(DC Comics, $29.95, hardcover, 256 pp., November 2002, ISBN: 1563898446.)
Frank Miller's 1986 comics story, The Dark Knight Returns, imaginedan old Batman coming out of retirement to fight against Ronald Reagan's vision of America. Engaged and enraged, it was a politically charged and formally innovative tour-de-force that deftly appropriated pop-culture icons. Years later, its politics are still controversial, misinterpreted, and debated. And its technical innovations have been incorporated into mainstream comics.
After having tackled crime kitsch with Sin City, Greek history in 300, and ribald humour in Tales to Offend, Miller revisits the setting of his famous Batman epic.
The results are mixed.
Given the current international climate, Miller's return to his over-the-top blend of political satire and operatic adventure is certainly timely. In an era when governments and corporations are trying to control our thoughts and lives in increasingly invasive and repressive ways, The Dark Knight Strikes Again's emphatic call for responsible civil disobedience is both stirring and heartfelt.
In this story, Superman's long-time foes, Lex Luthor and Brainiac, rule the world behind a puppet US government. Superman is being blackmailed into serving his former enemies. Batman, forced underground at the end of the previous story, emerges to save the world by inciting people to believe in personal heroism and to stop accepting the lies fed to them by the corporate media. It's timely and provocative material.
Sadly, the script lacks the emotional nuances of its predecessor, and, most noticeably, the artwork is rushed and garish. This new look, while clearly intentional, lacks the power created by the dense, textured, and carefully choreographed artwork that filled every page of The Dark Knight Returns.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again has considerable chutzpah, but its careless execution is regrettable.
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© Claude Lalumière 21 September 2002, 12 April 2003