The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade Review By Deffinition
The Dark Knight Returns is regarded by many as the greatest Batman Graphic Novel of all time. On it’s release it massively changed perceptions of the character and set in stone many of the characteristics of The Dark Knight that we hold true today.
So good thing they released this to completely destroy that legacy.
There was once a time when I viewed Frank Miller as the greatest Comic Book Writer on the planet. Then something happened, at some point in the year 1999, when we were all looking forward to the millennium, Frank Miller was kidnapped, cloned, killed and replaced. Replaced with a being I like to call Bizarro Frank.
Bizarro Frank is the George Lucas of comics.
The most evil being on the planet who uses words like ‘retard’ and ‘Goddamn’ every Goddamn second.
Since then Bizarro Frank has moved heaven and Earth to tarnish the legacy of his original vision. We’ve seen the Dark Knight Strikes again…Terrible, Holy Terror…TERRIBLE and now Bizarro Miller is set to ravage his classic with ‘The Dark Knight Returns The Last Crusade.’
Illustrated by John Romita Junior it tells the tale of Jason Todd on the fateful night he was murdered.
But is it actually any good?
Ha! Like you need me to answer that.
But I’m here to give these answers. So let’s dive in to The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade
What is the point?
My first question when reviewing this book is: why does it exist? For almost 30 years, readers have had the seminal ‘Death In The Family‘ story. Heralded highly on several top ten lists, it really seems like a pointless thing to write a book about. It’s more pointless than a broken pencil….ha…cos…never mind.
It’s a more pointless book than a Bible at an ISIS training camp.
Upon initially reading The Dark Knight Returns I never really needed the back story as to how Jason died. No matter what a writer thought up, it could never match the sick and sadistic torture I dreamt up for the boy Wonder so I never understood why Bizarro Frank needed to cover it.
I guess because he’s Goddamn Frank Goddamn Miller he felt the need to into the back story but from the off it feels like a huge waste of time.
It’s been 30 years and there is so much to cover in the Dark Knight Universe and I’m baffled as to why this is the first spin off book that they wanted to cover. This is a bigger waste of time than having a shit after you’ve just had a shower.
The possession of Frank Miller
Opening on a full page of blue and red lines, it really seems like Lazy Frank Miller is back in full effect. After just reading Holy Terror and seeing how Frank uses pages of boxes to kill time I began getting flashbacks. He seems to have transferred his consciousness into the body of John Romita Junior and forced him to act out his will so he doesn’t really have to describe what characters are doing on one page. Wow Frank, your laziness knows no bounds.
This makes it difficult to tell what’s going on, which characters are talking, why you should care. The normal problems that you face when trying to read a George Lucas, I mean Miller story.
The Joker babbles some stuff after how science is quackery and how the maestros have been fooled before getting thrown back into Arkham. I have no idea what it means and it seems pretentious for pretentiousness’s sake.
However Gotham breathes a collective sigh of relief knowing that the clown prince of crime is locked up once more.
News, News, News
A motif of The Dark Knight Returns was its satirical use of News anchors to provide exposition. They rear their head again here but show no real insight or thought beyond a plastic cartoon character. One remarks that Robin seems to be just a boy and that Batman is endangering him. This is quickly dropped when the anchor is questioned on it and he merely states ‘I’m not sure what I mean’.
Slow clap Frank, slow clap.
This is a book in which Jason Todd gets murdered and rather than set up several warnings to Batman that he is acting hugely irresponsible Bizarro Frank drops the main intrigue of the book almost as soon as he brings it up. I wanted to see people question Batman. It would make him question himself. We all know that not long after Jason’s murder that he hung up the cowl, but why, no one seems to be angry that he is putting a child in danger and the book seems wholly under developed because of it.
One of the aspects that I love about the book is how it paints Batman out as a broken man. He, like everyone, has to deal with the fact that he’s not getting any younger. He struggles to get up every morning and this vulnerability really paints him as a weak man, still trying to live out his youth. It’s a really gripping insight into a side of The Caped Crusader that we rarely see in comics. He’s often painted out as an unbeatable vigilante but here he doesn’t seem like he’ll even make it to breakfast. He loses every fight and only makes it through the majority of them with help from other. It really invests you in the character and paints out the frailty of ambition and life itself.
We’re all going to die and when we die there is nothing. It’s really uplifting.
