Appearing in "The Dark Knight Returns"
Synopsis for "The Dark Knight Returns"
The book is thought to be set during the Cold War, but the intro mentions it being 20 years in the future. It is a dark, depressing world where criminals run amok in the absence of superheroes. Gotham City is terrorized by a gang of vicious and aimless teenage murderers, the Mutants. A now 55-year-old Bruce Wayne has been retired for ten years following the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd (murdered by the Joker). Attempting to bury his guilt over Jason's death, Wayne has turned to alcoholism, near-suicidal recreational activities, and has funded the rehabilitation of Two-Face in an attempt to prove to the world - and to himself - that a man's demons can be truly exorcised. On the eve of Commissioner Gordon's forced retirement, however, two events push Wayne to reestablish the presence of his alter ego: a major crime wave hits the city, and Two-Face's rehabilitation goes awry. An enormous bat crashes through the windows of Wayne Manor, symbolizing the psychological return.
Re-donning the cape and cowl, Batman must deal with a world where even the petty criminals are homicidal maniacs who kill for thrills. He no longer has the absolute support of the police, public, or government. Miller's interpretation of Gotham (and of America) is a place of deep moral ambiguity. Reporters and psychologists see the Joker as a victim and Batman as the madman. The new Police Commissioner is upstanding, capable, and smart, a fitting replacement for Gordon - yet she has no love for the Batman, and hunts him ruthlessly. Even Superman himself has been twisted into a covert agent for America's Cold War agenda, putting his loyalty to the American government above his fight for the American Way. Batman spends no time fretting over these ambiguities; instead, he seeks to impose his stark black-and-white view on a world of relativism. DKR deals in large part with Wayne's uncompromising obsession with his dual identity, in opposition to a world where duality has gone by the wayside. In this bleak landscape, Batman's obsessions and demons finally, completely, submerge Bruce Wayne, and the Dark Knight is given free rein to wage his war without inhibition.
In DKR, Batman has changed since he last put on the cape: though still quite strong and up to the physical task of apprehending ordinary criminals, Wayne is forced to acknowledge to himself that his advanced age and long period of inactivity have diminished both his skills and his ability to withstand and recover from injury. And, unknown to anyone, the Joker has likewise emerged from retirement. Catatonic (and without his trademark evil grin) in Arkham Asylum for the ten years of Batman's absence, the Clown Prince of Crime reawakens to his twisted, hateful obsession of the Dark Knight, upon hearing a television report about Batman's return.
Much of the story takes place on a television screen where journalists, experts, politicians and the public debate the rights and wrongs of Batman's methods and influence: some like Lana Lang praise him for reclaiming the streets from the criminals, while others criticise him for not observing the civil rights of these same criminals.
The issue culminates with an out-of-control, nearly suicidal Two-Face threatening to blow up Gotham's Twin Towers; however Batman is able to deduce and foil the scheme. In their struggle, Batman removes the bandages that have been covering Dent's face, expecting to find Two-Face's visage split in its classic dichotomy. Instead, he sees Dent whole and handsome on the outside, but fully lost within his own mind. In Dent, Batman sees a "reflection": just as the restoration of Harvey's face led to the final destruction of his sanity, the Batman persona has become all the stronger for having lain hidden under Bruce Wayne for a decade.
Appearing in "Dark Knight Triumphant"
Synopsis for "Dark Knight Triumphant"
The second part chronicles Batman's struggle against Gotham's newest criminal threat, the vicious Mutant gang and their anonymous leader. As he walks to work, contemplating his upcoming retirement, Jim Gordon is almost killed by a 17-year old boy with an M60. In the course of rescuing a young child, Batman discovers that a cash-broke Army general and war hero has been arming the Mutants, in return for the money to help his sick wife. When Batman confronts him, the General commits suicide. Meanwhile, the Mayor has appointed a qualified woman as Gordon's successor, Ellen Yindel, who worships Gordon but despises vigilantes. And a young girl who owes her life to Batman, Carrie Kelly, decides to seek out her hero and takes on the role of Robin.
Following his leads, the Caped Crusader succeeds in tracking down the Mutant lair and defeating them with the Batmobile (which Miller reimagines as an armored supertank rebuilt by Batman during riots ten years ago, with large cannons and machine guns that, according to Batman, only fire rubber bullets). In a brutal hand-to-hand fight, Batman is defeated and almost killed by the Mutant Leader, as the aging Caped Crusader tries to prove to himself (and Alfred) that he is a force at any age. Luckily, Carrie, in her new Robin costume, has been following Batman, and manages to save him. Batman returns to the Batcave where Alfred tends his wounds (and argues with him over the danger to Carrie); meanwhile, the Mutant Leader is brought into custody. The Leader's absolute animalistic nature (and, hence, the animalistic nature of his underlings) is fully revealed when the Leader manages to tear out the Mayor's throat while in custody. Gordon and Batman conspire to defeat the Mutants psychologically by staging a fight between Batman and the Leader in front of the whole Mutant gang. Using his greater experience and his environment, Batman cripples the Mutant Leader in full view of his followers. While many of the Mutants are arrested, many more now latch on to Batman as their role model, dubbing themselves the "Sons of Batman." However, their interpretation of Batman's quest will leave much to be desired. The issue ends with James Gordon, looking forward to his retirement from the madness of Gotham and regretting the predicament that Batman will find himself in: caught between criminals and the police.
