One Perfect Panel is a recurring feature that identifies and examines noteworthy comic book panels, presenting them for your appreciation and discussion. Some of these panels will be epic in scale, while others will be quiet character beats, but all will be masterful in composition and impact.

From Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade
Pencils by John Romita Jr.
Inks and Colors by Peter Steigerwald
Letters by Clem Robins

DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: THE LAST CRUSADE, written by the DARK KNIGHT III team of Brian Azzarello and Frank Miller and drawn by a master class creative team that’s anchored by the pencils of John Romita Jr., is set before the original DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and reveals the incident that led to Batman’s retirement. The Dark Knight of this superb one-shot is not yet the aged vigilante of the later books, but is a middle aged hero who is very much feeling the toll of his many, many years of crimefighting and starting to face the unpleasant reality that his days as Gotham’s hero may soon be ending.

The weight of this realization can be felt in just about every line of Romita Jr.’s work, which takes a much sketchier, less clean approach here than it has in his other recent projects for DC. It’s the perfect style for a story like this one, evident in the panel below, which is drawn from early in the book and shows a tired, aching Bruce Wayne waking up less than ready to start the day.


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