This sequel to Dark Knight Returns, arguably the best-known Batman story ever, retains a similar tone of rebellion to the first. However, it doesn't maintain the integrity of the first part.
One of the reasons for this is Miller's decision to centre the story not on Batman, but on his former allies. With no regard to modern continuity, Barry Allen aka The Flash is rescued from a power station in Bruce's last attempt to bring down the government. Whilst Miller's portrayal of the character is classic, there is little focus on Bruce at all. He has become understandably bitter with old age, and especially angry with the world. This, is where the problem lies. Although I can appreciate Miller's rage towards the modern government, I don't think it warrants drowning out potential plot points that could explain more about the character's motives.
Another problem lies in Miller's inks. This guy NEEDS Klaus Janson to personify his work, a la DKR. When Miller inks his own work, it just doesn't work. I hope Miller's upcoming Batman story about Batman's war with terrorism doesn't suffer the rush job that this did.
If I was being honest, much of the real character of Bruce Wayne is drowned by pointless developments, primarily the treatment of Dick Grayson, the first Robin and Nightwing, as well. This character is essentially used as a villainous device, doing a disservice to a fantastic character.
The few qualities that save this lie in a return to the world that Miller created. It is a world I will find in no other books by anyone. The world feels dark, and false and as such, everything is never quite as it seems, and nobody can be trusted. Although this is Miller's message, I feel it ruined the idea of the story. Dark sattire can be acheived whilst still creating a great story such as V For Vendetta by Alan Moore. However, all I can do now is hope that his new Batman title with Jim Lee will be as awesome as his other Batman work.
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again is rightly reviled by all Batman fans because of how terrible the book is on every level but made doubly damning because Frank Miller wrote two of the most acclaimed Batman books - The Dark Knight Returns and Year One.
The plot is a paranoid maniac's delight: the President of the United States is a hologram created by Lex Luthor and Brainiac who're essentially in control of America behind the scenes. Superman is still their lapdog because they hold Kandor, the shrunken Kryptonian city in a jar, captive, blackmailing him into doing whatever they want. And various other superheroes are imprisoned somehow - Flash is made to constantly run on a hamster wheel-like contraption that gives the US free, unlimited power, while The Atom is held in a petri dish. The only holdout is Batman - the book takes place a few years after The Dark Knight Returns and people still believe Bruce Wayne, revealed as Batman, is dead while he's actually been secretly working underground to build a Bat-army from the former Mutant gang. And with Carrie Kelly, who in this book has discarded the Robin outfit for a ridiculous leopard-like skin tight thing with rollerskates, calling herself Catgirl, by his side, the Dark Knight is ready to strike - again!
The worst thing about this book by far is easily the art. The character designs are absolute garbage. Lex looks like a melange of Miller's Sin City characters Yellow Bastard and Marv, ie. ridiculously warped with gi-normous hands and a thick, grotesquely wide body that goes beyond cartoonish, while Brainiac looks essentially like a cybernetic frog! These are definitely the most awful visual depictions of these characters I've ever seen. Carrie Kelly's outfit is awful: a skin tight leopard outfit complete with cat-head ears and whiskers - with rollerskates?! Those are the worst offenders but going beyond character design, the pages are so poorly drawn, you won't believe this is the same guy who gave us some truly iconic panels from the 80s for characters like Wolverine, Daredevil and Batman.
Miller's still using the television pundit trope to explain plot points but whereas they were arranged in grid-like fashion in The Dark Knight Returns and said things that were relevant to the plot, in Strikes Again they panels are scattered haphazardly around the page and none of them are worth reading - they're just random idiots saying gibberish like "woah baby!" and "hubba hubba" around revealing shots of Black Canary and Wonder Woman. Women are going to hate this book the most as Miller presents every single woman here as an object. Hips jutting to the side, super-pouty lips, bum poking outwards - in every panel they're in! It's just so derivative, it's unbelievable - but there it is!
