Δευτέρα, 11 Ιουνίου 2012

What I think About Stuff-The Dark Knight Strikes Again

The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Or How to Turn the very Character you turned into an Icon into a Huge Joke in 100 pages or less.

DISCLAIMER: This review may contain a number of heretical Batman-related opinions. Fanboys are kindly requested to show some understanding and refrain from shaking the Pillars of Heaven in rage against this reviewer.

The other day, a friend of mine told me how writing reviews about good (or moderately good comics), actually ruins the comic book for anyone who’d be interested in buying it. He told me that it would be best if I tried a really bad one.

I chose to take his advice, so here’s a piece of shit for ya:

The cover promises Revolution, Rebellion and if it was part of a song, it’d be the guitar shredding bridge before the chorus. Sadly, none of this applies to the actual comic book.

Dark Knight Strikes Again is Frank Miller’s worst work, overshadowing (in my opinion) even All-Star Batman and Robin, that other bat-sturbation festival this man chose to write in the process of turning himself and his most beloved character into a miniseries-long farce.

I can’t stop imagining Batman flipping a switch and turning on Batmobile’s neon decals after this, synched to the rhythm of a Snoop Dog song.

To be fair, this miniseries wouldn’t have been half as bad on its own right (in fact it would have been funny and awesome as all hell), but what made it so goddamn terrible was that this was intended as a SEQUEL to the Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s most stellar work, and at the same time the comic book which forever resolved the who would win in every fight in every possible comicbook crossover ever, if Batman was one of the contestants.

Hint: Batman would win. Batman would win every goddamn time.

What can I possibly say about the Dark Knight Returns except that you should buy and read the shit out of it, unless you want to die unfulfilled? What praise could I possibly heap on comic book that summarizes (and reinvents) Batman as a character on its own right? How can I not marvel at something that was created by a 30-year old comic book writer/artist in 1986 that has become lodged so hard inside our pop culture that we can’t even CONSIDER a superhero universe without a Batman in one form or another?

And at the same time cause us to support the shit out of the multiversal theory if only for the off-chance that each of us is Batman in some distant, possible universe?

What I’m trying to say is that the Dark Knight Returns was an awesome comic book and that it shows a certain kind of narrative genius and consistency I’m hard pressed to find in comic books to this day.
The other thing I’m trying to say is that it was just goddamn fine on its own. It did not need a sequel. Because there was absolutely no way anybody would ever be able to follow up the Dark Knight Returns in any meaningful, equally awesome way.

It would be like Kurt Vonnegut writing a sequel to the Sirens of Titan, where Malachi turns into a zombie, gains superpowers and has a punch-out with Winston across the outer rim of the Galaxy.

When I found out, however, that the Dark Knight Returns had a sequel, I absolutely shat my pants with joy (being the impressionable, misguided youngster that I used to be) and rushed to buy it. In my defense, I considered that the fact that this had been written by an older, more mature Frank Miller would be much more focused and interesting and would expand on Return’s themes consistently.

I thought I’d get my hands on a short, yet violent and sweet addendum to Returns, sprinkled with just a bit of political commentary, featuring superheroes beating the everloving shit out of each other. What I got instead was this:

Riveting stuff.

Pages upon pages of sociopolitical satire. In a goddamn Batman comic book. Just try to wrap your head around that, why don’t you? I know a lot of people accuse Frank Miller of adding way too many far-right political undertones in Returns, but at least in Returns, those undertones were subtler but also served as a plot point!

The kind of plot point whose end result is a giant motherfucking a-bomb.

But in Strikes Again, the satire is set here on its own right. Granted, Miller does try to shoehorn it into the narrative but let’s face it honey: you can’t use a pile of diarrhea. In my opinion, it’s obvious that Miller used his Returns fame as a tool for blackmail against DC comics in order to force them to print this goddamn mess.

I even bet he slapped one of the editors in the face when he presented them with the finished pages and they told him that there is no way DC would agree to print this drivel. I bet he also called his mother a whore and kept shouting “DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM? I’M FRANK GODDAMN MILLER, BITCH! NOW SEND THAT SHIT TO THE PRINTERS AND PACK YOUR STUFF FROM YOUR GODDAMN OFFICE BEFORE I HAVE YOU THROWN OUT OF THE GODDAMN BUILDING!”

