Tag Archives: Brian Azzarello

A Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2 Review – The Death of Bruce Wayne…?

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2TITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2
AUTHOR: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLERS: Andy Kubert, Eduardo Risso.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: December 23, 2015

***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?

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2, Bruce Wayne death, Andy Kubert

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.

DKIII #2, Carrie Kelley, Andy KubertAnother 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.

Wonder Woman vs. Lara, DKIII #2, Eduardo RissoDuring 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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A Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 Review – Miller Light

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1, Andy KubertTITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLER: Andy Kubert
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: November 25, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Dark Knight Returns really shouldn’t have had a sequel, much less two sequels.

I know that’s too much to ask in the modern era. We simply have to go back to the well with everything. Watchmen had to have a bunch of prequel stories, we had to do another Sandman, and now we’re putting Frank Miller and Batman back together. Because, you know, that worked so well last time

Actually, Miller doesn’t have a lot of say on Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Given what Miller has said on the record, he’s firmly in the backseat for this one. Apparently Azzarello is in the driver’s seat, and Miller is more an adviser than an author. If we must drag Dark Knight out of retirement, that’s a good decision. His classic works notwithstanding, Miller’s descent into incoherence and mediocrity has been well documented.

DKIII is set three years after The Dark Knight Strikes Again, as Batman has re-appeared in Gotham City. As such, both the criminal element and the news media are up in arms. Under pressure to take action is Police Commissioner Ellen Yindel, who initiates an aggressive police response. But things regarding the Batman are not what they seem…

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1, Andy KubertThis issue, as expected from a first chapter, mostly serves as a table-setter for things to come. We establish Batman’s return, re-establish Gotham City and Miller’s trademark depiction of the news media, and also set up where Wonder Woman, Superman, and their daughter Lara are. We get a cliffhanger in the end involving Carrie Kelley, which opens the floodgates for speculation about what’s really going on with Batman/Bruce Wayne, and whether there’s a larger plan being enacted.

The most intriguing element in this issue is the art, pencilled by Andy Kubert, with DKR inker Klaus Janson and colorist Alex Sinclair. Miller himself drew DKR, and DK2 with far less success. But now we have Kubert and his colleagues trying to maintain a certain consistency with Miller’s style, but also display their own strengths. Kubert’s line work is cleaner, and less busy than Miller’s ever was. But at the same time, there’s a certain grim and moody tone to things that’s very Miller-esque. This is especially true when we see the battle scene with Wonder Woman. We see a lot of deep black, and there’s a great shot of Wonder Woman’s eyes in under the shadow of her headgear in the rain. The team also does great justice to Miller’s rendering of Lara.

Miller has taken a lot of heat over the years for the oversexualization of his female characters. So the fact that most of the characters in this issue are strong, proactive women likely serves as proof of Miller’s reduced involvement. He’d likely have jumped at the chance to draw Wonder Woman or Lara provocatively. But this departure is definitely a positive. Now isn’t the time for cheesecake. Evidently, it’s time for fighting cops…

Dark Knight III: Master Race, protests, Andy KubertIndeed, this issue delivers on the classic Frank Miller theme of Batman vs. the Police. Near the end of the issue, we get a bloody fight between Batman (sort of) and the cops. But there’s a stark contrast between the cops we see here, and the ones we saw in Miller’s last Bat-book, All Star Batman & Robin. In that book, the Gotham City Police are depicted as sadistic rapists and pedophiles with badges. In this book, they occupy a gray area that reflects how they’re often portrayed in a post-Ferguson world. The issue makes a veiled reference to modern-day police backlash via another Miller trope: Parody of television news media. A stand-in for Bill O’Reilly references the police having “enough on their plates with all the latest protests.” Still, seeing cops who aren’t Jim Gordon portrayed in a sympathetic light is another considerable departure from Miller’s usual narrative. Again, this is a positive.

Interestingly, contained within the issue is a miniature issue starring Ray Palmer, a.k.a. The Atom. That’s kind of a cool little gimmick, considering the title character. Ironically, one can argue we learn more about the story to come in Dark Knight Universe Presents The Atom #1 than we do in the main issue. We actually find out who “The Master Race” is. Miller does have the pencil here, and while his figure-rendering is highly questionable, his work on Palmer and Lara’s faces is fairly solid. Also, Alex Sinclair’s colors pop really well.