If the art is messy as hell, the story is handled just as poorly. Ideas are thrown in undeveloped and just left there. Black Canary hosts some kind of sex call in show on TV? The Joker is somehow alive but turns out to be someone from Batman's past who has, for some reason, chosen to dress like the Joker? Not to mention the plot is a libertarian's dream: Batman literally goes to war against the US government! Superman is presented once more as a one-dimensional boy scout while Wonder Woman is little more than an aggressive Superman groupie. I didn't know what to make of Green Lantern as he's just floating in space silently for most of the book while Elongated Man is a super-crazy nutball. The only consistent character was Barry Allen who remains as white bread as an old man as he was when he was a younger Flash. Why are Lex and Brainiac working together again? Why is Carrie Kelly Catgirl instead of Robin - and aren't rollerskates kind of useless if you're swinging everywhere on ropes?
And then amidst all of the chaos, 9/11 happened as he was creating the book and Miller decided to shoehorn that into the story too! So we literally have a 9/11 scene of citywide devastation, massive buildings falling down, that sits completely out of place with the rest of the story. It's just there because it happened and Miller thought he'd put it in his book. Because. Years later he would go on to make an even more polemical and nonsensical book with terrible art - which DC would see sense and deny him the use of their characters Batman and Catwoman - called Holy Terror, but that's another (godawful) story.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again is a remarkable book only for it being the product of a writer/artist who brought so much to the character only to return years later and produce such a terrible book for that same character - I don't think there exists a comic book where the original and its sequel are so directly opposite one another in terms of quality. When a book that's unreadable at best is also 250 pages long, it's an utter chore to get through, let alone make any sense out of. The Dark Knight Strikes Again is a book that, if you read it, you're going to wish hadn't struck again.
on 22 April 2012
Yes, I read the other reviews. Yes, I ignored them. Yes, I was wrong.
After reading the amazing Dark Knight Returns, I thought Frank Millar could do no wrong. I read the reviews and thought, people don't seem to like this, but it's the sequel to the Dark Knight Returns, the best comicbook ever, it must be good. I wish I hadn't ignored the reviews.
The idea seems perfect: Lex Luthor is the head of the government and has the most powerful half of the Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel) under his command. Batman and Robin, now Catgirl for some unexplained reason, set out to free the other rebel heroes (Atom and Flash).
It all sounds like it should be a great read. It's not. There's no flow. Things happen without explination and then it's onto the next thing. Scenes don't have actually starts and ends. Compared to the amazing and unique storytelling of the Dark Knight Returns, I am seriously shocked at how bad the storytelling in this is. It is seriously hard to follow due to the lack of flow, and lack of obvious start and end of scenes. This is made even worse because of the half-hearted artwork which, most of time, doesn't even have backgrounds.
It is seriously like Frank Miller has given up. He came up with idea for a plot and thought this is going to be a great story. Then he threw together some random flow-less story and quickly drew the characters as fast as he could, probably hoping that no one would care that there were no backgrounds. For all I know, the whole "story" could be taking place in a dimension of endless whiteness.
I can't stress how confusing the lack of background and horrible artwork are. Take the very first scene for example: Catgirl rescues the Atom(from where or who I have no idea, it just looks like they are in an abyss of whiteness.) Then she jumps off... something... and lands on a jet. What?! What has she jumped off? How did she land on a plane? Wasn't she Robin in the last book? Where the £$%& are they? What the £$%&ing £$%& is going on??!! These are all the questions you will ask yourself in the first scene. I didn't even realise that the man she rescued was the Atom until later on in the book due to the horrible artwork, I just assumed that Catgirl/Robin had grown huge or something. Then you carry on reading and realise that that scene has ended and a new one has started without you realising it.
I seriously can't put into words how bad this is. Please don't make the same mistake I did! Dark Knight Returns was, by far, the best comicbook ever! This is, by far, the worst! DON'T IGNORE THE BAD REVIEWS! THEY ARE TRUE!
on 22 March 2011
The Dark Knight Returns is a wonderful book, one of the best and most critically-acclaimed graphic novels in history. It tells a dark and gritty tale which explores Batman's strength, integrity, rebellion and determination with an art style which perfectly matches the tone of the story.
