By now I am sure you have heard of Batman The Dark Knight Returns. Perhaps you had seen the Dark Knight movie with Christian Bale, or had seen the animated version. But most likely you had heard of Batman:The Dark Knight Returns because it was the groundbreaking graphic novel by Frank Miller. Originally a comic series, the Dark Knight Returns had made such a big splash with the comics industry that to this day remains to be one graphic novel that nearly every comic fan owns as a badge of honor.
Once upon a time, Batman had a reputation of being a bit of a loser. During the 60s, there was an incredibly dumb Batman television show that took all the respect away from any thought of Batman. But when Frank Miller brought out Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a new tune was sung. Batman was dark, gritty, ruthless, and cool. His crime fighting nights were relentless and violent, and fans ate it up. Frank Miller’s efforts had redefined Batman, and became the bases for all Batman comics in the future.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns arguably was a major contributor to repairing the comic book industry during the infamous 90s crash. After a string of lame stories and over-saturation of comic books, people began to stop reading comics and graphic novels. The industry was in trouble. When the market began to rise again, there was one story in everyone’s hands. You guessed it: The Dark Knight Returns.
One criticism that I must point out is that the artwork is terrible. What is strange is that Frank Miller is not a bad artist, because we’ve seen his great work in Daredevil and Sin City. But for some reason, his sketchy and (intentionally?) sloppy artwork makes the story difficult to interpret at times. This is the only criticism anyone could really give to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, because the story itself is nothing short of brilliant.
If you had already read the novel, you may be interested to know that there is an animated version (affiliate link) that is very faithful to the graphic novel. The fight scenes had been extended and some minor scenes were altered. The ending has also been lengthened and expanded.
Some people have been confused by the ending of The Dark Knight Returns. It is simple. Here is the ending explained: Batman is an old man. Gotham City needs a successor to Batman. He recruits a gang to watch over Gotham like an invisible hand. Batman is not a person, but a symbol, as well as a legend. With the gang taking his place, Gotham will remain safe forever.
As mentioned, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is the only graphic novel this is so monumental and important to the history and industry of comic books that is relentlessly read by fans across the world to this day, despite its age. Any serious comic book fan or collector will have read this, and most own a copy as if a rite of passage. Anyone who will see this book on your shelf will know: yes, you are a serious comic fan. You are one of us, and have earned my total respect. This way of thinking is for good reason, which you will know once you read the story (if you haven’t already!)