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a classic graphic novel (but with limited extra content)
on 27 April 2016
“The Dark Knight Returns” is a seminal contribution to graphic novel fiction – and was hugely influential both within the comic book industry generally and upon the characterisation of Batman in particular. This is, perhaps, Frank Miller’s most famous and important work. It consists of a four-issue mini-series, first published in 1986.
The story concerns an aged Bruce Wayne who, after a decade of retirement, returns to crime-fighting as the masked vigilante known as Batman. He faces opposition from much of the Gotham City police force and the US government. Yet, with the aid of the new Robin, he is able to re-establish himself as the Dark Knight and fight for justice.
The story is set in a dystopian society, an alternative reality to our 1980’s. Wayne, having given up being Batman, drifts aimlessly through life as a drunk. Yet, with crime on the rise – and a new group of villains known as mutants stalking the city – so Wayne is inspired to once again become Batman. And as he does so, some major super-villains of the past reappear … first Two-Face and then, in spectacular fashion, the Joker. In dealing with the gangs, the corrupt authorities, and finally the Joker, so the US government decides to take action against Batman … and it sends Superman to stop the Dark Knight. And so we get an all-out battle between these two titans: Batman vs Superman. Of course, the Man of Steel has all his powers … but Batman happens to be someone who prepares for all eventualities.
This is a portrayal of the Dark Knight that exists at the opposite pole of the campy 1960’s TV show. This is a gritty, menacing and serious Batman. And the world he lives in is equally dark and complex. And so Miller presents us with – what was in 1986 – a highly original conception of Batman, which has influenced many of the subsequent interpretations of this fictional character.
This is the trade paperback edition, about 225 pages in length. It comes with limited ‘extras’. Nonetheless, it’s a good read. However, if you want something more deluxe then I recommend the new hardback edition (over 500 pages long, with lots of extra content). Either way, this is an enjoyable graphic novel.