I always forget until I watch or read it again how deeply unfair to Superman The Dark Knight Returns is. I mean, I haven’t always been the biggest Superman fan in the world, this past year excluded, I never connected much to the character, however much I understood what he stood for.
But that’s nothing compared to how The Dark Knight Returns feels about him. (I’m not going to say Frank Miller, because I don’t actually know the man’s opinions on Clark, and a writer can express a point of view through work that isn’t necessarily fully representative of their personal POV.) The image of Superman as a personal lackey for evil eternal President Reagan (one of the many signs of the piece’s age, BTW. I understand that to people in the 80’s and early 90’s, the Reagan Era may have seemed endless, but it wasn’t actually.) and threatening to take down Batman with his “authority” is really just cruel to Superman’s many fans.
What isn’t, is the amazing fight between the two, which on the page is epic and animated here is pure superhero sublimity. My God, is this a beautiful thing. Every, punch, kick, broken rib, and toppled building as the world’s two greatest superheroes beat the snot out of each other in crime alley is perfectly paced and gorgeously wrought.
Of course, that’s the finale, The Dark Knight Returns is paced around 3 big action markers, first is Batman taking down a Bruno, a Nazi themed Gotham Boss, as she and two thugs rob a drug store. It’s a killer fight, and gets Bats into a disguise other than the suit, which is always fun. There’s not a lot to this one, it’s just some great fighting and some cool action.
The second part is the fight with Joker. After wreaking havoc on a talk show and dressing Selina in a Wonder Woman costume, Batman and joker face off at the Gotham City fairgrounds. It ends with Batman breaking Joker’s neck. It’s an intense moment, and very Miller. A Batman kill can’t be taken lightly, and Batman killing Joker really can’t be anything but perfect. It’s done very well.
Then the Superman fight. Which as I said is pitch perfect.
There’s not a lot to say about Part 2 that I didn’t already cover in Part 1, expect to note that this is the more action packed half, and the half that I prefer less. That goes for the original GN as well. I think the top half is a good deal better than the back half. I’ve never much liked this version of Oliver Queen or Superman, although the twist ending of Batman not being dead might be the best in the world.
The voice cast is mostly the same group from before, with the addition of Mark Valley as Superman and Robin Atkin Downes as Queen. They both do a steady job with characters who don’t have many shades to work with. Queen is one extreme that Batman can’t go to and Superman is the other. He is the middle road between them.
Up next is Superman: Unbound, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m kind of excited to get into some fun after two weeks of dwelling in The Dark Knight Returns heavyness.