The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller

If you read reviews of Frank Miller’s work on websites like Amazon or Goodreads, the consensus seems to be that Miller has lost his touch. Many comic book fans who love The Dark Knight Returns seem to think Miller’s “jump the shark” moment came with TDKR’s sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again (or DK2). For that reason, I’ve avoided DK2 for years. Since I’ve been on a bit of a Miller reading binge this year, I bit the bullet and read DK2. Apparently I’m in the minority, because I enjoyed it.

The world of DK2 has fallen into martial law, corporatism, and militarism. Because “people are so intoxicated by luxury,” they have allowed themselves to become “house pets.” Superheroes are a near-extinct species, save for Superman, who is once again under the thumb of corrupt powers-that-be. Batman, living in hiding since TDKR, is ready to rise up with his followers and “give them hell.” Hell is certainly delivered.

DK2 revisits some themes from TDKR: Superman as a pawn of the US government, media sensationalism, the rivalry between Batman and Superman, and how Batman’s vigilantism undermines the federal government. That final theme is even more explicit here than in TDKR. Combine this with a 2011 blog post on the Occupy movement and Miller’s propagandizing graphic novel Holy Terror and you have your explanation for the anti-DK2 sentiment. I can see why people are turned off by Holy Terror. But Miller’s politics in DK2 don’t fit into a convenient left-right narrative. Fighting against the corrupt powers-that-be include an avowed communist and an Objectivist-themed hero named The Question. Since The Question is espousing Randian philosophy and Miller doesn’t treat the character derisively, critics attempt to paint the whole work as advocating fascism, despite the fact that the heroes are fighting AGAINST fascism.

The storytelling may be a bit scatter shot, but I don’t detect any major differences in his writing here as compared to TDKR or any of his work in the highly acclaimed Sin City books. Even if DK2 doesn’t reach the epic levels of TDKR, the work is still a solid graphic novel. Recommended if you can handle a story that presents a different worldview than the standard leftist fare.

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