly, badly loses.
It really adds a human side to The Dark Knight that is a far cry from the invincible man that he once was. I love how this is a real learning curve for Batman that massively would go on to enforce how prepared he has to be in his later fights. Like Batman, the reader is given a real learning curve on the brashness of courage and how facing things head on isn’t always the smartest choice. As our bodies deteriorate with age we must seek wisdom and this is clearly painted out by the fact that Batman must become smarter in this world to survive.
The Mutant leader is a clear ‘Bane Prototype’ and he acts as a fulfilling villain for the Dark Knight psychically. Batman only making it through with the help of Carrie Kelly.
“Leader Don’t Shiv”
Whilst the majority of this book is timeless, the slang that the gang use isn’t. It’s very…VERY…dated. Terms like “leader no billy” are laughable these days. It’s like when an adult tries to write kid dialogue even though they’ve not seen one in 20 years…because of the restraining order…those sick sick bastards.
But I digress.
It really puts the book firmly in the 80s. Like when you watch Terminator 2 and there’s that ginger kid, with the mullet. The one who should’ve been terminated. In the first trimester.
YES I KNOW THAT MOVIE WAS RELEASED IN THE 90s IT JUST LOOKS VERY 80s COS OF THAT KID! GOD!
At least that kid wasn’t wearing a t shirt with ‘my name is rob.’
Which Rob, I’m guessing, in this book is.
It’s that bad and really knocks this issue down a peg every time you read it. Luckily that’s the only fault I can really give it.
Leading the Mutant Leader back to the pit Batman breaks the beast of a man and the Mutant gang in the process. Even on my tenth, twentieth, however many Read Throughs it’s been, this still stands as a blazing example of the importance of symbology.
Batman destroys the group by humiliating their leader to the point that they no longer want to be associated with him and instead follow the Dark Knights example.
People will forever follow strong leadership and examples and it’s a very cerebral way to defeat a legion of people without ever having to lay a finger on them.
I absolutely love this turn in the book and it operates as one of the best final show downs that Batman has ever had.
The Dark Knight Returns Book Two avoids the sophomore curse that follows with many sequels. It paints a broad picture of the legacy that Batman will leave behind and showcases why mythology is still important today.
Whilst I don’t think that Miller’s artwork is as strong man’s some of the dialogue sounds like it was written by a drunk, the book still stands the test of time.
That’s why I’m giving it a…