Everything Wrong With: “The Dark Knight Returns” Pt. 1

Hello interweb, Nate here!  First of all, yeesh I forgot how big this book was.  Four chapters does not equal four of your average comic books.  Most comics only contain roughly 20 pages and usually takes about 10 minutes to read (although that can change depending on how fast of a reader you are and how much text the writer decides to shove into the actual book).  So this SuperheroSins took a lot longer to make then I initially expected and it took my several days to actually complete it.  However, because it’s so long I decided to split this into several parts with each chapter getting it’s own SuperheroSins episode.

Also I do want to add something, just because I do a SuperheroSins on a specific comic does not necessarily mean I think the comic is bad.  But every comic out there can be critiqued and nitpicked if you try hard enough (side note: I find it funny that my auto correct accepted “nitpicked” as a word).  With all that said, let’s begin!

Disclaimer: I do not claim to own Batman or this comic.  Batman is owned by DC comics, this comic is written and drawn by Frank Miller.

Everything Wrong With “The Dark Knight Returns”

  • First off I’d like to subtract a sin for how iconic this cover is -1
  • Then I’ll subtract yet another sin for just how cool this image is with the silhouette of Batman in front of a bolt of lightning.  That’s right people, the first SuperheroSin so far to start out with negative sins! -1

Ch. 1 Pg. 1

  • Ok, one complaint I have is just how much I dislike Frank Miller’s art.  The first time I read this the art was so hard for me to interpret what was going on.  +1
  • “This would be a good death…but not good enough” Dying in a car crash would be a good death for Batman?  I’d think a good death would be dying in the midst of battle against Joker or some other A game villain! +1

Pg. 2 Panels 4-11

  • Exposition via news lady cliche +1
  • Which mutants?  The Morlocks?  Oh wait, this is DC not Marvel.  Is this suppose to be a jab at the X-Men?  Or are they completely unrelated and I’m just making connections that don’t exist? +1
  • “A recent survey shows that most high schoolers consider him a myth” This whole myth vs legend thing about Batman always confused me.  The reason Bruce created Batman to begin with is so Batman can become a symbol and many people consider him a myth.  However, Batman is part of the ever famous Justice League, Bruce has even started Batman Inc in the main comics, and most people in Gotham is well aware of Batman’s exploits.  So with a figure as well known as Batman, how the hell does high schoolers consider him a myth?  Plus two sins for just how much this doesn’t make any sense. +2

Pg. 3 Panels 1-8

  • See, Bruce and Gordon looks so similar here that it’s difficult to tell them apart.  It would’ve been better if Bruce didn’t have a mustache so there’s some easy way to tell whose who! +1
  • “Spoken to Dick lately?” “Yes but unfortunately it’s a bit more difficult to get it up there in my old days.  Oh wait, you meant Grayson?  Well this just got awkward…” +1
  • “Especially with what happened to JasonWait so lemme get this straight.  In this universe, Jason Todd’s death resulted in Batman getting depressed and retired as Batman.  This is different then the main DC universe as Batman instead continued being Batman and even passed his mantle down to Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond) in the future.  This means that this Batman is a Batman that gave up when life got hard while the real Batman instead persevered and improved himself.  I mean I realize that we need some kind of motivation for Bruce to retire but compared to the main Batman this just kinda makes him looks like a loser.  +3

Pg. 4 Panels 6-10

  • You got a freakin quota for how many people you need to slice up in a given day? +1

Pg. 5 Panels 1-4

  • He’s into it?  Dang, Bruce, didn’t know you were into that!  Not judging or anything… +1
  • So they have a quota they have to fill but if the victim’s into it then the quota is optional?  Like, is there any punishment for not filling your quota?  This is one easy going gang. +1

Pg. 5 Panels 5-8

  • More exposition through news.  Seriously, this is a really boring way to advance a story.  +1

Pg. 7

  • MORE news exposition?  Really, is this the best way you could’ve gotten this information across the audience?  Why not instead have these guys talk to each other in a room or something to introduce us to these people?  Show don’t tell!  One more sins every time the news is used to spew exposition! +1
  • Siamese twins don’t work like that.  You kill one, you kill the other. +1
  • Harvey Dent looks too much like Lex Luthor +1
  • Later in the comic, they reveal that while Harvey looks normal now, Harvey sees his entire face being scared rather than healed.  So why does he act composed and happy here? +1

