The Life of a Middle Child: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

There and Back Again selects a character to highlight, then showcases iconic stories and moments within that character’s history.


Dark-Knight-Strikes-BackThe Dark Knight Strikes Again

Created By: Frank Miller & Lynn Varley
Written By: Frank Miller
Art By: Frank Miller
Colored By: Lynn Varley
Published: November 2001 – July 2002 by DC Comics

Now before we get into some of the particulars of this comic series, it’s interesting to note that this specific work of Frank Miller, which is a continuation of one of the greatest Batman stories ever told–The Dark Knight Returns (DK1)–is also one of the least known works in respect to both the creator, Miller, and the character Batman. For many fans it was the announcement of Dark Knight III: The Master Race (DK3) in which they were informed of the now middle child of the series, Dark Knight Strikes Again (DK2). Even more surprising than finding out there will be a total of three Dark Knight Series, may be the extreme difference in both style and story found in DK2. However, opinions on art style and even general story telling aside, I think it’s safe to say that the DK2 story is pivotal for those desiring to get everything they can out of DK3.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again continues where DK1 left off. Batman and the now Catgirl (Carrie Kelley from The Dark Knight Returns) have gone underground and begun training a group of recruits to be, “Batboys.” Their focus is to free the world from a dictatorship now led by Lex Luthor. This is an ominous and, in my opinion, very dark story that stretches out well beyond a simple, straightforward Batman story. Just as Miller elevated the world of Batman by doing something radically different in DK1, so he does again in DK2.

Dark-Knight-Panel-Two

This series reaches out and calls upon Superman, Wonder Woman, Atom, the Flash, Plastic Man, Green Arrow, the Question, and Martian Manhunter. Miller has a story he wants to tell, and he uses some DC Comics heaviest hitters to accomplish that goal. Yet, these characters aren’t just here for fan service, he uses each of them in a way that not many have used them prior.

Dark-Knight-SA-Panel-One

As for the comic itself, the radical changes in artistic style that were made between TDKR and DK2, I feel, need be addressed. Where TDKR is considered one of the most beautifully crafted comics of Miller’s career, in DK2 Miller decided to morph that style into a very different look. There was an almost simple, maybe even elegant, clean-line look to TDKR. In DK2, Miller’s chosen to use overly exaggerated features, a far more cartoon-ish look for everyone, and even the panel and pacing shift more dramatically. For some, DK2 was too different and took things too far artistically. In my personal opinion, there were times when I missed Miller’s original style. However, by the end of DK2 I felt the artistic style played as big a part of the storytelling as every word and panel. If you haven’t read it, be warned, DK2 is drastically different than TDKR. However, if you step into the book with an open mind and a preparedness for the differences, what you’ll find within is an intriguing story that’s ripping the characters of the DC Comic world apart.

If you’re a fan of The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR), and/or if you’re reading The Dark Knight: The Master Race (DK3), I’d dare say that experiencing The Dark Knight Strikes Again (DK2) personally, and going through the story Miller and Varley crafted, you might be pleasantly surprised and find a greater appreciation for the newest addition to the Dark Knight world.

 

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