on 19 July 2006
"Dark Knight Strikes Again" is a continuation of Miller's seminal "Dark Knight Returns," and runs with many of the latter's themes, particularly the mutual emnity of Superman and Batman. One can read "Dark knight Returns" as an analogy of the way in which power is willingly given to a Government or resentfully refused it by the People - the characters of Superman and Batman provide voices for two points of view and two actions - Superman gave his power away and immediately compromised, put his shoulder to the wheel in support of Authority, as most people eventually do, whereas Batman's mindset would never allow him to do so - it was not Authority he served but Revenge (although he would call it Justice,) and is representative of the quietest but most insistent voice in all of us that will neither apologise nor compromise, and will never stop resisting, railing against everything it sees as flawed.
The dialogue between these two voices continues in DKSA, but the struggle is gone from it, as if Bruce has thrown aside the last shreds of restraint and ordinary morality. The problem is that a fair chunk of characterisation and believability went out along with it.
Where DKR took pains to present Batman's case, involving the reader with his struggle and its consequences, DKSA forces the reader to take a back seat as a slightly bewildering story is unfurled at breakneck speed. No decisions are taken, no consequences dealt with - the entire story is a straight dramatisation of the way in which Batman's plan comes to fruition, and the reader arrives in the opening chapter with that plan already underway. The character should always take precedence over the plot, and this, too, is lost - in DKSA the plot revealed the character's nature in the way of the best literature, but in this sequel it continues in spite of the character, and reveals little if anything about him. In fact, Batman is almost a support character - the only real characterisation is presented in Catgirl, formerly Robin, and through Superman's moral dilemma.
Another problem is that the sense of pace, the rhythm established in Dark knight Returns is lost, or at least misplaced. Miller rattles through the book at speed, and although the book is by no means short, the increase in pace, in which many elements are not explicitly presented, causes the reader to feel rather lost. The art, too, is instrumental in this - there are almost no backgrounds, no places to which the reader can relate. Virtually the entire book is composed of figure drawings and talking heads, without backgrounds to give them context. The talking heads apparently representing newsreaders or chat-show guests are presented alongside those apparently representing people on the streets, and nothing is done to separate them - perhaps Miller is making a point about Mass Consciousness, but it makes for uncomfortable reading.
It seems likely that Miller had lost his temper. It is always tempting, whilst writing anything, to describe a personal fantasy, especially where Superheroes are involved: "If I was Superman I would set everything right" or "If I was Batman I would beat the daylights out of all the evil people," but a fantasy doesn't necessarily make a good story. DKSA is a fantasy in which the implacable, remorseless Batman unites the People to rise up against Tyranny and destroy it - Miller is a true Anarchist, and shows his colours here, and I salute him for it, but good stories are tales of struggle, as DKR was, and the sequel is just a tale of action.
Maybe I ought to read it a few more times, and revise this review.
However, none of the above is any reason not to buy and enjoy this book. It is a fine comic by a great writer. As a bellowing fountain of anti-authoritarian rage, it is wonderful - Miller's theme seems to be, "If only they were real, these heroes, and not simple drawings... then we'd see."