Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child #1 – Frank Miller, Writer; Rafael Grampa, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: SuperBaby defeats Darkseid
Ray: It’s time to return to the strange world of Frank Miller, as he teams up with legendary illustrator Rafael Grampa in Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child #1, a new one-shot sequel to his classic future Batman epic. The torch has been passed after the events of Dark Knight III, with Carrie Kelley now wearing the mantle of Batman and Lara Kent – the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman – being the most powerful being on Earth. At least until now, as her younger brother Jonathan is developing powers of his own.
This lets Miller delve into his latest strange obsession – Kryptonians being super-intelligent and incredibly creepy, like we saw in infant Clark Kent brainwashing Jonathan Kent to adopt him in Superman: Year One.
Miller’s work has always been political, but it feels like this issue is less subtle with it than he’s been in a while. An ongoing early subplot about Joker and Darkseid masterminding Trump’s re-election campaign feels like something out of a parody comic, and Darkseid seems oddly out of character – almost like a Neal Adams character at points with his bizarre rantings. The other problem is that the other side of the story isn’t much more likable. Lara Kent continues to be a strange anti-human bigot, having switched sides but still ranting constantly about how disgusting the species is as she mentors Jon. Carrie is one of the few characters that it’s easy to get invested in, especially as watching the ballet of violence she unleashes on the Miller-verse goons is highly entertaining.
This comic does have some things going for it, including dazzling art by Grampa. He shifts his style throughout the issue, with some panels involving Carrie feeling Sin City-inspired. But while the art shifts itself, it adds to the disjointed feel of the story. There’s a stream-of-consciousness feel to the narrative at points, with Darkseid’s plot jumping around from electoral meddling to cosmic destruction. Jon’s mysterious powers are explained in narration without actually being explained, and the story doesn’t quite end as stop. Frank Miller comics are more an experience than a coherent reading experience at this point, but there’s some interesting elements in this tale. I just wish they came together into a story that knew what it wanted to be – a political satire, a cosmic epic, or a gritty crime thriller. It tries to combine all three and comes out as a gorgeous mess.
Corrina: Having missed Dark Knight III, I was at first confused as to what the heck was going on in Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child #1. I gathered after a few pages that our heroes are dead or gone in some form, which explains why Lara Kent is allowed to “parent” young Jon while acting like every older man’s parody of a cynical teenage girl. She’s simply a terrible character, with zero depth, and one-note.
As for the Golden Child, there’s not much else to him, either, save he seems to have more hope than Lara, and he’s uber-powerful, so don’t make him upset.
Mainly, the issue seems to exist for set pieces of a floating child beating up Darkseid, and ranting by Darkseid and Lara. Carrie is more interesting but even she seems to have more fully embraced violence and gore.
I suppose I could go find DKIII and read what happened to lead to this but, given my reaction to this story, I think I’ll just let it go.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.