The same argument was obviously paraphrased as the sole sales pitch for every dumb-ass DC miniseries since.

But you’re not here just to see me heap praises on Returns and damnation on Strikes Again, are you? No, of course not. The internet hates Strikes Again and you can get that hate anywhere you like with just a simple Google search.

Internet’s handiest hate machine.

What I’m going to do instead (before moving on to further bashing), will be to try and outline some of Strikes Again’s best features. And trust me, it has a couple good ones going for it.

·         The Dark Knight Strikes Again sequelizes the shit out of Returns (in a good way):

No matter how much I hate this comic, this frame makes me punch the air and shout FUCK YEAH!

Frank Miller started this series with a very clear (and awesome) goal in mind: to reunite and reinvent the JLA as a whole. This is made apparent in both the opening intro to Returns and Strikes Again and it’s something you can both root for and dream about:

The resurgence of heroes in a world that once shunned them, but now desperately needs them.

Returns dealt with Batman’s perspective on this matter. But when Batman’s tale was said and done, it was only natural that the rest of the lot would follow his lead and return to active duty. If Frank Miller hadn’t spent more than half the goddamn series on a bunch of talking heads that contribute absolutely nothing, this could have been the best JLA story out there, hands down.

Though I have to hand it to him, Batchick was pretty fucking hot. If only the rest of those panels weren’t getting in the way…

·         Strikes Again has a very interesting character development arc for Superman:

Granted, it does only cover a tenth of Superman’s screen time on this comic book, but it’s otherwise a story that I’d have loved to see unfold.

And it would have been so, had Frank Miller not been so preoccupied with turning the whole thing into a Batman fanfic.

Some spoilers ahead. But then again, you’d care if that comic wasn’t so full of shit, its binding is brown.

1.       Superman hooks up with Wonder Woman: This is a development I was expecting and anticipating since I read Alan Moore’s For the Man who Has Everything short Superman story.

What’s that? You haven’t read it? That’s okay, lots of people live their lives without truly knowing beauty.

A lot of people will call this opinion of mine shallow and pedantic. How I choose to pair up two superheroes in my mind, simply because their powers fit well together and not on the merit of their interactions, their backstory or their mythos. That Superman and Lois Lane work as a couple because of her lack of powers.

These people also fail to consider that I give less of a fuck about Lois Lane than I do about Spiderman.

And trust me: if I cared any less about Spiderman, he wouldn’t have existed in the first place.

Personal bias aside, it is inevitable for Superman and Wonder Woman to end up together. Why? Because they’re both super-powered beings that have faced countless dangers across time and space and have worked together to save Life, the Universe and Everything on innumerable occasions.

What I’m trying to say is that they’re the only people in the entire DC universe that have anything in common with each other.

Let’s face facts: After spending a whole day fighting off cosmic invasion forces hell-bent on eradicating humanity, you can’t exactly go back to talking about your day at the office.

2.       Superman and Wonder Woman have a kid:


Her name is Kara, she’s half Kryptonian and she’s raised as an Amazon, meaning she’s stronger than her dad but lacking proper moral directions. She could have been the star of the show, right next to Batman. Instead, Frank Miller presents her like an absolute goddamn idiot fascist teenager.

All this AND MORE from her first exchange of dialogue with her dad, no less!

3.       Superman comes to terms with the idea that even though he serves and protects mankind, he is not entirely human:

Trust me, this frame is absolutely RUINED when taken in context.

This is a good thing to see. Every good Superman story does contain Superman’s struggle to remain human and not turn into the invincible Big Brother figure. He tries to abide by the laws of men while at the same time protecting them against an increasingly hostile cosmos.

And that makes him much more human than human. The fact that he constantly tries to get on the same level with us powerless little Earth Monkeys, despite him being able to snuff out suns is his most endearing and interesting characteristic. In Strikes Again, Miller tries to see what would happen is Superman lost that characteristic, but fails miserably because he was too busy ejaculating over every panel and piece of dialogue featuring Batman.

·         For the first time in his entire career, Batman has an obvious and meaningful goal:

This is the whole point of this shitty miniseries, right here, in just this one panel.

This is strictly my opinion and I’m not aiming to infuriate somebody and I sure as hell ain’t in the mood for trolling. With that in mind, I need you to consider this:

Batman is a wasted character.

