The Duck Knight Returns is a four issue comic plotted by editor Aaron Sparrow, written by Ian Brill and illustrated by James Silvani, based upon Disney's Darkwing Duck, and published by Boom! Studios. The title was originally announced on March 13, 2010, at the Emerald City Comic-Con as a mini-series. However, positive fan reaction prompted Boom! to extend it to an on-going, with "The Duck Knight Returns" comprising the book's first story arc. The title parodies Frank Miller's 1986 Batman comic The Dark Knight Returns.
A year after the last public appearance of Darkwing Duck, the city of St. Canard is in the firm grip of the mega-corporation Quackwerks. The company controls nearly every aspect of the city, and employs the majority of its citizens. Crime has been nearly eradicated due to the Crimebots, Quackwerk's robotic police force.
Darkwing Duck himself, in his civilian guise of Drake Mallard, is employed in one of Quackwerk's many offices, alongside Elmo Sputterspark, the former villain known as Megavolt. Retired from crime fighting, and having had a falling out with his former partner Launchpad McQuack, Drake was forced to take on the job in order to pay the tuition for his daughter Gosalyn's private school. However, the drudgery of office work and yearning for his old superhero days has left him depressed. When Gosalyn's best friend Honker Muddlefoot is assaulted and arrested by the Crimebots for illegally downloading music (from Hannah Alaska), she convinces her father to once again don the Darkwing costume in order to investigate Quackwerks, and their now over zealous robots.
Meanwhile, Megavolt is recruited by his former teammates Quackerjack, Bushroot and The Liquidator. Having grown frustrated with their various jobs at Quackwerks, they begin to get revenge on their former employers by destroying Quackwerks facilities and Crimebots. The team is now led by Quackerjack who appears to have slipped even further into insanity and explodes with rage whenever someone mentions Negaduck.
Sneaking into Quackwerks HQ, Darkwing is unable to gain any useful information on the corporation, and is found and attacked by an army of Crimebots. Fortunately, Gosalyn had taken a bus to Duckburg in order to find Launchpad, and they arrive just in time to rescue Darkwing in their jet, the Thunderquack. While escaping, Darkwing recounts the events from a year ago that prompted his retirement. Due to Launchpad's carelessness, Darkwing's arch-foe Negaduck had discovered his civilian identity, and attacked the Mallard family at their home. On the verge of defeat from this surprise attack, he only survived due to the arrival of the Crimebots. The realization that his superhero career was threatening his family, along with the humiliation of having to be saved by the Crimebots, prompted him to give up his costumed identity.
When the Thunderquack flies past Megavolt and his henchmans, they immediately give chase in their own jet, excited that their adversary has returned. An aerial battle begins between the two groups, which eventually results in them all being captured by Crimebots and taken back to Quackwerks HQ. All seven of them are restrained and brought before Quackwerk's CEO, revealed to be one of Darkwing's most dangerous foes, Taurus Bulba.
While Bulba is gloating, Megavolt shorts out the restraints. All seven attack Bulba, but he quickly dispatches the Fearsome Four by dropping them down to face a demonic human resource robot. Darkwing and Launchpad get the upperhand on Bulba and his motivations for creating Quackwerks are revealed. At some point Bulba's body had been destroyed but he continued to exist as an electronic consciousness. He re-built himself in Gyro Gearloose's lab with the ability to control all technology except a prototype Gizmoduck suit. The fact that the suit did not register Bulba as a person due to his machine nature hurt his pride. He decided to take over everything so he could make people say every word, until someone said the password so as to make the suit his slave. The password turns out to be Keen Gear, and the suit attaches to Gosayln, making her GosmoDuck.
Taurus Bulba then returns in a stronger battle body, overpowering the trio and belittling Darkwing. Darkwing causes both of them to fall from Bulba's flying base with Launchpad catching Darkwing. Refusing to be defeated again, Bulba takes control of nanite weapons he had installed in the Quackwerks building in order to destroy Saint Canard, and Darkwing along with it. Gosalyn flies down and uses her suit to discharge Bulba and seemingly destroys him. But for a moment it looks like the shock killed her too, with Darkwing sobbing that she was his strength and his superhero. She then wakes up and replies "Likewise...Dad."
In the aftermath Scrooge McDuck is called in by the government to re-organize Quackwerks. The city regains its autonomy, the crimebots are decommissioned, the criminals are thrown in prison, and Launchpad is made the new CEO of Quackwerks (to Darkwing's bewilderment). Gosayln is allowed to keep the Gizmosuit but Darkwing states it's only for emergencies. While everything appears to be going well for the restored superhero, its revealed that he's being watched through a crystal ball by Negaduck and Magica De Spell. And Negaduck is not happy about Darkwing's current "happy ending."
Throughout the run of the Darkwing Duck comic series, there was controversy as to who was responsible for the series. Editor Aaron Sparrow is largely credited with the idea to relaunch the property and has claimed to have plotted the first arc and come up with many of the concepts for following story arcs. This has been publicly disputed by Boom and credited series writer Ian Brill. However, artist James Silvani has publicly credited Aaron Sparrow not only with the idea of bringing the series back, but assisting him in ghost-writing much of the series and changing a lot of the concepts Ian Brill brought to the series following Sparrow's departure from BOOM! Studios. This seems to be further corraborated by the fact that Sparrow and Silvani have both stated they did not write any of the final arc of the series, "Dangerous Currency," which was largely panned by fans for having many glaring character inconsistencies, particularly in the case of the character Gizmoduck.
Darkwing Duck creator Tad Stones has also publicly credited Aaron Sparrow as bringing the character back in a 2010 BOOM Kids! "Get A Sketch" panel at Comic-Con International. It may also be noted that Sparrow continues to make public appearances with Silvani and Stones, and Ian Brill does not.
The Duck Knight Returns was compiled into a trade paperback, released in December 2010.