I read this one a few years back as I had head a ton about it so I knew I had to check it out. Anytime I hear comic lovers talk about Batman this title always comes up. This one is a classic and I am pretty sure is on more than one greatest graphic novels of all time list. With all the hype I knew there was no way I could not pass this one up.
If you don’t know who Frank Miller is you need to seriously revaluate your life. He is one of the most successful and well known comic writers of all time. Miller has worked in the industry since the mid 70’s and had never looked back. Surprisingly this is the first Miller book that I have reviewed on my site. The only other one I have read is 300, which was later turned into a movie that you may have heard about. Miller is most known for a run with Daredevil, 300, Sin City, and Swamp Thing, and of course TDKR. It is hard to say what his most famous title is but he well known for all of the above. To say that this guy is a legend in the industry is an understatement. He has been nominated and won multiple Eisner, Kirby, and Harvey awards. Truly he is an icon for all those aspiring to break into the industry.
This story takes place in an alternate universe where Batman has retired due to his age. Crime is once again on the rise in Gotham and Batman is not going to let that happen. He fights and defeats a group known as the Mutants, no not those mutants, with the help of his side kick Robin. This is a very different Robin than the normal Batman fans are use to. After that a nuclear warhead is detonated over the US and the resulting EMP shockwave sends the US into chaos. The result is a dystopian Gotham city that pins Superman against Batman, much like the new Batman vs. Superman movie that is coming out next year. The director insists that despite the similarities the movie will be an entirely new story line. I digress. The ending of the story will leave you a little shocked then left hanging. There is kind of a double ending to this one, the only problem is that they did not leave the reader hanging long enough. It seemed like Miller was in a hurry to finish it and simply wrapped it up in a few pages when he could have drug it out and built a little suspense.
Overall I like the story and it is a good read. It is always fascinating to see different takes on an already very famous character, and a 55 year old Batman is quite the interesting cat. As mentioned above the ending seemed a little rushed. He took enough time to build an awesome story, not sure why he did not take just a few more pages to build some more suspense and drama. Other than that I really have no complaints, although, I did feel that at times the story did get a bit wordy. There were a few pages that I felt had a ton of dialogue on them. But I am being very picky.
As you know I have not read a ton of DC stories, but I usually go with Batman when I do. The interesting thing is that almost all of the stories I have read about Batman are all more or less stand alone, meaning they do not necessarily fit into the larger framework of the DC universe. I do not think it matters either way, because Batman is already so popular, but the stand alone stories are more likely to get a wider variety of readers that do not want to keep up with the weekly or monthly series, at least that is my opinion. As I do not necessarily want to keep up with everything Batman but I do enjoy a good story and this is the perfect opportunity to get the best of both worlds. The other cool thing is that there is little required reading, if any, that you need going into this one, so it is okay if you don’t know the latest thing going on in the DC universe or with the character. I like this aspect and DC seems to do it more often than not with Batman and the Joker. Most of the stories I have reviewed on the site (The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, and The Joker) are all stand alone stories.
I did find that the events of this story are said to have taken place on Eath-31 in the DC Multiverse. Again I am out of my element here, but I think there are quite a few other stories that happen in this universe as well, kind of neat that this book was the one that started it all though. I think if I had to put it into some context this other universe is similar to the Marvel Ultimate universe. I could be wrong but that is kind of the impression I got.
The artwork in the book is mostly stylized with very tiny hints of a traditional style. It is very grainy and rough looking to the eye. At times there is plenty of detail but other times it is lacking severely. To me it borders on the cartoony fence that I loathe so much. I will say that the cartoony feel did not bother me as much for this particular style. The main difference here is the muck or grittiness to the artwork that keeps me from disliking it and with this added aspect it is able to keep a very serious feel to the story. The colors are very flat and dull, this is not a bad thing but it does noticeably lack any sort of bright vibrant colors. Most of the story is a variety of grays and blacks, very rarely are there any bright colors. Again I think this sets the mood for the story along with the artwork, and I just wanted the reader to be aware. The page layouts are unique compared to most traditional superhero books. I found it surprising that the layouts were nontraditional as this book is very old as well. I think it was first released in 1986, so it has quite a bit of age on it. DC must have killed it that year with this and Watchmen, they must have been on top of the world!
Despite the age on this title you would never know that it is that old, and that is very cool. It is not too often that you can pick up a movie, novel or what have you and really not be able to tell when it was written. With novels it is fairly easy to tell because of the writing style or the events that take place within its pages, but this story is almost timeless. I think if you handed this to a child who knew nothing about it you would not have any trouble convincing them that it was only a few years old. That really speaks volumes about what a great job Miller did while writing this classic story.
I liked this book and you should check it out. It is one of the greatest graphic novels ever written so you cannot in any sense of the phrase call yourself a comic fan and not have read this one. There really are no negatives to this timeless classic, a great job on every aspect of the story that makes for a wonderful finished product.