The sequel, however, lacks all of this. It starts off with the same tone in mind but, somehow, this gets lost along the way. The story is extremely convoluted and weak, including appearances from other big-name DC heroes without any real point other than fan service. Nothing (including these appearances) is fleshed out, explored or expanded on. It's a very hollow and empty tale. Whereas the first book does a great job of showing the reader that the Batman is within Bruce Wayne and, regardless of his age or situation, he can never escape what he is and what he is always compelled to do. This point is almost shoved down your throat and it is executed flawlessly. By the sequel, this idea has worn thin and Batman's 'determination' almost becomes an irritation, losing all emphasis and gumption.
The art style similarly matches the strange and convoluted story. I, personally, found it very off-putting due to it being, for lack of a better word, freaky. It certainly doesn't stand up against other modern Batman stories. One thing I've always applauded Batman stories for is having art styles which complimented the theme and tone of the tale (The Long Halloween, Year One etc.) but that is not the case here. The art is messy, lifeless and unnecessarily strange.
While I recommend The Dark Knight Returns to anyone with an appreciation for Batman (comic book fan or not), I can't say the same for it's sequel.
It certainly doesn't measure up.
on 22 March 2002
Anyone who read and loved the first Darknight series will be disppointed with this "sequel". I can't believe Frank Miller wouldn't do better than this. The story is only remotely related to the first series, the characters have changed too much. Whereas the original series was dark, complex and multi-layered, the story here is cartoonish and uni-dimensional. Batman is actually absent 80% of the time, so I wonder why this is called Dark Knight at all! The drawings are over simplified, you often get one pannel a page, and where in the old series the drawing was complex and with intricate background and colouring (beatifully water coloured) here you get a big headed character in a panel that seems coloured in with markers! It is unbelievable that this is actually the exact same team that brought us the first series. In the first series, we had a long, complex and thrilling story, the return of Batman, his memories and personal struggle, the mutants and their fall, the Joker, the nuclear holocaust... Here story is slow paced, and more than halfway through the series you realise that nothing much has happened really, and that you've seen Batman maybe twice. Instead you're "treated" to the silliest, worst DC characters ever, like the utterly cartoonish Plastic Man. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting the sequel to be just the same as the original series, but, hell!, it had to be coherent! This world just doesn't seem to the same as the first 4 books. It simply is not to the standard of Frank Miller. Having said that, I'll get every single issue, because it is still better than most comics around anyway, still I can't help but feel sad that one of my favourite teenage comic epics has been so defiled!
I guess I'll just get a special re-issue of the first series and read and relive past glories...
on 7 September 2012
After the master piece that was The Dark Knight Returns its a fair assumption to say that we were all expecting something equally as great with this book, or even better perhaps. The sad fact is this falls very short of the mark and not only that but falls off a very high cliff in my opinion. None of the key elements that made the dark knight returns the master piece that it is are present here, the moody atmosphere, the correct tone, klaus janson, the great art work etc etc. All are missing here, we are left with a plot that is not only boring but often gets confusing as minor DC characters are brought in with little explanation. The artwork is terrible, the inking is the most generic I've seen in a graphic novel, with little or no imagination put in and where are the backgrounds?? The environments??. Frank Miller really let himself down here and I personally do not feel he deserves the credit he gets for his work, don't get me wrong he did amazing things for Batman in the 80's but what confounds me is how easily other great writers were/are over overlooked due to this man. Writers such as Dixon, Moench and more importantly the genius that is Alan Moore. If you loved The Dark Knight Returns then do not buy this drivel, it will tar the memory of that book for you, and for gods sake, stay away from millers all star Batman, unless you love Jim Lees artwork of course! Thanks for reading guys.
on 27 February 2003
I've been a big fan of Miller's work since his early Daredevil pencil work back in the late seventies, but this is pretty awful stuff.
To prepare myself I picked The Dark Knight Returns from the shelf and immersed myself in its glory. I haven't read it for some ten years, but it didn't disappoint: it was even better than I remembered.
Then I picked up DK2. Ouch. Where the first book was clearly a labour of love by someone with something big to say, this was an empty, ludicrous tale that read more like an old Plastic Man comic than a half-decent Batman tale. His artwork is rushed and ugly, his dialogue peppered with obscure references and lame jokes, the story goes nowhere and destroys the myths so beautifully crafted in the original.
