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The Dark Knight Saga #1

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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This masterpiece of modern comics storytelling brings to vivid life a dark world and an even darker man. 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.

Collecting Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4

197 pages, Hardcover

First published January 28, 1986

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About the author

Frank Miller

1,311 books4,520 followers
Frank Miller is an American writer, artist and film director best known for his film noir-style comic book stories. He is one of the most widely-recognized and popular creators in comics, and is one of the most influential comics creators of his generation. His most notable works include Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Year One and 300.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,108 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
December 4, 2013
........................ FIRST A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON................

................BEFORE "The Dark Knight Returns".............................


and don’t forget (though I know you WANT TO)


.....................AFTER "The Dark Knight Returns"....................








5.0 to 5.5 stars. One of the most influential graphic novels of all time, this amazing story single-handedly resurrected the character of Batman as "the Dark Knight" after the 70s and early 80s had turned him, thanks in large part to the success of the television show, into a light-hearted, campy hero (I refer you back to the history lesson above). This story pushed reset and Batman once again became the dark, fanatic, often ruthless character he was created to be.

As important as WHAT this graphic novel did for Batman specifically, it had an even greater impact on comics in general. Prior to the publication of “The Dark Knight Returns,” the entire comics industry was sagging and had lost a significant percentage of its fan base. The popularity of Frank Miller’s visionary work of this book led to a whole new era in comics. Following its success, comics saw the creation of very popular “anti-heros” like Wolverine and the Punisher, both of which were inspired by Miller’s version of the Dark Knight. In addition, the comic world began to see "darker, edgier" versions of classic characters being aimed at more mature audiences (e.g., Batman, Green Arrow, Daredevil, The Sandman).

In Summary, I would say that for all of its historical significance, the best reason to read this is that it is truly a great work of fiction and one that gets my HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION as it is.......

Profile Image for Anne.
3,922 reviews69.3k followers
May 1, 2020
Because the best kind of classic has pictures...


So. I've actively (and successfully) avoided reading TDKR for many years now.
Why, you ask?
Well, to be honest, I was kinda scared. Now, if you aren't a comic book reader, then you might not understand how big of a deal this book is, but if you are...?
Yeah, you know.
Which means, you're also aware of all the rabid comic nerds out there who go all stabby when you don't like their favorite character, publisher, title, bobblehead action figure...the list goes on.
Hey, I'm not judging! I'm one of those nerds. Believe me, I know how dangerous it can be to wade into dork shark infested waters.
And if (God forbid) I wrote a review saying I didn't like this?!


I've picked this up from the library multiple times, flipped through it, stuck it in my bag, and then took it back to my local branch at my earliest convenience.
deep breath
Because of the huge amount of dialogue, and all those fucking Talking Heads!


I mean, for real, Miller? You're killing my tiny dinosaur brain with all of those woooooords.
And the art? Weeeeeell...
It's kinda ugly. <--personal opinion
Sometimes the characters look like they're lumpy or something. Perhaps Miller & Janson envisioned a world where everyone was made of congealed oatmeal or cottage cheese?


ducks, runs
Ok. Put your pitchforks down!
Jesbus. Touchy.


Anyway, I ended up finally giving in, giving up, and giving TDKR a fair shot, sigh because my teenage son wanted to read it. Which, maybe wouldn't have been enough to turn the tide all by itself, but right around the same time (serendipity?) a friend here on Goodreads was kind enough to gift me a copy.
And then bug me till I read it.
Plus, after my son got done with it, he basically shoved it at me while making all these weird squealing fanboy noises. <--please don't tell him I said that!
I read it.


And I really enjoyed it!
Whoduthunkit?! Not me, that's for sure. I assumed this would probably go down as one of those comics that I had to read, but didn't really like.
Sure, sure...its importance for Batman mythos can't be denied, but that doesn't always equal something that can stand the test of time. And it especially doesn't mean that someone with my pea-sized tolerance for dry/crunchy/old comics will savor the reading experience.
But I did.


This was a great Batman story, but not quite what I would call 5 star stuff in 2016. Those Heads just...yeesh, they almost did me in! The cluttered feel of so many of the pages kept me from wanting to linger, and the knobbly faces of the characters were (at times) a turnoff.
The story itself was fantastic. It was just as gritty and dark as I was promised, but there was also a glimmer of hope to it that I wasn't expecting.
It caught me off guard and made me smile.


Overall, I thought this was good stuff!
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
797 reviews3,632 followers
January 8, 2023
The bat is haunted by the shadows

Of a past he can´t forget
No matter how much free cosmetic surgery, the true, ugly face of reality will always stay burned inside the memory of the poor billionaire. Aging also doesn´t really help in a world that hasn´t become better since he began his crusade against crime and injustice, so he has to

Strongly rely on tech compensating the fading reflexes and strength
A not real superhero, just made of tech like Batman and Ironman, is more sympathetic and easier to relate to and identify with than the mutants, aliens, wizards, and people born with these powers. But not even winning under dire circumstances can make Bruce happy, because

Human nature sucks
Even after some success against the dark side, the whole victory gets toxic because the proselytized baddies are so overachieving that they satirize the whole doing good concept even more than Batman himself. Not to speak of the ethical and philosophical implications of what is really good and bad in individual and meta contexts. In both this aspect and its deeper meaning and innuendos it kind of

Reminds me of Watchmen
Like no other graphic novel I´ve read so far. But because I´m still a genre rookie, that might just be a subjective fail, but I won´t beg for forgiveness like a battened criminal. There is no real hope, the world is depressing, and the only main difference between the two works is the integration of fantasy elements in Watchmen. In both cases, the really big deal is to

Compare the movie and the graphic novel
To milk massive mind penetrations of how complex these things are. Just as in conventional, colorless literature, there is such a deep layer of big history, postmodernist deconstruction, dark satire, and loads of innuendos and connotations that it´s just a joy to see all the Potemkin villages of functioning, fair Western fringe sockpuppet democracies collapse under the intellectual vacuum created by poor, abused voodoo humanities. The rotten core is so bigoted, inhuman, and cynical that in the end

Hope fails epically
Thanks to bad old school psychiatry and conservative right wing politicians. Both of these elements are so freaking complex that one could go forever vivisecting them, but let´s just say Ronald Reagan got roasted and that repeating psychological and psychiatric studies leads to interesting replication crisis catastrophes shaking the foundations of humanities. Even

Adding Superman to the mix can´t create a happy ending
When 2 heroes, one truly superpowered and the other one gifted with technical ingenuity and physical, once, superiority, are unable to fight the system, what should one little, weak human being do against these sinister forces? Maybe online socializing, organizing, and thereby eco social improving the world instead of trolling, hating, and fake newsing? Wait, that was too optimistic for the dark tone of this novel, I mean we are doooomed and all hope is gone.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 11, 2022
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (The Dark Knight Saga #1), Frank Miller, Klaus Janson (Illustrator), Lynn Varley (Illustrator)

The Dark Knight Returns is set in a dystopian version of Gotham City in 1986. Bruce Wayne, aged 55, has given up the mantle of Batman after the death of Jason Todd ten years prior, and now lives as a bored bachelor. As a result, crime is running rampant throughout the city and a gang calling themselves "The Mutants" has begun terrorizing the people of Gotham.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Series: Batman
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: DC Comics; Anniversary edition (February 16, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781401263119

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نهم ماه آگوست سال2018میلادی

عنوان: بازگشت شوالیه تاریکی؛ نویسنده و تصویرگر: فرانک میلر؛ به همراه: کلاوس جانسون، لین وارلی؛ مترجم: مهدی صالحی‌ اقدم؛ نشر تبریز، نشر ایلقار؛ سال1397؛ در48ص، مصور؛ برای کودکان؛ عنوان: «بتمن: شولیه تاریکی»، کتاب اول؛ شابک9786226127080؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

بروس وین هویتی پنهان شده پشت نقاب «بتمن» است؛ «بروس وین» میلیونر، تاجر، و نیکوکاری «آمریکایی» است؛ پدر و مادرش در کودکانگی او جلوی چشمانش کشته شدند، و از آن زمان، وی سوگند خورد، تا از تبهکاران انتقام بگیرد، و داد را به جامعه بازگرداند؛ «وین» تمرینات بدنی و اندیشمندی ویژه‌ ای را پشت سر بگذاشت، و با لباسی ایده گرفته از «خفاش»، به مبارزه با جنایت‌کاران پرداخت؛ «بتمن» در شهر خیالی «گاتهام سیتی» به کوشش می‌پردازد، و در مبارزه‌ اش با جرم و جنایت، کسانی او را یاری می‌کنند: «رابین» خدمتکارش، «آلفرد پنی‌ورث» کمیسر پلیس، «جیم گوردون» و«بت‌گرل»؛ او با همگی خلافکاران که به آن‌ها «گالری م��رمین» نیز گفته می‌شود، از آنجمله: «جوکر»، «پنگوئن»، «ریدلر»، «زن گربه‌ای»، «آقای فریز»، «دوچهره»، «راس‌الغول» و «مترسک» به مبارزه می‌پردازد؛ بر خلاف بیشتر ابرقهرمانان، او دارای توانایی ویژه ای نیست، و تنها از هوش، مهارت‌های کارآگاهی، علم و فناوری، ثروت، شجاعت، هنرهای رزمی، اراده‌ ی ناستودنی، ترساندن و ...؛برای مبارزه با جنایتکاران سود می‌برد

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 20/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,911 followers
December 6, 2014
You gave my book two stars?

