Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where Frank Miller Went Wrong

If Watchmen was the graphic novel that introduced me to the medium then Frank Miller's Batman epic The Dark Knight Returns sold me on the genre for life. An aging Batman who has stepped away from the cowl for ten years taking up his mantle to right the wrongs modernity has perpetrated against Gotham City, who could ask for anything more. Batman is by far my favorite comic book hero and TDKR really made the character of Bruce Wayne into something along the lines of a serious literary figure. The issues tackled by Miller demonstrate an unparalleled command of his craft and an emotional maturity that Batman has lacked in the past. The scope of this particular book is noteworthy as well because it incorporates the second most famous character from the D.C. comics universe into the plot's climax.

Naturally I jumped at the chance to read Miller's follow up to The Dark Knight Returns entitled The Dark Knight Strikes Again. This longer effort delves into the events that occurred a few years after the presumptive death of Bruce Wayne at the hands of Superman. Brainiac and Lex Luthor have taken control of the United States by subjugating Earth's heroes and using the public's suspicion of there powers to convince those they could not conquer to simply leave the planet (i.e. Hal Jordan/The Green Lantern). While the story is certainly epic in scope, it's reliance on the entirety of the Justice League/D.C. Universe roster makes it incredibly hard to follow for casual readers of graphic novels like myself. In addition the plot left me feeling as if I missed a pivotal chapter in the lives of these characters between the two books. Ultimately though the biggest problem I had with The Dark Knight Strikes Again was the lack of the Dark Knight in it! Batman himself is not seen until nearly a quarter of the story has already gone by. Further it never really feels like a Batman story, the entire plot revolves around a city of shrunken kyptons, Supergirl, and two classic SUPERMAN VILLIANS. The one attempt to link this story with the Batman heritage is an awkward tie in with yet another "Robin has gone mad" tale. This may be the worst manifestation of the trend that was the focal point for the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood because this evil sidekick has been genetically altered making him virtually indestructible, for no apparent reason. If it isn't broken, please don't fix it Frank Miller. I am afraid the only thing this graphic novel can do for your legacy with Batman is to tarnish it.

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