The Jokes On Us
This depth is quickly ruined when we travel back to Arkham. The Joker once again tells a story, this time about a boy born with a broken neck who’s perspective of the world was different because he never had a straight view of things. It’s intriguing, feels like it’s setting up to deliver on a huge punchline, but it doesn’t. It just ends with the Joker walking off mid sentence. There is a huge build up of tension but no release. Imagine having a character named THE JOKER and he never tells a joke, instead he tells the set up, but is so unfunny that he can’t think of any punchline. You’d have to feel like a pretty big idiot of a writer if you did that. Whoever you are.
COUGH I KNOW ITS YOU BIZARRO FRANK COUGH
Every Rose Has it’s Thorn
The main plot revolves around Batman taking down Poison Ivy. The rich men of Gotham flock to her, willing to do her bidding, whatever the cost. It’s proper proper BDSM stuff. Especially when John Romita Juniors depiction of Batman looks like a gimp. But I digress.
Normally I would criticise the use of Ivy. Dark Knight Returns was always fairly grounded to me, with Superman being the only character who seemed other worldly. The plant lady doesn’t really belong in this universe but she showcases Batman’s impotence physically and mentally. He is faced with a beautiful woman and is unable to properly perform.
It’s nice to know that even metaphorically Bizarro Frank still isn’t to far from his original’s roots in prostitution.
Robin takes Ivy down, Batman barely makes it through the fight and during this The Joker escapes Arkham.
Building towards the books conclusion.
No Laughing Matter
Unfortunately the Climax is dull, depressing and under delivers. Robin takes off into the night looking for the Joker, Bruce unable to follow just for how haggard he is. He’s like a woman, in her 50s, eight kids. You know the ones. Like throwing one of them mini sausages you get at Christmas Down a train track. Not in the underground. Outside.
But I digress.
Jason foolishly goes to take down The Clown Prince of crime and is ambushed, beaten and then the story ends.
Just as things were getting good.
I know that this was originally supposed to be a two parter but there seems to be no follow up in sight and at the speed Frank Miller writes it’s got as much chance at coming out as Tom Crusie does.
I can only judge this book on it’s own merits and not what COULD be coming down the line. Honestly, it’s pretty crappy. Like the joke that the Joker failed to finish earlier in the book, this really feels like it doesn’t deliver the punchline. It’s all set up to nothing. I wanted something to rival Death In The Family but all I got was the death of my appreciation for the Dark Knight Returns. It adds nothing to the source material and I wish Bizarro Frank would just leave this property alone. HAVEN’T YOU DONE ENOUGH!!!!!
So overall this is a really disappointing story. The artwork is great and services what little plot there is. I can’t really recommend a story that only has a beginning, a middle and no end. Even as much as I like original book.
Perhaps this trade will be worth collecting should a sequel ever come out but for the moment I can’t suggest that anyone pics it up.
That’s why it gets a….
If you’ve been following my reviews then you know that i’m ranking the books as I read them in what all the fans of me lovingly call ‘Rank As I Read’ or ‘Rank As You Read’…I don’t know, I can’t remember, you do though as you’re a proper fan.
So here is the leaderboard so far.
- Batman The Cult
- Batman The Long Halloween
- Batman The Killing Joke
- Batman: Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth
- Batman And The Monster Men
- Batman The Last Arkham
- Batman Dark Victory
- Batman: The Man Who Laughs
- JLA Rock Of Ages
- Batman Vengeance Of Bane
- Batman Knightsend
- Batman Bride Of The Demon
- Batman: Year One
- Batman: Venom
- Batman Birth Of The Demon
- JLA New World Order Review (Vol 1)
- Batman A Death In The Family
- Batman: Night Cries
- Batman: Gothic
- Batman Knightfall
- Batman: Fears
- Batman: Prey
- Robin Year One
- Batman And The Mad Monk
- Batman: Son Of The Demon
- Batman Blind Justice
- Batman Ego
- Batman: Shaman
- Crisis On Infinite Earths
- Batman: Terror
- Batman A Lonely Place Of Dying
- JLA Secret Files #1
- Batman Sword Of Azrael
- Batman The Black Spider
- Batman: Faces
- Batgirl: Year One
- Batman Prodigal
- The Death Of Superman
- JLA Imaginary Stories
- Catwoman: When In Rome
- Batman: Madness
- Batman: Ghosts
- Batman Knightsquest
- JLA Woman Of Tomorrow
- Batman Doug Moench and Kelley Jones Volume 1
- The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade
- Batman: Strange Apparitions
- Batman Second Chances
- JLA Fire In The Sky
- Batman The Ugly American
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