The Cold War cast an ugly shadow over the collective unconscious of the world for decades, but few decades showcased it as much as the 1980s. In the dying days of the conflict, the threat of nuclear annihilation was at an all-time high as America and Russia strove to outdo one another in an arms race. The mood of paranoia inspired artists across all manner of media. Amebix channelled it into a raging blend of punk and metal, John Carpenter made Escape From New York and Frank Miller funnelled it into a radical reinvention of the Dark Knight.
The resulting book, The Dark Knight Returns was fantastic. But it’s also become a bit of an albatross around the neck of the Batman mythos; it was revolutionary when it came out in 1986, restoring Batman to a menacing, dark figure in the public eye, and showcasing some decidedly subversive takes on numerous other DC stalwarts. Naturally, it spawned a bunch of imitators – and as often happens, the imitations were far inferior to the original. They made everything as DARK AND EDGY as possible, without actually paying attention to the many other elements that had gone into making the book so readable. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the recent Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you’ve read the comic and seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Frank Miller’s art always had stylised elements, but by the time he drew The Dark Knight Returns, he had really sort of come into his own. I don’t love his art style – especially in more recent years – but it was unlike most other stuff out there at the time. Much as I love George Perez and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, their style probably wouldn’t have worked for this story. The advantage of this is that it mostly lends itself to Funko’s stylised look rather well.
The relatively simple helmet is certainly accurate to the comics, but the contrast with the highly detailed body is maybe just a little too extreme; it works in the comic, due to the proportionate size of the head, but here it’s accentuated. Batman’s older, wrinkled face can be seen beneath the mask – Superman eventually breaks off the mask during the fight, and so there’s also an unmasked version available, if you’d prefer. It’s cool and all, but even with the slightly odd look of the helmet, I’m happier with this version.
Batman doesn’t traditionally use guns, but every now and then he makes an exception. On this occasion, he’s got some kind of sonic weapon – I don’t remember all the details, but I think it gives Supes a splitting headache or something. We’d see a very similar design in The Dark Knight Rises, when Bats carried around that EMP gun.
Lastly, the body is covered with body armour that would have looked quite futuristic in the 1980s. It’s not how the future has turned out, of course, but it’s still cool. Lots of Michelin Man-esque padding, rather than straight-up metal sheets like the BvS redesign.
Ultimately, since there’s already been around 12,000 Batman POPs previously released, it’s great to see that this wave doesn’t just consist of simple repaints. While I don’t think it’s as good as the Armored Batman from the Legion of Collector’s box, it’s a good tribute to a classic comic series, and a solid addition to any DC-oriented POP collection.