i still love h.e.r.
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: somewhere you are not
Rep Power: 28
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is set twenty years into an alternate future. In the absence of superheroes, ordinary criminals run amok (all the super-villains having been incarcerated or otherwise killed), and a gang called the "Mutants" made up of schoolchildren terrorize Gotham City. Batman has been retired from crime fighting for ten years following the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Wayne funds the rehabilitation of Harvey Dent ("Two-Face"), leading to his release from a mental hospital, but upon re-entering society, Dent returns to crime. Wayne dons the Batman costume again and apprehends Dent, but in an increasingly media obsessed society, the populace debates publicly whether Batman is a savior or a menace.
Carrie Kelley, a 13-year-old girl whom Batman rescues, spends her lunch money on a Robin costume and finds Batman at the city dump, where he is fighting the Mutants. There, Batman, in a moment of insecurity about his age, foolishly accepts a challenge to battle the Mutants' leader in personal combat and is defeated. However, Kelley causes a distraction to allow Batman to incapacitate the villian and the police arrest him. Kelley returns with Batman in the tank-like Batmobile to the Batcave performing some basic first aid to stem his multiple lacerations. Once home, Batman takes Carrie on as the new Robin against Alfred's objections. The Mayor of Gotham City decides to negotiate with the leader of the Mutants, with one eye on the upcoming election, but the Mutant leader kills the Mayor in his prison cell. With Gordon's cooperation, the leader is allowed to escape from jail and Batman, taking advantage of his experience in combat, defeats him in a rematch in front of the assembled Mutant gang, which then disbands, disgusted by their leader's failure.
The Joker, who has spent the last decade catatonic, sees the media reports on the return of the Batman, snaps out of his funk and convinces his psychiatrist that he regrets his misdeeds. Seeking to discredit Batman, the psychiatrist appears with the Joker on a late-night show (reminiscent of David Letterman). Gordon finally retires and is replaced by Ellen Yindel, who is not a fan of Batman and whose first act as Commissioner is to issue an arrest warrant. She is also suspicious of the Joker and orders some of the police force to be on hand during the TV appearance. While the bulk of the police attempt to apprehend Batman, the Joker murders everyone in the television studio and escapes. Batman and Robin learn that the Joker is planning a mass killing at the country fair, where Batman defeats the Joker in a violent showdown. Batman has come to the realization that if he had indeed killed the Joker earlier instead of putting him in jail, where he would escape again and again (a common superhero theme), many innocent lives would have been saved. Batman comes short of killing the Joker by merely breaking his neck; the Joker expresses disappointment in Batman for not killing him. He twists his own broken neck, effectively killing himself, intending for the police to charge Batman with murder.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union has invaded the Corto Maltese, a Caribbean Island not far from the USA, and the American response to the invasion is to unleash Superman on the attacking troops. He is able to deter the attempted conquest, and in response, the Soviets fire a nuclear missile at the continental U.S. Superman is able to redirect it from its intended target to a remote desert, where it detonates. However, it turns out the missile was actually designed to cause a massive electromagnetic pulse and send a huge cloud of dust into the atmosphere, precipitating a brief but intense nuclear winter. Superman is nearly killed by the missile's detonation, as the atmospheric effects cut off his access to the yellow sunlight that provides his power and invulnerability.
As the electromagnetic pulse destroys all electrical equipment, and the country is plunged into cold and darkness, all the major American cities descend into chaos. Batman rounds up the former Mutants, including those who now call themselves the "Sons of the Batman" ("SOB" for short), to stop looting and ensure the flow of needed supplies. Gotham becomes the safest city in America, and the US government, embarrassed by this, orders Superman to take Batman down at any cost. Having been warned of the government's plans by Green Arrow, Batman confronts Superman at the very same place where Wayne's parents were murdered decades earlier, "Crime Alley". He dons a powered armor suit and readies various gadgets, including an arrow with a synthesized-kryptonite tip to be fired by Green Arrow. The two face off, causing massive infrastructure damage and just as Batman defeats Superman, he appears to die of a heart attack. Concurrently, Alfred destroys the Batcave and Wayne Manor but suffers a fatal stroke as Robin draws away the police in the Batmobile.
The series comes to a close as we learn that Batman faked his own death. During the funeral in which Selina Kyle blames Superman for Batman's death, his heart begins to beat again which Superman hears. He gives Carrie a knowing wink and walks away. Batman leads Robin, Green Arrow, and the rest of the Sons of Batman into the caverns beyond what was the Batcave and prepares to one day battle not criminals, but the corrupt authorities that had demanded he be neutralized. He figures this will be a good life, "good enough."
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