It is What Miller Wanted It to Be
No one should have been surprised that this was different from The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller had already told that story. If you wanted to read TDKR again, just re-read it. Miller had to tell a different story with this to be worth his time - even if many people didn't like the direction of his future world. There isn't much of a "story," here, though. It is an overload of contemporary media satire. TDKR balances story and satire well, but that balance feels lacking in this installment. With that said, Miller treats some of the characters better than he did before. Superman, especially, is more enjoyable to read this time, since he has more honest motivation than just being a puppet of America as before. One thing I did miss was the cast Miller created before, especially Det. Yindell - she is only mentioned once in passing. Instead, we are treated to the return of a lot more "classic" characters (done in the Miller style) than we saw in TDKR, and I enjoyed that - even though Miller turns them into The Wild Bunch version of their former selves. Very little of this story has anything to do with Batman eradicating the streets of crime, since Brainiac becomes the main antagonist for much of the final act of the series. Miller does an interesting job, though, of tying up other loose ends from his version of the world begun in TDKR (even if, again, the present story has little to do with that first story). If the main enemy, according to Batman, is governmental dictatorship and the absence of morality and freedom, he doesn't do much to combat that here, other than to eliminate his own personal peeves, his own private antagonisms. I wasn't disappointed with it, really, though it wasn't anything like what I thought it would be. With a restlessness such as Miller's, it's not surprising he went in a different direction with this after all these years. It's not the abysmal failure a lot of people think it is, but I'm not sure it's the "brilliant satirical masterpiece" other fans on the other end of the spectrum say it is. The pervasive obscenity by the end, commingled with the dearth of a cohesive story, prevent it from being as good as TDKR for me - but I don't think Miller was trying to do that. He set out to do what he wanted to do this time, and we should acknowledge that before labeling it a masterpiece or failure.