Review and Recap: Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Universe Is Finally Back With The Master Race Book One

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 - 11:39PM
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DC Comics
Batman
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 - 11:39PM
Review and Recap: Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Universe Is Finally Back With The Master Race Book One
The most anticipated comic of 2015 is finally hear - Frank Miller has once again returned to his Dark Knight Universe with co-writer Brian Azzarello for The Master Race, with Book One hitting shelves earlier today. It's been over 13 years since his divisive sequel to The Dark Knight Returns entitled 'The Dark Knight Strikes Again' came out, so many fans have been extremely excited to see if the series can be redeemed by this third installment in the series. Judging by Book One alone, it might do just that.

The book began with Batman meting out some justice to a couple of cops getting ready to shoot a seemingly innocent young man after he refused to stop running from them. It was then revealed that no one has seen the Batman for a number of years - he's evidently been on hiatus for quite some time. Characters from TDK II were also reintroduced, such as Wonder Woman, with her new baby (she did mention she was pregnant again in The Master Race's predecessor, but this child probably isn't the same one - it's not old enough) as well as Superman and Diana's daughter, Lara. Lara visits her father in the Fortress of Solitude, but he's frozen on a throne, which is but one of the many mysteries that the first book of The Master Race presents us with, since this is most definitely not where Supes was at the end of The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

During her visit the the Fortress, Lara notices a relatively sizable message that the Kandorians have created inside their bottled city - 'Help Us.' This subplot was continued in the mini-comic included with Book One of the Master Race, featuring the Atom. Lara brought the bottled city of Kandor to Ray Palmer with the request of helping the miniaturized Kryptonians become big again. Thus it would seem as though the Kandorians will likely be the titular 'Master Race' - what's going to happen when Palmer succeeds in bringing millions of individuals with the same powers as Superman into the real world?

The issue finishes up with a huge twist, as it's revealed that it's really been Carrie Kelley in the Batsuit all along. She has a huge showdown with the police before being beaten and questioned as to the whereabouts of the real Batman, Bruce Wayne. Carrie replies with a chilling statement: 'Bruce Wayne is dead.'

The nostalgia factor is definitely high with this one, and that's a good thing. The news anchors and other talking heads on the TV are back to giving commentary on the events of the book, just as they did in TDKR and TDK II. Likewise, the strange futuristic slang that the teens use in the Dark Knight Universe hasn't went anywhere either, and it's clear that Miller and co. haven't given up on incorporating controversial contemporary social and political issues into their work as well. Almost everything in this issue had a very Dark Knight Universe feel to it, as it very well should.

Aside from the nostalgia, the questions raised in this first issue are enough to bring readers back for issue #2. Batman's fate probably isn't all that pressing, since Miller has already said in certain interviews that Carrie lied. Yet what about Superman? He was last seen talking with Lara about 'their world' - seemingly changing a view he expressed earlier in TDK II about sharing Earth with humanity. So how'd he end up frozen on his throne in the Fortress of Solitude? Likewise, what became of the Kandorians between TDK II and the Master Race? They helped Lara defeat Braniac when the Atom broke them free of their glass prison, so why are they just now deciding that they want to be big again? What will happen to Carrie now that she's been captured, and where are Bruce, Green Arrow and the rest of the superheroes that helped save the day in the Dark Knight Strikes Again? Miller and Azzarello have done a superb job of gripping readers from the start by setting up so many big questions, and it'll certainly be exciting to see everything start to fall into place over the course of the series.

All of this is not to say that the first book of The Master Race wasn't without it's faults, however. The choice of briefly dealing with police brutality for the political commentary of the issue seems a bit much, just because it's already been done so much recently - for instance, Action Comics #41 dealt with the issue, alongside Batman #44 just a few months later. Of course this doesn't mean that police brutality isn't a good topic to address or that it doesn't need to be addressed, but it's already been done twice before, and unless this particular point has particular ramifications in future issues, it was essentially useless. Speaking of useless - was it really necessary to have a panel of Wonder Woman with a totally revealed bare boob before she started breastfeeding her son?

Likewise, the start of TDK III feels a lot more like TDK II and not The Dark Knight Returns itself, which is a bit troubling. This doesn't necessarily spell doom for the book, as in reality, TDK II started off strong before losing momentum midway through and becoming a total mess by the end. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if The Master Race ends up becoming what TDK II could have been if it would have remained consistent from start to finish, and that's certainly not a bad thing. Nevertheless, it's obvious that The Master Race will probably deal with a global level threat (like in TDK II) and not street level issues in the city of Gotham, which is really what TDKR mainly dealt with. Fans of the series would probably agree that what they really want to see is the latter - something more akin to the types of threats Batman dealt with in TDKR rather than those he dealt with in TDK II.

However, The Master Race is still off to a great start. As was previously mentioned, nostalgia and the many questions that were left hanging were more than enough to win readers back for issue #2. Just as well, the action sequences were a lot of fun, and Kubert seems to be a great fit for the art. It's a slow burn, but that's a good thing for an eight issue mini-series. Azzarello's voice can definitely be felt in the dialogue, and as he has a way of turning almost anything he touches to gold, it'll be exciting to see what he can bring to the Dark Knight Universe throughout the series. Overall, Book One of the Master Race gets a firm 8.2 out of 10 and leaves readers anticipating Book 2 just as much as they did the start of the new series, which is saying a lot.

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2 hits stores on December 23rd.
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