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12/28 – Curious Cat Asks…

Which comic book work do you think was the best of Frank Miller’s career (either his work as a writer/artist or just his work as a writer)?

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74 Comments

Well, I haven’t read all of FM’s stuff, but I’d have to say Dark Knight Returns still is a pinnacle. (However, I still haven’t read Ronin). The lightning silhouette cover alone is way awesome. And the scene, I think in #4, after the big bomb hits Gotham and the priest talks about the annoying kid with the stereo, and then how that kid helped saved his life later — gets me a little misty, actually.

And the splash with Batman on the horse.

and…

DK 2 was fun in it’s own way, as is Sin City. I still need to read his DD too.

Man, I don’t know as much FM as I thought.

Lance Blastoff is good too. “I gots what I wanted, didn’t I?”

Personally I’ve always preferred his slightly more down-played work, with Batman Year One being my pick for best of the bunch and his run on Daredevil being my personal favourite.

I’ve got to say Batman Year One with Daredevil Born Again running it a close 2nd.

I’d have to go with either his Daredevil work, or his collaboration on the first Wolverine limited series. Dark Knight Return, as mentioned by others, is obvious…but I’d also say that it the point where everything after becomes measured against DK. Somewhere along the line, he stopped producing truly innovative work, and started putting out stuff ‘in the style of the great Frank Miller’.

Which is to say that the goddam Batman fits in very well with Marv and the Sin City crowd.

I still have a soft spot – and every issue – for his initial Daredevil run. Klaus Janson’s inks over Miller’s pencils were simply perfect and the creation of Elektra and Stick highlights for unexpected character insertion into Daredevil history.

Daredevil: Born Again is my favorite, but it takes an odd turn with Nuke at the end. TDKR was impressive and epic, but politically icky and somewhat close to today’s self-parodying writing style. I’ll have to go with Batman: Year One, which had a good, coherent story.

I don’t get people who like Ronin. I thought it was pretty awful, with simple, clunky dialog.

Bernard the Poet

December 28, 2008 at 4:53 am

Elektra Assassin.

Ken Wind – the demonic JFK clone running for President – was a prophetic creation: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, there have been so many politicians in the last twenty years, who promised so much on the election trail and disappointed us so much when in power.

By comparison, the politics in V for Vendetta and Watchmen looks a little dated now, Moore didn’t see the growing influence of spin doctors, sound bites or staying ‘on message’. His leaders are too ugly to get within an hundred miles of real power in the 21st century. I suspect that that is why the film of V for Vendetta didn’t resonate with audiences and why Watchmen will be a flop too.

As a writer/artist probably Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, though I reserve judgement til I finish reading his complete ouevre of Daredevil.

As a writer, it’s no contest– Daredevil: Born Again. I said everything about it in the Top 100 runs and I still think everything I said holds true.

By comparison, the politics in V for Vendetta and Watchmen looks a little dated now, Moore didn’t see the growing influence of spin doctors, sound bites or staying ‘on message’. His leaders are too ugly to get within an hundred miles of real power in the 21st century. I suspect that that is why the film of V for Vendetta didn’t resonate with audiences and why Watchmen will be a flop too.

I’m really interested in learning how a movie that grossed around $130 domestically qualifies as a flop in your book, though…

(urgh.. obviously i meant “$130 MILLION”… bacause otherwise we WOULD be talking about quite a big flop!)

Batman Year One and Daredevil Born Again… although I haven’t read his Wolverine mini, and I suspect that might do it for me.

I’ve read most of Frank Miller’s work (except – mainly – what he did before Daredevil)

IMHO, Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One are his masterpieces (each line of dialog in these comic-books feels like a bullet in the heart for me).

Moreover, his Daredevil Visionaries, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Elektra Assassin, some part of the Martha Washington series (Give Me Liberty, Happy Birthday, Martha Washington, Martha Washington Saves the World) and some Sin City yarns (The Big Fat Kill, That Yellow Bastard, The Hard Goodbye and Hell and Back) are wonderful.