Yes, it was boring and too political. Who wants a bunch of boring politics?
I couldn't take it anymore...and I've always been your fangirl.


Don't make me give you the Batglare...you aren't a whiny ass


Quit whining..Two stars from me is pretty good.




Profile Image for Khurram.
1,597 reviews6,645 followers
December 28, 2022
really enjoyed this comic; I keep wondering why it took me so long to read it. I finally got around to reading it after being blown away by Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (Region 2) and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Part 2 [DVD]. I thought it was finally time to get round to the source material. I am glad I did.

I quick recap of the story. Bruce is no longer Batman. There has been no Batman for 10 years. To curb his urges Bruce has become something of an adrenalin junkie study. Gotham has become a darker and more lawless place. On the 10 year anniversary of the last Batman sighting Bruce's subconscious "Batman" fights back telling him Bruce he is just the shell and he is not done with him yet.

Most of what I though was great about the movies holds true to the comic, with a couple of exception. I have to say I prefer the animation of the movies, but I think at the time of the comic and for what is trying to be portrayed it does work. Meaning Batman strikes from the shadow leaving his opponent incapacitated and confused as to what just happened. A couple of the panels like when Batman takes out the pimp in the back of the taxi I it took me a while to see what happened from the art work. Like I said these were surgical strikes and it does put me in the mind of the pimp with a broken hand, thinking my hand is broken what just happened. When Batman decides to show himself the art work reflects that by drawing bigger more detailed pictures of him. The main thing I did not like about the comic was I thought there was too much of the talking heads. The media discussions of Batman, I can understand why this was done e.g. the Arkem psychologist taking an anti-batman stance to sell more of his book and make a name for himself, but I think it was a bit overdone. I mean all together this probably makes up half the contents of the book. The best think about the comic and it major advantage over the movies is the internal dialog Batman has with himself. In the movies they make Batman talk more to explain his methods. Whereas if you look at the comics there are very few speech bubbles while he is Batman and most of these are orders or threats. The rest of them it is Batman analysing everything in his head. I think that is what makes his scarier, (like when a magic trick is explained it is not as impressive), having the unknown factor is what Batman his edge. An example of this is in the second fight with the Mutant Leader, the Leader cannot understand Batman is targeting nerve clusters and showing him shallow cuts in the "just the right" places can be effective. I also like the way he keep thinking lucky with every near miss, and the explanation of why he paints a big bright target on his chest. I also like the way Batman has evolved, he is not above using guns, will kill to protect given no other option, and lacing his smoke bombs with a watered down version of the scarecrows fear gas is genius, not only does he appear in front of his victims, he appears in front of them as their "worst nightmares"!

The others, Commissioner Garden is still Batman's biggest supporter but is facing retirement it is not really until he is gone that Batman man realises how much Garden protected him. Garden is the same tough but fair cop he always was. The Joker is just as evil as ever he comes out of his coma with the return of Batman and makes one last mass murdering run at Gotham. Unlike in the movie the Joker is not a physical match for Batman, but is a master of psychologically pushing his buttons. He knows this is his last chance if you will and he wants to die at the hands of Batman. Superman has become a tool of the establishment. Batman says it is because of Clarks respect for people in authority, but he also says to Clark nobody could force Clark to do something he did not want to do. Strangely Oliver and Clark share the same opinion on Batman he is too loud, he plays things mysterious but a loud kind of mysterious. Clark in his thought also says Batman need to work more in secret like he is force to do. This could be why he does not let anyone see him when he comes to Gotham. Maybe he should do something about his costume if he is trying to keep a low profile. The only thing I do not like it the relationship between Bruce and Alfred. Alfred is still the dutiful servant, but that is what Bruce seem to treat him like in this story a servant, someone to tell what to do and expect it to be done nothing more nothing less. Having said that Alfred does manage to get in some verbal barbs of his own, and though Bruce values his opinion probably more than anyone else's but there is a clear line saying Bruce/Batman is in charge live with it.

I great comic , very detailed excellent as a standalone or as a companion to the movies to fill in extra details. A true classic for Batman fans. Enjoy reading it repeatedly over multiple sittings it is a lot to take in. All good!!!
Profile Image for Heather.
352 reviews13 followers
July 14, 2008
I know I'm alone in this, but I didn't really like The Dark Knight Returns. I struggled with the story structure -- all the perspective switching left me frequently scratching my head to figure out who was speaking, where we were, and what the Heck was happening. I was confused by some characters (the guy with the freaky flying baby bombs?). I was bothered that there was no discussion of Ellen/Robin's family -- we have VERY little information on her or why she wants to join Bats, how she really proves that she's worthy, etc. She shows up in costume one day and he decides she's good enough? Hrmph. I don't buy it.

Eh. I just found myself laboring through it rather than enjoying it. In contrast, I loved The Long Halloween. I look forward to reading Dark Knight Year One to see if I like that any better.
Profile Image for Missy.
316 reviews14 followers
June 19, 2007
When I was growing up, comic books (this was years before 'graphic novels') were frowned upon in my household, but I was addicted to them anyway. X-Men, to be precise, because, OMG, Jean Grey was smart and tough (at least until Dark Phoenix) AND had both Scott Summers and Wolverine in love with her. (I do love a good soap.) Batman was a joke back then, thanks to that moronic TV show. But Batman, the real Dark Knight, wasn't a joke--if Superman is who America yearns to be; Batman is who we're afraid we are.

In 1986, Frank Miller (Sin City) blew all of the camp out of the water and reclaimed a bit of popular culture by writing a stunning Batman and, not so incidentally, a picture-perfect example of why graphic novels aren't for kids. The artwork is fabulous, the characters are crisp and complex. It's not just the original Dark Knight, it's who that character evolved into. Dark, twisted, bitter, but still fighting to make things better. The movie Batman Begins never would have been made without this Dark Knight. Your library probably has a copy of this; check it out.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,691 followers
August 13, 2012
More often than not Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels -- if not the greatest. I can't deny its importance to the form (and to the myth of Batman -- responsible as it is for Bruce Wayne's shift into the "Dark Knight" era), but having taught it a handful of times and read it for "pleasure" a few more (this reading having been prompted by Christopher Nolan's disappointing trilogy capper, The Dark Knight Rises) I feel that it is a vastly overrated work.

And Frank Miller is delusional.

In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that we're damn lucky Frank Miller can express himself in words and pictures (and get rich doing it) because if he couldn't express himself artistically (or was a failed artist like a certain Viennese painter), I'd put money on him walking into a theatre or a Sikh temple or a political round table and opening fire.

The Dark Knight Returns is an ugly manifesto for vigilantism; it is the mad nightmare of a right wing kook who sees the world in ways that it simply isn't; it is an apologia for the first strike; it offers chaos and evil and calls it anarchy without any understanding of what anarchy is; it is a jingoistic, Soviet-era piece of Cold War propaganda; it is an attempt to rationalize violence as the proper response to violence; it attempts to reinforce the myth that a "good man" (or country?) can do bad things to bad people and the act cannot, therefore, be bad; yet it offers the tools to undermine and deconstruct the delusions of its author with what seems to be total obliviousness.

There is no depth to the characters in this book. Batman is an ugly thug, a giant meat head, a bludgeon, a nasty beast of a man who revels in the torture and maiming of the "evil" denizens of Gotham. He's the ultimate rich bully, the bully who gets away with his bullying -- even today in our hyper-aware bullying police state -- the bully whose bullying is "okay" because it is targeted at other bullies or because the bully is too beautiful and rich and popular to really be a bully. Miller's Dark Knight isn't complex in any way -- certainly not in the way many of his antecedents have achieved. He is ugly and nothing more. His parents died violently, so he became a weapon against criminals. It's as shallow as it is simple.

Miller also gives us the shabbiest expression of Superman ever to hit the comics. Just like the Batman, there's no complexity to the Man of Steel. He's a Boy Scout who follows the law and does what he's told by his leaders, so he's a target for Miller's ham-fisted criticism. Miller tells us Superman is weak and less than Batman because he can't do what must be done the way Batman can. Superman doesn't torture and maim; Superman doesn't kill; hence, Superman is a pussy.

