Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
Posted by RB Kollannur on July 15, 2012
Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.
Published on 10/06/2012
Publisher – DC Comics; Year of Publication – 1986; Pages – 224; Cost at the time of purchase – Rs. 628
Batman is dead. Or so the people of Gotham believe. For the caped crusader has been missing in action for ten years, ever since the death of Robin. But Gotham City is under siege. By mutants. That’s not all. The demented villain, Two-Face, is about to be released from prison, while Joker still lurks in the shadows of Arkham.
This is the scenario that Frank Miller creates for the greatest Batman comic ever written. The Dark Knight Returns is an action packed graphic novel from start to finish. TIME magazine rated it among the top ten graphic novels of all time in 2005.
The novel is set in the not so distant future. While Batman is gone, Bruce Wayne is still around. Ageing, but not yet dead. He has gone into a shell since the death of Robin, unable to fend for himself even when the mutants attack him. With no Batman to guard Gotham, criminals run amok in the city. But finally Wayne decides to don the cape again. At fifty five, he is not young as he used to be. He takes on the mutants and fails. At first.
The novel is the story of how Bruce Wayne learns to become Batman again. He has to reinvent himself because he has to adapt to his old age. The mutants are young and many and they are not to be easily defeated. His decade of absence has left Gotham to rekindle its criminal vestiges. It is up to Batman to lead and reorder Gotham to escape impending doom. The responsibility on Batman is far greater than it ever was. He also has to take on Two-Face and Joker while doing all this. And more…
He has to take on Superman as well. Most of the super heroes have disappeared, except for Superman. But he has become a tool of an authoritarian US government. The final chapter has Batman take on Superman to a battle till death, as the powers that be wishes to thwart all superheroes.
All through the book, Batman is haunted by talking heads bend on pushing him to madness. Because this is a graphic novel, the reader can feel the rage with which the society looks at Batman, as though it is a movie.
Can Batman survive this continuous onslaught on mind and body? To know this read the book.
The next Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, is slated for release late July this year. It features a retired Batman forced to return to crime-fighting to take on another arch villain Bane. The Dark Knight Returns is said to be one of inspirations for the movie plot.