Friday, July 25, 2003

Book Of The Week: The Dark Knight Returns

Okay, so you win some, and you loose some. Time, that is. Reading a long Frank Miller comics usually makes me feel I fall back on the winning side. So, sharing the wealth, I offer a short review.

Making a "Tenth anniversary edition" of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley must have been a good marketing idea in 1996, reaping the harvest of a build-up momentum. Miller's reinvented Batman indeed contributed into bringing a new vigor to the medium which went into full swing in the early nineties--to be nearly crushed by the advent of the web--just as artists such as Gaiman (Sandman) and McCloud began offering equally innovative products, often minus the ultra-violence which is Miller's forte.

Miller reloaded some elements of the structure of the DKR when shaping his (IMHO) masterpiece, Elektra: Assassin, most notably the secret plan of the protagonist, who gets the adversaries to play along. This adds value to reading the story of aged Batman who goes out of retirement to die fighting once again. DKR can also be viewed as a blueprint for another landmark comics from the same series, Batman: Year One published in 1997, but depicting events way before it, namely, the start of Batman's career from a viewpoint of Gordon, his cop friend (who retires in DKR).

DKR covers some familiar Batman/DC issues, such as abuse-prone media power and corruption of spineless politicians, especially in the chilling episode of the reluctant mayor who insists of appeasing a terror gang/army through negotiations with their leader, jailed by Batman. This leads to some unfortunate outcomes, and only Batman prevents a catastrophe. Luckily, "incidents featured in this publication are entirely fictional." It is good that such things don't happen in the real world, since after 2001 we seem to be in a short supply of Batmans, at least here in Macedonia.

As usual, Miller uses the comics to unravel some superhero stereotypes, and even to jokingly question Superman's obedience to American authorities, most notably ex-President Reagan.

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