I closed the cover of this book moments before I started writing this review, and I can tell you that it's been a long time since I've felt so disgusted by the work of an author. It gets worse for me each time I read this, but like a moth banging into a window I can't stop returning to this, trying to see what I miss that everyone else sees. My disgust gets worse each time I read it, yet I can't stop my examination of how this nasty tale could have led to our fascination with The Dark Knight. How could an idea that has had some truly excellent manifestations (such as Nolan's Batman Begins or Jeph Loeb's Batman Hush) come from such awful source material? How can people like this book? What the hell am I missing? It's a mystery that only the World's Greatest Detective could solve. Too bad he was nowhere to be found in The Dark Knight Returns.
Profile Image for Tim.
476 reviews617 followers
April 27, 2020
It's one of the definitive Batman stories! It's brilliant! It helped comics become more serious! I hate it!

Hello everyone, welcome to another edition of Tim has an unpopular opinion.

Okay, so that last one is an exaggeration, I do not hate the Dark Knight Returns, but I do not like it, and I certainly do not love it like so many do.

Let's get this started with the direction most people seem to go with, I do not like Frank Miller. There has been plenty said about how Miller has become a self-parody of his work and how Sin City ruined his writing and that it's hard to enjoy his older work because of this. I'm not going that direction, though I honestly see where that group comes from.

I disliked this book before I disliked Miller. I'll also say something that most people who dislike Miller won't say; I genuinely enjoy some of his Sin City work (not all of them, but I've read them all and actually do think there are some gems). I dislike this book for four main reasons:

1. The art. I hate, genuinely hate, the art style. The story could be amazing, but it would be hard to get over a three star review simply for the art. It's ugly to look at. It's blocky, it's cramped because of the small panels and it's unimpressive all around. I know this is very much on opinionated thing, but this style worked better in Miller's later black and white style because the panels were frequently larger and less detail actually made the issues less obvious. It's unpleasant on the eyes and it legitimately gave me a headache.

2. TV talking heads. Oh yes, I know he gets worse with this later, but it was annoying attempt at political comedy here and adds very little to the actual story.

3. I dislike Superman as a character, always have and most likely always will, but even I will say that Miller is just ridiculous with his portrayal of him. Superman is guided by a moral compass, he should not be portrayed as an ineffectual tool for the government. He may be "all American," but his loyalty to the government (as shown many times) would not stretch to the lengths Miller goes to. He's a joke here, just to show how "awesome" Batman is in comparison.

4. Swastika pastie woman. Jesus Christ Frank, I don't even have words, but maybe the Joker does...

(Made even funnier by the fact that she is supposed to work with the Joker... obviously other comic creators disagree with Miller’s take.)

Now, I won't disregard the merit of this book in terms of the history of comics. It did help get comics to be taken more seriously, it did help people think of Batman as the Dark Knight rather than Adam West and it did help usher in more interesting stories involving Superheroes. I also admit that I genuinely liked Carrie Kelley's story line about becoming Robin.

I like nothing else... okay, that's a lie. I love that one of the Mutant members says "It's just a Goddamned bat."

Because well,

Thanks Miller, you added to your meme retroactively.

2/5 stars.
Profile Image for Shannon.
891 reviews225 followers
April 16, 2014

This is a totally different spin on Batman first published in 1986 by Frank Miller.

Don't expect it to be like the old cartoons.

Definitely not like the Adam West Batman from the 60s.

Not the Justice League of America.

Batman and Superman are hardly on speaking terms. The governments have passed laws against vigilante super heroes so most of them are in prison or banished, or, like Superman, secretly working for the government.

Batman, after a series of traumatic incidents, has not been seen in the last ten years. The Joker and Two Face are both in psycho wards.

A series of incidents force Batman to come back out to the shock of the world. Gotham is turned on its head and the public isn't sure what to make of him; especially the younger people who thought he was just a legend.

img src= Photobucket />

In this Batman faces off with two-face, the joker and a mutant gang which has practically overrun the streets.

Look for a face off against Superman, an intro. from the new Robin and a setup for the next book in the series, where Batman decides to free some of the super heroes in prison.

Artwork is very gritty. Lots of focus on Batman's age in his late fifties, as well as his lack of forbearance in not realizing his age makes him less agile and strong. So, he gets into several jams. Heh.

Enjoy. A sequel written and illustrated by Miller, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, was published in 2001.

Miller said that the comic series' plot was inspired by Dirty Harry, specifically the 1983 film Sudden Impact, in which Dirty Harry returns to crime-fighting after a lengthy convalescence. Miller also said his own increasing age was a factor in the plot. (Wiki)

IGN Comics ranked The Dark Knight Returns second on a list of the 25 greatest Batman graphic novels, behind Batman: Year One, and called The Dark Knight Returns, "a true masterpiece of storytelling" with "[s]cene after unforgettable scene." In 2005, Time chose the collected edition as one of the 10 best English language graphic novels ever written. Forbidden Planet placed the collected issue at number one on its "50 Best of the Best Graphic Novels" list. Writer Matthew K. Manning in the "1980s" chapter of DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle (2010) called the series "arguably the best Batman story of all time." (Wiki)

Profile Image for Baba.
3,563 reviews862 followers
December 29, 2020
Another work of genius from Frank Miller, the book most oft quoted as the best in the superhero comics genre, truly lives up to all its billing. An ageing and retired Bruce Wayne picks up the Batman costume to fight crime again in a world of no-heroes and a Gotham City consumed by crime. Miller proves to me, yet again, why he could be deemed the greatest writer of all time in this genre; but that not being enough he also drew this (as well as Sin City, Daredevil etc.)! Astonishing book! 10 out of 12. Five Star Read.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,931 reviews10.6k followers
March 3, 2019
Ten years after the last appearance of Batman, Gotham is overrun by crime.
Ten years after the last appearance of Batman, Commissioner James Gordon is retiring.
Ten years after the last appearance of Batman, the world is on the brink of nuclear war.
Ten years after the last appearance of Batman, Bruce Wayne has had enough!
Ten years after the last appearance of Batman, The Dark Knight Returns!

The first time I read The Dark Knight Returns, I was an impressionable lad of twenty. Now, two decades later, I've revisited it.

The Dark Knight Returns is still a powerful book. Bruce Wayne crawls out of a bottle, shaves off his mustache, and puts on the cowl to fight crime once again, heading toward inevitable showdowns with Joker and Superman once he restores order to the streets of Gotham.

The art shows the evolution of Frank Miller's style from his Daredevil days, bridging the gap between that style and the style he'd be known for on Sin City years later. The writing is why the book was influential at the time, though, and is still influential decades later. This is the birth of the chronically pissed off, over-planning Batman of today. It also paved the way for Batman: Year One, the Tim Burton Batman movie, and even Batman Beyond to some degree. Broken down Batman in this volume isn't that far removed from broken down Batman in Batman Beyond.

I'm a sucker for tales of the aging hero trying to fix things while he still can and that's pretty much what this story is. However, this book has not aged nearly as well as Watchmen or even Miller's own Batman: Year One. It screams 1980s on almost every page. I also forgot how damn wordy it is.

For good or for bad, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is an influential Batman book and an important piece of Batman lore. However, I don't think it holds up nearly as well as Batman: Year One or Batman: The Killing Joke. 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Sarah.
270 reviews120 followers
December 7, 2020
This is EXACTLY the kind of Batman story I was looking for. Delightfully dark, which is when the Dark Knight is at his absolute best.

Batman comes out of retirement after 10 years and returns to save the streets of Gotham once more. It focuses on how he doesn’t seem to realise, that at 55 years old, his age will limit him. Alongside him is a rather fantastic female Robin, easily one of my favourite incarnations of the character.
The Joker doesn’t feature too heavily compared to some of my other favourite DC comics, but he is so great (and so camp!) in this when he appears.

It brings the more gritty and ruthless side to the character back, which had been lacking during some of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The artwork really suits this style of story, it’s not clean cut and is very rough around the edges.

It shows that when evil arises, a hero also must to balance everything. Gotham is very rife with crime when Batman returns.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,450 reviews7,564 followers
January 9, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

2.5 Stars

Egads, I think this is going to be really long. Sorry : (

My first superhero graphic novel review. It’s like diving right into shark infested waters. Please be gentle and keep in mind that I hold zero belief that anyone should ever take my reviews seriously. Period. But even more so when it comes to this one.

As I said, this is my first foray into the unchartered waters of the world of Batman other than through television and film. I chose Batman: The Dark Knight Returns for two reasons – I’m a Frank Miller fan and . . .

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Yep. I’ve run the gamut with the a lot of you through this Batman . . .

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and this one . . .

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and . . .

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but this one . . .

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and even this one . . .

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Many claim all of the above were made possible because of this story. I’m obviously not an expert, so I have no clue if that’s true, but I’m going with it because that makes my first Batman selection so much cooler.

So why the “meh” rating? Wellllll, there are a few reasons.

First, Batman’s voice. I realize Batman has been out of commission for quite some time at the onset of this story and he has to work out the kinks while battling evil, but did his voice have to sound so much like this guy????

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Miller left me having a chicken and egg moment for quite some time with that one.

Second, the artwork. Although sometimes Frank Miller’s simplistic artsy-fartsy style that I enjoy really showed on the page . . .

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and occasionally there were striking full-page images that kind of knocked my socks off . . .

