|The Dark Knight Strikes Again|
|Publication date||December 2001 – July 2002|
|No. of issues||3|
|Created by||Frank Miller|
|Written by||Frank Miller|
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, also known as DK2, is a 2001-2002 DC Comics three-issue limited series comic book written and illustrated by Frank Miller and colored by Lynn Varley, featuring the fictional superhero Batman. The series is a sequel to Miller's 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns. It tells the story of an aged Bruce Wayne who returns from three years in hiding, training his followers and instigating a rebellion against Lex Luthor's dictatorial rule over the United States. The series features an ensemble cast of superheroes including Catgirl, Superman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Green Arrow, The Flash, and the Atom.
The series was originally published as a three-issue limited series published by DC Comics between November 2001 and July 2002. It has since been published as hardcover and paperback one-volume editions and as the Absolute Dark Knight edition with The Dark Knight Returns. Like its predecessor, this story takes place in a timeline that is not considered canonical in the current DC Comics continuity.
After going underground, Batman (Bruce Wayne) and his young sidekick Catgirl (formerly Carrie Kelley—Robin) train an army of "Batboys" (the former Mutants and other recruits) to save the world from a police dictatorship led by Lex Luthor. In a series of raids on government facilities, Batman's soldiers release other superheroes—including Atom, Flash and Plastic Man—from captivity. Elongated Man is recruited and Green Arrow is already working with Batman.
Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel have been forced to work for the US government, as their loved ones are being held hostage. Superman is ordered by "President Rickard" (a computer-generated front for Lex Luthor and Brainiac) to stop Batman. He confronts Wayne at the Batcave, but Batman and the other superheroes defeat him. Meanwhile, Batman's raids have been noticed by the media. After being banned for years, the freed superheroes have recaptured the public imagination and have become a fad among the youth. At a pop concert by "The Superchix", Batman and the other heroes make a public appearance urging their fans to rebel against the oppressive government.
During this time, rogue vigilante Question spies on Luthor's plans and types a journal to record the misdeeds of those in power. Question tries to convince the Martian Manhunter—now an aged, bitter, near-powerless figure with his mind filled with Luthor's nanotechnology—to stand up against Superman and the government. Question and Martian Manhunter are attacked by a mysterious man resembling the Joker, who is seemingly invulnerable to injury. Martian Manhunter sacrifices his life and Question is rescued by Green Arrow. The mysterious man escapes to kill other superheroes including Guardian and Creeper, stealing their costumes and wearing them.
An extraterrestrial monster lands in Metropolis and begins to destroy the city. Batman is convinced that it is an attempt to lure him and his allies out of hiding and does not respond, dismissing Flash's appeal that they are supposed to save lives. Batman's opinion is that it is too risky to save the lives of the populace. Superman and Captain Marvel fight the monster, which is revealed to be Brainiac, who coerces Superman into defeat using the bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor as leverage, to crush the people's faith in superheroes. Captain Marvel is killed defending citizens from the carnage but Superman is saved when his daughter Lara appears. She has been carefully hidden since birth, but, now that the government knows she exists, they demand that she be handed over.
Deciding that Batman and his methods are the only way, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lara join him. Lara pretends to hand herself over to Brainiac. Atom slips into the bottle and frees the Kandorians, who use their combined heat vision to destroy Brainiac. The superheroes then destroy the dictatorship's power source and incite a revolution. Batman allows himself to be captured and tortured by Luthor to learn his plans. Luthor has launched satellites to destroy most of the world's population, leaving him with a more manageable number of people. The Green Lantern, who has turned into pure will, returns from space and destroys Luthor's satellites. Luthor is in turn killed by the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol).
Returning to the Batcave, Batman is contacted by Carrie, who is being attacked by the Joker-like man and now wearing a Robin costume. Batman arrives and recognizes the man as Dick Grayson, the first Robin who Batman fired long ago. Grayson has been genetically altered to have a powerful healing factor and shape-shifting ability, but is criminally insane. As Batman and Grayson contemptuously recall their bleak history together, Batman drops him through a trapdoor into a miles-deep crevasse filled with lava, while Elongated Man rescues Carrie. Grayson clings onto a ledge, climbs out of the chasm and faces Batman. When Grayson remains virtually unharmed by everything Batman throws at him, Batman hurls himself and Grayson into the chasm. Grayson falls into the lava and is disintegrated. Superman rescues Batman at the last minute as the Batcave explodes, and takes him to Carrie in the Batmobile.
In 2006, Frank Miller said of the creation process for The Dark Knight Strikes Again:
I was out to remind readers about the inherent joy and wonder these superheroes offer, and also to celebrate their delicious absurdity. I saw the superheroes as Gods and Heroes in the Classic sense ... I wanted to drag these Gods and Heroes out of that musty museum they'd been stuck in and drag them back to the streets where they belong.— Frank Miller
The Dark Knight Strikes Again received mixed to negative reviews, with criticism focusing on its artwork, storyline, and character development. Claude Lalumière of The Montreal Gazette gave the series a mixed review and said "the script lacks the emotional nuances of its predecessor, and ... the artwork is rushed and garish", and that it "has considerable chutzpah, but its careless execution is regrettable". Roger Sabin of The Guardian wrote that the series has "flashes of brilliance—few can control page layouts like Miller—but in general the idea of the ironic superhero seems rather dated."
The first issue of "DK2" ranked #1 in December 2001 with pre-order sales at 174,339. The second issue of DK2 was ranked third in sales for the January 2002 period with pre-order sales of 155,322. The final issue of the series had pre-order sales of 171,546 returning to #1 for the month of February 2002. The comic had an in-store date on July 31 of that same year.
Discussing the negative reception for The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Frank Miller said in 2006: "I expected shock. I wanted it. I never make it my mission to reassure people. Time will make its own judgement."
Main article: The Dark Knight III: The Master Race
On April 24, 2015, DC Comics announced that Frank Miller was co-writing a sequel to The Dark Knight Strikes Again with Brian Azzarello titled The Dark Knight III: The Master Race. The series featured a rotating cast of artists, including Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson. Frank Miller later confirmed that The Master Race would not be the conclusion, and he was beginning work on a fourth series.