Today saw the release of the highly anticipated yet also widely debated third installment in the classic Frank Miller, Batman Dark Knight series; Dark Knight III: the Master Race.
This time around Frank Miller is joined by comic scribe, and fellow Eisner Award winning writer Brian Azzarello. This added edition of a co- author is believed to come from a necessity of Frank Miller’s ever decaying health issues, which some have reported have hindered him from maintaining his contractual obligations. This is also followed by the pencils being added by Andy Kubert with inks by Klaus Janson. This is actually a rare style of project for Frank Miller. Regardless of the nature of the rumors of his ailing health, this form of project is certainly out of character.
It is difficult to sum up Master Race as it is a third installment in an otherwise complex series which began in the first issue of the Dark Knight Returns back in June of 1986. So first let us look back at what has come before.
The Dark Knight Returns:
In a far future where Bruce Wayne had hung up his cowl in a very Watchmen like society, the other heroes have also vanished. Green Lantern was driven off world, Green Arrow had been crippled, Wonder Woman left the world of man and so on. One by one a society which they swore to protect had systemically betrayed them. The only one left is Superman who answers to the President of the United States and works for the CIA. As things decay in Gotham City, Batman makes a return appearance and once again finds himself allied with a Robin in the form of a young girl, Carrie Kelly. The two defeat the leader of the violent Mutant Gang and the mutants thus become followers of Batman. With a final show down between Batman, Two-Face and even the Joker, the aging Batman must also face the sellout, Superman in a one on one battle that ends in Batman’s apparent death.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again:
Following up on events in DKR, Batman survived his apparent death at the hands of Superman, but he is still rearing his ugly head with his mutant gang, his Robin now all grown up and a crippled Green Arrow. Batman wishes to show Superman once and for all just who is in charge and taking back not only his city but his country. Having stuck it to the ‘Man’, in this case the ‘Man’ being Lex Luthor. Batman rescues Ray Palmer, the Atom from a force solitude who helps him collapse Luthor’s huge digital net of propaganda. There is a lot of shake ups and revelations about our heroes as well as we discover that Wonder Woman and Superman have a daughter, a girl of steel named Lara. There is no reason behind the Dark Knight Strikes Again as it serves as just a link in an otherwise bigger chain of events. When DK2 was being promoted at the time (1999), it was released with massive amounts of hype and fan-fare. Only to be released with such disappointment, as fans couldn’t adjust to another awkward Frank Miller attempt at creative artwork. Nothing in this book stands out as ‘iconic’ other then the first striking cover. The follow-up issues also took FOR-EV-ER to be released and by that time, no one cared for the series as the first issue with a cover price of $7.95!!!! Was already found in abundance in comic book store’s dollar bins. A critical and commercial failure which Miller didn’t recover from till Sin City the movie and Nolan’s Batman films, recaptured Miller’s greatness to the masses once more.
The Dark Knight III: The Master Race:
In this new installment, Bruce Wayne is dead, having died from a heart attack years ago. Which we saw him begin to have in even through out The Dark Knight Strikes Again. We open with the Batman cape and cowl on display in what is left of the Batcave. The case is shattered and the costume stolen. Batman has been reported running around Gotham City and attacking police officers. This has not alienated and leaves the citizens of Gotham in an uproar but also the government, an establishment which Batman has done nothing but thumb his nose at over the span of this trilogy. As it turns out, the new Batman is Carrie Kelly who has taken up the mantel having explained that Bruce Wayne is dead. Meanwhile the sub plots center on Wonder Woman and Superman’s eldest child, Lara who seeks out her father who is frozen solid in the Fortress of Solitude. she discovers that the residents of the Bottle City of Kandor are in dire need of help and Lara seeks out Ray Palmer, the Atom for help.
So, with that being the first issue, The Dark Knight III: The Master Race really is underwhelming. For a $7.99 cover price it really doesn’t deliver that much in way of story. It falls flat much like it’s predecessor, The Dark Knight Strikes Again. What the original Dark Knight Returns did for comics and the industry; these two sequel series come nowhere close to impacting not only the reader but the comic industry as a whole. Dark Knight III: The Master Race takes a classic setting for an otherwise overrated story; The Dark Knight Returns and tries to expand on concepts and characters who were never originally written with a wider endgame in mind. (heh, Endgame, see what I did there, a little Batman humor.) Kubert, who usually is a fantastic artist delivers a piece which comes across too much as a Miller copycat. I would never have known Andy Kubert drew this book without reading the credits. Now that doesn’t mean the Klaus Jansen isn’t responsible for the Miller-like appearance of Kubert’s pencils since Jansen is the inker. Regardless the art is the standard excepted fare from Frank Miller. Who reached his professional stride with his work on Sin City in the 1990s.
Preview pages: DKIII; The Master Race:
Even though it is still early in this series, the writing is heavy-handed and tries to come across as having a deeper meaning. What made the first series so impacting was Miller had a story with a beginning, middle and an end. His story was of course very political and very much a satire of everything happening in the world during 1986. It proved that comic books no longer had to cater to children and the Full Color mentality. Today, the whole need to be dark like Christopher Nolan’s own Batman movies. This comes across as bleak for the sake of being bleak. Almost 30 years ago, something like the Dark Knight Returns, which had never been seen this way before, darkness had yet to truly creep into comic books. What that series has become is a pale reflection which indeed lessens the over all original impact.
Sometimes better should be left alone. sometimes a single solitary story can lose its grasp and impact when it becomes watered down by multiple repeats of the same formula. Is Dark Knight III: the Master Race worth your time today?
No, in this writer’s opinion it’s a huge joke waiting to happen much like Dark Knight Strikes Again.
Does anyone talk about that?
No, Do the sequels end up being used as a template for a film much like how Dark Knight Returns was part of the inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s 1st act in his Dark Knight Trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises? No. Not by far. However it’s still young and Brian Azzarello could completely surprise us and have a story with depth and complexity but right now it seems like he’s writing Kingdom Come-Lite.
We might have to put more faith into the side DKIII projects to see if this whole ‘Master Race’ is worth such marketing hype.
Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015-) #1
- Written by:
- Brian Azzarello
- Frank Miller
- Andy Kubert
- Frank Miller
- Klaus Janson
- Colored by
- Brad Anderson
- Alex Sinclair
- Cover by
- Klaus Janson
- Andy Kubert
- Frank Miller
- Alex Sinclair
- More variant covers
Print Release Date
Digital Release Date