The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Set three years after the events of The Dark Knight Returns, the world has managed to go downhill since then- the President is a fake, and the police state of a world is run by Lex Luthor and Brainiac, who has many a hero enslaved.
Of course, Batman won't be having that, so he and his allies--Catgirl, the Green Arrow, and his Batboys--set out to change the world by judicious application of violence. But first, they need allies--and they need to deal with Superman, who is still in the thrall of the government...
Overall it goes further off the deep end than The Dark Knight Returns, almost to the point of being a Deconstruction of the Darker and Edgier nature of the first story though, naturally, not everyone thinks that makes it any good. The color palette is much more varied than The Dark Knight Returns' muted colorization, taking it to an almost garish degree, that takes a little getting used to (many reviewers termed it ugly).
- Ambiguously Gay: Dick Grayson of the Depraved Homosexual variety
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: At least one commentator regarded News in the Nude with incredulity, apparently being unaware of Naked News.
- Art Shift: When searching the ruins of Metropolis, Superman discovers a locket containing Golden Age pictures of him & Lois Lane.
- The art in general is also very different from the first book. The coloring is the most obvious change (from muted and dirty to garishly bright) but everybody has really exaggerated figures either in terms of proportions or angles. Lex in particular looks like a shaved gorilla.
- Author Tract: Apparently Miller doesn't like trends the media are taking.
- Badass Grandpa: The majority of the superheroes are really really old in this book. They can still kick the crap out of you and each other.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Lex Luthor and Brainiac.
- Boring Invincible Hero: Batman. By the time anyone comes up with anything he's already twelve steps ahead of them. Superman heading for the Bat-Cave? No problem! Just use the the gigantic Kryptonite gloves over there! Got captured? No biggie! It was part of Batman's plan all along. It gets so bad that Batman can literally storm into Luthor's base of operations, beat him up, cut his face, and just leave with absolutely zero consequences. In the page image, he spells out why -- he wanted to inspire terror in Luthor, to let him know that his empire was crumbling. And he wanted to give Hawkboy the honor of killing Luthor.
- Butt Monkey: Superman. It really gets to the point where you think Miller has something against the character.
- The Cameo/Shout-Out: Alfred E. Neuman appears as one of the talking heads in issue 2.
- Catgirl: Carrie Kelly, the former Robin.
- Character Development : Of a sort. All Star Batman and Robin hinted that Bruce Wayne was sexually abused as a child by his mother and/or father, that he is a Depraved Bisexual, that he is a pedophile who may have sexually abused Dick Grayson, and that he is a psychopathic cop-killer and maniac who ironically gained some humanity from Grayson. The Dark Knight Returns could be interpreted as Bruce Wayne being older, wiser, and struggling to hold on to his humanity and/or sanity. By The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Bruce Wayne probably reverted back to his personality in All Star Batman and Robin. In short, what you have here is one seriously messed-up man who is not as rational and logical as he thinks he is.
- Coitus Ensues: Superman and Wonder Woman had several pages dedicated to them having sex for no reason other than to make Superman feel better.
- Comic Book Time
- Crazy Prepared: Naturally enough, Batman. To the point of having glowing green boxing gloves.
- Creepy Child: Saturn Girl.
- Decoy Leader
- Defiant to the End: Batman, when captured by Luthor.
- Depraved Homosexual: it's implied that Dick Grayson had the hots for Batman, but was rejected by him, which lead to Dick becoming a villain. At the end of the comic Batman taunts him with all sorts of quasi-homophobic euphemisms relating to his supposed "sissiness". And since Dick is the villain, apparently Miller thinks we're supposed to side with Batman here. Although, since large parts of the comic are completely over-the-top, Your Mileage May Vary on how to interpret this scene.
- Destructo-Nookie: Superman and Wonder Woman have sex so over-the-top it alters the earth's weather patterns.
- Distracted by the Sexy: More or less the point of "News in the Nude".
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
- Expy: A weird inversion, or something. This story's The Question is basically Rorschach from Watchmen, and Rorschach himself was a Captain Ersatz of the original Question, so this makes this version of the Question closer to the original Ditko Question and oh dear, my eyes have crossed.
- Flat What: "It's about to blow!"
- Gang of Hats: The Batboys.
- Gonk: There are some seriously ugly character designs here, especially Lex Luthor. This is mostly limited to the elderly males of the cast (which there are a ton of) but even the ostensibly pretty females have weirdly angular faces.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: One of the cooler bits of the series is that Miller really woke people up to just how utterly, insanely powerful Plastic Man is. A lot of comics released after this seemed to run with Miller's description of Plas as a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass of epic proportions.
- Hypocrite: Catgirl berates one of the 'Batboys' in issue one about killing some soldiers and even beats him up for it. Yet in issue three she clams to have killed the Joker imposter "without an ounce of remorse" and "without a shred of regret" with an arrow through the head. True he couldn't die from that, but she didn't know that at the time.