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(Also, ‘Murica)

Unfortunately, there was also an abundance of pages with half-assed “television screens” taking place of actual art.

Speaking of those t.v. screens, that brings me to my final issue - the muddy storyline. Batman takes a back-up role to all of the ranty news reports discussing various political stances. (Sidenote to address those rants: This story was written nearly 30 years ago and the social injustices discussed in the storyline are the same ones happening today. FFS – get your shit together, America!) It got to be sooooo repetitive – almost like entire pages were copied/pasted. Between the news reports, Batman moaning about his aches and pains, and the bad guy mutants reminding me how they were going to “raze Gotham” and “rape the women” and “bathe in Gotham’s blood” every third page I found my attention wandering more than a time or two.

All that being said, there were some good points. The obvious being my familiarity with the basic story and Frank Miller. But also? The cameos. They were a fun little Easter egg hunt. Everyone from Letterman . . . .

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to Ronald Reagan and Chris Christie (?) and . . . Hank Hill (?????) . . .

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to Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves . . .

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I keeed, I keeeed.

Leaving my final experience with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as definitely not one of the worst things I’ve ever subjected myself to.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how a super professional comic book aficionado like myself prepares for a review like this, here’s a glimpse of my little world ; )

First, make sure you show you can prove you are a legit nerd by gathering your various Batman Pop Vinyls together . . . .

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Then take one of your besties shopping for some Batman gear . . .

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(Dear Hot Topic, you can start sending me free crap whenever you feel like it in exchange for all these endorsements.)

Third, enlist the help of your resident Dark Knight to assist you in making sure you are providing well-thought out opinions . . .

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And finally, humiliate the other butthole who lives in your house and refuses to let you read anything containing colored or slick pages because he insists on laying on them all the time by making him wear a BCatman costume . . .

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See what happens when you act an ass, Django? I share your punishment with all of the interwebs.

One final note: What’s up with the nipples on those mutants???

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Do they sit around breastfeeding each other all day when they aren’t raping women and bathing in their blood???
Profile Image for Ethan.
216 reviews236 followers
December 26, 2020
In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a fifty-five-year-old Bruce Wayne comes out of a ten year retirement, amid a historic crime wave caused by the youth gang known as the Mutants, to take up the mantle of Batman again and rid the city of Gotham of their menace. We encounter old foes in this story in Two-Face and Joker, but there are some fresh faces as well.

One such character I found to be a very welcome addition to the Batman universe was Carrie Kelley, the new Robin. Not only is she a welcome change from the endless series of young boys Batman usually uses for Robins in that she is a girl, she is also a better Robin than previous iterations, in my opinion, because in this book she was able to be useful to Batman.

Prior to this book, Robin has been a somewhat pointless character in the Batman universe, at least in the Batman books I've read so far. Batman usually just tells him to stay in the car while he does the real work, or he gives him some menial task to keep him away from the main action taking place, or etc. I've actually wondered a lot more than once why he even has a Robin to begin with. It seems like maybe he wants someone to take over his mantle some day, but then he never trusts him with anything, making him ill-equipped to ever take over for him and effectively sabotaging his own plan in a self-defeating way.

But in this book, Carrie Kelley's Robin seems to always be right in the heart of the action; she flies attack helicopters, squares off with villains like Abner, and even drives the Batmobile, which in this book has basically become a tank on steroids. I think in his old age Batman has realized that he isn't capable of doing everything alone anymore, like he could as a younger man, and so he relies on Robin a lot more in this book than in previous installments. This change of heart makes for a much more purposeful Robin, which I was thrilled to see.

The story itself is also quite fascinating, exploring a lot of themes relevant to today's society. Things like the gullibility of people and their susceptibility to blindly following cult leaders (insert Trump emoji here), the rehabilitation of criminals and the mentally ill, as well as how the same are treated by society, the ethics of vigilantes, hero worship, and more are explored, but not in a way that bores or preaches to the reader.

Another question, though admittedly one that's been covered in many previous Batman stories, that I thought was masterfully explored in this book, is the question of whether Batman creates his enemies. Do villains like Joker, Two-Face, and so on exist only because there is a Batman? Or does Batman exist because they do, in order to stop them? It's the ultimate "chicken or the egg" question in comics. In this volume, Miller appears to create a powerful argument that Batman's enemies exist only because he does. In the story, Joker is in a mental hospital, and has been for years, and he appears to be content with his fate. It's only when he realizes Batman has returned from retirement that a long-dormant, evil grin of joy spreads across his face and he begins plotting a scheme to once again wreak havoc on Gotham.

In conclusion, I've read a decent amount of Batman books over the past few years, most of them considered classics, but am by no means anything close to an expert. It could be that there are far superior Batman books and stories out there. But in terms of the ones I've read so far, I think this one is probably the best. It was a pleasure to read, despite being very bleak in tone, and it has a spectacular ending that opens up exciting new possibilities for later installments in the franchise.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Calista.
3,885 reviews31.2k followers
February 21, 2020
What a mess!

Most pages had 4 lines of 4 pictures with dialogue above it. Much of the story was told through the media and news, which is a boring device when used this much. There was some great art, but so much of it was tiny and we did not get landscapes.

I also thought the story thread was choppy and things were slopped together. What was Superman doing in this. Dots are not connected and some things don't make sense. Batman is also old here. Robin is around, but not the Robin we know, but a girl. Batman is like an old grizzled grumpy man, which I liked that choice, it's unusual, but it got old toward the end.

I had this on my list to read because it's a classic and people love it. I love a darker Batman, he is supposed to be dark, in my opinion, but I thought this story was sloppy, messy and it was not enjoyable to read at all. There were new things here, but I just didn't care. I see I'm in the minority, but I did not like this. It is not for me, simple as that. I'm glad others appreciate this, but I can't join in on that opinion.
Profile Image for Buck.
158 reviews880 followers
November 11, 2010
Call it art if you want to, but at the end of the day it’s still a dopey comic book about a guy in a form-fitting outfit who runs around beating people up. Am I missing something?

But really, I’m just mad at myself for giving four stars to Batman: Year One the other day, apparently during a manic episode. So I’m downgrading this bad boy. Year One has the stronger artwork anyway, and its ectomorphic Batman is drawn on a more human scale, with some of the ludicrous pathos of a young Adam West still clinging to him:

Whereas Frank Miller’s Batman looks like an elderly bodybuilder in a permanent state of roid rage:

Finally, I’m still trying to get my head around the psychosexual dynamics of the DC universe. What was Batman thinking when he installed an androgynous 13-year-old pixy as his sidekick—then led her into hand-to-hand combat against a mob of slavering lowlifes? And what’s going on here, hmmm?

Uh, that's not my utility belt, Robin.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,547 followers
September 27, 2022
I kind of dropped off reading comics when I was a kid, so it was only thanks to the Christopher Nolan trilogy that I went back and read several of the sources of stories used in the movies. I talked to comics geek friend m.poulet and he recommended Batman, The Dark Knight Returns in particular. I recalled also an episode of Comic Book Men where Kevin Smith and the boys reminisce about the impact that this particular comic had on them. I had read and enjoyed Sin City (and LOVED the Roberto Rodriguez film adaptation with the amazing return of Mickey Rourke) but somehow had passed right by the comic that CHANGED IT ALL. Apparently, this particular cycle took the comix world by storm. Learning all of this, naturally, I was curious to read it and I was not disappointed.

The ragging on Reagan is great and I love the graphic style. The story itself is riveting – the Mutants are killer bad guys, Robin is unexpectedly feminine (that was a surprise!) but what works best for me is the Superman-Batman disagreement and fight. Something about seeing Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne arguing while playing golf was awesome. I can see that although no particular sub-themes or characters from this graphic novel were recycled into the Batman Trilogy, the return of Bruce Wayne after retirement and his state of physical exhaustion was pretty similar in both I felt. I also thought that the darkness of Batman in this comic and in the film were very simular.

I read also the other Frank Miller Batman: Year One but was less amazed by the graphics and story. Batman, The Dark Knight Returns was truly a masterpiece of the genre.

On re-reading this in 2022, I found that the narrative was so complex that I was constantly going back to see if I missed something. Frank Miller spins such a complex web of a story with hundreds of minor characters (and victims of the bad guys of course). What was also impressive was how HUGE this 4-issue cycle was because he covers the coming out of retirement of Batman and another fight with Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight Returns), the defeat of the Mutant gang (The Dark Knight Triumphant), the conflict with Superman and the final conflict with the Joker (Hunt the Dark Knight) and the incredible Superman vs Batman mega fights concluding with (The Dark Knight Falls). The themes are all the classic Batman ones of vigilante violence vs law and order, outsider versus societal acceptance...

The new Robin, Carrie Kelley is a nice (but maybe disturbing given her age of 13 as Lolita was 13 at the end of Nabakov's book too, right?) addition and we do have references to Batman's regrets concerning Dick Greyson's departure (Batman #408, DC Comics, 1987) and Jason's murder by the Joker (Batman: A Death in the Family). So, she comes at an important point and as an alternative to these previous Robin incarnations. She is brilliant, intuitive, funny, and independent as well. A great character!

Honestly, this is probably the best comic book ever and you can read it over and over again and get different angles and perspectives each time.
Profile Image for Sophia.
2,022 reviews185 followers
December 30, 2021
I generally know what happens in these older stories because I’ve either heard about what happens or read about it.
This time I literally read the last issue first. It was back in 2015 but still.

This time I really tried to pay attention to the art. I think it totally worked for the story.
I loved how it began in grayscale or black and white then colour was slowly introduced until about the middle of issue #3 where it was almost all colour!

I liked reading the interview right at the beginning between Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello. It allowed me to understand certain aspects a little better.

I really enjoyed the Jim Gordon parts. I thought the way Miller handled his character showed a level of respect which I appreciate.
I also liked Ellen Yindel’s character and how we see at the end, her convictions wavered.

I’m pretty sure the way The Mutants/Carrie spoke was meant to be the way ‘the kids of today’ speak but most of the time their speech was broken up so at least for me, it caused some confusion.

Word of caution, each issue is about 50 pages long and they are wordy. I was not prepared for that…

I’m sure others could say more about the message behind the story and what certain things meant but I enjoyed it as a tale about a Batman we hadn’t seen before.
Profile Image for Donovan.
697 reviews67 followers
May 15, 2022

Three reads and my opinion changes every time. While complex and full of great moments, it's prosaic as hell. This time I really struggled with all the exposition and talking heads, it's so unnecessary--I think Frank just likes to hear himself talk. It's strange that he could write the minimalism of Batman Year One and then this, which I would argue is pretty maximalistic. I also feel like Carrie Kelley, for being Robin, is a token character to show that Frank is progressive--'look I wrote a female Robin!' She has almost no personality and basically bookends Bruce's plans in the most robotic way, a major missed opportunity. Overall a classic start to the god damn Batman / Dark Knight but it's feeling more dated the more time goes on.



This took me two slow reads full of notetaking to begin to fathom the complexity and sociopolitical satire in this masterpiece. My first read two years ago was lukewarm. I didn't hate it, I just didn't get it. I knew it was important, but the art and 80s culture takes some getting used to. And there's so much Batman lore that if you don't know it you're going to get lost, which I didn't know and so I did. Dick Grayson. Jason Todd. Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Joker. Jim Gordon. Those characters alone. And there are many characters in here.

Before I go all literary I'll just tell you what I thought. I loved this on the second read. The writing is perfect, serious, gritty, brutal, with some humor to ease the tension. The weird 80s alternate universe mutant slang wasn't as confusing this time, like "balls rad," "billy," "shiv." I still don't understand "god damn milk baby" but it makes me laugh. The artwork is 80% for me. Some panels I scratched my head and just had to move on. I wish there were more splash pages because those are fantastic. It gets a little tedious with all the TVs and I wish the captions were below not above. But I don't know, this felt more complete on the second read. I'm gonna buy this copy and start baptizing people with it. After reading lots of other Batman comics, new runs like Morrison, Tomasi, Snyder, and the classics like this, Year One, Long Halloween, Black Mirror, The Killing Joke, Joker, I can see how far the influence of The Dark Knight Returns reaches. It's dark, real, noir, bittersweet. Love it, hate it, it's vital to Batman, and I now get why.

If you're afraid of literary analysis then now's the time to leave this review.This book is knee deep in literary themes so I have to dive deep!


I'll quickly preface but I will not summarize 200 pages, I promise... Commissioner Jim Gordon is retiring. Batman has been retired for ten years following something tragic. My guess? Bruce is feeling rather dead inside because Batman, the Dark Knight, is actually who he really is. Bruce is the mask, not Batman. Following the drink with Gordon, Bruce is threatened by mutants in Crime Alley under the exact street light where his parents are killed. That awakens the beast. That's what causes the Dark Knight to Return. (An aside: Do we know where Bruce's mustache goes? And why?)

Arkham Asylum. The Joker is locked up. Following years of cosmetic surgery and therapy Harvey Dent is being released. Gordon thinks he should he locked up while Bruce "believes in Harvey Dent" (see Christopher Nolan). Dent's release and Batman's reemergence sets everything in motion. Could be argued their presence/psychological impact instigates the violence, as the TV tells us. In fact, Dent is outright responsible for motivating the mutants. And Batman's return inspires the Joker as well the mutant response. So there's truth to this scapegoating.

Themes I noticed: demons/regret, doing more harm than good, violence in society/media, vigilantism, bureaucratic hypocrisy, religious zealots, classism, order versus chaos.

Character overview.
-Police Commissioner Ellen Yindel wants war against Batman. She has zero tolerance. Symbol of fascism?
-Former Police Commissioner Gordon knows Batman's true identity. He can't let go of the job. Much like Batman (his foil?) his violent identity is all he has. Symbol of corrupt government?
-Superman/Clark Kent. Ha! Miller clearly hates Superman with all of those pretty butterflies and the fact that Batman almost kills him. Bruce says "There's just the sun and sky and him, like he's the only reason it's all here." So that was funny.


Let’s talk about the media. I’ve been told (as I was born in ‘87) that 24 hour news was a new thing in the 80s. The news is mega violent here. Always murders, rapes, freak accidents, assaults. The only "light side of the news" is the weather when the heat wave finally breaks. But guess what? Turns out the rain is a symbolic violent storm which signals the return of heavy violence. So there is no good news. Among the violence there's also blame/scapegoating. According to psychiatrist Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, "Every anti-social act can be traced to irresponsible media input . Given this, the presence of such an aberrant, violent force in the media can only lead to anti-social programming." So Wolper blames Batman's fear atmosphere, or atmosfear, rather than the media itself. Interesting Wolper/the media blames Batman considering how the media continues to irresponsibly input only violence after violence on TV. Seems Miller is presenting dual ideas here. That Batman does in fact create violence by creating fear and by goading criminals with fear, but without the media his violence wouldn't exactly be mainstream. The media scapegoats Batman but won't admit any responsibility of their own. Interestingly, the mutants, Dent, and Joker were all around before Batman returned. Violence precedes vigilantes. But Wolper does make a good point if shifting some of the blame from himself and media. The violence does increase, but I think create is too strong a word, for when Batman returns. The media also blames Gordon's incompetence for the violence. But it's not as much incompetence as cooperation, huh? But in a zero tolerance world Gordon is essentially a traitor, as bad as the vigilante himself.

Political satire. It's the 80s. Cold War, Reagan, WWII still fresh in the American Mind. Russians, fascism, guerrilla revolutions (symbolic of vigilantism?). For as much as the government claims to hate violence they sure A. commit a whole shit ton of violence, and B. shirk their responsibility to control the violence. When things are worst in Gotham, the TV exposes the shirking of responsibility starting with Reagan, moving down to the governor, mayor, then ending with Gordon's replacement Commissioner Yindel. Clearly there's a theme of failed government and hypocrisy, especially because Yindel/GCPD doesn't catch any of the criminals. Batman does it all. And as much as the government says they hate super heroes they're actually full of crap . And there's a hint that the government sold guns to the mutants in the very beginning (allusion to Al Qaeda? Not sure of the timeline there). So what the fuck? We hate super heroes, vigilantes, they do in fact cause violence, but they're the solution to the problem they've created? And we can't trust the government, because they're just as bad, and maybe even causing all of this? Wolper himself says violence in media leads to violence in society, but he himself is constantly on TV talking about violence and psychosis and assures us Harvey Dent, mass murderer, is making a full recovery. What about that? What about all the footage of the Cold War then? What about the boom ? How does any of what the bureaucrats and media and scientists are saying make any fucking sense when Batman, the scapegoat, the cause of all this violence, is still saving the day?


Miller makes a helluva lotta points here. Government. War. Violence. Media. Justice versus vengeance. What's the right thing anymore? Well in my opinion I think Batman is one of the few that knows. He's incorruptible. Sure he breaks laws and bones, but he gets the job done and still doesn't kill anyone. Not even you know who. And Carrie Kelly isn't just some random women's rights inclusion. She's proof that Bruce is full of shit, there is some humanity to him. Just look at the end, with everyone surrounding him. He's smiling. Carrie is his child, just like Dick, Jason, Tim, and Damian. That one splash page of them hugging is downright love. So he's the Dark Knight. He's ruthless. But despite what one civilian said, Batman is still human.

Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,487 reviews12.8k followers
August 28, 2012
The Batman of today can be traced back to this book. Before Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” Batman was a joke; the comics were weak with Batman and Robin doing the same thing week in week out, it’s no coincidence that there are few books worth reading before Miller’s work - all the great Batman “must-reads” (The Killing Joke, Year One, The Long Hallowe’en, Hush, Dark Victory) follow this interpretation of the character. And it could largely be attributed to the phenomenal success of the campy 60s Adam West TV series. Batman was colourful, ironic, he smiled a lot, he unquestioningly had a child sidekick who wore scaly green underwear. Nobody took this character seriously. Enter Frank Miller.

Up until then Miller had built a career at Marvel with his remarkable Daredevil run, adding to the canon with a character of his own - Elektra - and writing one of the landmark Daredevil books “Born Again”. Following this was a creator owned project that meshed genres and art stylings - Ronin. And then he was offered the Dark Knight. Following this book, a dark and gritty interpretation of an intense, disturbed and disturbing Bruce Wayne haunted by the past and restless when away from his alter ego, unable to live in the light and craving the darkness for relief - there came the plethora of Batman books listed above along with a defining dark vision of Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 film. Batman had been given his balls back. The Dark Knight had truly returned.

Miller did it by strangely showing an old man, far past the years when he was able to carry off the acrobatics and feats that the Batman deserves, and puts him back in the tights - forces him back - and he is grateful for it. Bruce Wayne lives in a Gotham riddled with crime, roving gangs, one featuring prominently named the Mutants, do what they like unpunished while the cowl remains in the cave, in the past. He refuses it because of what happened to his young protege, Jason Todd...

But something primal calls to him from the shadows. Urging him back to the life he left behind, promising him … a good death. Faced with the impossibility that old villains he put away are now being released - Two Face, Joker - he becomes the Dark Knight one final time despite knowing that masked vigilantes are no longer wanted in this America and that he will have to defy a demi-god if he continues his suicidal plan. And he must.

I’m not a fanboy so blinded with the reputation of this book that I can’t see the many flaws it has. There are many and here they are: why would Superman work solely for America in the Cold War - isn’t he above petty human squabbles? And what threat could make him do what the President of the USA wants? He’s Superman! And speaking of the Cold War, this book is really dated and showing its age, year by year. The Cold War subtext is bad enough, but the bad 80s hairdo, the punkish outfits of the Mutants? You couldn’t come up with a more 80s presentation to these side characters if you tried.

Then there’s Batman himself. He uses guns throughout. That in itself should raise alarm bells in the true Batman reader’s heart. Then there’s the reason Batman ceased being Batman altogether - the death of Jason Todd - yet when a new Robin presents herself, Carrie Kelly, he has no qualms in “enlisting” her (he calls her “soldier” throughout) and putting her in the firing line despite being 13 years old! So I guess Jason’s death didn’t mean that much after all...? And speaking of the new Robin, she’s really boring as a character - if you think the few lines she speaks while staring blankly at Batman in the book constitute a character.

Then there are the story elements that are just derivative and pointless. Why is the Mutant Leader allowed to be alone with the Mayor of Gotham? Why is Joker allowed to appear on talk shows and why do people even believe such a heinous character be allowed back into society? Stop giving him chances, he’s never going to change! The constant talking heads on TV narrative device really bugged me this time around - which is another dated element to the book - and oftentimes felt like they were repeating what had just happened in the last panel. It’s distracting and doesn’t add much to the story.

And I hate to say it but the drawing style is pretty bad. It’s scratchy, many of the characters just look fat - Joker for some reason looks inflatable in a suit - and there’s one full page spread of Batman heading to fight the Mutant Leader that made me laugh it looked so silly. Basically a fat Batman minces outwards on his tippy toes with his hands bunched clumsily and a silly smile adorns his face.

I could go on but you get the point (Selina Kyle runs a brothel!?!), the book isn’t perfect, and that’s not even mentioning the lack of a plot. The book is divided into four parts that could easily be labelled: Book 1 - Two Face, Book 2 - Mutant Leader, Book 3 - Joker, Book 4 - Superman. And yet. And yet for all its flaws, why is it still worth reading? Why is Dark Knight Returns the one Batman book anyone interested in Batman should read?

First and foremost - the writing. There are so many quotable lines in the book and I’m only going to list a few to give you a flavour of Miller’s interpretation of Batman: “This would be a good death... but not good enough.”; “He’s young. He’ll probably walk again.” ;“You’re going to tell me everything you know, sooner or later. If it’s later, I won’t mind.”; “I hit the engine. She responds like it was yesterday. It is yesterday.”; “I listen for as long as I can stomach it... then I let them know I’m here.”.

It’s in the execution - he has Batman fight Joker for the final time in the Tunnel of Love in a fairground - how perfect is that? I won’t tell you what happens but it’s as perfect a death scene as you could imagine between the two. “I waste one second with a good-bye”. Miller also includes a brilliant line about Two-Face: “The scars go deep. Too deep. I close by eyes and listen. Not fooled by sight, I see him... as he is. I see him. I see a reflection.” Couple this with the final look at Two Face and it’s heartbreaking.

Batman’s own transformation is subtle but there. He starts wearing the bright blue outfit of the Adam West years and as the story continues he adopts a grey outfit until he’s wearing black. Batman is going from the colourful character to the Dark Knight, Miller is transforming the character slowly and re-making him for a new audience. And what a choice to have Batman face off for his final battle against Superman! Who wouldn’t want to read that fight? Its such an excellent scene where you know there can only be one outcome - Batman is just a man after all while Superman is basically a God - but each time I read it I think at a certain point “He’s going to do it! He’s got him on the ropes!” before the final panel. Miller is that good a writer that he makes you believe a mortal could defeat a god despite knowing the outcome. A mortal fighting a god, defying time and death itself - this is an insight into the character of Batman that no-one ever achieved before.

I know I railed against the artwork earlier but there are some incredible pages here. Batman and Robin against the Gotham skyline? Batman holding an Army General draped in an American flag holding a smoking gun. The legendary image of the silhouetted Dark Knight against a stormy lightning bolt background? The rendering of that fatal night when Bruce’s parents were murdered is done in silent panels across two pages told from Bruce’s perspective, close ups of the gun, and his mother’s pearls. It’s as near perfect a retelling of Batman’s origin story as has ever been told and is flawless in it’s presentation here.

“The Dark Knight Returns” is a masterpiece because it changed the tone of the character and how he was perceived from that point on. Miller looked at other Batman stories, reached deep into the darkness and pulled out the spirit of the Dark Knight for all to see, slapping it between the pages of this book. “This is Batman” he says with this book. Whatever your opinion on this book, it’s bold, strong artistic stance is undeniable. And it’s influence is present in so much of what followed, particularly in the Chris Nolan films. The Batmobile in this book is much like the Tumbler in Nolan’s trilogy. The tone of the mirthless Caped Crusader would become the standard template for the character - the Adam West Batman interpretation would be disregarded completely. The book looks at Bruce Wayne’s psychology and what being something like Batman would do to a man, an approach that has been much mimicked in numerous books and stories.

The book is held up as the best Batman book because it was the first Batman book that made everyone sit up and realise that they’d been doing everything wrong up til then. This book marks a change in how this character was perceived by everyone and leads right up to the Dark Knight of today, no longer a joke but an enthralling anti-hero with layers and layers to his story that has so many books yet to reveal it. And while with each passing year, and for me each re-reading of the book, I feel the impact of the book is less and less felt, the story seeming less indestructible than before, the book becoming less the masterpiece, the flaws more noticeable - it continues to survive, much like the Batman in the book, despite the years, despite it’s age, it still packs a punch and like the Dark Knight it refuses to go down without giving out a few good shots. That’s why this remains the one Batman book everyone must read. It reminds the reader that the Dark Knight hasn’t returned, but that he never left, he was just waiting for Frank Miller to introduce him to the rest of us.

“This will be a good life... good enough”.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
April 7, 2018
Kids, remember: always be yourself.

Unless you can be Batman.

Always be Batman.

Incredibly, I did not LOVE this.

I liked it, no doubt. The IDEA of an aging Batman donning the cape and cowl, kicking creeps ass and then needing a rubdown later, picking a fight he could not win only to get up, dust off his old and tired self and BE the Dark Knight again was great. Miller is a genius and there were parts of this that reminded me of Alan Moore’s CLASSIC Watchmen, with it’s subtle and not so subtle political and social commentary.

But the art was … eh.

And it was sometimes hard to follow.

Here’s the thing: what Miller did exceptionally well, over the top good, top shelf SCOTCH (I’m talking 12 year old McCallans) was to further humanize DC’s most human, and therefore most compelling hero. How better to explore our hero’s humanity than to delve into his MORTALITY, he’s getting OLD. But he’s still a hero, and still dark, still pissed off and still wants to not only get the bad guy, but punish him, beat the shite out of him and make it really hurt.

This is like if Batman were Rocky Balboa. Not the 1976 version, a young warrior; this Batman is the Rocky Balboa of the same film name in 2006, old and coming out of retirement, and like the Toby Keith song: not as good as he once was, but he's as good once as he ever was.

A more observant and inspired reviewer than me once noted that Marvel had humans who were striving to be gods; DC had gods struggling to be human. My problem with DC has always been the Superman paradigm: he’s too powerful, he NEEDS weakness to be more accessible and thus more interesting as a hero.

Miller gets into this some as Superman (noticeably NOT getting older) is shown still doing the incredible and hardly believable (though with some fresh ECO sensibilities) and has an almost satirical approach to Batman and Superman’s complicated relationship and that makes this all the more absorbing.

Probably a MUST read for genre fans, and still a damn fine story on many levels.

Profile Image for Katie.
166 reviews36 followers
September 19, 2008
I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I know that this is one case where there must be something wrong with *me* and not with the book, because it's been lauded as one of the greatest graphic novels in superhero history, and I thought it sucked.

The story is very difficult to follow - and this coming from someone who is well-versed in Batman lore, and who is used to the comic book medium for storytelling. Poor writing.

The pictures are sometimes difficult to interpret - it's hard to even figure out what's being depicted. This is unfortunate, especially when you know it's a panel that's supposed to be conveying something extremely a) emotional/moving, or b) important to the story.

Finally, a personal opinion, which only affects my review insomuch as ratings are partially based on personal taste: I liked Batman the way he was before Frank Miller "reinvented" him. I do not like this bitter, cranky old man Batman who gets pleasure from hurting people. I like the heroic old-fashioned Batman who hurts bad guys simply because they're bad guys and he's the good guy. Like I said, it's just a matter of personal taste.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
May 6, 2013

Before Christopher Nolan came alone and further redefined the idea of superheroics, Frank Miller was doing well enough to keep Batman fresh and interesting in his own way. The Dark Knight Returns tops my list of best graphic novels ever written for what it did for the genre, what it did for Batman and what it stands as today. Though Watchmen is universally accepted as the greatest graphic novel I personally believe this is greater in that it was written previously and from what I've read appears to have 'opened the door' for Watchmen to become so accepted.

This is not the glossy Batman of the television shows, movies or recent comics. This is the ultimate representation of Batman as the Dark Knight. As a man straddling the line between hero and vigilante, as a man with a dark past he keeps running from and with villains who rise up against his heroic light. He is a man who keeps running from his past but can never escape the fact of the legend and icon he is. No wonder recent Doctor Who writers noted that there was a sense of Batmanification about the Doctor's latest incarnation. In short this novel fully explores many of the deep philosophical and psychological aspects of who and what Batman is as a symbol.

Essentially this is a semi-dystopian novel in graphic form. A tale of what happens when governments allow crime to run rampant, when superheroes are outlawed and when the Batman returns. Because essentially that is what the Batman is, a figure outside of the law who can do the things the law should but cannot.

The artwork is not neat or beautiful as some artwork is. But it fits the story perfectly, providing a further dark, gritty and rough edge to complement the plot. And that is what strong artwork should do in a graphic novel, it should fit the story rather than try and bedazzle the reader into believing the story is strong. Frank Miller certainly appears to have understood how to make a piece of art which is edgy and gives you both barrels in its artwork and story.

The story features an older Batman returning to action in Gotham - hence the title. But this is a Gotham devoid of the heroes of the past, this is a Gotham where heroes do not live. This is the dark incarnation of Gotham, a city of crime. And therefore Batman returns, a legend come to haunt the criminals of the city. And rising up alongside him is a new, female version of Robin.

The real theme of the story explores the idea of the hero or the vigilante. It questions whether, when evil and similarly chaos arise, a hero and order also arise. In the case of this novel, this hero is naturally Batman. The question is also raised that when one devotes oneself to fighting evil so incessantly if there is a cost, and the idea that Batman is a man who fights on only to keep running is again brought up.

This is a masterpiece and if you are into graphic novels a must read work. If you are wanting to begin reading Batman, here is as good a place as any to begin, because Frank Miller (genius that he is) takes the essence of what Batman is and spins it out into a new and gritty setting, while also exploring deep themes. In this regard this work is literature because it combines thematic expression with imagery.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,749 reviews123 followers
February 15, 2021
"Sit up straight, Robin." - Bruce 'Batman' Wayne

"Yes, sir." - Carrie 'Robin' Kelley

Yes, do sit up straight and pay attention like the ultra-serious Dark Knight orders, fellow readers - while author/artist Miller is a divisive figure (even my own GR ratings are all over the place in regards to his various works) I thought his The Dark Knight Returns was, next to 300, probably my favorite (so far) of his books. Featuring an older and wiser Batman, obviously in the twilight of his decades-long quest as Gotham City's #1 vigilante, this epic story has him taking on / training a new partner - the spry and resourceful Carrie Kelley, as the latest incarnation of sidekick Robin - amidst a mutant group's crime wave harshly affecting his perpetually-distressed hometown. Not enough drama for ya? Well, longtime ally Commissioner Gordon is also retiring (his replacement is no fan of Batman, of course) AND the Joker is released from Arkham Asylum to again start causing havoc. Does our Dark Knight have both the gumption and stamina to saddle-up - and he literally does take to horseback during a segment in the apocalyptic final chapter - one last time to save his 'beloved' Gotham?
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,944 reviews159 followers
May 24, 2021
Comic books of the early '80s weren't really that good. I was a young child reading about Batman and a variety of other superheroes. Then along in 1986 came a comic that was utterly different than the usual fare. It was a four-issue mini-series from Frank Miller. In marked contrast to the contemporary trends, he posited a very dark interpretation of Batman and emphasized the "Dark Knight" aspect. This collection originally had four similar, but different titles for each of the four issues. They were:
The Dark Knight Returns, Dark Knight Triumphant, Hunt the Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Falls. But, whenever you come across the collected volumes (mine was an excellent HC with additional information, plus a different plot ending) they are called "The Dark Knight Returns". It is, accurately in my opinion, one of the greatest and most influential Batman stories ever published, as well as one of the greatest works of comic art in general, and has been noted for helping reintroduce a darker and more mature-oriented version of the character in pop culture during the 1980s. Its influence is felt to this day in modern renditions of Batman.

In this story, we see an older Bruce Wayne. No longer a young man, this Bruce is weary of the damage done to his body. The world around him is changing. Superheroes are not what they used to be (this darker image is also seen in Alan Moore's "Watchmen") and society has gotten darker. Into this returns Batman. With a new Robin, he sets out to fight the forces of chaos that infect Gotham.

But his return also heralds darker things as well- the Joker has returned for one last laugh, one that will lead to a conflict between Superman and Batman. This conflict is a truly evocative moment and some of the panels in this story are actually very famous.

All in all? It is truly an amazing story. Considering the time when it was written it is truly a comic book legend. A must-read for all Batman fans and a certainly recommended read for people that seek to find the very best graphic novels out there. This is one of my personal favorites and has had an outsized impact not only on Batman but comics in general. Miller's Magnum Opus.
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,044 followers
August 24, 2015
Never have been a Frank Miller fan. The art, page layouts, characterization (especially Batman and Superman), and dialogue in this one left me saying "What is so great about this again?" Guess I'll reread Watchmen again.
Profile Image for Maciek.
562 reviews3,320 followers
August 18, 2013
You don't get it, son. This isn't a mudhole... It's an operating table.
And I'm the surgeon.

The Dark Knight Returns is Frank Miller's most popular comic (at least here on GR) and arguably the best Batman comic ever. Originally published in four installments in 1986, it single-handedly undid the damage done to the Bat by the goofy 60's show with Adam West. Situation at the time was pretty tragic. Initial success of the West show influenced the writers of the Batman comics who adapted a similar, campy approach; but the show's popularity waned slowly, and it eventually got canceled in 1968. Popularity of Batman comics also dropped steadily. Attempts were made to distance the comics from the show and make Batman an edgier, darker and grimmer character, an avenger of the night, but to no avail; despite being popular with the fans their work didn't help to boost steadily declining sales. Circulation of comics featuring Batman continued to drop throughout the next decade and a half, finally reaching an all time low in 1985.

