First comic book I've read in over a decade. And it's less comic book than an excuse for merciless anti-liberal satire. In other words, I loved it. In brief: Batman goes around attacking vicious criminals, while liberal television commentators and famous therapists argue that the criminals are simply misunderstood, are nothing but innocent victims, can easily be rehabilitated, etc. It's mostly very broad satire, such as a scene when the mayor, rather than execute a monstrous criminal leader, decides to negotiate with him and is murdered within moments. There were some subtler moments, like the panel depicting the "Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled" (fans know the original name of the Asylum is the Home for the Criminally Insane). Even subtler is the panel right next to that one, my favorite image in the book: in the hallway of the Asylum, which houses all the most degenerate psychopaths in the world, there is only one forbidding sign, and I'll bet you can guess what it is.
All in all, though, a very depressing read. It was written more than twenty years ago, yet very little has changed. Things have probably gotten worse. I know that almost every time I go back home, there's a story about some child rapist or murderer who gets a five year sentence and is out after two on good behavior (good behavior in jail? well, duh - there aren't any nine-year-old girls to rape in prison). In one case last year, a man brutally raped a 14-year-old girl, bashed her head in with a rock, and left her for dead in the St. Lawrence River. Only by a miracle did she survive and manage to swim to safety. The prosecutors asked for ten years. The judge, displaying extreme coldheartedness, sentenced him to eleven. He only had to serve seven - not bad for rape and 'attempted' murder. There was an uproar in the aftermath of the sentence. It was reviewed, and the reviewer deemed the judge made the right decision, since the rapist had no prior history of sexual assault and was not a demonstrable risk to society (I swear I'm not making this up). Of course, it then turned out that, yes indeed, he did have a history and had sexually assaulted three other young girls. For these new charges, the prosecution asked for, and the judge granted, three years in jail - to be served concurrently with his other sentence. In other words, three more victims, not one extra day. And, as that article notes, if he behaves nicely in prison, he could be free after just two years. Anyway, sorry I'm getting carried away here, but I just wanted to show that The Dark Knight Returns is, these days, probably less satire than documentary.
Among the liberal elite, in his comic as in our lives, rapists and murderers receive sympathy and understanding; shunning is only for those who fight back. Oh, and of course, those who smoke.
p.s. no, i'm not demanding that the castrations begin immediately. baby steps, baby steps. a little deterrence might not be a bad place to start.
p.s. Jonah Goldberg promised some thoughts about this, I hope he comes through.
UPDATE: I forgot to add that Miller also makes a lot of fun of Reagan, which is why I wrote that the comic is anti-liberal, since it's not exactly conservative.