Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race


The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2016-2017/ Collected 2017): written by Brian Azzarello and Frank Miller; illustrated by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Frank Miller, Eduardo Risso, John Romita Jr., Brad Anderson, and Alex Sinclair: Rumours are that Frank Miller had very little to do with the writing of this follow-up to The Dark Knight Returns (1986-87) and The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001-2002). His art duties involve the inking of a few covers and drawing inter-chapter 'mini-comics' that contextualize portions of the main story. 

The main story is credited as 'Story by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello.' Penciller Andy Kubert and inker Klaus Janson (inker of The Dark Knight Returns) do a fair job of maintaining their own styles while also paying homage to Miller's art style circa 1986. Miller's art in the mini-comics is sort of awful at points, reaching a nadir when he hinges the Atom's legs backwards, having apparently forgotten how knees work.

Taking up three years after The Dark Knight Strikes Again and six years after The Dark Knight Returns, DKIII again features aging versions of DC's major superheroes in a near-dystopic future. Events conspire to team up Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and many others to oppose a new global threat. One of the signs that Miller may not be writing much of the book is that Superman comes across pretty well for once, even saving Batman's life at one point. It's a shocker. 

Azzarello, if he scripted most of this, supplies lots of tough-guy and tough-girl introspection alongside all the fist fights and explodey-ness. Kubert and Janson give us suitably over-sized heroes and villains, innocents and grotesques and all that jazz. The whole thing goes down smoothly and way, way faster than the original The Dark Knight Returns and its intermittently densely packed pages of dialogue and exposition set off by full-page spreads. There's still satire here, particularly of both Obama and Trump, but it's pretty boilerplate stuff. 

Azzarello, not really known for writing superhero punch-ups, has written a giant superhero punch-up. It's enjoyable, certainly far more enjoyable than the clumsy and misanthropic Dark Knight Strikes Again, though no touch on the original. Miller's far-right politics seems to manifest in the idea of Kryptonian cultists who look and act a lot like stereotypical Muslim fundamentalists, but the comparison is never pushed too far (and these fundamentalists appear to believe in gender equality). In all, lightly recommended.

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