DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: THE LAST CRUSADE – #Batman80 Column

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Batman, AFJ has decided to join in the fun with columns, lists, and reviews from now until Batman Day (Sept. 15th, 2019). The incredible thing about 80 years of Batman in pop culture is that we can feature anything from comics to movies to the fact "The Science of Batman" is offered as a college course at the University of Victoria in Canada. Google it, Millenials. Today, we look at Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns prequel. #AFJ4LIFE 

The Dark Knight Returns is one of those must-read Batman titles. One of my personal favorite Batman stories of all time. There have been two direct sequels. DKR Strikes Again and DKR The Master Race.

DKR Strikes Again was a disaster, in my personal opinion. The Master Race was good but not the best. Around the time Master Race was out, DC released a not well-known prequel book.
The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade.

With a story by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello and artwork by John Romita JR. 

When this book hit, I knew nothing about it. Hadn't seen and solicitations on it, or write-ups of the plot. I walked into my comic shop and saw it sitting on the shelf. I grabbed it, and eagerly tore into it when I got home.

Most reviews will call this a mundane book. I disagree completely with that. This book is a worthy prequel to one of the most iconic Batman stories of all time.

Batman, just like in The Dark Knight Returns, is getting older. He's having a hard time moving midday when he wakes up. Alfred has to help him to the bathroom to start his day. He pops some pain pills and starts training with Jason Todd aka Robin. His relationship with Robin is at the center of this book. 
Batman struggles with Jason being so violent. As the book progresses, he reveals that Jason is the successor to the cowl, but he's not ready yet.

The Joker plays a back seat in this book. They do show how manipulative he can be in Arkham. Stirring up the inmates with little or no effort at all. However, he is not the main focus of the book.

The big “bads” are Killer Croc and Poison Ivy. Croc owns Batman in hand to hand combat. Remarking on how slow Batman has gotten. He's on the verge of killing Batman when Jason Todd sets up lights to simulate police arriving which scares off Croc.

Eventually, they track Croc down, this time with Poison Ivy. Again, Batman distracted by Jason's ruthless aggression towards random thugs, get in deep with Croc. Once again Batman is close to his end at Croc's hands. This time he escapes by kicking Croc in the groin repeatedly. Then he beats him unconscious with a weapon. Robin captures Ivy, but she gets the drop on him but Batman saves him.

In the chaos, the Joker makes his escape from Arkham. Battered and bruised, the Dynamic Duo heads back to the cave to recuperate. Robin wants to go back out to catch the Joker. Batman orders him to go to bed and let it wait until morning. Alfred helps Batman to the elevator to go up to the manor from the cave. They talk about Jason and Batman loudly states that Jason isn't ready to take the cowl. On the ride up Alfred remarks that maybe Bruce isn't ready to which remarkably he agrees and starts to accept Jason being the heir to the cowl. What they didn't know was that Jason was listening to the beginning of the conversation.

He heads out alone to confront the Joker, while Batman dreams of being a mentor and enjoying retirement. Jason looks in a window and spots the Joker. However, he doesn't realize that Joker's goons are behind him. They beat Jason unmercifully. The panel ends by Joker tell Jason they are going to make the Bat scream.

Essentially referring to A Death In The Family and Bruce's regret in the DKR that Jason was lost to the war and was a solider. It's a sad twist once you realize this was the moment that made Bruce retire. Just as he was ready to steal some joy for himself. 

My suggestion is to pick this book up and give it a shot! It's definitely worth the read! #LongLiveTheBat

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