Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is the graphic novel by Frank Miller credited with starting the era of the dark superhero. Batman has hung up his cape a decade ago and Bruce Wayne now wears the moustachioed face of a middle aged man, albeit with a ripped body. Gotham city is slowly being overrun by a criminal gang called the Mutants. When the life of his friend, James Gordon the police commissioner, is threatened, Batman returns in a glory of stiff joints and aching muscles. When he puts the Mutants back in jail, the talking heads on media start questioning why Batman should be above the law. The Commissioner puts out an arrest warrant for Batman. At this time, the Joker is released from prison and proceeds to unleash a high body-count rampage on the city. While he pushes Batman to the edge of his no-kill policy, citizens start protesting against Batman, citing that it is his very existence that makes criminals to creep out of the woodwork.

This is no teenage comic-book world. The characters, motives and actions are multi-dimensional and complex. Threads about a hero returning, having to question his own principles and actions, the change in tide of public opinion on heroes and villains, the story is full of these.

Where I started to lose the plot was in the second half. Superman enters the picture fighting a Russian nuclear attack, fails and plunges Gotham into darkness. He has his own personal rules questioned. When the police do not give up their chase of Batman, he ends up leading the Mutants as a vigilante force! It all starts to roll up into one holy ball of mess.

This novel inspired Christopher Nolan to bring a darker hero for his The Dark Knight Trilogy, to much critical and commercial success. And much like I felt about those movies, while I enjoyed the vision in this novel, it ends up becoming a bit too confusing and implausible. Unlike works like Watchmen by Alan Moore, I came away feeling that to really enjoy Frank Miller you have to be someone who is deeply invested in the Marvel/DC universe, which I am sadly not.

Rating: 3/4

ISBN: 9781563893421

My Man Jeeves

My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

There are few authors who can deliver as reliable a dose of fun as Wodehouse. Especially when the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster are involved. I’ve been chewing through the Jeeves-Wooster bookshelf in chronological order and for the last few weekends my entertainer was My Man Jeeves.

The short stories in this collection from 1919 feature the second major appearance of the J-W duo. (They first appeared in The Man with Two Left Feet). Also making an entry is Reggie Pepper, who is nothing but another version of Bertie. The plots of the duo gave such a heavy deja vu that I’m pretty sure these were used in the Jeeves and Wooster TV series. (If you’ve not seen it yet: it stars Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry and is exquisite, need I say more?)

All the familiar Wodehouse tropes are here: nosy aunts and uncles, girls, inheritance, high society parties and mixups that will magically get corrected before the end. Thinking about the depiction of aunts and uncles, maybe that is one reason why Wodehouse found such a popular audience in India!

The problem with My Man Jeeves is that many of the plots are too similar to each other. Wodehouse is always guilty of predictability, but putting these stories together in the same collection is pure laziness. In any case, this is a breezy rib-tickling read.

Rating: 3/4

ISBN: 9781585678754

Excerpt:

She was rather like one of those innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your system so that, before you know what you’re doing, you’re starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that, you will knock his head off.