Batman: Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is a four-issue comic book miniseries compiled in a graphic novel and was first published by DC comics in 1986. Miller is famous for his writing and unique approach he uses in his works and has gained reputation for being the father of the Dark Knight we know in the modern days. He is also an author of well known works as Sin City, 300, Daredevil: Born Again and many others.
This story leads us to Gotham city ten years after Batman has ended his service because of the death of Jason Todd (Robin), but after an encounter in the alley where his parents were murdered, Bruce Wayne meets the ghosts of his past and picks up the Batman costume once again to fight for the justice in the city where a gang known as ‘Mutants’ has taken over. Little did he know that his return will inspire his old enemies to return and fight once again. In each book there’s another villain and the reader has to question – is Batman himself a villain?
I expected so much of this book and was quite disappointed. I have to start by stating, that this book built the modern Batman and that is actually book’s weakness it seems cliche because we have already seen parts of it in newer works. But I am not willing to let sentiment change my thoughts – the book is important in the history of Batman comics and was awesome, if you read it twenty thirty years ago, but now it is just a blink of what once was amazing, and from that point Batman has evolved a lot and although this book is a base for it, it is not the top of it.
Artwork in this book didn’t amaze me. I did like Gordon and Joker, but I disliked the mutants a lot and while we’re on it – there wasn’t explanation, if the mutants were or had a mutation or it was just a name they’ve taken.
I had a lot of trouble with Bruce Wayne as it seemed to me that artwork for his face was the most susceptible of all and sometimes I wasn’t even sure, if it was him in the pictures. The colouring was fine and especially good in the third and fourth book. The text sometimes was hard to read though (letters too close or a bad work at writing them) and I have seen quite a few complaining about that.
The story was complicated and sometimes there were so many different plots developing at the same time that I had a difficulty to keep track of them. I did not appreciate that I had to go pages back and forth to check, if I got a fact correct or not. As the story was very complex and showed the layers of character’s psychological problems and ghosts of past, I find it that it is very important that the main idea of the story has to be easily understandable and clear, so the message that is hidden in the context wouldn’t be fogged up by misunderstandings of the main and obvious story line. Perhaps I had this trouble understanding it because I am not very familiar with Batman and I have no real idea of what exactly has happened to him or his villains. And their past is never explained in this book, which makes me believe that this graphic novel is only for those who already know Bruce Wayne.
The story was divided in four different books and from those I really liked, I could almost say loved only the third one, I disliked the other ones greatly because the story seemed unrealistic (and Batman is one of the realistic heroes), it was jumping between different scenes and was weird and annoying. The third one was organized, clear and had a beautiful with a deep ending. Some might say that I have to keep in my mind that this is the beginning of the Batman and that’s why it seems all known already or not worth seeing, but I have to counter that, because I think that the book should be able to live longer. And although I have seen many different fantasy films and read books, I still enjoy old ones, even if they might repeat other ones, if it is a good book, it stays a good one.
I didn’t have a favourite character, I liked Jim Gordon, but I don’t think that he appeared enough to be considered a fave. I strongly disliked the idea of Robin being thirteen years old and making strong and proper adult decisions, there was a layer of emotion involved at one point, but I still think that the age was both too young for the maturity shown by him and to have any chance as a side kick. Yes, I’m discriminating Robin’s age and destroying children’s dreams, I’m sorry.
I hated the reporter Lola and her earrings were just stupid. I didn’t like how she acted, how she was drawn or what she said. (Yay – hate, hate, hate!)
However I did enjoy that Batman noticed his years and thought about his actions and how slow he has gotten, that added a bit to the story and helped to realize and picture that Bruce Wayne is 55 years old after all. I don’t think I have much to say about other characters as there were so many of them and there were both good and bad sides of them.
This graphic novel should be read only by Batman fans because for outsiders of Batman world there are newer comics that have better graphics and story that is modern. This book is considered to be one of the best graphic novels of all time and I do not deny that it is indeed deep and complex, but I don’t really think that people should actually read it for that. I am a bit afraid that if someone reads this as his first graphic novel, it might be a turn off and he/she would never see the awesomeness of the comics and never pick up a different one, so be careful! This is definitely not a children book, so don’t buy it for a child under ten years old, unless he wants it and a parent is alright with the contents (at one point I said to my boyfriend Tom that I think that Lady Gaga has gotten some ideas from there). I should mention that I prefer Marvel rather than DC and this book received two stars out of five from me on my goodreads page.
Feel free to let me know in the comments your favourite superheroes and graphic novels which you loved, so I could add them to my TBR list! Have you read this one? Do you think it is one of the greatest graphic novels of all time?