Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 Review (Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello)

The Batman hasn’t 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 isn’t Strikes Again - at least not yet though I expect with Brian Azzarello co-writing, Miller won’t go off the rails too much. There isn’t any bad news except to say this first issue is just ok (thankfully Batman’s not doing anything mental like screaming at Robin that he’s 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 - they’re tired of being small. Enter Ray Palmer aka The Atom! 

Nazi-esque subtitle aside, I’ve a feeling the Kandorians are the “master race” of the title and that they somehow turn evil when Ray Palmer inevitably enlarges them - I think that’s going to be the main storyline. Besides setting up a vague premise, this first issue asks a lot of questions: where IS Bruce? Why hasn’t there been a Batman in Gotham for three years? Why is Batman fighting the GCPD? Why is Superman frozen!? Is Diana’s new son also Clark’s? They’re interesting questions though, no? They make me want to keep reading anyway. 

Andy Kubert draws the main story though he’s doing a quasi-Miller pastiche, drawing Commissioner Yindel like Miller did and the layouts are as complex but superbly placed in Miller’s 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 Miller’s been quite unwell recently I wasn’t 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 art’s far more controlled than it was in Strikes Again, the lines are cleaner and again the layouts are among the best you’ll 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 can’t 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 - that’s not a bad first issue though it’s 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 might’ve been better but, remembering Miller’s last two outings in Gotham, it also could’ve been much worse, guys!

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1

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