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Friday, June 1, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller

It drew me in, but it was not as good as The Dark Knight Returns

Published by D.C. Comics in 2004

It's hard to be critical of a graphic novel that sucks you in, entertains, fascinates and makes you wish there was another volume in the series, but I am going to criticize anyway.

For me, The Dark Knight Returns was an awesome addition to and reinterpretation of the Batman Saga. The simplicity of the dichotomy between the "sell-out" Superman and the embittered-but-still-fighting Batman powered the story. I am a casual comic book fan so I was easily able to follow along since every casual fan knows the basics of both Batman and Superman.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again, however, has so many characters and so many sub-plots going on that it actually gets confusing unless one backs up and re-reads a bit. Many of the characters are relatively minor when compared to The Dark Knight Returns' focus on Superman, Batman, Robin and the Joker.

Another strength of The Dark Knight Returns was that it primarily focused on an aging Batman who is appalled at what has become of the world that he voluntarily (well, sort of...) retired from protecting. Batman becomes the tool that Miller uses to criticize modern society and what we have done to ourselves. Strikes Again has so many characters that Batman often becomes just a part of the crowd. In the second volume, Superman is the focus - we get to see him re-born into something new after he sacrifices himself. In fact, the series deals so much with Superman, it would not have been inappropriate to have re-worked it a bit and called it "Superman Returns". However, that name has already been used so perhaps "The Blue Knight Returns".

It also would have been better to have slowed it down and made it a 10 volume series rather than forcing everything in to a 3 volume set. The third volume seems awfully rushed - too many things with too many characters going on in too few pages.

Perhaps most disappointing was the presence of Lex Luthor. I have no problem with Luthor vs. Batman. What disappointed me was that all of the ills that Batman is fighting against are not the ills of humankind's very nature (as implied in Batman Returns). No, they are the product of the skillful manipulations of a master criminal. Batman's Quixotic struggle agains the built-in evils of the human race is transformed into a standard plot that could have been stolen from Adam West's Batman TV show (Holy holograms, Batman! The President has been replaced by a computer generated image controlled by that Evil Lex Luthor! Pow! Bam! Oof!)

All that being said, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was a fun dip into the mind of Frank Miller. I don't agree with many of Miller's political stances, but I do enjoy the presentation of his arguments. The sloppy style that many have criticized in this forum was part of its strength - the reader has to closely look at the pictures to see what is going on. Miller hides lots of fun stuff in his art so it is worth a closer look. I especially enjoyed the touch of having Superman's "S" logo changing as he changed - it went from the oversized block style "S" of the 80's and 90's Superman to the more informal "S" that Superman started with in the 30's as Superman's worldview began to change.

So, final thoughts: Despite the deep, deep flaws in this series, I have to give it a grade of 4 stars.

This graphic novel can be found on Amazon.com here: Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Reviewed on October 26, 2006.

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