The Dark Knight III, The Master Race


It’s been 30 years since Frank Miller forever changed the character of Batman with his seminal work, The Dark Knight Returns. Prior to this pivotal book, Batman was best known as a zany caped crusader, a joking, colorful, day time crime fighter full of quips. Miller found the essence of Batman, the dark, disturbing, psychotic vigilante. This book hit the bullseye and showed the world the potential Batman could have. Without it, there is no Tim Burton’s Batman. There is no Christopher Nolan trilogy. There is no Batfleck.

So it’s no surprise that 30 years later, when Frank Miller returns to writing The Dark Knight, people ought to pay attention. This third installment, titled The Dark Knight III, the Master Race, or DK3 for short, is co-written by the much accomplished Brian Azzarello, best known for the poetically violent, and brilliantly illustrated Vertigo series, 100 Bullets. The pencils by the legendary Andy Kubert, with color by the same Klaus Jansen who worked with Frank Miller to create the groundbreaking Marvel Daredevil run, still credited as the best of all time, equals a collaborative effort of highest caliber. This is an all-star team the likes of which is just too good pass up.

Now, if you’re like me, you approach any revamp with a degree of caution. Sometimes Michael Bay meddling with your childhood heroes is disastrous. Sometimes you get the feeling it’s just a money grab. Executives knowing the dedicated fan boy will shell out the cash for anything that has the name Miller on the same cover as the word Batman, even if the content is utter crap. I’m pleased to tell you, there is no need for such apprehensions in this case. This book delivers on every level.

At the time of writing there are only two issues out, and I can’t wait for the next. The end of each issue so far builds upon the existing world from DK I & II. That being said, it’s not at all requisite for a neophyte to read the first two volumes. While doing so would enhance the enjoyment of these new issues, and while I would recommend anybody interested in Batman read those anyway, this book does stand on its own. The story is original, modern, and seriously captivating.

This new plot starts years after the last volume ended, and for fear of spoiling too much, I will say only this: Batman is back, like a ghost risen from ashes, which is a cause for much speculation and attention. Further, Superman, who is now suspended in ice, still owns the shrunken city of Kandor, populated with miniature Kryptonians, who wish to live lives beyond they’re glass container. Again, I don’t want to spoil, but the book is called Master Race, and one could speculate as to what that implies.

Trade Paper Backs are a popular format to read comics these days (the collection of single issues in one book), which is all well and good, but I’m going by single issues on this book for two reasons. First, I am simply not patient enough to wait for the TPB. They don’t come out until the entire run has ended, and generally not for months afterwards. I need my Batman asap. Secondly, though, and this is something special, each single issue comes with a mini-comic inside!

Throughout Miller’s DK history, there have been many characters from the DC universe gracing the pages. These mini-comics within the pages of the single issues focus on these tertiary characters, giving the reader a glimpse of the drama as it unfolds from their various perspectives. The first focuses on the Atom, and the second on Wonder Woman. For me, that alone is reason enough to invest in the single issues. I’m not sure how that bonus material will be presented once the book is collected for Trade sales, but I can guarantee, this is better.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake is that Miller has announced he’s already working on DK4. If this book is any indication of the future, we’re in for a real treat, and it seems like one that could last a good long while.

This book grabs the reader right away with its fast paced action, gritty yet colorful art, and suspenseful plot. I don’t want to get ahead of myself by making an exaggerated statement, but this book absolutely stands a very strong chance of being my favorite DK book yet.

I give it 5 out of 5 batarangs, which may seem lofty, but I stand by it. I’m confident this book will be celebrated for decades to come, and we’re lucky enough to get it fresh off the press.



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