On The Dark Knight Returns
I have never been much of a DC Comics fan. I didn't really like Batman, and Superman just got on my nerves. Green Arrow was cool, but, I think that might have had more to do with him bangin' Mockingbird (I was a teenager when I started really getting into comics...), rather than any real like for him. But, my two favorite graphic novels of all time are both from DC Comics, and one of them involves Batman.
In The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller, Batman/Bruce Wayne has been retired for almost 2 decades. He has been spending his time pursuing more and more dangerous activities (like auto-racing), possibly to re-capture the adrenaline rush he had when he was the Dark Knight. Anyway, the Joker is about to be released from prison, and Gotham City has been having a crime wave. This is where we start.
This ain't the Batman of your youth, unless you are over the age of 60. This is Bob Kane's original Batman, a tortured, somewhat unstable person, who is driven to do what he does, walking a fine line (and sometimes crossing over) between him and the criminals. He is violent, sometimes cruel, and a touch vindictive.
One of the very interesting things about the story is that most of it is told from the thoughts of Bruce Wayne/Batman, rather than as a third person perspective. It's mostly (but not fully) a third person omniscient story, with a running commentary of Bruce/Batman's thoughts about each situation. And trust me, some of his thoughts aren't very nice. At one point, you read the arguement he is having with himself about whether or not he should "stop with the knee". He doesn't.
What really made this novel for me, thought, are three pages, almost at the end of the story. You see, I really, really, REALLY don't like Superman. Superman has always epitomized what I disliked about DC Comics, which is, all the heroes are perfect, or, nearly perfect. Superman never really faced a challenge during my days of reading comic books. When you are bullet-proof, only barely too weak to lift a mountain, and can fly at ridiculous speeds, what real challenge is a bank-robber gonna pose for you? So, the Super BoyScout had to face stranger, and odder, and more powerful villians every month, and, each time, credulity was strained. Well, at the end of The Dark Knight Returns, Superman finally meets his match. He gets his butt WHOOPED by Batman. And I mean, not even close. It wasn't even a fair fight. Batman kicked Superman around the city like he was a play toy. The two most memorable thoughts from the fight? "It takes a lot of time and money to synthesise kryptonite. Fortunately, I have both." "I could kill you right now, Clark. But, I won't. Because I want you to remember the MAN who beat you." For those three pages alone, this novel is worth it.
My other favorite graphic novel is The Watchmen, but, I'll review that when I find another (my fifth?) copy of it.