Ronin (what an ambitious and in the end convincing story), Daredevil: Love and War (prototype of Elektra Assassin), Wolverine (I’ve got fond memories of that one), Robocop VS. The Terminator (only great Robocop story with the original film) are very good, solid, comics.

300, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear and A Dame To Kill For are good, but these aren’t the ones I prefer the most.

Booze, Broads, & Bullets (some short stories are inferior) and Bad Boy (lack of an ending) are flawed, but still decent.

I didn’t like Elektra Lives Again, Martha Washington Goes to War, The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Hardboiled and Family Values.

DK2 contains some interesting ideas (some of the superheroes’ “prisons” ; The Question ; …), which won’t save it from failure (Photoshopped flashy colours, average drawings, terrible lines, useless Dark Knight, off-topic ending).

All Star Batman & Robin (a joke), Martha Washington Dies (what an awful way to end the M.W. series), Spawn/Batman are horrible.

Batman Year One.

Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again are easily my favorites of Miller’s work. Those have the deepest characterisations, played more naturally than the over-the-top style he grew to favor later.

I would have to go with Batman: Year One or Ronin. I hate to say it, but Frank started losing his touch in the early 90’s. The odd thing is that his ideas are still good. Sin City if blunt has good story hooks. But, I have a tough time with his way of translating the ideas into a story. Even DK2 had some merits story and theme wise but it was a distaster in finished form.

Elektra Lives Again, just for the bit about the sucking chest wound. Or the first Sin City, just for the goddamn hardboiledness. I’m assuming you mean “best work other than DKR.” Or Born Again.

Dark Knight Returns, followed closely by Give me Liberty.

Daredevil: Born Again and Batman Year One. I think the Dark Knight Returns doesn’t hold up on re-reading, or more precisely, the middle of it doesn’t hold up. The opening act and the fight with Superman still work as powerful storytelling, but the rest, as has already been said, actually foretell Miller’s caricaturing of his own voice. What’s interesting is the way that the film of “The Spirit” has stripped away a lot of the mythification around Miller to show just how weak his visual and narrative imagination has become when there’s nothing to discipline or direct him.

Three-way tie for me… All have their own gems..
Dark Knight Returns
Batman: Year One
Give Me Liberty

As far as Frank Miller the artist goes, I think the Wolverine miniseries was his best work. It integrates traditional Marvel superheroics with the Manga style he was developing at the time. And there’s a million zillion ninjas for Wolverine to slice his way through.

give me liberty is miller’s best work, just beating out year one.

1) Year: One
2) Elektra Assassin.
Catch me on a different day and they might be in reverse order. But they’re definitely one and two!

I love the fact that every time I reread Elektra Assassin, I’m about 40 pages in before I have an idea what happening. It’s crazy with a capital KER-AZEEE!

Year One by contrast is an understated masterpiece.

Ronin.
300.
Elektra Lives Again.

Then.

The Dark Knight Returns.
Daredevil: Born Again.
Sin City.

Dark Knight Returns, although there’s a lot I haven’t read, including Born Again.

Year One was a great comic, but not really a masterpiece when compared to tDKR. It was simultaneously a grim-and-gritty revamp, an over-the-top fun superhero story, and a black comedy/political satire, all while maintaining excellent characterization. And in terms of art, it has some fantastic splash pages, while all the little TVs mean that it isn’t over in a half-hour.

I have found that reading Miller now is difficult for me It just hasn’t aged for me well. However, I was an enormous fan in the 80’s, and bought everything as it came out from about Daredevil 185 on. The book I most looked forward to in that time was Elektra Assassin. It was so new and exciting, and rewarded multiple readings between issues. It may not be his best, but it certainly was the most thrilling book for me month after month. It didn’t hurt that my favorite artist of the time, Sienkevich, painted it.