Why do I think that? Not because Batman doesn’t have any powers. Hell, having powers is what holds back most of DC’s heroes. In fact, not having powers (and a huge goddamn fortune to spend on superheroing) frees Batman and allows him to do much more than all of them combined.

So why the hell doesn’t he do that? Why does he insist on trying to rehabilitate serial killers and clean up Gotham

A city which has repeatedly proven itself not to be worth the effort.

Thus wasting his money, abilities and freedom? Why doesn’t he do more? Sure, before the DC reboot he did attempt to bring out Batman’s brand of justice globally by founding Batman Inc., but that only occurred to him after more than 50 years’ worth of adventuring!

Frank Miller knows this to be the case and tries, while examining Batman through rose-tinted glasses thicker than Saturn’s belt, to bring this point to light and use it to the story’s advantage. And that’s a good thing. That’s a damn good thing.

Too bad it’s ruined by lack of background and Miller forgetting this whole damn point during the entirety of the narrative.

In my opinion, this a conclusion Batman needs to reach as soon as possible in the rebooted DC run, before the character gets bogged into the mire of decades-long continuity once again.
That’s it for my good points in Strikes Again. In case you haven’t noticed, only one of the three is referring to Batman. Why is that, you ask? Well, mostly because Miller took Batman and turned him from this:

Pictured: the reborn avatar of justice and vigilantism, risen from its ashes
Into this:

Pictured: a bitter old fuck with kryptonite powerfists.

He turned Batman into an unfunny little person who keeps reminding everyone (and constantly being showered by remarks of) how awesome and excellent and great he is, how he changed everything and brought the superheroes back, how he’s the only one who can stop the evil powers that have taken over the world, etc., etc.

But you know when else he did the exact same goddamn thing and we believed it, without once needing to be reminded by it by anybody? In Dark Knight Returns. That’s where Bruce Wayne was both a hero and a symbol. In Strikes Again, he’s just a kid in an old man’s body screaming: “Hey! Hey, superpeople! Everybody! Look at meeee! LOOK AT MEEEEE!


Also, the art sucks balls. There’s no backgrounds in almost any frame and Miller’s style was obviously slipping, as evidenced by the following example:

“Frank, there’s no way you can convince me this page is finished. You just-” “FUCK YOU BITCH, I’M FRANK MILLER!”

And that’s not even the worst example. It’s just the first, worst clue toward how little a fuck Frank Miller gave about the art.

You know what kind of food Strikes Again would be? It would be the cheese and bacon-smeared French fries complimenting your huge-ass, delicious Dark Knight Returns smokehouse burger.

You’d try it once, then bust your friends’ balls for the rest of their lives on how dumb they were for picking the Jack Daniels sauce steak over this piece of culinary art.

They’re greasy as fuck, unnecessary and you can’t even stand to eat them along with the burger, for fear of ruining the taste it has left in your palate, opting instead to try a few, then push them to the side of the table and never take a second look at them again.

They’re the culinary equivalent of trying to date that stripper you met on your bachelor party.


Another theme that’s made apparent in the intro of both Returns and Strikes Again is how much Frank Miller is counting on something much greater than us to come and save us in our time of need.

And I get that. I get what he means by presenting Batman as the ultimate human symbol and Superman as the almighty agent of the machine that oppresses us, but let’s face facts here:

If this story was written any better, it would have been Superman that would have been the bad guy. Why? Because Superman already knew how corrupt and far gone his enemies were and would have anticipated Batman’s return in the near future.

Also, by the end of Returns, Superman’s defeat changes his way of thinking: Instead of reporting back to his corrupt, retarded leaders, he opts to keep his own agenda. So what’s exactly stopping Superman, who knows his masters/supervisors are evil as fuck and irresponsible to boot?

Nothing. Absoluytely fucking nothing.

I understand that Miller decided to take the safer solution and make Luthor and Brainiac the villains, but let’s be honest here: the resolution shows that they had nothing on the Last Son of Krypton in the first place. It meant that Superman (if not dumbed down for the purposes of this narrative) would have whooped their asses and taken over.

And that’s the kind of story I’d love to write and/or read. Batman and the JLA fighting against Superman, with a repeat of the Batman vs Superman showdown from Returns, albeit with a shitload more explosions.

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