Monday, May 9, 2016

Batman Noir, The Dark Night Returns by Frank Miller (artist and writer) and Klaus Janson (artist)

With all the hype around the new Batman Vs Superman movie I thought I would go back to Frank Miller's work. He is credited in the movie as being an inspiration.

Miller is a strange cat and he sure can put some serious violence and crazy on a page.  I've always liked his noir sensibilities but, incredibly, the art in this book somehow missed the mark for me.  Batman should have been easy to create a menacing mood as the covers surly did.  The interior art, however, was manic and, at times, impossible to understand what was drawn.

The book is a collection of four issues first published in 1986. Miller wrote the story and collaborated with Janson to draw the series.  The mini-series told the story of the return, after a 10 year absence, of Batman.  It explored the reaction of his return by the populous of the city, the criminals and, most interestingly, Bruce Wayne's.  Wayne has aged, and now, in his mid-50's, has to cope with his physical limits.

The entire run was narrated by television news which I thought could have been eliminated. Without it the story would have been cleaner, clearer and darker.  To be honest I felt like I was reading a Judge Dredd story.

Some panels felt more like sketches than finished art and I was constantly wishing Miller had used more of his Sin City methods in the telling of this story.  In the third story, Hunt the Dark Night, the Joker's flying kid-bombs were just too cartoon-like and took me right out of the story.

The entire book was redeemed with the last installment, The Dark Knight Falls where he comes to terms with Super Man and begins to take his crusade in a new direction.

Frank Miller

Klaus Janson

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