It’s easier to choose Miller’s WORST work than his best (all together now: THE GODDAMN BATMAN!!) but that’s actually a good thing, it means his good output far exceeds his bad ones. Strictly from personal taste, I’ll pick Batman: Year One, with Ronin as his best ORIGINAL work (as opposed to established characters like Bats) though it loses points for being TOO confusing in the end.

I’ll echo the chorus that has said Daredevil: Born Again or Batman: Year One.

Also, at the risk of becoming a guy who repeats himself over and over… Batman does not fight Superman in The Dark Knight Returns. There is a character wearing a Superman costume, but it sure as hell isn’t Superman.

For me, Year One is the best of Miller’s works. He makes the story about Batman and Gordon simultaneously fighting to save a city that doesn’t want to be saved.

After that, it’s Daredevil: Born Again and A Big Fat Kill.

Easily Elektra: Assassin.

I’ve also re-read his DD stuff a bunch of times, and the Wolverine mini, but personally I think Frank disappeared up his own arse sometime in the late 80s – 300 is the only work of his I’ve liked in the last 20 years.

Daredevil: born Again is my farvoite, I liked more than year one mostly because of the desnity of the story.

This question got me thinking a lot more than I expected. I’ve found I’m of two minds on the answer.

If I’m picking with my heart, it’s Batman: Year One. Miller’s hard-boiled (super)crime fiction is at its best here, sharp and engaging. Much better than his overwrought Raymond Chandler schtick in Sin City. Plus, David Mazzucchelli is by far his best collaborator because his artwork does so much work on the page that it takes a lot of pressure away from Miller’s scripting. Mazzucchelli’s storytelling is clear and energetic, and the characterization is strong and subtle. His sparse and heavy line, alongside Richmond Lewis’s color palette (and I’m talking about the enhanced colors of the collected versions), do so much to create Year One’s atmosphere that you can see Miller pulling back in his descriptive narratives when you compare it to his other works.

But if I’m picking with my head, The Dark Knight Returns still awes me in its technical ambition and innovation. Sure, everyone talks about Miller’s “grim ‘n’ gritty” approach and deconstruction of Batman. But that’s just the surface. Look at how Miller adheres to a 16-panel grid throughout the series and see how he paces it for effect. That’s sheer brilliance (and just plain gutsy when you put it in a historical context)!

So what should win out: The superbly executed story that doesn’t try to be anything more? Or the well-crafted — but not as seamlessly executed — work that tries and succeeds at being more than it needs to?

Daredevil; since Marvel editorial didn’t allow the avalanche of explicit content found in most of Miller’s other works, the story became the focus, and was wonderful for it.

DKR, Year One, and Born Again are all just about perfect, but I personally love the original Daredevil run the most. It’s less perfect, but it’s got more heart. It’s so raw and ambitious and honest and heartfelt. So good! And I love a monthly comic book run that eventually builds to a satisfying climax instead of petering out

Daredevil: Born Again is one of my all time favourite stories. I have to go with that. However, for a single issue story I would go with Daredevil #191, where it was just DD talking to a paralyzed Bullseye in his hospital bed while playing Russian roulette with him. To me, this was the finest example of Miller’s art at his peak that I have ever seen.

Daredevil: Born Again. And it’s not even close.

Next would be Batman: Year One and Sin City.

I’ve never been a big fan of The Dark Knight Returns, since it stars some psychopath in a Batman suit rather than Batman himself. And his first Daredevil run has many fine moments, but it’s also very rough around the edges, whereas Born Again is just about perfect.

That Yellow Bastard
Daredevil: Born Again (in no order)

In many of his other works, which I like for the most part, I feel kept at arms length. I need to connect with the characters and care about them and be caught up in the story first and foremost. Even in something like Martha Washington, which is all about the title character, I feel like character investment is more just moving from grace note to grace note and I’m always kept detached from Martha.

His human first stories do more for me than his message first stories.

