Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Dark Knight Returns : The Last Crusade (Spoilers)

Warning: This contains spoilers, and while most everyone who is likely to read this comic has probably already done so, I still feel the need to say this.

The Dark Knight Return: The Last Crusade is a prequel to Frank Miller's classic 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns.  As we all know, in the original series Jason Todd A.K.A Robin had been dead for at least 10 years, but we were never told specifically how he died.  Interestingly, this death predated Jason's death in the normal DC Continuity by more than two years, but let's not bother with the maze that is DC's continuity for the time being.  Let's just focus on the new book.

Let me set the stage by saying that I love Frank Miller's original The Dark Knight Returns.  It was and still is the book that has defined Batman for the modern age.  It's effects are still being felt in the Batman films, where each one seems to feel the need to reproduce at least one scene from The Dark Knight Returns.  I also really enjoyed his later work Batman: Year One because I felt that it gave a wonderfully realistic take on Batman's early days.  I was much less impressed by The Dark Knight Strikes Again though.  I honestly thought those books were a mess, and I'm still not sure what was actually going on in them.  I'm going to lose a lot of people by saying that I also enjoyed All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.  I know, that's practically sacrilege, and I'll bet it causes a number of people to stop reading right now.  For those of you that are still here, I was very excited about the Dark Knight II: The Master Race and having been enjoying reading it.  But it was The Last Crusade that I was really excited for.  Finally, we were going to read the story of what caused batman to retire and learn the fate of poor Jason Todd, who by the way, I liked.  I still regret not calling in for the Jason lives or dies vote.  For those who are interested see my post on Jason's finest hour.  So how was The Last Crusade?  Well, here's where the spoilers begin.

Honestly I felt that it was fairly disappointing.  It's rather short, coming in at only 64 pages, and while it does give us a taste of the last days of an aging Batman, I feel that it came up short.  We are treated to a Batman who physically declining and is thinking of retiring to spend his time with Selina Kyle but just can't quite do it.  We also get to see Jason Todd's Robin as a brash, rather bloodthirsty sidekick when he traps some villains in a burning van and they get cooked.  He appears to enjoy their deaths, but not enough to sell him as the psychopath that many people have branded the character.  It's Jason's death where the book really fell down for me.  I know that comic characters dying has become so much the norm that barely anyone notices anymore, but Miller's world is supposed to be more realistic than the normal DC continuity, and death is much more permanent here.  Jason/Robin's death should have carried more weight.  It was implied in the Dark Knight Returns that Jason's death was a significant factor in Batman deciding to retire.  Batman even kept Jason's costume on display as a memorial.  In this book though, Jason's death almost feels like an afterthought.  It occurs on the last page of the book and I'm not even sure if he is dead by then or just badly beaten and captured by the Joker.  I've seen no indication that there will be a part two, so I'm laboring under the assumption that that's it.  The Joker's thugs beat Jason (maybe to death, maybe not), and the book is over.  The end.  Nothing on Batman's reaction to the death, no funeral, nothing.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book.  The artwork is good, and the story is comprehensible.  I'm looking at you The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  It just feels like a bit of a letdown.  Perhaps there will be a follow-up book, that will deal with the aftereffects of Jason's death, or perhaps not.  DC's website lists it at Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade #1, so maybe there will be a #2.  I certainly hope so.  In any case, at least we got to see the classic Robin costume one more time.

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