The second installment of The Dark Knight Returns continues the adaptation of the iconic 80s graphic novel. Redefining Batman for a whole new generation, and putting the dark in Dark Knight, the story continues its exploration of an older (now no longer retired) Batman/Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller – who still can’t separate his Batman and Bruce voices, but he’s awesome nonetheless).
With his new Robin, Carrie (Ariel Winter) at his side, he’s out on the streets of Gotham again, exacting vigilante justice and punishing criminals (and apparently not so worried about taking a life or two).
While all of Gotham, and the rest of the world watch, even as war flares up between American and Soviet forces in Corto Maltese, pundits discuss vigilantes, right, wrong, and the mentally ill, as a supposedly cured Joker (Michael Emerson) is allowed a public venue, a late-night talk show spot, to tell his story.
But if Batman is back, the Joker can’t be far behind, and this time both of them know it’s the final go-round.
As Gordon (David Selby) retires, a new commissioner, Yindel (Maria Canals-Barrera) takes over and makes removing Batman the first item on her agenda. And despite the US government’s involvement in armed conflict with the Russians, the president (Jim Meskimen) is able to spare, Him, to help take care of things.
Him is Clark, known to the world as Superman (Mark Valley), and he and Bruce are about to find themselves on opposite sides of an argument that has gone on for decades. But first, Batman is going to have put paid to Joker once and for all as the Clown Prince goes on a massive killing spree.
Tightly paced, the second half of The Dark Knight Returns stays faithful to the source material, changing and tweaking pieces that make it work in the animated format, and tells a Batman story that shows the character, and the venue of comics and animation aren’t just for kids, they are a legitimate art form and should be appreciated as such.
Despite being on opposite sides, Clark and Bruce aren’t so different, it’s just that Clark has decided to follow the president’s orders. I’m a little upset with Clark for that because I always believed he was here for the whole world, not just America. He should have recused himself from serving on either side in combat, and instead should have either stepped entirely out of the picture or worked to make sure everyone sat down and talked instead of fighting.
But this is Batman’s story, not Clark’s, and the story is solid, dark, and engaging, and it reminds me of the first time I read the graphic novel and how it blew me away.
The animation is solid, the vocal performances are great, and this entry shows that DC can make an animated Batman story just right.