Appearing in "Hunt the Dark Knight"
Synopsis for "Hunt the Dark Knight"
"Hunt The Dark Knight" returns Batman to his classic struggle, against the incomprehensible madness of the Joker. Newly awakened from his catatonia, the Joker has been slowly returning to his mad schemes while still incarcerated. He convinces his psychiatrist, the fame-seeking (and Batman-hating) Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, that he is not only sane but regretful. Seeking to discredit Batman, Wolper intends to exhibit the Joker on a late-night show ("David Endochrine", parodying Late Night with David Letterman) in order to "prove" that the Joker is actually a victim of Batman's own "psychosis." Not pleased with this turn of events, Yindel places a heavy guard on the building. However, she still sees the primary threat as Batman and intends to arrest him if he appears. As the police are occupied with attacking Batman, the Joker murders everyone in the studio (including Endochrine and Wolper) with his "smile gas" (Smilex) and escapes. Batman follows him to Selina Kyle's, where the former Catwoman has become a depressed, alcoholic and overweight madame. The Joker uses two of her girls to drive local politicians to suicide. He then beats and dresses Selina Kyle up as Wonder Woman, leaving a clear clue for Batman to follow.
When the police burst into Selina's flat, Batman and Robin escape, but Yindel notices the young sidekick and adds "child endangerment" to the list of charges against Batman. But he then calls her up on her radio to say that it is up to her to rescue the Governor from another Joker threat. Yindel is left lost for words.
With the police on his heels, Batman, accompanied by Robin, tracks the Joker down to a county fair. They arrive too late to prevent the Joker from poisoning to death a group of young Cub Scouts, but Robin is dispatched to prevent the Joker's accomplice from blowing up a rollercoaster loaded with riders. Robin succeeds in getting the bomb clear of the ride on the moment of exploding, but in the fight that follows the Joker's accomplice is killed. Meanwhile, Batman pursues and defeats Joker in a bloody and violent showdown. Throughout the past days, the Batman has been preparing to do what he never could before: kill the Joker and end the cycle of meaningless deaths once and for all. But in the end, he still cannot bring himself to kill his old enemy, stopping himself before fully killing the Joker, leaving him paralyzed instead. The Joker, laughing madly, commits suicide by twisting his own broken neck, intending for the police to charge Batman with murder.
In this issue, Superman is introduced as an undercover agent for the American government (under a President who is unnamed but recognizable as Ronald Reagan). Superman travels to Gotham to persuade Batman to keep a low profile. However, tensions with the Soviet Union are reaching a head over U.S. support for a South American country named Corto Maltese (a reference to the comic strip by Hugo Pratt), and Superman is called away to "deal with it." He and other super-heroes, like Green Arrow and Wonder Woman, are referred to only by their civilian names: i.e., "Clark" or "Kent", "Oliver" and "Diana".
Also, the Sons of the Batman have begun to make their presence known, taking an even more brutal - and deadly - tack towards criminals than Batman. Despite Batman's non-involvement, the actions of the "SOB's" only incenses the growing anti-Batman forces in the government and media further.
Appearing in "The Dark Knight Falls"
Synopsis for "The Dark Knight Falls"
All these threads converge in "The Dark Knight Falls", when the USSR launches a nuclear warhead called Coldbringer in response to Superman's presence in Corto Maltese. Superman manages to divert the missile to an uninhabited desert area before it detonates, but damage is done nonetheless. The warhead was designed to disrupt all electronics and communications in the Western Hemisphere as well as throw millions of tons of dust and debris into the atmosphere. Deprived of the sunlight that gives him his powers, Superman nearly dies. Gotham descends almost immediately into chaos as the blackout hits, with rioting and looting rocking the city. An airplane crippled by the electromagnetic pulse crashes into a building, feeding the panic. A few citizens, including Jim Gordon, pull together to fight the fires and retain some semblance of civilization until the power is restored.
Though near death from wounds inflicted during his fight with the Joker and the police, Batman applies his ingenuity to restoring law to Gotham. He and Robin muster a force of SOBs and train them in non-lethal methods as a means to stop looting and ensure the flow of needed supplies. Gotham, ironically, soon becomes the safest and best-fed city in America. Seeing this as an embarrassment rather than a blessing, the U.S. government dispatches Superman to take the Dark Knight down. Warned of their plans by Oliver Queen, the former Green Arrow who is now a bitter one-armed revolutionary, Batman prepares for his ultimate clash. Armed with an artificial powered exoskeleton, the Batmobile, synthetic kryptonite and a mysterious pill, Batman confronts Superman in a final showdown at Crime Alley, where Wayne's parents were murdered decades earlier. Batman manages to defeat the weakened Superman, only to die of a heart attack at the stroke of midnight. At precisely the same moment, Alfred oversees the destruction of the Batcave and Wayne Manor, suffers a fatal stroke immediately afterward (his last thought as he realizes that he is dying is "how utterly proper").
The news that Bruce Wayne was Batman spreads throughout the world; however, Wayne's stocks and funds have been sold and liquidated to his "heirs" and Wayne boardmembers, Wayne Manor and Batcave destroyed, and all evidence as to his methods and tools wiped out. At a funeral attended by Gordon, Kyle, Yindel, Carrie and others, Superman (as Clark Kent) is plainly ravaged with sadness and guilt. Just as he turns to leave, however, he hears a faint heartbeat coming from the interred coffin. After staring at Carrie for a few silent moments, Kent gives her a wink and leaves. Wayne has faked his death with planning, skill, and his knowledge of chemistry; Carrie digs up his living body as soon as possible. Wayne had hoped to keep the secret even from Superman; with his wink, however, Kent confirms Wayne's hope that he would play along with the charade. Bruce Wayne, finally looking forward to his life, leads Robin, Green Arrow, and his army deep into the unexplored caverns beyond the Batcave, preparing to continue his fight for justice in a more low-key, but equally important, way than in his "previous life."
This collection reprints the following issues of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #4
- No trivia.
- Write your own review of this comic!
- Discuss Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Collections) Vol 1 1 on the forums
- Cover gallery for the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series
- Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1
- Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #2
- Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #3
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