Frank Miller to try yet again to re-ignite the Dark Knight Returns torch

Frank Miller The Master Race DK 3

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  Comic book readers all remember first reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.  Most of the world would acknowledge it is one of the top 20 most influential graphic novels of all time and belongs on many a top 10 list for any kind of novel.  We all look ahead each week to the next good read, and can’t wait to read the next DKR.

We just don’t mean that literally.  We once thought that is exactly what we wanted, once upon a time.  Then Frank Miller delivered what we thought we wanted with his sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, or DK2.  It was pretty much unreadable, made worse because it was released on Miller’s trademark staggered “I’ll release it when I feel like it” schedule (remember All-Star Batman and Robin?).

So DC Entertainment just issued a press release late Friday announcing The Dark Knight III:  The Master Race.  Really?  The Master Race?  From the guy that wrote the offensive, bigotted Holy Terror?  What is DC Comics thinking?

The Dark Knight Strikes Again, DK2. Be careful what you wish for.

Can a bad sequel take something away from an original?  I’ve had that discussion with many a Star Trek fan since 2009’s reboot.  Many think you can taint an original with a bad copy.  I don’t agree with that view, but I understand it.  Are Miller’s DKR political statements even relevant today?  The Dark Knight Returns had its impact on the world in part because of time and place.  America needed that book in the 1980s and Miller delivered the goods.  And he deserves credit for it.

OK, let’s skip the politics.  It must be about the money, right?  Why would Miller walk away from a million dollar (plus) opportunity?  The press release, which you can read for yourself here, states that Miller is co-writing the sequel with well-known DCU writer Brain Azzarello as an “eight-issue comic book periodical to be published twice a month under the DC Comics imprint”.  Couple that with the fact that Miller and Azzarello have already spent six months writing the book and no artists (that’s plural) have yet been selected and suddenly this feels a whole like another Before Watchmen event series.  And those eight issues instead of the original story’s four issues will mean that much more revenue for DC.

DKR covers
The real thing. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Before Watchmen had a few high points, but ultimately wasn’t memorable and was a mere shadow of the original.  It was an opportunity for current artists (and writers) to play in Alan Moore’s Watchmen sandbox, which must be fun for them.  No doubt Jim Lee and some other lucky artists will be excited to play in Miller’s DKR sandbox.  Will it still be DKR without Miller’s chunky and chiseled Batman?  Or will it be, as with DK2, just another shadow of the original?

We’ll know in “late” Fall 2015, per DC Entertainment when Issue #1 hits local comic book stores.  Are we excited about its release?  Sure.  Will we read it?  Of course, because we’re suckers for nostalgia.  At least that’s what DC is counting on.

C.J. Bunce

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