The Dark Knight Returns is one of the earliest and most influential graphic novels. Until it came out in 1986, Batman was still viewed as a colorful, campy hero because of the television series that ran from 1966-68. Frank Miller’s vision of a bitter, more violent Batman set the stage for the 1989 Batman movie starring Michael Keaton, and all of the darker portrayals of Batman in comics and films that followed.
At the start of The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne is 55 years old, and Batman has not been seen in 0ver 10 years. Society no longer embraces superheroes in general – Superman has gone undercover, working in secret for the U.S. government.
Batman re-emerges to battle a gang called the Mutants, and the typical vigilante vs. hero debate breaks out. During the remainder of the story, we get new takes on Two-Face and the Joker as well. A lot of the pop culture references the book contains are dated – the U.S. President is a thinly-disguised Ronald Reagan clone – but all-in-all, the story holds up well.
It had been so long since I’d read this, I forgot how great it is. I recommend it to all Batman fans. There are 2 or 3 sequels by Miller as well; if I recall correctly, they venture into farce, and I don’t recommend them.