Comics – The Indefensible Position: “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” is a Damn Good Comic Book

I should be clear about something here: I’m not a fan of the aptly abbreviated “ASBAR” (“All Star Batman and Robin”). Or what’s clearly Miller’s protection from any sort of editing. Or the fact that he’s clearly gone fucking nuts.

But on the other hand, I also have a hell of a lot of fun with “The Dark Knight Strikes Again”, every time I read it, and I think it’s unfairly maligned.

Let’s start with the most obvious statement: it’s not “The Dark Knight Returns Returns.”

Well, no shit. But would you really want that? I can understand fifteen-year-olds hating DKSA. They were zygotes back when DKR and “Watchmen” started this massive wave of “grim-n-gritty” comics, culminating in the early ’90s with heroes who were basically crazed psychopaths who gunned down acceptable PG-13 targets (read about all the gangsters getting blown away you want, little Timmy!). True, this had its good side; without the grim-n-gritty trend, we never would have seen John Ostrander’s brilliant run on “The Spectre”.

But come on. Grown men who suffered through that tidal wave of shit, and have read more Silver Age comics, know better. After all that, “Dark Knight Returns Returns” would have just been painful, and probably a lot worse. Watching Miller rehashing old ground is kind of painful now. So, Miller, brilliantly, didn’t.

The most telling moment in a comic that isn’t terribly subtle is the line where one character offers up the opinion that a new age of hope and glory is “Ohmygod, SO Silver Age!” And that’s really the key thing here: this is Miller’s sensibility married to a Silver Age comic.

I have problems with it beyond the lack of subtlety, although it’s worth pointing out that Miller has all the finesse of a brick through a window with a note tied to it here. It’s also worth pointing out that this is about as accessible to non-fans as, say, the later versions of Cerebus. The ending is shoehorned in and unnecessary, although I’d point out that Batman is precisely right about the effectuality of certain characters. Also, Frank Miller’s ability to draw characters who DON’T have enormous floppy clown feet seems to have gone completely to hell. You see this all the time. What the hell is with that, anyway? It’s not like he had trouble drawing feet before. Suddenly we’ve got this clown-shoe shit.

Then there’s the coloring, which, yeah, is off-putting and strange, but that was really kind of the point. Miller was going for, again, a Silver Age effect with a modern twist. Sit down with some Silver Age stuff and notice how the colors are all kind of ridiculous and pop out. Miller was going for the same effect. Whether it works is…well…subjective. It doesn’t bother me as much, but I can see it being a dealbreaker.

But beyond that, come on. If there was ever relentless fanservice, this is it. There’s just so much awesome shit here. This is a book that opens with the Atom being shown as more of a bad-ass than he’s ever gotten a chance to be, even the new guy with his boomstick. You’ve got the rest of the Justice League beating Superman up. You’ve got the noble death of Captain Marvel. You’ve got Superman actually given a decent plotline for once; DC’s hardest character to write for arguably gets the best part of the book. You’ve got what probably marks the last time Miller has managed to write a superheroine that isn’t “WHORESWHORESWHORES” (OK, Frank, we get it, the divorce was rough. Go to therapy or something!)

It is not its predecessor. It’s not a classic. But it’s a lot of fun, if you’re willing to roll with Frank.


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