Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh, Mr. Miller, what happened to you? Seriously man. This, your Ronin series, and Sin City are so fucking good. Maybe a little too big on the concept of manliness, but whatever, you blend noir in with finesse that I can't imagine.
Oh well, when we think too long on what could have been we get ourselves a bit angry.
So, here's the deal with The Dark Knight Returns, with this singular comic we have the modern Batman. Of course there are some issues with that. Chris Nolan's iteration has its flaws, yet it is clearly the best Batman we've had since the Tim Burton films.
Here, Miller plays with the idea of a world that is dark and angry. One of filth and grime. And one in which Batman has called it quits. The problem is, of course, that the system has already been completely fucked.
Remember when Heath Ledger's Joker went on and on about how Batman created him? Well, he did. Because criminals are a direct evolution of our compensatory system, when you introduce some crazy, fuck-up thing then you get criminals who operate as a foil. To put it another way, back before the Harrison Act, people could easily go and by stuff like Heroin in a drug store. This may sound crazy and backwards as hell but, the thing is, those people that could go buy regulated Heroin for low cost held jobs, supported their family, and were over-all productive members of society.
It wasn't until it became illegal for people to just buy Heroin in a store that we got addicts running into the streets to buy cheaply made, yet expensive drugs from gangs. This is where we get the modern portrait of the drug addict.
Anyway, the thing is, when Batman called it a night, the criminals didn't. So, therefore, we have this dark, fucked-up city and no Batman.
It is through this back drop that Miller examines the obsession with Batman and something Freud called the Death Wish. This concept of seeking death through crazy actions and the like is something we see the elder Batman embody by repeatedly speaking of ways in which he could die as well as how he feels younger.
This ties into another idea that Miller looks to explore, the idea of the obsession of Batman, his battle with his demons, and the reflection that a character like Two-Face manages to show us.
Miller plays with the psychology of Batman in a way similar to Alan Moore. He shows us that Batman is a character who finds himself obsessed by the dark creatures that sneak through his mind. Just as Two-Face can never turn away from his own personal darkness, neither can Batman help by snake through the darkness looking for an escape or else someone to beat to a damn pulp.
In this comic Batman really is the hero the city needs, not the one it deserves.
Really, the only downfall in this story is the Superman. The concept of Superman being a sellout to the government is interesting and, honestly, would have worked if it was given some more room to grown.
Oh well, you know what they say about could have been's.
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