Book Report: Batman, the Dark Knight Returns

      5 Comments on Book Report: Batman, the Dark Knight Returns

I recently reread Batman: The Dark Knight Returns after twenty years or so. OK, looking it up, clearly not twenty years, as I certainly didn’t read it in the issues, and I doubt I read it immediately upon its release as a book. It’s possible, though. I had friends who were very into comics at that point; I suspect that one of them would have lent it to me (possibly the same person who lent me the Alan Moore MiracleMan issues). Anyway, it had been a while. I was wondering whether it would be any good at this point, what with all of its innovations and shocks no longer fresh.

Answer? I didn’t like it much. Oh, some of it worked very well, but a lot of it was just blah, even things that had totally knocked me out when I first read it. The structure is not very impressive, and some of the wordcraft (but not all) is clumsy. Oh, and I found myself much more annoyed by the political stuff than I was before.

In general, I find myself much more annoyed by political stuff in books than I used to be. Perhaps I’m more aware of it, or less able to keep myself unaware of it. Or perhaps it’s the famous Poisonous Politics of our age. Or perhaps I’ve become an aesthetic Stalinist in my middle age. Or perhaps it’s blogging. Probably it’s blogging. I find myself wanting to respond to the writer’s points. Not just the character’s points, although that too, of course, but that’s a success, not a failure. No, I find myself wanting to write up an analysis: Frank Miller may think he’s doing blaah, but actually by presenting blaah in blaah manner, and juxtaposing it with blaah, he’s actually providing fuel for blaah blaah blaah blaah blaah. I don’t do it, thank the Divine. But I find myself wanting to. And that’s no way to enjoy a comic book.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

5 thoughts on “Book Report: Batman, the Dark Knight Returns

  1. Dan P

    Out of curiousity, have you looked at all at Brian K. Vaugn’s Ex Machina series? It’s explicitly about politics and politicians in addition to being about superheros and the sort of personal exceptionalism they operate under.

    In case you haven’t, I’ll say nothing except that a) I think you should at least read the first trade paperback and report on it here (the masses demand it), and 2) don’t bother with collection #5 (Smoke, Smoke). Seriously, I don’t know what happened to the quality when they hit that story.

  2. Chris

    I expect that there’s something a little “off” about Frank Miller, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a lot of his work. Recently he made a remark about how what we are doing in Iraq (screwing it up?) is not just a “clash of civilizations,” but a pivotal moment in history. That is to say, this time is just like “300,” only with more varied clothing options. I look toward Washington and don’t see anyone as a stand-in for King Leonides or Cyrus the Great.

    I still like Miller’s original Dark Knight series, and think that he was doing what he could do to divorce Batman from the ABC TV series in the 1960s. His portrayal of the President as a doddering red, white, & blue clown was clearly a parody of Reagan. The fact that Miller’s Batman was a scary fanatic who’d use pain and fear to get information from criminals is more disturbing today than it was at the time. At the time, I was reasonably certain that some shady things went on within the U.S. Government, but I know at the time I was equally certain the U.S. citizens wouldn’t put up with that if they knew about it. Now they know, and have seen the pictures, and are faced with major politicians rationalizing that it’s okay. These are guys who sound like they’d be surprised to find out that Kieffer Sutherland isn’t focused on combatting terrorism by any means necessary. The Dark Knight Returns works as a story, but it had flaws. One of my earliest concerns about the story was that fans of the series seemed to think that it was holy writ. I’m pretty sure that was why when presented with a choice of killing off Robin or not, fans voted to get rid of the sidekick. They already knew that, “Jason was a good soldier,” who, “…honored…” Batman with his sacrifice. Whatever other flaws there were with the character, it sure made it easier to vote for his death if one thought of it as one of the pivotal moments that would lead directly to Miller’s fan-fave story.

  3. hapa

    i read it again recently, also. the first time around i didn’t notice how important — well maybe how much less interesting bruce wayne the progressive industrialist had become since the end of the high-growth period.

    this was kinda funny, because here’s on one side, batman vs oppressive postmodernism, while the rest of the comic world was engaged in endless, incestuous metaverse crapola. evenually even DKR had its own network address in the hyperdimensional storyspace…?


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