Okay, okay – I take a deep breath, sit down, calm myself and make sure everything is in place. Think clean thoughts, chum, think clean thoughts…..
I am not alone in stating that Frank Miller is one of the outstanding talents in comics’ history. From the way he revitalised and re-invented Daredevil, through his ground breaking work on titles such as Ronin, to his Sin City tales his dynamic and visual storytelling is truly masterful. Heck, 300 is one of the most acclaimed limited series of all time, as voted for by you lot.
I also acknowledge that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was a masterpiece, putting Bruce and the others into a dystopian future where in order to survive, he has to become all that he feared the most.
Now that I have said all that, I have a question.
What in the name of all creation did he think he was doing when he produced Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again?
The original series left a status quo of sorts, with Bruce free to pursue his agenda and the tacit agreement of others, including his “friend” Clark to let him alone. Three years have passed, and all is right in the world – at least on the outside. There’s something rotten in the state of Earth, and Batman knows it – the only question is, what’s he going to do about it?
The original series provided a radical shift in style for Miller, making use of media intercuts and commentary to carry the story along. Here, it’s almost as if the media IS the story, opening on an irate Jimmy Olsen asking where all the heroes have gone. Tempting though it is to break out into a Peter, Paul and Mary (RIP) song at this point, the truth is they have been – neutralised in various ways.
The Atom, for example, has been trapped in a Petrie dish until his release by a costumed girl calling herself Catgirl – Carrie, the female Robin from the original series. Here’s the first problem – why the change in name? A rod with Selina Kyle? Change is good for the soul? Frustratingly, you don’t get an answer as more of the old heroes return.
What of Superman, who agreed to leave things alone? He has his own problems – involving an old team, not to mention his relationship with Wonder Woman and their daughter…..
Their daughter? Yup – sometime before Dark Knight Returns, they had a daughter who has been raised by the Amazons, and has a decidedly different world view from both her parents.
Confused? I’m not surprised – trying to work out what is going on here is next to impossible, and the story takes some very brutal turns. In many ways, it’s a Zen comic – you almost just have to go with the flow and see what happens. What cannot be denied, however, is the brutal depiction of many of the characters and what happens to most of them – including Batman himself.
The worst fate of all, however, is handed out to one Richard Grayson. To say exactly what has happened to him would spoil the whole story – but suffice to say he is not a happy man, and he is out for blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Did I enjoy it? Do you know, I’m not really sure. The art is dazzling, and the use of media to convey the impression of the man in the street is as impressive and sure footed as in the original. So why do I feel I need to go and wash my hands when I’ve finished reading it?
If I can figure it out, I’ll let you know. Suffice to say that while the original stays, this volume is on the way out.