Comic Book Review: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
The Dark Knight Returns is a critically acclaimed four-issue Batman comic that inspired the movie Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. It is written and penciled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, and colored by Lynn Varley. It was initially published in 1986.
The Dark Knight Returns tells the story of an aged Bruce Wayne, who has long retired from being Gotham's #1 vigilante. Miller has envisioned a much darker depressing Gotham that has become a cesspool of crime (even more-so) since Batman has retired, leaving a soon to retire Commissioner Gordon as the only hard-liner against crime. As Gordon retires, a new era of crime emerges, as a gang of cyberpunk, slang-talking, no moral, looting killers called the Mutants take over the city. Mercilessly killing innocents every day, Gotham is paralyzed by apathy, fear, and even appeasement to the violent gang. This stirs something in Bruce Wayne, who comes out of retirement and gets to ass-kicking. I won't spoil what follows, but let's say Batman is back, and this time he is ruthless.
The story has an interesting way of narrating by using TV screens with captions revealing new events and public perceptions of Batman, while moving the story along. Also, the book has A LOT OF PANELS. This is not a quick read, each page has about two to four times the amount of panels of a normal comic. By today's standard, these panels would probably tell the story of a 12 issue series.
The first three issues each have their own stories that read quite well on their own, but the fourth and final issue is where this series shines. Batman and Superman clash in a battle of the titans, in a way that beautifully resolves the tensions between the two characters from earlier issues.
Overall, the story and narration are superb. The artwork is satisfactory and worked well, but only the full art pages were truly impressive. I would have preferred Frank Miller selected an artist to do the pencils for him like he did in Year One. I found coloring suitable for the series, but lacked any sense of awe (other than the wonderful full-art splash pages). Whether you are a fan of Batman or not, The Dark Knight Returns has a spectacular story for you to read, with acceptable art to suit.
You can purchase this four-issue series in a multitude of formats. The most recent release being The Dark Knight Returns Collector's Edition Boxset, which retails for $49.99. Other versions include Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 30th Anniversary Edition, which retails for $19.99.