Penciler: John Romita, Jr.
Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade has been a longtime coming. This book was initially supposed to be released closer to the launch of DKIII: The Master Race. However, seeing problems similar to that title, it was pushed back. Well, impatient ones, fret no more. The book we’ve been waiting for is finally here… and it was worth the wait.
Coming in at a $6.99 price tag, the book is 57 pages of perfect dialogue, beautiful art and an ending you won’t soon forget. To start this review off, I really liked this story. DC seems to want to expand on their earlier successors and while some have been valiant efforts (Before Watchmen), others have fallen quite short (The Dark Knight Strikes Again).
Let’s get on with it then, shall we?
This book serves as a prequel to The Dark Knight Returns, but is perfectly placed at the beginning of Batman’s body throwing in the towel. He’s still suiting up, but the war is really starting to take its toll. I’d say that’s the biggest part of the book, besides the Joker (we’ll get to him in a moment). You can feel each punch, bump and ass-whooping the Dark Knight is taking with his pain becoming ours on every page. This Batman is struggling like we may have never seen before.
Meanwhile, Jason Todd’s Robin is suiting up alongside his leader to relive the glory days of the Dynamic Duo… or are they? While Batman’s body may be failing him, he’s as focused as ever on how his sidekick is dealing with the life of being a crime fighter…and it’s worrying him. This is a Robin we’ve never seen before, one who is TOO violent, and maybe enjoying it.
Now, enter the Joker. He kicks off this one-shot, and haunts every page. There was a sense of evil in Miller’s TDKR but still a little fun too. Not here. This Joker is one malicious bastard. I thought he lacked his usual cartoonish, comedic flair… and I liked it. I’ll admit, some of his inner dialogue didn’t connect with me, nor did his speech to corrupt his “wolves,” but I don’t care. If there was ever a Joker you’d love to hate, this is the one.
The book contains plenty of media commentary, which is the standard in this world, as well as a few other notable characters from Batman’s rogues gallery. Selina Kyle has declawed herself and even though she never suits up, I really liked this version of her. Killer Croc steps out of Azzarello’s Joker story to put a hurtin’ on the Dark Knight. Poison Ivy isn’t a standout here, but is still fun to see pop up.
Now to my negatives. First up, the ending. DC has been teasing us that this shows us what made Bruce Wayne hang up his tights for so long, as well as what happened to Jason Todd. While we do get the answers (sort of), it’s not definitive and it’s VERY abrupt. I appreciated the buildup through the story, but the inevitable ending comes quick, then it’s done. While there’s been no word of this being anything other than a one-time thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if DC cashes in on another at some point in the future (they have my money if they do). Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of the news showing up as often in this world. It just seems to feel like that’s Miller’s way of sneaking in his commentary on the story, and can feel distracting.
Nitpicks aside, this book is stellar. This could be the best follow-up to TDKR, seeing that many fans were disappointed with TDKSA and the Miller/Jim Lee All Star Batman & Robin and I think we can thank Azzarello for that. He is nailing it with Miller with DKIII and his influence is all over this book. How have I not mentioned John Romita, Jr.?! This book LOOKS fantastic. It’s obvious the story takes place in Miller’s world, but Romita has put his own stamp on it. Top notch all the way.
Overall, this is a great buy. A great story with lovely art, and definitely worth reading again…and again… and again. I hope the Dark Knight returns one more time before hanging it all up.