Sunday, August 8, 2010

Batman: the Dark Knight Returns pt 1

Over at the Legion of Dudes podcast, the dudes are stripping down Frank Miller's seminal work (along with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley) of an aging Bruce Wayne and his return to crime fighting as Batman, after 10 years in retirement. They will be doing an issue by issue analysis/discussion of the book, which is something I am really looking forward to. The first part can be found here.

I've also begun re-reading this book again, and here are some of my scattered thoughts on the first issue.

- Other than some scattered issues (400, two parts of Year One, the Millennium crossover) this was probably my first Batman comic I ever read.

- The opening pages really set the scene – Lynn Varley’s muted colors, the claustrophobia of the 16-panel grid Miller uses, the smoke and haze he draws across Gotham, it all sets the mood, a feeling of things having moved on, things being bleak.
And Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne both look old. The lines on their face; these guys have been through a lot.

- PAGE 7: “Arkham Home for the emotionally troubled,” not criminally insane

- PAGE 9: When Bruce Wayne comments that, “we must believe in Harvey Dent. We must believe that our private demons can be defeated . . .” he is talking about himself and about trying to keep his urge to be Batman at bay

- It’s ironic that Jason Todd’s death was the impetus for Batman’s retirement, when DKR was created before “A Death in the Family.”

- Is it significant that Harvey Dent’s psychiatrist has a “Hitler” mustache? (Dr. Wolper did release Harvey Dent/Two-Face back into the world)

- PAGE 15: In Miller’s recreation of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, The panels where Bruce’s father dies and the emotion on young Bruce’s face is perfect. Miller really captures the moment here, and the utilization of the 16-grid works very well in showing this moment without any dialogue.

- PAGE 20-25: The way Miller reintroduces Batman, having him come from the shadows, only showing pieces (a hand, a foot, a bit of cape) is brilliant. It enhances the myth that is Batman, his wish to instill fear in the hearts of the criminals. And then on page 26, that’s how to use a splash page. Miller built up the anticipation with the 16-grid on the previous six pages, using small panels to create a frenetic pace, and then BAM! The Batman is in our face on that big splash. Brilliant.
** Interesting that Batman uses the phrase that he’s “born again,” considering Miller’s seminal work for Marvel and these both were coming out at roughly the same time.

- The voice-over by Batman as he takes out the bank robbers, really makes him a totally new character. He’s a bad-ass, and Miller taps into that feeling in all of us of wanting to be able to balance things, to make things right. These robbers shouldn’t be getting away and shouldn’t have the opportunity to do it again. Batman takes care of them in a way the legal system can’t.
Miller also showcases Batman’s intelligence as he lets the final guy lose his cool, waits for him to come closer before acting. Methodical and smart.

- PAGE 32: both sides of the coin are scarred. A classic example of letting the art tell the story.

- PAGE 33: The resurgence of the common man’s will that Lana (Lang?) speaks of on television with Batman’s reappearance is compounded by Batman's reappearance giving resurgence to the Joker’s will to live as evidenced in these panels.

- PAGE 40: Even though Miller is making Batman larger than life (with his return despite being sixty), he also grounds him, makes him very human (the voice-over on this page where he shifts his legs to stop them cramping, or the pain crossing his back as he climbs “it used to be easier.” On the next page) and makes readers relate to him even more because of this. It pulls the audience in, great storytelling.

- PAGE 42, bottom panel: that image with the huge cape flowing as Batman aims the rifle is priceless, like the way Berni Wrightson drew Batman in Swamp Thing in the 70s.

- PAGE 43: the reason for the yellow symbol, brilliant.

- PAGE 44: Another fantastic splash page. Again, worthy of the moment. Only the second in these first 48 pages.

- At the end of this first chapter, Batman understands that Harvey is only a reflection of himself. But, the question is, what will Bruce Wayne do about this revelation?

The second installment from the Dudes should arrive in a couple of weeks, and each successive chapter probably two weeks thereafter. I'm looking forward to it.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I just ordered a copy of Warrier27 #1-2. To get my toes wet. Many people don't appreciate how Frank Miller breathed a whole new voice and energy into the series with Dark Knight Returns, but it's magical, heart-breaking, and a real piece of art. Great to see people analyzing it and sharing their thoughts!