I think Daredevil: Born Again is his best work as a writer.

The Dark Knight Returns is by far his most overrated work.

Tell me when we get to his last one and then copy and paste the title into my post.

This one is tough. In hindsight, a lot of the cool ideas and political allegories that I thought I saw in Miller’s work seem hackneyed in light of his more recent ventures. As an artist, he has done some absolutely breathtaking work, but as a writer?

I’m going to give it to Ronin. The art is beautiful and well paced. You can see the precursors to what he would later attempt in DKR. The story is also the best he’s written. Plus, without Ronin, we never would have got Samurai Jack, and that cartoon is one of the things that makes life worth living.

Not to derail from any Miller-bashing or Miller-praising, but did anyone go to see Miller’s film The Spirit and what did they think of it?

It was worth going to see it just to see Eva Mendes as Sand Saref (sigh).

Otherwise, it was just plain mindless and sexless violence a la Miller (similiar to Sin City).

As writer/artist: about the first two thirds of his initial Daredevil run, but no Daredevil of his after that.
As writer only: a tie between either Batman: Year One or Hard Boiled (yeah, that’s right).

Dark Knight returns suffers in my mind by people constantly pairing it up with a book (Watchmen) that kicks its ass in every way.

Has to be DKR. None of his other books have matched the depth of insight and had a bigger impact on the medium.

If anything, his later work makes me wonder if he just got incredibly lucky with the timing and relevance of DKR, since he’s been hitting the same two or three notes ever since.

Easy to answer for me: Daredevil #191. It’s as concise and effective a performance of Miller’s key themes as anything else he’s ever written.

There was a time when I would have said 300… but I read it around the time the movie came out and it seemed pretty shallow. So I’ll have to make some new picks… Keeping in mind that I think Frank Miller in general is WAY overrated.

As artist: probably Elektra Lives Again, though I think that has a lot to do with Lynn Varley’s gorgeous coloring. I love that fight in the graveyard with all the tiny little headstones…

As writer… well, he’s just not a very good writer, frankly. Dark Knight Returns is pretty good, but hardly on par with the other giants of ’86. Daredevil: Born Again starts strong (if on the misogynist side, what with Karen’s porn career and all), but the Nuke stuff is goofily heavy-handed. I’ll have to agree with Bill and go with a single issue as his best work as a writer: Daredevil 191 (the last of his initial run), in which Daredevil ponders murdering a bedridden Bullseye.

Sin City does nothing for me; nor did Ronin.

Batman: Year One is probably Miller’s best.

It tells a coherent story and has memorable bits for everyone. Miller and Mazucelli made a great team. It has had a huge influence on the broader culture. It also holds up great on re-reading.

The Dark Knight Returns was revolutionary at the time, but it is just a bit uneven in retrospect. Maybe it is just that Miller rode that style into self-parody over the years, or that the politics look so creepy in retrospect, but it is not as much fun to revisit.

His original run on Daredevil was very good obviously. However, in the early going it was very much a “late 70s” Marvel Comic. It told a good adventure story, but if he had not moved on to Batman no one would really remember him any more fondly than guys like Steve Gerber.

Daredevil: Born Again had more ambition and was really well-written. It is just a notch below Batman: Year One to me.

Ronin was too disjointed as was The Dark Knight Strikes Back.

300 told a great story, but was too slight to be his “best”.

Sin City is fun, but it owes an awful lot to his earlier stuff with corporate characters in tights.

In order, more or less…

Daredevil: Born Again
The Dark Knight
Batman: Year One
Daredevil – the first run, cumulating in #181 (Death of Elektra) and #191 (the Bullseye follow up)
That Yellow Bastard
300
Ronin

and the very solid Marvel Team-Up Annual # 4 “Pawns of the Purple Man.” Not only was it a great annual, but it was the first time Peter Parker ever felt contemporary because he listened to Elvis Costello. (Hey, it was 1980!)

