Where: The Dark Knight Returns #4 When: June 1986
Writer: Frank Miller Artist: Frank Miller
The story so far...
The future is a grim and gritty place.
The heroes have been driven out by a world that watched them with envious eyes. There are still whispers though. Rumors of a Superman puppet to the administration, and if you walk down the right alley, into the right bar, you just might find someone who knows him.
For Bruce Wayne the silence is deafening, and inevitably the Dark Knight returns to Gotham, in a time when he may be needed the most.
His return is not without it's cost. Though he rises to defeat the menace of the Mutants gang, old foes reemerge to take a last shot at their enemy. Two-Face and Joker make a stand, but prove to be nothing more than chapters in the Batman's legacy.
The true enemy is within. The Batman has rattled the cages of the wrong people, and now they have sent their Superman to stop him.
Tale of the tape...
If you're young enough, this might actually be your father's Batman, but ironically this Batman is the influential father to current interpretations of the Dark Knight.
Time has been relatively kind to Bruce Wayne, but he's definitely feeling it in his old age. Not to say life is peaches and cream for Superman in this dark future.
Before the fight, boy blue averts nuclear disaster by detonating it, and robbing himself of the solar powers he draws upon, via a nuclear winter.
Slice it anyway you like, this is the god damned Batman.
A Batman so typically atypical of Frank Miller's work; deliciously stripped to the core of his being. This is perhaps a more potent Batman than any seen since. A Batman driven, and focused in a way our current multi-tasking Batman seems incapable of.
Intelligence: 5 (Professor)
Stamina: 5 (Marathon runner)
For the Batman this is what it all comes down to.
David beats Goliath solely on the principle of his ability to account for, and effectively counter, the advantages presented against him, and by extension, the willpower to make it happen.
Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Speed: 6 (Speed of sound)
Stamina: 6 (Generator)
For Superman, it's probably a fight that on paper should be in his favour.
The legend of the oft despised infallible Batman has arguably been grossly over exaggerated, and ultimately, clouded the interpretation of Batman's abilities on a logical plane.
Reading a recent issue of Infinite Crisis, it was qui enjoyable to see a prime example of Batman's brittle humanity put to the forefront. With the DC trinity standing in the rubble of the Justice League sattelite, the villain Mongul does away with Superman and Wonder Woman, leaving Batman at his cosmic-level mercy.
Weakened or not, Superman is still Superman.
His weaknesses are Kryptonite; something more accessible than you might think; and his heart and Kansas razed good nature. Where the scales tip is the fact that these fallabilities fall right into the hands of an embittered industrialist-genius, with an emotional tie.
What went down...
Well, for the most part, I'm guessing most of us know what goes down, even if we haven't read this all important and influential chapter of The Dark Knight Returns.
As previously arranged, Superman shows up at Crime Alley, right on time. The place where it all began, and where it just might end for our grizzled anti-hero.
The welcome wagon comes in the form of six hunter missles, activated by the x-rays Superman uses to survey the area.
Anytime the Batman's role as a master strategist comes into question, this is without a doubt one of the finest examples of exactly how absurdly obvious his abilities are.
Carrie Kelly, aka Robin, is there to continue battering the great white dope as he hits the ground a block away from the target. The batmobile, more reflective of a military attack vehicle is light work for a man more powerful than the pounding surf.
True to form, Superman's first approach is to negotiate with the Batman. He probably asks him to give in to reason, and return to the shadows, away from the sight of the politicians that now control the last son of Krypton.
His words falls on deaf ears, though, protected by heavy armor and sound proofing. Perfect protection for unleashing a sonic assault, that gives the Superman a nosebleed, barely five minutes into the fight.
Using a street lamp, the Batman taps into the city's power to power his hulking armored suit, and fry the Superman's brain.
The Batman's resolve is strong, even when his helmet is ripped from his head.
He throws massive, technologically enhanced fists, defiant to the end, as Robin makes a getaway with the police moving in.
As the fight drags on, Superman busts three ribs.
"You're just bone and meat... like all the rest."
Distracted by the choppers, the back-up is slow to react. With one arm remaining, the Green Arrow waits in the wings with the final piece.
Batman distracts Superman with acid, and despite getting plugged in the leg - Green Arrow makes the shot.
Hanging upside down from a fire escape ladder by his legs, using his teeth to pull the bow, Green Arrow makes the shot - synthesized kryptonite.
With the kryptonite the clincher, the Batman pummels his better into submission. He reminds him of everything they've stood for, and everything they've begun, and as his heartbeat slows, Bruce Wayne makes sure Superman remembers who bested him.
Then, he dies.
Of course, as we all know, Batman's death fell right on midnight by his own design. Though his back to the concrete by fight's end, Batman not only bested Superman in battle, but also proved to be the superior force for inspiration.
According to Batman these days, the last time Superman really inspired anyone was when he died. Batman's death was purely strategic, allowing him the retreat, and the opportunity to strike again.
This is definitely one of the greatest of comic book rivalries, and this is the battle that embodies it. This is the fight that shows just how hard it is to keep a good Batman down.
Apologies for being a little late. Hope everyone had a fantastic, violent Christmas full of dream match ups!
Next week another opportunity for the enemy of the state to step up to the plate, the 'dues ex', Wolverine. Then the end of month/year update. Ciao!
The Fight: 7 The Issue: 7 [July 17, 2006]
Robin - Executed distraction. (Superman)
Green Arrow - Critical blow; kryptonite arrow. (Superman)
Batman - Multiple critical blows. (Superman)
Batman - Faked own death.