Rayzor’s Ultimate Batman Chronology – Frank Miller’s Dark Knight

Ultimate Chronology Frank Miller

Hey everyone, I have been debating on doing some kind of Batman story arc countdown from worst to best or a top 10.  I have been kicking this around for many years, how to do it, where to publish it and when would be the best time.  Frankly, Batman does not go out of style and we are awaiting the Batman v. Superman movie.  Also it seems to be heavily influenced from the Frank Miller book, the Dark Knight Returns.  Oddly enough, I wanted to omit this book, but if I did so, then I would have to omit Year One and All-Star Batman and Robin.  So what better way to start than books that do not belong in the chronology.

A lot of people think Year One is a jump off point for Batman and it can be, but really it is a stand on its own or the beginning of a Frank Miller Batman Universe that would follow on to All-Star Batman and into The Dark Knight returns.  So let us use this as our jump off point.

Batman Year One

Most people see this as THE quintessential Batman begins story, not to pull Christopher Nolan’s movie title.  But in many ways the modern Batman, this is the best telling of his origin.  It takes from all of the old origin stories and Miller puts his spin on it.  The story is solid and in some ways is not only about Batman, but Jim Gordon.  There is a lot of Jim Gordon before Batman.  But that is one of the coolest things, you get a good sense of who Gordon is and how he comes to be the Commissioner.  It goes right along with Bruce Wayne’s story and how he gets to be Batman.

The art by David Mazzucchelli really fits the story and gives it a darker, grittier feel to everything including Gotham City.  I was not a fan of the art originally, but over the years I have really come to respect the art for what it is.  It sets the tone perfectly.

The problems I have and reasons I do not add this into the main chronology deal with little things mostly.  I am not a fan that Frank Miller made Catwoman or Selina Kyle, black.  This is not a race thing, it is more of ever other version of Catwoman is white.  If she was black in every comic, I would be fine with it.  I take it more as a homage to Ertha Kit from the 1960s Batman show.  But again it would not even go with his own Dark Knight Returns.

It does tie into the other stories because of the mob ties and different characters that pop up in other books.  Carmine Falcone is in the book a lot and we see him later in the Long Halloween, same with Salvatore Moroni and Gillian Loeb, the Commissioner before Jim Gordon.  We also see characters from the Batman Begins film like Detective Arnold Flass.

This is a great book and worth the read.  There was also a DC Animated film made based on the story and it is really good.  Brian Cranston voices Jim Gordon perfectly.  If you have not read the book or seen the animated film, here are links to amazon for both, check them out, graphic novel and animated movie.

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder

What happened here?  This was a bizarre entry in the Batman universe, even for Frank Miller.  Overall what we got was a 10-issue unfinished story.  We got two great artists, Miller and Jim Lee and the story was never finished, The series was to be rebooted under the title Dark Knight: Boy Wonder in 2011, when both Miller and Lee were to finish the last six issues.  But it was never released and i am not sure if it was finished.  With the announcement of the next Frank Miller/Batman project being a follow up to the Dark Knight Strikes Again called The Dark Knight III: The Master Race,  I do no think we will ever get to see the rest of All Star Batman.  Part of the issue was the release and the building up to DC comics, the New 52 in which Jim Lee played a huge role, with projects like Justice League and Superman Unchained.

The story was really kind of…boring I guess, it was all over the place and it seemed like Frank Miller may have lost touch with Batman the character.  There were very many off-based comments from Batman and he seemed very hard or well kind of like a jerk.  Mostly to Robin or Dick Grayson and he was an ass to Hal Jordan.  The story itself was kind of unpleasant to read and I really did not think it went anywhere.  When reading I did get to enjoy the art and the added characters, but the story wasn’t good.  I really hated the lineV91iPc2 Frank Miller put in the story, “I’m the goddam Batman.”  Then he asks Dick if he is retarded, Come on!  Why would Batman say such a thing or go out of his way to scare a kid, who is already scared.  That is something I just didn’t understand.

JIm Lee, he is one of my favorite comic book artists of all-time.  Being a Batman fan, I get lucky we get to see some of the greats, Frank Quietly, Jim Lee, Tim Sale, Tony Daniel and Andy Kubert.  Jim really did a great job making this look like it belongs with the Dark Knight Returns and at the same time bringing into context with the other comics, so it looked like it fit both.  But Jim Lee and Scott Williams can do just about anything.  Their work together is freaking amazing.

This is a good book to check out it you like Frank Miller and his style of writing.  I will warn you all, it is not for everyone.  I did not care for the story, but the visuals were pretty great, as you’d expect from Jim Lee.  Part of me would like to see Jim re-draw the Dark Knight Returns to bring it into a new generation, not to take away from Klaus Janson.  If you have not read it and want to, check it out here on Amazon.

The Dark Knight Returns

This is probably everyone’s most popular and to some the favorite of all Batman stories.  I think it is completely over-hyped.  It is, ok if anything, the story is decent, but I am not a fan of the art.

Like I said most people think of this as the best Batman story, I disagree.  I do think the Dark Knight Returns brings us back to Batman being know as the Dark Knight.  The story is dark and Batman is rough and tough. I liked how he was back to being about the mission, it was about the mission.  I do like Carrie Kelly in the story, but the way she was brought in was a little, easy, maybe.  I cannot explain how I feel about it, but it seems she just jumped right in.

Most of the things I don’t like have to do with the Mutants and the themes of the 1980s.  I read the Dark Knight Returns in 2000 and it was hard to relate some of the things going on.  Telling parts of the story through news reports bothered me also, I just did not like reading, what seemed like endless word bubbles from newscasters.  The way Frank Miller lays out pages with 10 or 15 panels was very annoying also. Some panels did not even change, but he felt the need to load up some of the pages.  Also, this may make me sound kind of dumb, he made the book overly wordy.  Sometimes, there can be too many words and I think Frank Miller overall can be very wordy when he does not need to be.

The story is epic and it has become a classic.  Many things have mimicked this story.  Tim Burton’s Batman is said to be heavily influenced on the Dark Knight Returns and in parts is shows, especially with the newscasts and overall dark tone of the movie.  The new Batman v. Superman film really looks like the concept for the movie comes from the book.  At Comic Con 2013 they read a line from the book to announce the Batman v. Superman movie.  Ben Affleck’s Batsuit is very similar to the Dark Knight returns suit and will even don the armored suit from the end of the book.

Really know one knows how much will come from this book in the new movie, but the look of Batman and the fact that we more than likely see Superman fight Batman really makes one think.

Overall, the Dark Knight Returns is a singular story that should stand on its own.  But there is a sequel and a new sequel coming next year.  Taken out of any timeline, it is a fine read.  It just would not make my top 10 Batman stories, sorry everyone.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Does anyone like this story?  That is a very good question, or did you pretend to like it just because it was the follow up the most celebrated Batman story and written by Frank Miller?  The answer is no and yes.  This book is a train wreck.

I have tried to read this book, again and again and can never get through it, it is such a task.  The story just, feels like it is there and for me, does not work.  Frank Miller does the art this time and it is horendous.  He has a style that can be appericated, see Sin City.  But that is a certain style that fits certain stories, not Batman.  I did not like Klaus Jansen’s work on the Dark Knight, DK2 as it has been know as, is far worse.  It looks rushed and at times is just hard to even look at.

I guess it would be far to mention a few things I did like about this book.  The Question, he is one of the most under-used characters in the DC Universe and he has some great moments.  I liked the “Bat boys” or the kind of army created in the Dark Knight Returns from the left over Mutants gang and the scope of the story grew outside of Gotham City and Lex Luthor was actually very cool, I do think Frank Miller could write a really good Lex Luthor story.  It was cool seeing the rest of or a good amount of the Justice League.  I liked that Superman and Wonder Woman have a daughter, which I had always wanted to see those two in a relationship, made sense to me.

 

I am sorry Frank Miller, you’re a celebrated creator, between your work on Batman, Sin City, 300 and the amazing work on Daredevil.  This is your worst work, I only hope the next project fixes the problems in this book.

Overall, I am not a fan of his work on Batman, if I had to give them all grades, 1 to 10, I am sure I would get hunted down and burned alive, maybe not.  But I do think some fans would argue and that is welcome.  But here I am going to do that for you.  I did have a grading scale with different categories and here are the results.

Batman Year One

8.1 of 10

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder

5.6 of 10

The Dark Knight Returns

7.7 of 10

The Dark Knight Strikes Again

3.5 of 10.

Next week, I will return and jump right into another writers Batman stories that I think belong in their own universe.  I will explain why Scott Snyder’s Batman does not belong with the rest of the chronology.  So come on back next Wednesday or follow me on twitter @Razyor_33 and check out the facebook page, just search Rage of Rayzor.

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