Written by Mark Henely
Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 is a comic that made a lot of people nervous before it came out. The first volume in this series (1986‘s The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller), is a classic that unquestionable a top five Batman story of all time. It’s the a story that informs the way Batman is written to this day. The follow up (2001‘s Dark Knight Strikes Again) is not remembered so fondly. While some argue that “Dark Knight Strikes Again” is misunderstood and better than most people estimate it to be, it was not the sequel that anyone hoped it would be. So, when it was announced that Frank Miller would be teaming up with Brian Azzarello and Andy Kubert to bring back the Dark Knight one more time, many readers didn’t know what to think. Were they going to get the sequel to “Dark Knight Returns” that they always wanted or were they going to get more of whatever Frank Miller was doing with “Dark Knight Strikes Again”?
Fans concerned that “The Master Race” would be “Strikes Again Part 2” don’t need to be worried. Miller’s haphazard art style in “Strikes Again” is nowhere to be found in this book. Andy Kubert handles most of the art and the art that Frank does (in a back-up story about the Atom) is very clean and clear. Those concerned that Frank had gone off the deep end and would use this issue to spout whatever conservative doctrine he had adopted since “Strikes Again” also don’t need to be worried. With the last installment, Miller was given free reign to do and say whatever he wanted. This time, he is partnered with premier level talent that is ensuring that this comic will be what Miller wants as well as what the readers want. DC knows that there is a lot of money on the table with a good sequel to the Dark Knight and they aren’t going to let Frank screw it up again.
While the story is good, it is too soon to really anoint it as the second coming of “The Dark Knight Returns”. Miller introduces a lot of lofty ideas of what it means to be a hero, but we won’t know how effective these arguments are until the end of the series. For example: the opening line of the book is: “A good death? There is no such THING…” That line is an interesting riff on the opening line in the original (“This would be a good death”). Perhaps the two lines speak to the difference in perspective that Miller has to writing Batman then and now. In the 80s, he felt that was writing the last Batman story. He wanted to give the character a good death (or an ending a character like that deserved). This time around, he no longer believes in a bold end for the Batman character. Batman doesn’t get to have an ending. By the nature of the comic book medium that Batman is a part of, he will always continue on. There is no “good death” because Batman will never not be published. Perhaps this line is telling the reader that this story will not be about an ending, but it will be about a beginning and a potential Dark Knight IV. But, there is no way to know if this is true for sure. Not until the last issue will we truly know if this comic is great or not.
But, there is nothing in this issue to suggest that “The Master Race” won’t be good. The story in this issue is engaging and the twist at the end is very compelling. The cover on the book is high quality and the binding of the back up story with the Atom is done in a really cool way. As of right now, the future of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight universe looks positive. And that is something we haven’t been able to say in over a decade.
8 out of 10 Stars
***Mark Henely is a stand up comedian, podcaster, and comic book fan. He went to Rutgers University where he officially studied English Literature and unofficially studied Marvel and DC Comics. Now he has a podcast where he reviews the first appearances of Comic Book characters. It is called “Introducing… The First Appearance Podcast” and you can check it out on iTunes and Stitcher. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/introducing…the-first-appearance/id993523477 You can also follow Mark on Twitter @MarkHenely***