Oh… Give Me Liberty didn’t have enough plot for me.

Hard Boiled was pretty, but empty.

All-Star Batman and Robin is so reviled that is actually under-rated at this point, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Miller’s earlier Batman stuff.

Daredevil: Born Again has more heart than most of his work. Mazzuchielli’s art is excellent. I’ve read it more times than any other Miller comic.

After that, Elektra: Assassin (although I think of it as a Sienkiewicz comic more than a Miller comic), Batman: Year One, 300 (I don’t think Miller & Varley have ever looked better together, and the story’s tight if not deep), Sin City: the Long Goodbye (artwise, a major achievement; storywise, over the top in a good way), Daredevil: Man Without Fear and his original Daredevil comics, and That Yellow Bastard.

1. Batman: Year One
2. Daredevil: Born Again
3. Ronin

I eagerly await the day Mr. Miller removes his head from his ass, as he’s amazing when not so impaired. With the ever-present threat of his “Batman Kicks Arab Ass” project, I am not holding my breath.

Dark Knight Returns is probably still the best Bat-comic ever, and Miller’s best.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is very close, though.

So like I said, I haven’t read his DD stuff. What collections encompass the entirety of his DD run(runs?), in the best and cheapest form?

And DKR and the rest of the early FM stuff gave birth to Gnatrat, and Gnatrat is awesome. “Dundabird!”

@Travis –

Marvel is currently collecting it all in 3 trades entitled Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. The first volume came out in November, the second here in December and the final boo next month. It begins with their guest art on Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man guest-starring Daredevil and then goes through their entire run including the Roger McKenzie scripted stuff followed by the Miller scripted stuff.

I think a hardcover of Man Without Fear came out right before it and a Born Again hardcover comes out right after it. I started reading Daredevil with Born Again so I had never read any of the earlier stuff either except I did have the issue where he fights the Hulk from when I was really little so I ordered the three volumes and have the first two now but haven’t started them yet. I also ordered the Born Again hardcover, but for some reason didn’t get Man Without Fear. I have the original issues, but I might as well have it all in book form.

Cool Michael, thanks. I thought I heard about those trades.

What about the Elektra stuff? I know there’s the series with Billy the Sink, and E Lives Again, but what other Elektra stuff (if any) isn’t covered by the books Michael mentions?

Well, DKR is the first work of Miller’s I ever read, and man, did it have an impact on me. I can’t objectively decide whether or not that’s his best work ever, but it’s my gut instinct to label it as such.

While his Daredevil work and Batman: Year One are probably better written, Sin City is clearly his most personal oeuvre, so in that sense, Sin City’s his highest achievement.

But I like DKR the most. So it goes.

Not a big fan of the majority of Miller’s output, so I’d say Batman Year One.

DK Returns is such a favorite, but Elektra Lives Again looks the best.

Batman Year 1.
These days i’m more inclined to say that the reason that work stands out probably has more to do with Mazzuchielli.

Travis and Michael,
there are some very compelling Miller Elektra scenes included in the Elektra Saga TPB/Limited Series. In particular, there is a fantastic character defining scene where she leaves The Hand.

To the best of my knowledge, they have not been included anywhere else.

Hope this helps.

I’m with Zee. That Yellow Bastard all the way.

Here’s my list from Best to worst:

The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: Year One
Daredevil: Born Again
Elektra Assassin
His first Daredevil run
Sin City: That Yellow Bastard
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
Hard Boiled
Sin City
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Ronin
Give Me Liberty
Martha Washington Goes to War
Martha Washington Saves the World
All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
Robocop vs Terminator
Sin City: The Big Fat Kill
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Daredevil in Love and War
300
Sin city: Hell and Back
Bad Boy
Batman/Spawn
—— Above this line = good, below this line didn’t do it for me —–
Elektra Lives Again
Sin City: Family Values
Martha Washington Dies
Tales to Offend
Wolverine
Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot

pencil for Wolverine #1. that’s about it

Erm.. that was me. I’ve no idea how the name Keith got in there…

jay the one letter wonder

December 29, 2008 at 9:49 am

Just to be a contarian and because it’s probably the most different from his other works…. I gotta go with Big Guy and Rusty :P

Batman: Year One seems to be the consensus of favorite Miller work for people who generally don’t like Miller’s works.

