Absolute Dark Knight

Greg Oleksiuk

In a way, The Dark Knight Strikes Again is Miller turning his back on The Dark Knight Returns and trying to give readers a different take on superheroes.

Absolute Dark Knight

Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 1401210791
Contributors: Artist: Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
Price: $99.99
Writer: Frank Miller
Length: 512
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2006-08

This is the graphic novel that paved the way for me (and many other comic book fans) to enter the world of more mature and intelligent comic books. It was just over ten years ago and I had recently come back to comics about a year earlier and had returned to what I knew, namely superhero comics. Then one day I picked up the trade paperback of The Dark Knight Returns and forever I was changed, as are many people when they read Frank Miller's dark tale of an elderly, nearly broken Batman. This piece of art showed me that there was more to comics, and that they could be just as literary as any novel. Several years later, Miller's sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again came out. At first, I was excited to get that same feeling I got when I first read The Dark Knight Returns. When this did not happen I felt a little disappointed, however I soon realized that while it was not the same and perhaps not as revolutionary, it was still well done and an important Batman book.

Batman as a character would not be who he is today if it were not for Frank Miller. What is even more interesting is that Batman would not be who he is today if not for the Frank Miller of the mid 1980's. Miller created the definitive Alpha and Omega of Batman's existence, namely Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, respectively, and he did it all within a year or two. These two pieces of work are those by which all other Batman tales are judged. Very few come close to equalling them and none have surpassed them. For almost fifteen years Miller left Batman alone and then, in 2001, he returned to the character that truly made him a comic book superstar with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Now, DC Comics has collected both The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again into one of their oversized, high-end Absolute editions showing just how relevant Miller's work still is.

Pretty much any list of the greatest comics of all time includes The Dark Knight Returns and pretty much any list of the worst comics of all time includes The Dark Knight Strikes Again. This dichotomy is probably more a sign of how revered the former is and how much the latter is not a literal copy of the original. The Dark Knight Returns is dark, moody and all about Batman. The Dark Knight Strikes Again is bright, colorful and more about the DC Universe than solely Batman. Miller was vocal about wanting to bring back the grandeur and awe of superheroes. In a way, The Dark Knight Strikes Again is Miller turning his back on The Dark Knight Returns and trying to give readers a different take on superheroes. Miller is trying to return to the comic book of days past. This is most notably shown by his design for Superman in the second series. Yet, he still keeps things modern and tries to push forward with Lynn Varley's computer coloring and the updated costumes for such characters as The Flash and Wonder Woman.

The Absolute edition gives readers a few new bonus features, including sketches and Miller's original proposal for The Dark Knight Returns. What is missing however is the original script for the fourth issue of The Dark Knight Returns, which has been included in the trade paperback version since 1996. What is in the Absolute edition does give insight into the world Miller was trying to create. If nothing else, having the two books together in one volume shows just how good and important Miller's first Batman tale really is.

While a lot of people still look at The Dark Knight Strikes Again with disdain and criticism, it is more for what it is not than what it is. Having both of these works together shows just how much Miller changed in those fifteen or so years, not only artistically, but also personally and in his views of superhero comic books. Whether you agree with what he did, one cannot deny that Miller is one of the most important creators not only to comic books, but to Batman in general. While certainly there have been other great creators on various Batman projects, it is doubtful things would be the way they are now without Miller's reinterpretations of the character over the years. The Absolute edition is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of The Dark Knight Returns, even if you think that The Dark Knight Strikes Again sucked.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.