The cover on the other hand…

DKIIIMini900_560f23c5ded7d5.10162826This is the Frank Miller we’ve come to expect in recent years. Look at Superman. He’s blocky, his proportions are weird, the line work is overdone, his legs are stretched out but the bottom of his left boot is somehow facing the camera. And that face is…what is that face? At the risk of going low brow, this looks more like an elderly man struggling on the toilet than the Man of Steel.

DKIII is worth a look, at the very least because of Frank Miller’s status as an innovator for Batman and his world. It might be worth sticking around for, given the involvement of Azzarello and Kubert. A Batman story that’s written and drawn by Miller in the 21st century is scarier than it is intriguing. But a story that takes some of Miller’s ideas and shapes them into something that’s coherent and not offensive? That might be interesting. At this point, it’s too soon to tell. But this issue is a solid first chapter.

Images from comicbook.com.

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A Batman: Europa #1 Review – European Vacation

Batman: Europa #1 cover, Jim LeeTITLE: Batman: Europa #1
AUTHORS: Matteo Casali, Brian Azzarello
PENCILLERS: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Lee
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: November 18, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead for Batman: Europa #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Considering how long Batman: Europa has been in development (it was originally announced in 2004), you’d think they’d have taken the time to iron all the kinks out of it.

They didn’t.

Europa brings Batman and The Joker together again. But this time, our arch rivals have a common enemy. Both are infected with a deadly virus that will kill them within a week. But can Batman do the unthinkable and team with The Joker? He may have no choice if he’s to survive.

Batman: Europa #1, page 5, Jim LeeQuick history lesson: Europa is Jim Lee’s brainchild. Having spent a year in Italy with his family, Lee wanted a way to work on DC characters with European creators. Thus, Europa. Since 2004, this four-issue miniseries has had a few false starts. But now all four issues are solicited to hit the stands by January. All four issues have layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and each feature a different penciller. Lee drew this issue, and by God, he got me right in the feels.

Batman: Hush is a sentimental favorite of mine. It’s the story that got me to start picking up comic books every week, as opposed to only reading trades. So seeing Lee return to these versions of Batman, Joker, and Alfred is very special. Mind you, this is a scratchier style than we usually see accompany Lee’s pencils. His stuff usually looks very crisp, with an abundance of line work to show. That’s not the case here, and it takes some getting used to. But good art is good art, and Lee is truly one of the masters of the dynamic superhero comic. It’s just a shame this is it for him on this story.

But while the art is marvelous to look at, the writing is where we run into problems.

Casali and Azzarello try and start the issue on an intense note, with Batman and Joker both bleeding and on the verge of death. The implication is they’ve just been in a fight. But while I hate to come off childish about this, the narration from Batman comes off as downright homoerotic (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’ll give you some of the dialogue here. Tell me it doesn’t sound like there’s a certain subtext…

Batman: Europa #1, page 2, Jim Lee“I never thought it would end like this. Him. Me. Our blood on each others lips. … Believing he could go this far is easy. Me, though? I’m another story. But this time I’m ready to go all the way. And do it.”

Throw in the fact that on the cover The Joker’s hand appears to be over Batman’s crotch, and you’re giving a lot of ammunition for the less mature fanboys to use. What I’m wondering is how this didn’t occur to anyone involved in the creative process. I’m looking at you, editors!

Taking Batman to actual locations outside the United States is hardly a new concept. But Europa promises to take him to a variety of European destinations. Issue #1 takes us to Berlin, and future issues will bring us to Prague, Paris, and Rome. Considering our writers spend just a tad too much time romanticizing Berlin, I’m concerned not only about how much time they’ll spend doing that in other locations, but about how contrived all the traveling may seem. I understand the point of this story is to put our main characters in different environments. But keep in mind that Batman and The Joker are supposed to be working together here. This partnership should have a hard time lasting four minutes. The notion that it could last long enough for them to travel across Europe together makes me afraid this is going to come off like a very dark version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Still, even if it does turn out to be a stinker, Europa is an excuse for Jim Lee to get some more time with Batman. It’s tough to complain about that.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from techtimes.com.

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