Monday, February 13, 2006

Booknote: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Author: Frank Miller, with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley
Publication Information: New York: DC Comics, 2002
ISBN: 1-56389-342-8
Genre: Graphic novels
Subgenre: Fantasy, adventure, comics.

Note on the edition: this was originally published in 1986 as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 1-4.

This work is one of the classics of graphic novels. Frank Miller tells the story of Batman, who has been retired for many years. The hero has been gone for so long that many people are not even sure that he was real or not. Batman decides to return to action, with a new Robin, when a new crime wave, led by a gang known as the Mutants, terrorizes the city. This is happening as psychologists declare Two-Face able to leave Arkham and are arguing for the release of the Joker. Commissioner Gordon is facing retirement, and his successor has vowed to arrest Batman for his vigilante actions.

Frank Miller's narrative is dark. Actually "dark" is a simple way to put it. This is right down eerie and gritty. Gotham is not a nice place, and the art reinforces a sense of a doomed place where Batman barely stands as the only thing between some sense of civilization and utter chaos. However, he is already in his sixties, no longer a young man, so can he still carry the mantle of the bat? The story is very engaging, and the ending, well, I won't give it away, but I will say it is interesting. It will satisfy many readers, as it is, well, different. I liked the twist, but I will leave readers to decide. This is a work I was familiar with, but I had not gotten around to reading it until now. Having read it, I enjoyed it a lot, and I feel like I have filled a gap in my graphic novel reading. I highly recommend this, but this is not a Batman story for very young readers. Rather, it will appeal to older young adults and adults. Another strength of the novel is the subtle (or not so subtle) commentary on contemporary society that the book makes from politics to talk shows and pop psychology.

No comments: