I’m not really sure where to being with The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller. It started out very promising, with a 2 page “article” from Vicki Vale about Bruce Wayne’s funeral and Jim Gordon’s breakdown – it set an exciting tone that captured my attention, but quickly fell flat from there. It has the very obvious touch of Frank Miller, but isn’t coherent enough to enjoy.
Written as a sequel to the groundbreaking BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, this masterful hardcover takes place three years after Batman’s defeat of Superman. Faking his own death and creating an underworld civilization, Bruce Wayne has been keeping his eye on the world above. As that false Camelot reaches its breaking point, it’s is up to the Dark Knight to emerge from the underground shadows and once again return order to chaos. Joined by his army of Bat-soldiers and his female sidekick Catgirl, an elderly Batman wages a final war against a diseased world in an epic tale that features Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, and the Atom.
Lets start with the artwork – it doesn’t do anything for me. The characters have no detail, the scenes are hard to interpret, the colors are washed out, the characters are hard to identify, and it just feels… wrong. Lex Luthor looks like Jabba the Hut, Martian Manhunter looks like a green Thing (think fantastic four), they change the Flash’s costume for no real reason, and they change Catgirl’s outfit from a cheetah print to a gray leotard with no explanations, almost as if they just forgot what she looked like. Superman’s face is never clearly drawn and often appears as if someone scribbled it on a napkin – it feels like they didn’t know how to draw wrinkles, so they just drew a bunch of lines.
Lets talk about character behaviors. Batman has always been driven and often ruthless, but something was just “off” about him. He enjoyed torturing Superman and seemed very petty when Luthor finally fell. Superman is obviously a broken man, and no fun to watch, while Wonder Woman handles the situation much better. The Martian Manhunter has lost his powers, and comes off as a whiner – there is no hero left in him.
So how’s the story in The Dark Knight Strikes Again? Batman fakes his death, the US is under martial law, and Lex Luthor and Braniac rule through a puppet president. Superman, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman are toadies of the government, and all superheroes are gone. Batman plots the downfall of the oppressors by training a platoon of Batboys, freeing imprisoned superheroes, and causing the public to rise up against the government. The writing is incoherent. Without strong artwork and layout to support the text, parallel scenes that would normally work failed miserably. Interviews and news personalities are a sadly accurate satire of the current state of public communication, but that doesn’t make it any less obnoxious.
Overall, The Dark Knight Strikes Again was a disappointment; I wouldn’t recommend it. Normally I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to comics, but this one was unenjoyable enough that I needed to share my disappointment.