By: Mark Cormier
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN
OH MY GOD!!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!? Honest-to-God, this has got to be the worst comic book that I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s as if you accidentally left a copy of “The Dark Knight Returns” in the washing machine with a handful of crayons, then thought to yourself “f**k it” and repackaged it as a sequel.
If I didn’t already know you were the author and artist of this atrocious sequel, I would be angry at this apparent insult to your good name. To realize that the genius behind “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Year One” is also the moron responsible for this clustered mess just makes me sad.
Seriously, Frank, what the Hell happened? Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, you were a certified cash cow for the comic book industry. Anything that had your name on it was practically guaranteed to be good. You migrated your talent between several different comic book industries, and offered up your pens and pencils to several beloved characters including Batman and Daredevil. You could do no wrong.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but at some point the quality of your artwork suddenly and dramatically declined. Maybe I could use some of your artwork in your various volumes of “Sin City” to prove my point, because I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a huge difference between “The Big Goodbye” and “That Yellow Bastard.”
The story takes place three years after the events of “The Dark Knight Returns”. Batman and his young sidekick Carrie Kelly are leading an underground resistance against a dystopian establishment. This regime is no longer a thinly veiled commentary against the Reagan administration. It’s not even really a thinly veiled commentary against the George W. Bush administration at the time. The media points, which originally served to move the plot and provide exposition to the themes in the story in DK1, are an incoherent mess of jumbled nonsense in DK2. And it’s usually surrounded by half-naked women, so it’s really just a thinly veiled excuse for titillation.
What was I talking about again?
This evil totalitarian regime is secretly ruled by Lex Luthor (who for some reason looks like a midget bridge troll) and Brainiac (who for some reason just looks like a giant frog just threw up on Xerxes from 300; considering that a giant frog actually does terrorize Metropolis later on, sadly this is the only possible explanation.)
They use coercion to keep the super-hero community on a tight leash. Superman is blackmailed with the Bottle City of Kandor held hostage. Quite honestly, if I hadn’t known any better, I would have easily mistaken DK2 for a Superman title. After all, the story focuses a great deal more about Superman’s struggles and inner-turmoils than on Batman’s “war.” You already know I’m a big fan of the World’s Biggest Boy Scout, so I wouldn’t mind this so much, … if only the characterization wasn’t so blatantly insulting. He’s treated as both a literal and proverbial punching bag. He’s even been made to arbitrarily abandon his code of ethics and break his own vow not to kill. Worst of all, he agrees to take over the world and enslave humanity after BATMAN TALKS HIM INTO IT!!!
To me, this is a clear illustration of a writer who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about what he’s doing. In case you forgot, I’m talking about you, Frank.
Wonder Woman is forced into submission by threatening Themyscira. With what exactly, you never actually clarify. In this book, she is practically relegated to the role of at best a glamorous prostitute from Sin City, at worst an incubator with legs. And I know what you’re thinking: a stripper and/or prostitute in a Frank Miller book? What are the chances?!?!
Captain Marvel, now an old man with white hair, is similarly coerced by threats to his sister Mary. The Flash is forced to run on a treadmill to provide America with free power, and after being rescued is forced to wear a ridiculous outfit that includes bicycle shorts and giant sneakers. Martian Manhunter is a raging alcoholic, deprived of his powers by Lex Luthor’s nanobots. The Atom is trapped in a petri dish, boldly spitting in the face of common sense as he fights dinosaur-shaped bacteria. And finally, Green Lantern has exiled himself from Earth and into the farthest reaches of the galaxy, apparently having settled down and married Gumbo somewhere along the way.
Congratulations, Frank. You’ve just ostracised every DC Comics fan who isn’t just a fan of Batman. I hope you’re proud of yourself.
Carrie Kelly has ditched her Robin threads from DKR, replacing her costume (and persona) with Catgirl, presumably in order to appease her mentor’s famous cat-fetish. The point of this particular change escapes me. Not only is it unnecessary, but the fact that a teenager more-or-less adopts the role of Catwoman, a character who has always been Batman’s potential love interest, is just disturbing.
Special guest appearances include Lara, Superman and Wonder Woman’s illegitimate love child with a superiority complex; Hawk and Dove as Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street; Big Barda in a meaningless sub-plot about a stripper with super-powers.
This book also features a very brief cameo by Batman, the alleged titular protagonist whose presence only blesses 41 pages of this 221-page tome. As far as the characterization of the Dark Knight himself, this book is your love letter to Batman to the denigration of all others. This isn’t the Batman of mainstream continuity, this isn’t even the Batman you originally wrote in DK1. This is a sadistic, murderous psychopath. This is Marv from Sin City’s “The Big Goodbye” in Batman clothing. This is a Batman that doesn’t even exist except in your own dark and twisted fantasy.
Oh, I almost forgot. This book also features a special guest appearance by Dick Grayson … as … the … Joker?!?!
Dick Grayson as an artistic interpretation of Bob Kane spinning in his grave
(Author’s Note: Granted, that wasn’t actually revealed until at the very end of the book, so for anyone who hasn’t actually read this book yet, I just saved you about twenty bucks and roughly five hours of your life, so you’re welcome. Seriously, don’t read this book.)
I’m not necessarily saying that this plot twist was a bad idea. The idea of the Joker corrupting the Dark Knight’s apprentice as one last laugh from beyond the grave at Batman’s expense could have been an intriguing plot-twist. From a dramatic standpoint, it could have been one of the latest tragedies to define Batman, the same as crippling Barbara Gordon or killing Jason Todd. But this whole thing feels shoe-horned in with last-minute rewrites. It serves no purpose to the overall plot, and in no way is it foreshadowed throughout the storyline. Finally, the fact that Batman makes no attempt to redeem the former Boy Wonder and resolves to kill him then and there without a second thought is just … awful.
… And finally, the book mercifully ends.
DK2 was released between 2001 and 2002, shortly after the tragedy of 9/11, and therefore it had potential to touch on the feelings of anger and the desires for retribution that were on the hearts and minds of its readers. It had potential for historic relevance and to touch on the issues that were on the collective consciousness of its readers, much like its predecessor title did. It was during this time of anguish that we needed our heroes more than ever, something to give us hope and inspiration even in those worst of times.
Unfortunately, it is here where DK2 fails utterly. Our beloved heroes are just another series of casualties, assassinated by mischaracterization. They are neither inspirational nor admirable. At some point, this stopped being a graphic novel and degenerated into a bizarre and inappropriate snuff fanfic. While DKR definitely succeeded as a product of its time, DKSA served to illustrate not only how out of touch you were with the times and the readers, but how out of touch you are with reality in general.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe you’re angry because you’re out of touch with the new generation of comic book readers. It would certainly explain why reading this book feels like an old man with a shotgun is yelling at me to get off his lawn.
Overall Grade: 1/10