And then KABOOM! A miracle! Frank Miller comes out with The Dark Knight Returns, which does exactly what it says - brings back the Dark Knight, literally and figuratively. People couldn't believe what they were seeing - and loved it. Miller brought Batman back into the cool, and showed that some comic books are definitely not for kids. Miller's re-imagining redefined Batman for the 1980's, and opened a floodgate for the good stuff to come through. Miller's own Batman: Year One was published in 1987, which redefined Batman's origins and further contributed to the vision we have of him now, as the Caped Crusader. Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke came out a year later, and in 1989 Tim Burton made Batman, the second Batman feature film but the first to be non-camp. Burton's movie was gothic and grotesque, it starred Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as Batman and Joker and defined my childhood. It was amazing - I saw it at least 20 times on VHS as my parents owned a rental at the time. It also brought Batman firmly into public attention and made millions of dollars, influencing and paving the way for creation of the excellent Batman: The Animated Series. It aired on Cartoon Network around 7 or 8 PM over here. I was practicing martial arts at the time (I too wanted to kick butts of the bad guys) and ran home after each practice session to catch the new episode. It was my favorite cartoon and the opening is just as awesome as it was all these years ago. The animation! The music! Man oh man!
Unluckily, none of the subsequent films experienced such success (though Burton's Batman Returns is badass and I have a soft spot for Val Kilmer in Batman Forever), and with the release of 1997's dreadful Batman & Robin (which was an attempt to return to the campy style of the 60's and featured George Clooney as Batman - why, oh why?)the film franchise has pretty much died. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan had the good sense to reboot it in 2005 with his Batman Begins which starred Christian Bale as Batman, and was followed in 2008 with The Dark Knight and completed as a trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 (which is a homage to TDKR with a great tribute scene, but doesn't change the fact that Michael Keaton was the best Batman).
But none of this would happen without Frank Miller. He invented the Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight Returns opens in a world where Bruce Wayne is 55 years old, and has not worn the cape for 10 years; the younger generation doesn't even believe that Batman was real, and considers him to be just a myth. Wayne retired his alter ego after the traumatic loss of Jason Todd, who fought crime alongside him as Robin. Bruce promised Jason that he will never again be Batman, and became an even more reclusive figure, distancing himself from pretty much everybody except for his trusted butler Alfred and police commissioner James Gordon. Bruce is very close to becoming a broken shell of a man, and slowly gives in to his alcoholism. Meanwhile, crime levels in Gotham are skyrocketing, and the city is on the verge of being overtaken by The Mutants - a violent gang which terrorizes its streets, led by the despotic Leader. Batman's archenemy, The Joker, is locked up in Arkham Asylum, as he became catatonic after Batman disappeared; Harvey Dent, a former attorney who gained notoriety as the infamous Two-Face has been released from Arkham after being imprisoned for 12 years. Dent was given a clean bill of health from a psychiatrist who treated him for three years, and had his face successfully reconstructed by plastic surgeons. It was Bruce who paid for Dent's treatment and surgery, seeking in him proof that one's inner demons can be defeated. However, Dent disappears soon after his release and fresh wave of crime hits Gotham. Dent's disappearance and Gotham's ever-worsening state drives Bruce to quit retirement, and emerge to the world once again - as Batman.

Miller's Bruce Wayne/Batman is as far removed the character played by Adam West in the 60's as possible. He's a vigilante whose return is greeted with mixed response. People see Batman as a symbol of justice, someone who stands up to oppression and does what the law should do, but doesn't; they also see him as a figure whose actions upsets law, stability and order instead of upholding them, and who violates people's rights instead of protecting them.
Batman constantly walks the thin line between the good and the bad, and is no less obsessed and haunted than his arch-enemies and rivals. In a way, Batman is a mirror for those whom he is supposed to fight. The psychiatrist who treated both Harvey Dent and Joker in Arkham is convinced that it's Batman who is responsible for the state of his clients, and that they are both victims of Batman's own psychotic obsessions and his vigilante crusades against crime. The psychiatrist is clearly made by Miller to be a ridiculous figure, a parody of pop psychologists who deal in disputable self-help techniques and enjoy huge audiences - and sales. At the same time, the fact that it is Batman who is responsible for both making the Joker catatonic with his disappearance and bringing him out of it with his return is something to be considered. Did Batman create the Joker? Do people create their own demons? Miller delights in not giving a clear answer to this question.

In his appearances in various media Batman is almost constantly displayed as a perpetual 20/30 something - powerful, fast, agile, young. Batman is famous for being a hero without any superpowers: he relies only on his physical strength, skills and gadgets. But how would Batman continue to fight crime as an older man, encountering younger, stronger and faster foes? Miller's Batman must come to terms with his own mortality and age, which will slowly but unstoppably reduce his physical strength and ability to engage in direct combat, one day making him unable to do that at all. But that day has not yet came, and an older Batman still has a whole spectrum of powerful advantages over his potential enemies: years of experience and practice, his stealth, his gadgets, his enormous intellect and tactical genius. There's a great scene in a Justice League comic which shows that Batman has collected data on all the other members of the League, their physical and psychological strengths and weaknesses, so that in case he had to fight any of them he could - and would - win against anybody from this planet or other: he has devoted himself to the cause with an obsession bordering on insanity (well, you can't accuse a man who dresses up like a bat to be fully sane). Batman can and will turn his enemies against themselves, outsmart and outplan them all, trap them in the web of his cunning and strike in the exact crucial moment. He is more than a man in a costume - he is the obsession personified, he is the avenger, he is the night.

There's a lot of grim humor in this comic. Alfred relentlessly teases Bruce about his drinking habit and the impossibility of what he actually tries to do, comparing Batman's return to a suicide; Batman himself thinks that if he was an older man, he would surely be nothing more than a mass of broken muscle and bone. Miller unmercifully lampoons real life talking show hosts, such as Dr. Ruth and David Letterman, going as far as to include a caricature of the U.S. president who looks and talks suspiciously like Ronald Reagan. This takes away from the universal appeal of the comic, and unfortunately makes it a bit of a product of its time.

Miller has Batman stand against his well-known foes, Two-Face and Joker, and both make Batman reconsider his moral conduct and ideas. Two-Face is a broken man who can't beat his own nature and turns back to crime, but he is not demonized by Batman: instead, in Two-Face Batman sees an obsession which is just like his own, but instead of trying to fight it he embraced it and revels in it. The Joker is a homicidal maniac, who commits evil acts just for the sheer sake of doing them. He constantly aims to push Batman beyond his own limits, and make him break his one rule - no killing. The Joker doesn't value anyone's life and not even his own: he wants to be killed by Batman, because he knows that only when he will make Batman his executor he will truly and finally defeat him. The ending scene of their confrontation is unexpected and one to remember. BUT The Dark Knight Returns has the coolest ever possible thing to happen in DC comics: Batman and Superman duking it out. Their standout becomes unavoidable because of a multitude of differences on both parts, and there really aren't words to describe its epicness.

Frank Miller has used plenty of interesting visual tricks to spice up The Dark Knight Returns. He divides some pages into many small frames, much more than usually used, to give a successful imitation of the slow-motion effect. These small frames are then contrasted with much bigger backdrops of Batman against the cityscape. Suspense and pace are achieved through having different people describe the same event in quick succesion, and characters are first hidden in the shadows before they make a grand entrance. Some readers took offense with Miller's drawings of his characters, accusing him of making Bruce Wayne look like he was on a perpetual roid rage, but I think they were perfect.

It's a shame that Frank Miller seems to have gone a bit kuku around 9/11 and has made some really stupid comments about the Occupy movement, and generally seems a bit unhinged. He also wrote the incredibly bad Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which is supposed to be a sequel to TDKR but Batman's barely in it and it's really nothing more than Miller's excuse to tell a crappy Justice League story which bears no relation to TDKR at all (and the drawings suck too).
Gods have been kind to us though, and Warner Bros. Animation has adapted the comic into an animated film and released it as a part of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. This surprisingly great adaptation has been released in two parts - Part One and Part Two, released in 2012 and 2013 (click on each to see the respective trailers). The animation is faithful to the source material, the music is great, the voice actors do their job splendidly, the script is dark (lots of violence - not suitable for kids) and generally it really kicks ass. If the gods will be more kind of us in the future perhaps we will see a faithfully adapted motion picture, but I wouldn't count on it. But it doesn't matter. We have the comic - which is essential reading for any Batman fan, and pretty much any comic book fan in general or anyone even remotely interested in good art, as it completely redraw the character and his image and vision, and made an impact on millions of readers all across the globe. Essential reading - get to it!

The time has come.
You know it in your soul.
For I am your soul...

Profile Image for Mykle.
Author 15 books276 followers
November 27, 2010
(UPDATE: just to be pedantic ... reading the other reviews, I've come to realize that people use "The Dark Knight" as a nickname for any old Batman these days -- like calling Satan "Old St. Nick," or George Bush "Dubya". So to whomever may have said "Frank Miller isn't my favorite Dark Knight writer" I'd just like to point out that FRANK MILLER INVENTED THE DARK KNIGHT! If there's any earlier use of that phrase in history, I'm bat-ignorant. Back in the day, everyone else called him Caped Crusader, or Masked Manhuter, or Flying Fisticuffist, or Unstoppable Unitard ... stupid shit like that, just embarrassing. Frank Miller gave Batman his balls back, goddammit!)

I read this way back in the 80's, I think it was released as a four-part. Miller was just coming off of his Marvel Comics years, having gained fame for his Daredevil & Wolverine strips, and I was a huge fanboy of his film-noir approach, but this was a major step forward for him & the genre.

Now, 20 years later, everything Miller had to say about Batman and the ugly side of heroism has more or less been re-absorbed into Hollywood and comics in general. But at the time it was part of a whole movement in comics -- alongside Watchmen and several others -- that critiqued the harsh realities of the adult world in terms of why it's not safe for superheroes.

Art-wise, it was a tour-de-force of detail and movement, drawn and cut and pasted and re-drawn, and brought to perfection by Lynn Varley's exquisite colorizing. (The book would have been a milestone in comics for her work alone.)

Fans of the most recent Batman movie should read this and realize that Miller's graphic novel was the blueprint. At the time, nobody else had the vision to take Batman's mythology back to its dark origins.

Of course, if you find superheroes puerile, I don't think this will change your mind.

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