Sunday, December 26, 2010

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

So this was the first actual comic book I have ever read cover to cover. My friend Ryan let me borrow it because we had been discussing who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman, and the two go at it in this (apparently, according to wikipedia, non-canonical) story. The experience was both interesting and frustrating; on one hand, Batman's vigilantism is called into question and debated throughout the comic, but on the other I'm apparently not very good at reading comics and found it hard to figure out exactly what the hell was going on. Also, there was a lot of back story that I didn't have all the pieces to, though I could pretty much get the gist.

But enough about my failings as a comic book reader. I saw Batman in a different light in this edition. Though he still stops short of killing any of the villains he battles, he still seems to have little regard for due process. In one illustrative exchange, two talking heads discuss whether Batman's methods are acceptable.

Ted: "Miss Lang, you are the Batman's most vocal supporter. How can you condone behavior that is so blatantly illegal? What about due process, what about civil rights?"

Ms. Lang "We live in the shadow of crime, Ted, with the unspoken understanding that we are victims - of fear, of violence, of social impotence. A man has risen to show us that the power is, and always has been, in our hands. We're under siege - he's showing us that we can resist."

(this last dialogue bubble was at the bottom of a page. as I read it i was thinking, ummm, that has nothing to do with anything, which is why I was so glad when I turned the page and saw...)

Ted: Lana, you haven't exactly answered my question...

But we don't really get into it much further from there. The new police commissioner vows to hunt Batman down, but we don't get much more thoughtful debate on the right and wrong of it. Of course, I probably shouldn't expect much thoughtful debate on such a topic from a comic book, but in the end I kinda felt like Batman was a Constitution-hating dick.

So yeah, I didn't really love it and wouldn't recommend it if you're not into comics. And I still think that Superman is better than Batman.


Christopher said...

There is no question that Superman would win in a fight. It's not even an interesting question.

Now, whether Batman's vigilantism is acceptable--that's another matter entirely.

Brent Waggoner said...

Batman can only win by writer's decree. DKR is one of the seminal Batman comics, but I really dislike it because it presents Superman as such a stooge. Frank Miller hates superheroes, and it really shows.