Batman Year One made me think that Frank was a genius. EVERYTHING after that made me think otherwise. The Spirit Movie has proven: Frank has lost his touch.

Martha Washington and Robocop…i hate the government and that goes doubly for corporations. the cynicism, foresight, and disgust with the overall state of humanity and its future ventures leads me to a strong sense of approval of both works. the theme underlies most of Miller’s work, but i think in Martha they hurt a little bit more, and Robocop…the absurdity!

As a comic book measured by the quite ordinary standards we measure all those other comic writing joes by… Batman: Year One by a country mile.
Quite honestly I could take or leave most of his other super stuff. His Daredevil runs have been dulled by years of other writers repeating the same story beats ad infinitum. Dark Knight Returns didn’t float my boat the first time I read it at 13, nor does it now at 30. And reading Dark Knight Strikes Back felt like Miller was playing a cruel joke on me.

Measured by the standards of a creator owned Frank Miller book… Hard Boiled. All style, no substance. At least no deliberate substance, any sort of story detail being provided by Geoff Darrow’s incredible migraine inducing art. The simultaneous zenith and nadir of all the empty ‘is it satire or just really bad?’ stuff he’s been doing ever since.

Oh, and I liked Robocop 2 as a kid. Though I gather he wasn’t very happy with the end result…

People love to say “All style, no substance” as if that automatically makes it a bad thing. In most cases it does, but Hard Boiled is a glorious piece of work!

Dark Knight Returns. Picking between that, Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again is always a challenge, though.

It’s clear to me that the more editorial control Miller works under, the better he works. Or maybe the restrictions of an ongoing title with all its continuity requirements and such causes him to think with his brain instead of his balls when he’s writing. Inside the box of a Batman or Daredevil comic, he’s edgy and groundbreaking. On his own, he lets his worst excesses become what his comics are all about. He’s like Garth Ennis that way. When you let him off the leash, he knocks over the lamp and pees on the carpet.

I too am torn between Year One and Born Again.

I’ll go with Born Again, because Selina Kyle is NOT a hooker.

I’ll say Daredevil Born Again, because I just re-read a bunch of his stuff and that story held up the best by far, pretty much mirroring the excitement I felt reading it the first time lo those many years ago.

Year One is also great.

Other stuff suffers from being mindful of the many writing tics that, while maybe fresh at the time, would soon become tired.

(not just comics by Miller. I found Watchmen, while still good, suffers a bit from being distracted by the notice-able “Moore-isms”, like having captions overlap into other panels…)

Year One and Born Again feel much more story-driven, and benefit a lot from Mazzuchelli’s presence. They’re stories where you can really root for the hero, rather than be kind of creeped out by him. You don’t have to be a Miller fan to find these comics very entertaining.

I really have to give Miller credit for his Daredevil run. Those are the only comics where I’ve ever cared even slightly about the character, and I think one of the best showcases of his creative strengths.

My other choice would be Ronin, but that’s a work that leaves me terribly conflicted. On one hand, it’s technically superb. On the other, it’s absolutely shameless and inexcusable Orientalism, and set the precedent for many other pulp Orientalist works to follow.

Best for me would be his classic run on Daredevil, no question — not to be confused with his later return to the title, which was also pretty good.

My favorite single issue would have to be Daredevil #191, “Roulette,” featuring DD’s game of Russian Roulette with a paralyzed Bullseye.

Batman: Year One. I actually read DKR after year one, so it was my first encounter with the Miller written Batman. I have nearly everything written by Frank Miller in my collection now.

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