Thursday, February 28, 2008

DK2, Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Title: DK2
Authors: Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Rating: OK

I'm slogging through something else and had to take a break. That break consisted of this and at least one other book, so there will be additional reviews before I get to the thing I'm supposed to be reading for real.

Now, what the heck is DK2? I suspect that some of those reading Doug's book review forum will know. The rest of us, well...

I found DK2 via and ordered it on a lark. It's a comic book, or perhaps - more technically - a graphic novel, albeit a short one. And since "DK" stands for Dark Knight, those in the know will figure out it's a Batman story.

OK. I have to admit right now that by reading this I was way out of my depth. I've never read comic books on a regular basis. And starting now - in my 40's - seems unlikely. But that being said, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Batman. I've always felt that superheroes who start out as normal people are better than those born with mysterious - and possibly unexplained - powers. But that's just me. I'm told there is a major argument over that very thing in the comic world, with some fans preferring their heroes born with powers while others prefer them self made, or something like that.

Anyway, don't ask me how, but despite growing up watching reruns of the old, campy Adam West Batman, I've known for years that it's supposed to be dark and serious. I also know that Batman / Bruce Wayne is tormented and has trouble with not crossing the line into crime (or at least simple vigilante justice) himself. The movie Batman Begins was pretty close to the way I think it's supposed to feel, and it seemed visually right to me as well.

So when I saw DK2 wander past on a list of recently posted books on I added it to my wish list and waited. Eventually, it arrived.

For those of you not terminally stupid (like I am) it should be obvious that with a name like DK2 there is a previous volume. I've never seen it. Yes, I am that dumb, but I thought that it would be a separate graphic novel and this would be an entirely new story. Reading the back cover of DK2 I learned that the previous volume was called The Dark Knight Returns, and that Batman apparently died in that story. DK2 is the follow on, written 15 years later and taking place 3 years after the events in The Dark Knight Returns.

So what's the story here? Well, it's... hmmm... Unfortunately, if I start telling you about the plot, I'll give it away. And that would be bad because there isn't much of it here. This is a really quick read, and there isn't a lot of depth to it. I found that a bit problematic. But I can tell you that Batman isn't dead, but you can pretty much assume that from the name, right? I can also tell you that it features aging superheroes and a disagreement between a couple of factions thereof. It's also serious in tone, and tries to discuss a major social/political issue as well. There. That's the best I can do.

I've already said I thought it too short. My other issue is that the art was not appealing. I know (or at least I assume, which may be a mistake) that various comic books go for different artistic styles. That may be driven by the material or by the artist, I suppose. What I found here was a much-less-than realistic style that didn't resonate with me. Not that comic book art needs to be realistic, but this particular implementation just didn't grab me.

Still, it's not a total failure. I read it all and it was amusing trying to figure out how the various characters had wound up in their current predicaments. And if this were just one or two chapters out of a larger story I'd be very interested in the whole thing. And maybe that is the case. Someday I might go looking for more.