Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Classics - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

   As I said in this review of Batman v Superman, one of the big mistakes in making the film was trying to cram too many comic book-based stories into on film.

   They would have done much better sticking to the one that provided the heart of the "v" in the movie - the Frank Miller classic that changed the face of comics, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

   It's easy to forget what a shock this four-issue series (in Prestige format) had when it landed in 1985.

   Miller had made his name for his reinvention of Marvel's Daredevil, and in moving over to DC he did the same thing - times ten - to Batman.

   This was a Batman like no other - no longer invincible, he was now old and struggling with a bad heart (and a broken heart) - and retired from the hero game, along with most of the other members of the Justice League.

   But the deteriorating society and the return of an old foe - Two-Face - brings the Dark Knight back into action. But events force him to use more brutal methods than before, and his greatest foe makes a grisly return to the spotlight.

   Their battle (and a stunning one with the massive leader of a gang called The Mutants) causes Batman to become an anti-establishment symbol - and as a result of the ensuing chaos, the government sends in its top secret weapon to bring him down - Superman, the all-too-establishment Man of Steel.

   Their battle is spectacular, and doesn't go the way you might expect, as Batman uses every trick at his disposal (and a couple of allies) to stand up to the Son of Krypton. It's a powerful, teeth-rattling sequence that holds up as a classic hero on hero battle.

   There's so much to talk about with this series - the powerful and more raw art style Miller uses (with Klaus Janson inks and Lynn Varley colors), the fact that this series kicked off the "grim and gritty" style of story that would dominate the industry for years to come, and the fact that the characters are so enduring that they can be used in this kind of hard-hitting story - or in light-hearted Silver Age adventures - and be just as entertaining.

   The thing about the series I'm not sure anyone picked up on was the fact that this wasn't (necessarily) a story set in the future - or an imaginary tale. It was actually a story about the original Batman set in the present day. If Batman first appeared in 1940, by 1985 he would have been a senior citizen - say, 65 years old - and it would explain the fact that the technology was all modern day. And why the President was Ronald Reagan.

   Well, that's my theory, anyway.

   So, a terrific story - much superior to the recent film - and a game changer for the industry. Need I add: high recommended!

Grade: A+





Anonymous said...

Well said, Chuck. One of the big "hiccups" in B v S is the idea of Batman being so hellbent on destroying Superman, which attempts to draw off of the DKR Batman, but Batfleck and the Batman in DKR, in my opinion, are in very different places. Both characters, Batman and Superman, felt very out-of-character to me, which took away from the amazing special effects and super-heroics. Simply put, the B v S creators started at the end of their relationship and not the beginning....

El Vox said...

Pretty recent article on comic book movies: