Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade Review

Writer: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Colours: Peter Stiegerwald
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: June 15, 2016

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Dark Knight Returns is one of the ultimate Batman stories you can set your eyes & hands on and is one of the most treasured comic books of all time. Frank Miller had written a 4 issue story that was a futuristic take on the Batman universe in the late 1980s where an old & almost retired Batman trains a new Robin (Carrie Kelly), after mourning the tragic death of Jason Todd (Robin), to face off against the threats to not only Gotham but the threats against humanity in a heavily corrupted world. The book featured “balls rad” moments like when Superman is nuked by the US government, or the showdown between the Mutant King and Batman where the Mutants gang are convinced to form the Bat gang as a force for good. Years later in the 1990s Frank Miller returned to this smashing hit of a story with a sequel titled DK2: The Dark Knight Strikes Again which gave us a much older Batman and a Carrie Kelly who had turned into Cat-Girl wearing a one-piece cat suit and rode around in rollerblades. The story was taken to some really interesting places and featured really wild things like a massively obese Lex Luthor wearing Converse kicks, and an Atom who had been kept in a petri-dish in an atomic size for years along with a crazy reveal that Jason Todd had turned into the Joker. The book was poorly received as the artwork and colours were different from the first books style but DK2 serves as a great sequel in retrospect. Fast-forward to the present in the 2010s where we now have a third sequel for Dark Knight Returns titled DK3: The Master Race where the book is co-written by Frank Miller & physically typed out by Brian Azzarello and drawn by James Tynion IV. DK3 is at the mid-point in the series and is already turning out to be a great sequel and DC has been featuring tie-in mini-comics in every issue of DK3 that are written and drawn by Frank Miller which expand on the universe, as well as the special tie-in prequel issue that I am reviewing today, Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade.

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*SPOILER WARNING*

The Last Crusade is a one-shot special, a thick beautiful book with a cover price of $6.99, which features the point in time in the Dark Knight Returns universe where Bruce was still fighting crime with Jason Todd at his side as Robin. The story touched on important things that fans of the Dark Knight Returns would want more insight on such as the first moment that the media called Batman into question about putting innocent youth in harm’s way when he fights crime to the moment that led up to Jason Todd falling prey to Joker. Some of my favourite moments without spilling all the beans on this story were Alfred’s insight to Bruce when he claimed that Batman chose Jason Todd as Robin because he saw/shared the same pain that he feels in Jason, but Alfred hoped that Bruce would choose someone who he saw/shared the same brilliance with. This book featured insight on Joker getting put into Arkham Asylum, acting as a wild mad man but learning to become a “wolf in sheeps clothing“, as he is put under more and more shock treatments with heavy medications and silently running/manipulating the asylum with a calm collected attitude before he uses the other inmates to rebel and make an escape. The book¬† is very much a great prequel to the original story from the 1980s that opens up a window into why things happened the way they happened in the Dark Knight Returns universe. I loved every moment of this book and felt it really gave me some more to chew on. Being a huge fan of the original book and with DK3: The Master Race happening right now I feel it’s great that we’re getting these expansions of the universe from Frank Miller and I clamour for more Dark Knight Returns content finding myself going back to DK2 and actually cherishing it more than I ever have.

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This book is a beautiful package with great internal print and gloss covers. There is a fairly large amount of pages at 64 pages in the book with no advertisements so that is always a plus when it comes to enjoying comics and the cost of $6.99 for this book is reasonable considering you are getting a mix of timeless story from Frank Miller but also getting primo art from John Romita Jr. in every panel. John Romita Jr. does a fantastic job of recreating the Dark Knight Returns style when it comes to the nuances in the art with things such as Batman cowl with the stubby bat-ears, but also when it comes to the iconic panel work that simulates watching televised news and televised media. The colours had darker hues that set a darker tone to the book and created levity when it came to moments of the book that went to brighter yet crazier places like Joker in Arkham Asylum. Frank Miller finally gave all of the fans some insight as to how Jason Todd was as Robin leading up to him and his fate down the road in DK2, what caused this major tailspin for Batman that led to him retiring his costume and why all the costumed vigilantes of the world now find themselves scrutinized against by the governments and media. Hopefully you are caught up with the Dark Knight Returns series and following DK3: The Master Race as this book has been a pretty wild ride full of special moments that long-time fans will appreciate. Pick up your copy of Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade today!

~ T.J Head

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