Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 by Frank MillerThe Batman hasnít been seen in Gotham for three years. Where is Bruce Wayne? Where is Carrie Kelley?
Ah nostalgia, you are the theme of 2015. You make us forget the likes of Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 to crown Jurassic World the biggest movie of the year (despite also sucking). You make us forget the Prequel Trilogy to have Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens soon supplant Jurassic World as the biggest movie of the year (despite probably only being mediocre).
So it goes with Dark Knight III: The Master Race as we forget the nightmare that was The Dark Knight Strikes Again, aka Dark Knight II, and happily open up the pages of a new Frank Miller Batman comic - Dark Knight Returns and Year One continue to weave their magic three decades down the line!
The good news: this isnít Strikes Again - at least not yet though I expect with Brian Azzarello co-writing, Miller wonít go off the rails too much. There isnít any bad news except to say this first issue is just ok (thankfully Batmanís not doing anything mental like screaming at Robin that heís THE GODDAMN BATMAN!!).
Batman appears for the first time in three years and begins beating up the GCPD for some reason. Wonder Woman has a newborn son, Jonathan, and is keeping her Amazonian part of the world free of menace. Her daughter Lara is drawn to the Fortress of Solitude where Superman sits frozen. And the bottle city of Kandor calls out to her - theyíre tired of being small. Enter Ray Palmer aka The Atom!
Nazi-esque subtitle aside, Iíve a feeling the Kandorians are the ďmaster raceĒ of the title and that they somehow turn evil when Ray Palmer inevitably enlarges them - I think thatís going to be the main storyline. Besides setting up a vague premise, this first issue asks a lot of questions: where IS Bruce? Why hasnít there been a Batman in Gotham for three years? Why is Batman fighting the GCPD? Why is Superman frozen!? Is Dianaís new son also Clarkís? Theyíre interesting questions though, no? They make me want to keep reading anyway.
Andy Kubert draws the main story though heís doing a quasi-Miller pastiche, drawing Commissioner Yindel like Miller did and the layouts are as complex but superbly placed in Millerís style - the news talking heads are all updated, present and correct. And I love that page of Wonder Woman fighting a minotaur with the baby on her back.
Because Millerís been quite unwell recently I wasnít expecting him to draw anything besides a variant cover or two but he draws the 12 page backup starring The Atom (if you got the physical edition this is presented as a mini comic inside the main - nice touch!). It looks pretty good too; the artís far more controlled than it was in Strikes Again, the lines are cleaner and again the layouts are among the best youíll find anywhere. It does go on a bit though - twelve pages for some small info dumps and the news that the Kandorians want to be made big again feels indulgent and overlong.
All that said, The Master Race #1 is a promising start. Unfortunately Miller these days canít tell a story with the same breakneck pace that he used to but, given time, The Master Race could turn into something quite good. It sort of sets up the premise of the series and asks some compelling questions - thatís not a bad first issue though itís not an amazing one either.
The two old men, Frank and Bats, are back for the third time and ready to wheeze through seven more issues - it mightíve been better but, remembering Millerís last two outings in Gotham, it also couldíve been much worse, guys!
Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race HC
The narration comes via mobile-text slang in syncopated language designed to harken back to the invented argot of the Mutants street gang of the first Dark Knight installment. This shift in targets fires up a media controversy, shown through the TV-screen-talking-heads rubric that was such a iconic part of The Dark Knight Returns. The book pairs him with another comics writer whose execution draws from the same pulp reservoirs. Newsarama : Frank, I know you always wanted a third part to the story. Did you always know what this third part would be about? The Superman who seemed ready to be a omnipresent godlike father figure in the sky is doing the exact opposite. His artistic contributions are among them, along with interior art for the Atom back-up.
The result is a much more streamlined take on the Dark Knight universe, a far cry from the messy chaos of DK2, and a nine-issue story that actually expands the scale and world of Earth the Earth within the DC Multiverse that The Dark Knight Returns is set in. The gorgeous splash pages are there but are better integrated into the story, giving a sense that they serve a more integral purpose than merely providing director Zack Snyder with pretty visual images to put into his DC live-action films. Three years after Batman defeated Lex Luthor and Brianiac with a little help from his super friends, the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne have seemingly vanished. Then, he surprisingly shows up out of nowhere and is captured by the police, led by commissioner Ellen Yindel. Upon unmasking the hero, however, she is shocked to discover that it is not Bruce, but his former sidekick, Carrie Kelly, under the cowl. All this happens in the first issue of this compelling tale, in which the story of Batman seems but a subplot within a much bigger crisis.