I don't think I've ever been so disappointed by a novel, graphic or otherwise. A waste of my money - don't waste yours.
on 18 April 2005
I wonder what DC thought about this book? They probably thought 'Frank Miller = $$$', but I'll tell you what I think.
The first thing that bothered me about this book was the artwork. The drawings here range from dark and twisted to light and twisted- grotesque, ugly, pretty much offensive inkings coloured in a neon CG style that is devoid of subtlety or charm with garish pixellations and psychadelic special effects thrown in seemingly for the hell of it.
These images ride on the back of an insane and incoprehensible lurching monster of a storyline populated by characters without depth, and whose actions and attitudes seem not to reflect their long standing DC universe histories but Frank Miller's own fantasies of total chaos and violence.
Here's the thing- in spite of the apparently slack penmanship, rushed inking and inept colouring, there is something about the book that sticks. If you can will yourself to see past the robotic dinosaurs, the space cannons, the digital president and a very unfortunate sex scene, you might just see what Miller's getting at. To me the book is a defiant roar- a terrible, gutfelt, nauseous belch in the face of the establishment, and a call to arms for anyone an everyone who ever felt wronged by their government. Bush take note.
Unfortunately, perhaps for me and not for the book, I was disappointed. There was too much I didn't like. But if the message of revolution didn't quite sink in after the first DK series- if you need to be insulted before you get it, then read this. Why not?
on 11 June 2010
The reviews are mixed for this book, and I was hoping so much that I'd be one of the few who loved it.
The Dark Knight Returns is a great story, brought to life with amazing art and the way it ends you'd think it would lead to the greatest sequel ever.
This is not the case.
First thing I did when I got it was flick through the art. It looked lazy, blocky and had little connection to what made the first one great. You could see Miller's style in the drawing, but even then it looked sloppy.
It would have been better to leave it black and white because the inks were added for no reason, they did nothing but make it unsightly. And then a lot of it is blocked in on photoshop or something, except it looks as if a thirteen year old has done it who thinks he's a graphic designer just because he downloaded photoshop.
That aside, the story.
I'm not overly sure what the story is. Batman goes into hiding with Carrie and his army, waits, then when the time is right he brings down the government.
But things just happen without justification. All reason is lost. You'll turn a page and think there has to be pages missing because nothing flows.
It's chaotic, and not in a good way.
There seems to be a million little side plots which come and go with no introduction or conclusion.
On the whole, it feels as if it was written by a paranoid man, descending into madness and he can justify the goings on of the story to himself except he forgets to inform the audience.
I feel bad for this because I love The Dark Knight Returns. I love Miller's Sin City, but this, whatever he was trying was lost.
I want to rewrite it myself, or maybe I will pretend Bruce did actually die at the end of the first one just to give me peace of mind.
on 13 August 2002
This is a good comic book story. Maybe a very good story. I enjoyed the tone and style in which he told this sequel. It is done in a decidedly different tone then The Dark Knight Returns, but that is obvious and very intentional. It does what it sets out to do and that is to present the excitement and energy that these "tired" old characters can still deliver if someone takes the time to create a good old-fashioned good vs. evil storyline for them. Miller does this. This book is fun. No one knows how to characterize Batman better then Miller. It's too bad the possibilities of Miller doing a monthly stint on a Batman title are absolutely and totally impossible. Miller always makes Batman act in manner that reminds you why Batman is the "coolest" of all of DC's characters.
The artwork on the other hand. . .????
Miller is my favorite comic book artist of all time and I'm not quite sure what's going on here. Miller has claimed that he was taking a very stylized, almost cartoonish approach to this sequel. I don't think it works at all. It's not the most optimum style for him to be working in. It ends up appearing more like the art was rushed. It gives you the impression that Miller felt he didn't have the time to devote to the artwork so he decided to go cartoonish so he could work quicker.
It is easily the most disappointing artwork Miller has ever done. Conceptually, what Miller and Varley seemed to be trying to do, does fit the idea and story they were trying to tell. However, in application they didn't achieve the quality they needed to.
All in all, it's better than most comic book stories you will buy this year. However, knowing Miller and Varley's history in the industry, it does give you the feeling that they could've done better.