COMIC REVIEW – Dark Knight III: The Master Race – Book One | FanboysInc

COMIC REVIEW – Dark Knight III: The Master Race – Book One

By Buddy Beaudoin

Writers: Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello

Artists: Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Brad Anderson, Clem Robins

$5.99

DC Comics

In the mid 1980s, Frank Miller had a vision that, for better or worse, changed everything people thought they knew about Batman. He released The Dark Knight Returns and it has stayed among the top tiered stories in the Batman universe. The art was grittier and darker and grotesque. The language was nuanced and violent and made your skin crawl. In an instant, everything was affected. Batman was out of action, Bruce Wayne was 55, and Jim Gordon was retiring. Gotham was in peril from the rise of the Mutant Gang who were terrorizing Gothamites, going so far as to butcher their pets. Naturally, these events brought Batman out of retirement, and Bruce Wayne back to life.

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To further institute itself as iconic, The Dark Knight Returns introduces the first female Robin, Carrie Kelly, and pits Superman against Batman in a juggernaut battle that has remained so timeless it spawned the birth of the upcoming film Batman V Superman. Additionally, Warner Bros. and DC Animated released a two-part film release that perfectly encapsulates the four part miniseries and broadened its access to future generations.

15 years later, Miller attempted to keep the franchise alive with the release of The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Once again, everything was affected. The art was brighter and less impacting. Carrie Kelly is now Catgirl and she leads Batman’s troops in training. The heroes aid Batman instead of attacking him and they remove Lex Luthor and Braniac from governmental power. Superman and Wonder Woman are a couple and Kara is in hiding. But, perhaps the biggest change was in the language used. Gotham no longer felt so inhospitable and disgusting. There wasn’t a real sense of urgency in the action, but the story felt rushed. Where The Dark Knight Returns felt like a revelation, The Dark Knight Strikes Again felt like a flop and instantly turned people against Frank Miller and the Dark Knight lineage.

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So, it’s no surprise that the internet has seen such an outcry of fans and critics awaiting the release of DKIII – The Master Race with knots in their stomachs.

At first glance, it’s clear that we’re back to the original art style that gave birth to the series, only the lines are more crisp and defined as done by Andy Kubert. It must be recognized that it doesn’t look in anyway like he was attempted to imitate the Frank Miller style, but more so that there are definitely little nods of the cap here and there. The book looks defined and engrossing, but maintains that level of grotesqueness that made Gotham feel like such a dredge of a city.

The story is done by Brian Azzarello, with some help from Frank Miller. This is apparent. While the pacing is very slow – as it was in The Dark Knight Returns – it is full of inner monologue and narration that is full of Azzarello, but winks to the original series. This first book is also a much shorter read than either of the other two series. The original Dark Knight Rises was a four part series and each book was a little over 50 pages. With the way comics are done these days, DC and Miller have broken the series up into eight books, but have given the creative team about half the page count to work with.

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From this first book, it’s difficult to get any sense of direction from the story. There are some bat surprises and we are once again graced with Diana and Kara. The Atom makes an appearance in a storyline that seems to disconnect itself from the Batman story, but wrap itself back around to it by the end. It is unclear at this point, given only 28 pages, as to what any of this really means or where it could be heading.

That being said, the book reads well. Fans of the series should be letting out a big sigh of relief when seeing that the art is back to being dirty and the story is back to being detailed and dynamic. In Miller’s failing health, it’s a wonder that this book happened at all, but it will hopefully be the ending the series deserves. Whether you love or hate The Dark Knight, there is no escaping the historical significance of it, and this book should absolutely not go unnoticed.

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The “Best There Is”: DKIII sees the return of the grotesque nature of Gotham as introduced in The Dark Knight Rises, but refines the line work and deepens the art with Andy Kubert at the helm. The story is a slow read, but it’s very clear that Azzarello and Miller are building up to their payoff, as they now have eight books to see it through. Everything in here feels like The Dark Knight and it feels like it’s done correctly. The polarity felt after The Dark Knight Strikes Back should see some ease, as two outta three ain’t bad.

The “Not Very Nice”: While the story pacing feels rich and concise, it’s difficult get any sort of bearings from it. The limited page count for such a mammoth of a series could lead to some disinterest in the DC readership community. While all of the expected cast is in play, it’s very difficult to speculate what DKIII will do for the series after reading book one.

FBI Score: 8.5 out of 10. With all the slow pacing of the story elements and difficulty in forecasting aside, DKIII The Master Race feels like a return to the acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns in art direction, character development, and overall vision. While not the quickest read, it’s exciting as hell as there’s a very comforting feel to this book and you’re left with a whole lot to look forward to from the remaining seven installments of the series. Book one gets it right.

Buddy Beaudoin

Buddy Beaudoin is a writer and independent comic creator from Upstate, NY. He's a fan of tea, spacey music, and a nice pair of slacks. He LOVES comics. Batman, Swamp Thing, and Jonah Hex are some favorites, but he's also a pretty big fan of the indies. Should you ever need him, walk outside and yell his name loudly...

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