Initially skimming through this, I was impressed. I thought, finally, here is a modern Frank Miller comic that doesn’t look incoherent and cringe-worthy. And while this isn’t a train-wreck on par with Superman: Year One—it’s billowing smoke and needs full-system maintenance.
First, let’s talk about everybody’s favorite topic: guessing an author’s political beliefs. Yay! To be fair, it’s nigh impossible to not guess what Miller is trying to say in his work. After all, The Dark Knight Return’s version of Batman is of an anarchist who gives the finger to government chumps like Superman. TDKR is practically an Alan Moore work in the way it criticizes the wave of 80’s Conservatism.
Yet, Miller has written and said things that don’t point to him being necessarily liberal. Holy Terror is xenophobia incarnate. And also he’s got this weird thing for Nazis.
Th point is, Miller is aggressive when it comes to expressing himself. So I guess it makes sense that this sequel of a sequel of a sequel would get into the political weeds. And I would take a wild guess that Miller isn’t crazy about Trump. Why? Well—the POTUS is in this book. A lot. And I’m not referring to a clever stand-in for the President. No, I mean—the actual Trump, this identical likeness—is in here.
While that’s certainly not subtle, get this—he’s a puppet of Darkseid and supported by Joker and his gang of clowns, who use voter suppression to get Trump into office. Whether you love or hate Donald J. Trump…this is pretty ridiculous. Remember that recent episode of the Simpsons that combined West Side Story and the Squad? Yeah, this reminds me of that. Political satire is cool and all, and farce thrives on bluntness, but at least give us something with some insight. Or fun.
Speaking of which—the actual story is a mess. We open with Jonathan, Lara’s brother, listening to her and Clark talk about him. And while they talk, Jonathan monologues for us. So this is about Jonathan, right? He’s the Golden Child? Well, technically, but it doesn’t feel like it. Most of the 50+ pages are spent on Lara, Darkseid, Joker, or Carrie Kelly. Jonathan is just here to be a Deus Ex Machina. Twice.
Characterization is a problem as well. Almost from her very introduction, Lara waxes on like a villain about how boorish humans are. Yet, when Darkseid offers her power and a chance to punish earth, she seems interested at first…then rejects him for no reason. Jonathan is the main character, yet he’s not terribly interesting beyond mildly defending earth to Lara then serving as a Deus Ex Machina. Twice.
By far, Carrie Kelly is the most interesting character. Constantly thinking of her mentor, her determination has spoiled into cruelty. She even thinks that Batman wasn’t tough enough on the criminals in some respects. So is her disposition treated as a problem or as a darkness she must deal with? Nope. Here is an anarchist who we’re not supposed to pass judgement on, almost like the original TDKR, but flimsier.
Although taking inspiration from Miller, Rafael Grampa’s hyper-textured work reminded me more of Frank Quitely, Chris Burnham, and Ian Bertram. I suppose I could take issue with that, but the layouts are so inventive, it’s hard to think of Grampa as too unoriginal. Most impressive is Grampa’s slavish nods to Akira in the finale when Gotham is leveled like a bomb went off (or Man of Steel happened).
It’s hard to see why this exists. While many will buy this just because of Frank Miller’s “triumphant return” to the TDKR universe, it doesn’t warrant its price or length. As satire, it’s weak. As a story in general, it’s sloppy. As a Frank Miller comic? Predictably disappointing.