The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade #1
The Last Crusade picks up some years before Bruce Wayne originally hung up his cowl and sunk into a 10-year-long, alcohol-soaked retirement. While this Batman is younger and healthier than the one seen in The Dark Knight Returns, he’s beginning to feel the aches and pains of an aging body and fret about Jason’s readiness to take up the mantle. This is where The Last Crusade succeeds best. It shows us a more vulnerable Bruce, one who’s forced to confront his legacy and the knowledge that his days as Batman are numbered. Compared to Miller’s normally psychopathic interpretation of Batman, this is a far more evenhanded and introspective take on the character. And nowhere does this take work better than in the scenes between Bruce and Selina Kyle, the latter of whom has already gladly left the vigilante lifestyle behind.
Unique take on Batman notwithstanding, the whole appeal of The Last Crusade is seeing the last hurrah of Jason Todd and the Joker’s final rampage before the events of DKR. Unfortunately, neither character is really exploited to their fullest here. The comic spends far too little time trying to get inside Jason’s head or exploring the relationship between the Dynamic Duo. Other than the general idea that Jason is too violent and headstrong for his own good, there’s little insight into personality. As for Joker, the script certainly succeeds in tapping into the villain’s surreal, mercurial side. Co-writer Brian Azzarello’s voice is most readily apparent during Joker’s frequent monologues. But as for what the villain is actually trying to accomplish in this issue, that’s never really made clear. Joker’s character arc is obtuse at best, with the villain spending most of his page time waxing philosophical while chaos unfolds around him.