Pg. 8 Panels 1-8

  • We know later that Harvey Dent is just as evil now as he was before, but Gordon comes across as if he’s being quick to judge and is being unreasonable.  So if we’re to look at this scene by itself, is Gordan actually aware that Harvey might not be healed after all or are we suppose to take this as Gordon refusing to accept that a long time psychopath is now fit to live in society? +1
  • Although Bruce seems a bit too willing to just let dent go, I do have to say that Batman’s whole no-killing rule is based on his belief that anyone can change their ways.  So I do appreciate the fact that Bruce is giving Dent a second chance. -1

Pg. 11 Panels 1-8

  • I’m assuming this is Jason’s costume since he’s the one who died and placing it in the Bat cave is a nice tribute to his fallen Robin -1
  • But, why not hang Dick’s costume too? +1
  • What did happen to his mustache?  This is never explained.  +1

Pg.11 Panels 9-12

  • More news exposition +1
  • Why does Dr. Wolper look like Hitler? +1

Pg. 11 Panels 13-16

Pg. 12 Panels 1-8

  • It’s hard to know whose talking when you don’t even show so much as a silhouette of the guys talking to each other.  Even harder when the TV also has a speech bubble rather than a box of text. +1
  • What are the odds that the news would be talking about Dent as he walks into the room? +1

Pg. 14

  • “Superhero origin recap” cliche +1

Pg. 15 Panels 9-16

  • Followed by “flipping through channels rapidly that trigger horrible memories” cliche +1

Pg. 17 Panels 1-8

  • As well as “multiple voicemails signalling that the our hero has not been in contact with his friend” cliche +1

Pg. 19 Panels 8-11

Pg. 20

  • I can’t tell whether this is suppose to be an abusive boyfriend or a pimp or what, but either way this scene is awesome! -1
  • I can’t tell whether Batman took the cash that the man gave the taxi driver or if Batman gave him money to repair the damages for the car.  I’d like to think Batman gave him money for the repairs since the driver didn’t really do anything wrong but I wish this was more clearly portrayed in the art.  Idk, I’m gonna stick to Batman giving him money and be generous and remove a sin -1

Pg. 22

  • Minus two sins for how awesome this scene is! -2
  • But considering how deep those batarangs should be in that dude’s arm there should definitely be blood dripping down from there +1

Pg. 21 Panels 1-6

  • Does Batman still follow his no killing rule?  Cause that definitely killed him. +1
  • And more news exposition +1

Pg. 22 Panels 6-13

  • Hahaha!  Yeah, I love this guy’s reaction!  -3

Pg. 23

  • Epic -1

Pg. 24 Panel 1

  • How can you smell their fear when they’re driving in a car? +1

Pg. 25 Panels 3-6

  • I like how the experienced cop is letting Batman do his thing while the younger cop is going after him.  Gives us some perspective on how the older generation respects Batman more then the younger ones.  Kind of has some parallels to real world aspects (whether intentional or not) -1

Pg. 26 Panels 1-4

  • I like how Batman’s assessing the situation to determine his next course of actions -1

Pg. 27

  • The way he sneaks around in the shadows to pick them off one at a time is awesome!  This entire fight scene is so Batman and I love it!  –1
  • But he definitely killed someone in this scene +1

Pg. 29 Panels 2-9

  • Love the respect this cop has for Batman -1

Pg. 30 Panels 3-10

  • The reaction the Joker has to hearing of Batman’s return is brilliantly chilling.  I feel like I’m subtracting too many sins off this thing but all these scenes are just too good not to be recognized. -1

Pg. 31 Panels 1-12

  • This isn’t quite exposition since this is just two characters debating over the moral implications of Batman’s return, but the fact that Miller uses the news so much in this first issue makes me wanna sin it anyways so I will +1
  • “Then why do you call him psychotic?  Because you like to use that word for any motive that’s too big for your little mind?” I feel like Lex Luthor would like Lana +1
  • Considering how super sensitive America is now, I doubt you would be able to call a woman fat in the future and be able to get away with it.  Not saying you should ever call anyone fat (because you shouldn’t) but this man would’ve been burned alive for that insult. +1

Pg. 32 Panels 9-16

  • I’ve always loved Alfred’s dry sense of humor –1
  • A wet costume could slow him down so that would be a bad idea.  Bruce probably has more then one Batsuit so why don’t he just wear a dry one? +1

Pg. 33 Panels 1-4

  • I think this mutant is a Judge Dredd fan +1
  • News +1

Pg. 34 Panels 7-8

  • More news! +1
  • Again, considering the current state of America I doubt a comment like “Hope he goes after the homos next” would fly.  Besides, what did those “homos” ever do to you, asshole?  +3