- Kryptonite Ring: More than a ring - try Kryptonite napalm, Kryptonite power fists...
- Losing Your Head: Dick Grayson. He reattaches it.
- Monster Clown: For once, there was a reason to highlight this. It's not the Joker, it's Dick Grayson.
- Mythology Gag: Hot Gates, the porn star who dresses as Big Barda, is a shout out to the recurring theme of Thermopylae that appears in Frank Miller's work. She was also name dropped in The Dark Knight Returns, so it's also a Call Back.
- No One Could Survive That: Saturn Girl has a vision of Catgirl being murdered by the New Joker. Catgirl isn't too worried, as she shot the New Joker with several explosive arrows, and then went to work on him with a hatchet.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Happens to pretty much every character, good or bad. Batman is at his sorriest-looking state ever by the end, going well past "beaten up" and into "disfigured."
- Old Superhero: Pretty much the entire cast, with a few exceptions, such as Carrie Kelly, or the new Supergirl (daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, the fan-ship of many an Elseworlds writer).
- Physical God: Wonder Woman calls Superman this. Hal Jordan actually is this.
- President Evil: Actually a hologram controlled by Lex Luthor.
- The Red Sonja: Wonder Woman.
- Retraux: Superman looks more like his Golden Age version than the one used in DKR.
- Sacrificial Lion: The Guardian, the Creeper, and the Martian Manhunter all die in horrible ways to prove how dangerous this "New Joker" ( Dick Grayson) actually is.
- Signature Style
- Strawman Political: The Question is a radical Libertarian, Green Arrow is a radical Marxist. Miller didn't give us any clue which he agrees with, and which, if either, is meant to be correct.
- False Dichotomy. Both characters are shown to be ridiculously over the top in their antics. The Question refuses to use anything more technologically advanced than a typewriter, and Green Arrow is a hypocritical billionaire Marxist hippie who presumably spent a fortune to get a cybernetic arm when the world is in the throes of a nuclear winter.
- Swallowed Whole: Carrie accidentily swallows Ray Palmer early on, leading to a Vomit Indiscretion Shot.
- Take That: Word of God says the book as Frank Miller's reaction to the Dark Age Dork Age he helped inspire.
- Which leads to some Fridge Logic when combined with All Star Batman and Robin. For instance, this comic lauds Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) specifically as a noble hero exiled by the petty people of Earth, but who is shown to be absolutely worthy of godlike power. In contrast, the Goddamn Batman once lured Hal into an ambush and beat him savagely with little provocation. The beating occurs canonically before he entrusts Bats with a means to summon him, but was written afterward.
- Too Soon: Yeah, having half a major city reduced to a smoky ruin not even a year after 9/11? This was unintentional though. The comic was written and drawn before 9/11 but it wasn't published until very little afterwards.
- Frank mentioned in documentary on comics that aired on the History Channel that Superman finding that Lois died in Luthor's Kill Sat attack was his way of coping with 9/11.
- Villain Decay: Brainiac and Lex Luthor aren't nearly as smart in TDKSA as they are in other stories. In fact, some of the decisions they make are downright moronic.
- We ARE Struggling Together!: Green Arrow and The Question, in that one wants Marxist Socialism, and the other Randian Objectivism.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Mary Marvel? It was never revealed if she was rescued or not.
- Wife Husbandry: Dick Grayson implies that this is what Batman is doing with Carrie, though Word of Miller denies this vehemently. Also, Dick Grayson was batshit insane at that point, and had just spent a good amount of time mutilating Carrie out of psychotic jealousy. He is an unreliable source, to say the least.
- Willfully Weak: This is apparently Batman's (and Miller's) main problem with Superman, as he stops being treated as a Butt Monkey once he starts taking the attitude to match his power as a Physical God. He even makes a World of Cardboard Speech (though it's not quite on the same level as the trope namer).
- Zeerust Canon: published 15 years later, but only takes place two years later.
- Zorro Mark: Batman carves one onto Lex Luthor's face.
Catgirl: "The Boss leaves his mark. [we see Batman use a batarang to make the three quick slices] It must mean something to him... "
- The film that young Bruce Wayne had just seen with his parents before their demise was "The Mark of Zorro" starring Tyrone Power. Also a Call Back to The Dark Knight Returns when the now retired Wayne breaks down in tears after seeing the movie on TV for the first time in fifty years.
- Depending on who you ask, much of Batman's mythology was either inspired by or shamelessly ripped-off from Zorro. Don Diego Rivera was rich and acted like an effete douchebag most of the time, but operated as a vigilante out of a cave beneath his mansion with the aid of his butler. Not exactly unfamiliar.