***Miss issue #1? Boom.***
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
One of my favorite Batman stories of all time is Batman: Knight of Vengeance, a three-issue miniseries by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso that tied in with Flashpoint. I won’t spoil anything, but the third issue hits some heavy emotional notes that Azzarello isn’t necessarily known for. But it made for an amazing story that in terms of quality, surpassed Flashpoint itself. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when a moment in that same vein occurred in Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2. It’s not nearly as good, but to see Azzarello go there again is really cool, and could be a vital ingredient to making DKIII the redeeming element in the Dark Knight saga.
This sophomore issue sees Ray Palmer, a.k.a. The Atom, make a catastrophic mistake that will likely cost millions of people their lives. Meanwhile, Carrie Kelley has been taken in by the Gotham Police. She insists that Bruce Wayne is dead. But is it true? And if so, how? Is this truly a world without Batman?
We spend a lot of time with Carrie and Commissioner Yindel in this issue. Via their conversation, we get a flashback to when Bruce Wayne allegedly dies. And as far as Batman death scenes go, this is one of the most touching and impactful ones I’ve ever read. Bruce doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory saving the world. He dies in a hospital bed as Carrie sits next to him. It’s here that he confesses something heart-breaking. Bruce tells her he’s always taken some comfort in the fact that his parents were together when they died, and that he always thought he’d die alone. With her hand in his, Carrie tells him he’s not alone. Moments later, he slips away.
Setting aside this scenes place in the overall story, there’s a tragic beauty in the idea of Bruce taking solace in his parents having each other when tragedy struck. And his fear of dying alone makes all the sense in the world, not just because of what happened to his parents, but how he’s lived his life as Batman. Even at the very end, part of him is still that scared little boy in the alley. That’s a perfect character moment, and a great illustration of how much Carrie has come to care for Bruce.
Another such illustration is the awful beating she takes when we open the issue. While the death scene feels like a Brian Azzarello moment, this feels more like a Frank Miller moment. It’s very much reflective of the tone he’s set in previous stories. It’s pretty intense, particularly with the blood. And I don’t think I’m out of line when I say Carrie being a young girl doesn’t help matters. But it fits within the context of the story they’re telling. I don’t exactly love it, and it definitely pushes the boundaries of good taste. But I can’t say I was offended. If they start making a habit of graphic scenes like this, that’ll be another story.
On the plus side, Carrie gets some retribution late in the issue with some help from the Batmobile. Of course, in this universe the Batmobile is more like the Bat-Tank. Given what happens to the Batmobile as she’s trying to escape, and how we eventually see her positioned in relation to it, it’s tough to suspend your disbelief. It doesn’t take you out of the issue, necessarily. But it’s a head scratcher.
Much like last issue, we have a mini comic-within-a-comic, this one starring Wonder Woman and Lara the Supergirl, as we explore their mother/daughter dynamic. Given what happens here, along with the events in the main story, it becomes pretty obvious where things are going with Lara. It definitely doesn’t bode well for mom.
During what’s supposed to be a training exercise between Diana and Lara, we see Diana is still carrying her infant son in a papoose on her back. It was weird in the first issue, and it’s still weird here. But whatever.
Given his history with Azzarello, Risso has as much right to this book as anyone, His work here isn’t as commanding as Kubert’s, but he gives this confrontation the weight and emotion it needs to have.
This issue succeeds in upping the ante from its predecessor, both in terms of character development and setting the stage for the primary conflict. The journey hasn’t been entirely smooth thus far. But compared to what Miller gave us in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All Star Batman & Robin, this book looks like friggin’ Watchmen. There’s still hope that the Dark Knight saga can be redeemed.
Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from comicbooknews.com. Image 3 from popoptiq.com.
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