Retro Review: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

This review contains spoilers.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again is a three issue mini-series written by Frank Miller with art by Miller and colors by Lynn Varley. It is a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns and takes place three years after the events of that story. Bruce Wayne comes out of hiding with a team of superheroes to take on Lex Luthor and Braniac.

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There are really two different stories here. In the first, Lex Luthor and Braniac are trying to take over the world blackmailing Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel to help while Batman forms a team to stop them. In the background, several heroes are being murdered by a mysterious figure. This figure turns out to be Dick Grayson as a new Joker.

Positives

Surprisingly, Lara-El is my favorite character of the book. First of all, it is a terrific new design for Supergirl. It has an elegance and power that is enhanced by Varley’s colors. She just looks cool. On top of that, she is interesting. Lara is the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman but raised on Themyscira. And she tries to have the best qualities of both parents. She’s a good analogy of people that are mixed race and how different cultures can be combined in meaningful and respectful ways. She is a fascinating character that never received any further development because of the book she’s in but I think she is a genuinely fantastic character.

Negatives

When I reviewed The Dark Knight Returns on this site, I pointed out several elements of that book that I did not enjoy. But those elements were mainly in the background and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story; they were just strange elements that I did not fully understand. In this story, it is the reverse of that. The material that I didn’t like in the first book is brought to the forefront and buries the few elements work here.

This story is incredibly padded. Miller wastes so much time on characters acting like idiots. Batman just yells at Superman for a while until the final issue when he finally decides to stop Lex and Braniac. The news anchors are turned up to eleven. So much of the story is just Miller making social commentary that doesn’t make sense. And then there is the weird element of the Birds of Prey being turned into sexy fan girls on TV instead of the bad-asses that they are. And none of it has anything to do with the two main plots. And that is another problem. The story just should have been about Dick Grayson as the new Joker. While I do think that is a dumb idea, it is a story that makes sense for Miller’s universe. But Miller feels the need to throw in way too many superheroes to fight Lex and Braniac. Except none of the heroes get to do anything because they are all just Batman’s bitches at the end of the day. It’s too big of a scale for a Batman book made worse by the assumption that Miller does not seem to like these characters.

I also did not like how Superman was portrayed in the first book but it’s even worse here and Miller throws in Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel as well. They are being blackmailed into working for Lex and Batman does not even think to ask Superman about it until the final issue. He’s a judgmental asshole throughout the entire book to these three especially Clark and they’re the sympathetic ones. But they’re not supposed to be; I am intended to be on Bruce’s side but he is a monster in this. There is never a moment where I see a hero or even a decent human being. He is a tyrannical monster and is no better than Lex here. Again, Lara is the only sympathetic character in this because everyone else is either crazy or an idiot.

The art is terrible. The perfect reaction is T.J. Miller’s reaction to seeing Wade Wilson’s burnt face in Deadpool. “You are haunting.” It’s just hard to look at. Some of the colors are inspired but every other piece of art is nightmare fuel. It doesn’t even look gritty; it’s just gross and ugly.

Verdict

There is so much wrong with this book. I tried to stay on the larger problems but most of the details are dumb as well such as Carrie Kelly being Catgirl now. But almost nothing works in this book. The first two issues are uselessly padded with the final issue being crammed with too much plot as a result. There are no interesting ideas or characters besides Lara. Everything else in the book is just non-sense. Batman is an unsympathetic jerk who isn’t any better than the villains he fights and his team are a bunch of morons for believing in his crap. And to top it all off, it isn’t even nice to look at thanks to the painful art. This is one of the worst comics I have ever read and I do not recommend it to anyone.

 

1outof5

 

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Sean Blumenshine

I am currently a senior at Wichita State University studying communications. I started reading comics in 2013 because of how much I loved Man of Steel and season one of Arrow. My favorite hero is the Green Arrow and my favorite villain is the Joker.