Pg. 34 Panels 13-16

  • Carrie Kelley’s expression when she sees the Batsignal is adorable -1

Pg. 36 Panels 5-16

  • Somehow I don’t see Joker as much of a smoker +1
  • How does Joker find this guy while he’s in prison? +1

Pg. 37 Panel 1-2

  • This is a grappling hook; and while I’ve never seen a grappling hook in person, all the ones I’ve seen Batman use looks more like pistols. +1

Pg. 39 Panels 2-9

  • This was made prior to 9/11 so it’s not really Frank Miller’s fault that this could be seen as insensitive.  But for the fun of it, let’s compare this to our universe for a sec.  In our universe the twins towers fell in 2001 due to terrorists attacks.  If we’re to say this story takes place in the future then that means that these twin towers are still around despite the numerous superhero battles that takes place in the DC universe that are more destructive than 9/11?  Not likely! +1
  • Also I’m just now noticing how much Harvey looks like the Batman villain Hush here.  You think when those bandages come off we’re gonna see he looks like Bruce Wayne?  Would be an interesting twist. +1

Pg. 40 Panels 5-13

  • “This would be a fine death…” While this death would probably fit Batman more then a car crash, I still don’t think this would be a “fine death”.  You should be in an extreme fight with a villain, not running to said fight.  That would be like if Superman would to have a heart attack on his way to fight Doomsday! +1
  • But that is a creative explanation for a piece of his costume that people always criticize.  I still prefer his suits without the yellow on his chest, but at least Miller gives a plausible reason why that is a semi important aesthetic to his costume. -1

Pg. 41

  • This is a really cool shot -1
  • But our of context that grappling hook looks like a gun which is very out of character +1
  • And that bullet proof plating looks off +1

Pg. 42 Panel 5

  • “…Despite what you may have hears, you’re likely to stay conscious all the way down” are you talking about when people say “They’re dead before they hit the ground”?  Cause you realize they don’t mean that literally, right?  It’s the landing that kills you, not the fall.  Everybody knows that!  Sinning this three times cause someone like Batman should know that! +3

Pg. 43 Panel 1

  • Why are their speech bubbles suddenly yellow?  Are they channeling their inner Deadpool or something? +1

Pg. 43 Panels 2-9

  • Again, if this is how Harvey saw himself this whole time than why was he so happy at the beginning?  If he looked in the mirror and saw his hideous face looking back at him, wouldn’t he break down crying or something?  He should’ve been freaking out this whole time while everyone around him acted confused! +2

Final Verdict

Sins: 58

Subtractions: 21

Total: 37

Punishment: Thrown off a helicopter (You’ll die before hitting the ground)

Quick Review

This first chapter is pretty good Batman story.  The best parts are when Batman is actually out there doing Batman stuff and you see everyone’s reactions to it.  The fighting, assessing the situation, stuff like that.  Frank Miller may be a terrible writer now, but he understood Batman when he was writing this comic.  The respect that one cop had for Batman was a really nice touch and I appreciated seeing how the different generations reacted to his return.  However, I do have some complaints.  There was a lot of really boring exposition using the news and it really irritated me.  I actually recently read the first issue of Spawn and Todd McFarlene used this narrative device then too.  So I think this might’ve been a more commonly used thing in the 80’s and 90’s but I actually don’t read a lot of comics from that decade so I could be wrong.  Either way, a pretty good chapter with some boring exposition that overuses the television.

End Poll

So I’m going to make this a four-part SuperheroSins due to how long these chapters are.  So I was thinking, should I tally up all the sins collected over the four parts to judge the graphic novel as a whole once Pt. 4 is completed?  Or should I just judge each chapter individually including Pt 4?  Let me know!

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3 comments

  1. Sorry you aren’t bright enough to understand this……do we really NEED an explanation as to how Bruce loses his moustache……Gillette maybe? Plus, as you are probably reviewing this a good 30 years after it was published you clearly haven’t considered that many of these ‘cliches’ actually STARTED with this comic! Let me save you the effort of reviewing Watchmen……you won’t understand it.

    1. Can’t I do it for fun? Bruce’s moustashe seemingly just disapear and he acted surprised so I pointed it out. And even if the cliches started here, first off they’re still cliches even if they weren’t back then and second it’s fun to review old comics with modern standards. I’m sorry that I’m critiquing your favorite comic and you don’t like it but quite frankly I don’t give a crap whether or not you aprove of an article I write.

      Side note: I’m not planning on doing Watchmen, that book is far too long

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