There isn’t a comic book fan alive that hasn’t at least heard of The Dark Knight Returns. Frank Miller’s dystopian view of the future of the DC Universe revolutionized the industry and, up until now, there still hasn’t been a mainstream superhero story that has surpassed it. Published in 1986, Miller loads this book with political commentary and social criticisms, all while depicting Batman as an aging vigilante with a demeanor that makes Dirty Harry look like Pat Boone.

After Bruce Wayne returns to being Batman at the beginning of the story, he is soon confronted by classic villains such as Two-Face and the Joker, as well as new threats, like a murderous Mutant gang and the Man of Steel himself. Miller’s intentionally crude and rough illustrations complement the whole tone of the story perfectly as his Batman is built more like a refrigerator than a sleek gymnast.

Along with other Caped Crusader stories by Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart, The Dark Knight Returns is one of the books that gave Batman his balls back by making him a brash, foul-mouthed brute who doesn’t take it easy on criminals. He even puts the boots to Superman when he has to. Not only did Miller change the character of Batman forever, but he also irreversibly changed the medium as a whole.

In a world where superheroes are on the side of every lunchbox and companies are more concerned with maintaining the status-quo than producing actual art, The Dark Knight Returns still stands as an absolute gem in the industry and solidified DC as a much more creative and daring company than its distinguished competitors.

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