jueves, 15 de mayo de 2014

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller

Summary (from Goodreads):

Together with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley, writer/artist Frank Miller completely reinvents the legend of Batman in his saga of a near-future Gotham City gone to rot, ten years after the Dark Knight's retirement. Crime runs rampant in the streets, and the man who was Batman is still tortured by the memories of his parents' murders. As civil society crumbles around him, Bruce Wayne's long-suppressed vigilante side finally breaks free of its self-imposed shackles. 

The Dark Knight returns in a blaze of fury, taking on a whole new generation of criminals and matching their level of violence. He is soon joined by this generation's Robin — a girl named Carrie Kelley, who proves to be just as invaluable as her predecessors. But can Batman and Robin deal with the threat posed by their deadliest enemies, after years of incarceration have made them into perfect psychopaths? And more important, can anyone survive the coming fallout of an undeclared war between the superpowers - or a clash of what were once the world's greatest superheroes?

Over fifteen years after its debut, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns remains an undisputed classic and one of the most influential stories ever told in the comics medium.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a comic book classic I had longed to read for quite some time. Frank Miller is one of the great names one associates with superhero comics, since he helped establish the genre after the decline in the 70s. (Unfortunately, he is aware of this.) He is doubly famous because of the recent movie adaptations of his work - Sin City and 300.

The Batman we see in The Dark Knight Returns is old, bitter and sad. He has added Jason Todd, a former Robin, to the ghosts who haunt him, and is now trying to ammend his life by subsidizing the recovery of the Arkham Asylum interns. Rampant crime plagues Gotham, free of its vigilante. When Harvey Dent goes back to his former habits the moment he sets his foot outside Arkham, Bruce Wayne decides he has to embrace his masked identity and put a stop to all the madness. First as a background and then as the overarching storyline, a nuclear war looms in Gotham, giving depth to the grittiness and darkness of this world. In a magistral turn of the screw, this apocalyptic atmosphere is starkly contrasted with the vacuity of day-to-day life, represented by vapid news anchors.

I enjoyed the appearances/name-dropping of other comic-book characters, such as Superman, Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) and Diana (Wonder Woman). But I truly hated what he has done to the women portrayed - I had trouble recognizing Lana Lang, and Selina has been turned to an old, fat and sad prostitue in charge of a brothel. I know Catwoman isn't characterized exactly by a strict moral code, but I think that is downright out-of-character. Miller has written either whores, damsels or dykes, and is thouroughly incapable of understanding that women are human, too. I've heard that Miller's Robin (Carrie Kelley) is the only exception, but is it, really? She kicks ass because she has to, but has the depth of a piece of paper. We never get to know her motives, or any kind of background, or any personality trait, for that matter.

The main conflict is a product of the 80s - nuclear war, the tension between the USSR and the US, and the preoccupation with mass media consumption. It really couldn't have been written in a different decade. However, it isn't atemporal as a great classic should be. While Watchmen (another comic which deals with similar concerns) has succeeded, The Dark Knight Returns is dated. Ultimately, the story is only entertaining and not life-changing or moving. On the other hand, this bitter and twisted Batman was definitely a good departure from the campy character of the older comics. It cleared the way for modern superhero comics, featuring more mature and complex characters. In fact, the lauded Batman trilogy directed by Nolan owes a lot to Miller's vision.

I also didn't enjoy this from a technical point of view. This is a personal preference, but I think that while Miller's penciler skills worked wonders in Sin City, they don't look good in Batman and even drag out the pace. In contrast, Varley is flawless and the color seriously improves the artwork. The narrative was subpar as well - the sentences were repetitive and over-the-top, very juvenile in a way. I'm just glad I've read this because of its status and its importance, but I think it just hasn't stood the test of time.

Have you read this book? Please, leave a link to your review in the comments and I will link you here!

2 comentarios:

  1. I admit, I've never read a Frank Miller book and while I've been tempted by 300 (I do enjoy Greek history take-offs) I've always felt like his work is portrayed as really sexist, which doesn't seem like something I could get passed!

    1. It is really sexist. I wish I could say otherwise, but that's the way it is. However, it isn't worse than for most other superhero comics - it just sat badly with me since Miller's work is practically worshipped by comic readers. I was expecting a bit of quality, but it wasn't there.

      300, on the other hand, is exactly what it says on the tin: a glamorized version of the Battle of Thermopylae, with all the emphasis on the men as a model of bravery and fraternity.