The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

The point of no return. Once past, nothing can fit the image/idea/sense of what it used to be any longer. At this point that I read this book. Batman was represented by Adam West, zany plotlines and BAM, POW and BANG!!! flashing on the on the screen during the fight scenes. Before that, It was the Super friends adventures and stuff like that. Batman was a “Good guy” in every sense of the word. I had seen the Tim Burton take on batman before but even the darkness there wasn’t enough to erase the image in my mind of who Batman was. When I turned 11 years old and I came across a copy of this in the local Giant store, I bought and read it. That was the moment I first experienced what a mind fuck was. Nah Nobody had even explained the concept to me at that point I just knew that something in my mind had been altered by this book, never to return to it’s original shape.

Frank Miller ( God bless him ) had deconstructed the Batman mythology so intensely in this book that over 20 years after it’s inception it still informs much of the versions of Batman seen today. ( Including the aforementioned Tim Burton movie ) This was the book that turned Batman into the grim, brooding hero he is today. Matter fact I would say that the wave of grimy superheroes from “Spawn” to the new volumes of “X force” owe their dark overtones to this book. Batman as a character has always been as crazy as the people he hunts. ( Picture CNN running a story about a real life millionaire that dresses up as a giant bat to beat up thugs. Seriously, picture what you would think of such a man if he was flesh and blood like you and me ) This book really showed how tragic, dark and ( most of all ) INSANE he really was. It also crowned the Joker as the Yin to Batman’s Yang. A relationship that showed that despite their Polar opposition of each other they were linked as one.

The artwork is stunning and the cinematic aspects of the drawings make you believe that you are watching a movie that you were not supposed to watch as a kid. The violence and sexual innuendos were intense but not gratuitous. Anything lighter would have lessened the impact of the book. But like I said it is INTENSE. Children get killed, eyes get stabbed, suicide and battered women all pop up in the story.

The plot itself is simple. Batman has a midlife crisis and after 10 years of retirement comes to show a new generation of scum that certain things don’t change. Simple right. Now add in the craziness of Batman’s world and what this turns into is a masterpiece of emotions. He faces off against Two Face, The Joker, The Mutants ( Gotham City’s newest generation of degenerates ) and crazily enough Superman. His gritty disposition is enhanced by the fact he is a much older man. Cranky, irritable but still a viciously skilled fighter and peerless strategist. Alfred is present but Robin is re imagined as a girl named Carrie. Which gives the story a cool twist. It doesn’t take away or enhance the plot as Robin has always been a sidekick but it’s just kinda cool that Frank took that turn.

I cant recommend this book enough. A must read for Batman fans. The line that a cop in the story says to his younger partner when Batman is about to be seen in full costume by the reader for the first time sums it all up “were in for a show kid”

Tokyo Cigar