Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT #100, Dark Knight ReturnsSuperman

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Word recently broke about Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird working together again after all these years for a Ninja Turtles story called “The Last Ronin.” How fitting then, that not only does IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100 comes out this week, but we’ve also got a new Frank Miller book. It’s no secret that Eastman and Laird drew inspiration from Miller’s work in the early to mid ’80s.

Imagine what would have happened if it had the modern Frank Miller back then. Back then you had his work on characters like Daredevil and Wolverine. Now? We’ve got the Dark Knight sequels and Holy Terror. *shudders*

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (Script)
ARTISTS: Dave Watcher, Michael Dialynas. Variant cover by Eastman.
SUPPLEMENTAL ARTISTS: Mateus Santolouco, Adam Gorham, Dan Duncan, Cory Smith
COLORISTS: Ronda Pattison, Bill Crabtree
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

TMNT #100 is more or less exactly what you want it to be. All recent plot threads converge, and as expected, we see the return of a major villain. Can’t say I expected that death, though. And make sure you don’t miss that epilogue…

The only real complaint I have is that I felt half a step behind because I couldn’t keep up on the Shredder in Hell mini. I suppose that’s the problem when you’ve created a world so rich and dense. You can’t always pack everything into one series. But that’s not necessarily a terrible problem to have.

TITLE: Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child
AUTHOR: Frank Miller
ARTIST: Rafael Grampa. Cover by Grampa and Pedro Cobiaco.
COLORIST: Jordie Bellaire
LETTERERS: John Workman, Deron Bennett
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

My impression when I closed this book was that Miller must either have a ghostwriter working with him, or the editors are heavily involved here. Because this is a surprisingly competent issue to have his name on it in 2019. But if it was mostly Miller? Good on him.

No Bruce Wayne here. Which is kind of odd, but fine with me. Carrie Kelley, Lara, and this Dark Knight universe Jon Kent are more interesting anyway. They’re taking on Darkseid here, and Raphael Grampa’s art looks amazing.

A really good start. But keep your expectations tempered.

TITLE: Superman #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST:
Ivan Reis
INKER:
Joe Prado
COLORIST:
Alex Sinclair
LETTERER:
Dave Sharpe
RELEASED:
December 11, 2019

Ugh. Why?

Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like. The same thing they did in 2015, in a storyline that, fittingly, was also called Truth.

It’s not that I don’t think Bendis and this team can do a good job with it. But we were just here. And inevitably, when you do this kind of thing you have to come up with some convoluted way to get the genie back in the bottle. So why even bother?

I will say, though, there’s a single silent page depicting the big moment between Clark Kent and Perry White that’s absolutely beautiful.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #4
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTIST: Werther Dell-Edera
COLORIST: Miquel Muerto
LETTERED BY: Andworld Design
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

In this issue, we get a major revelation about the nature of the monsters devouring children in Archer’s Peak. Tynion takes what I’ll refer to as the “Do you believe in magic?” approach. It’s an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming, and for my money, helps separate this book from the pack. Hopefully he’s given the time to expand on it.

As cool as Erica Slaughter is, part of me actually wants to see her killed off so James can take her place and learn about all this monster stuff. Probably won’t happen. But could be cool.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1017
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTIST: Fernando Blanco. Cover by Tony Daniel.
COLORIST: John Kalisz
LETTERER: Travis Lanham
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

A nice little one-and-done. I like when they do these. In the context of Detective Comics, it reminds me of Paul Dini’s run all those years ago.

Our story deals with missing children at the Martha Wayne Orphanage in Gotham. Taylor shows us a more sensitive and empathetic side of Batman and Robin. Also, the art in this issue really stands out, as Kalisz uses a more saturated color palette, while our inks are darker. He even gives us a sort of saturated sepia tone for the opening flashback that sets the scene really well.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #26
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino
COLORIST: Raul Angulo
LETTERER: Ed Dukeshire
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

One of the big selling points of this book early on was it was set in the pre-Green Ranger days. Tommy, one way or another, inevitably pulls focus from the other characters. It’s a little sad that the emphasis has shifted that way.

But Parrott is still the best PR writer we’ve seen from this BOOM! Studios run with the license. Oddly enough, what I enjoyed most about this issue was a flashback to Tommy eating a meal with Rita at the palace. As a kid, I always wanted to see him in there interacting with the other villains.

TITLE: Dying is Easy #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Joe Hill
ARTIST: Martin Simmonds. Cover by J. Lou.
COLOR ASSISTANT: Dee Cunniffe
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

Cop turned stand-up comic. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

If grim-and-gritty is your thing, this book is right up your alley. If there’s a seedy underbelly to the world of stand-up, this book is smack in the middle of it. Simmonds and Cunniffe do a tremendous job using the colors to create an ominous, foreboding vibe. Ultimately, that pays off on the last page…

Fittingly, the book also manages to be funny in a black comedy sort of way. I’m not totally sold yet, but I may indeed be back for more.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A DKIII: The Master Race #9 Review – The Dark Knight Reboots

TITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #9
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLERS: Andy Kubert, Miller
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: June 7, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well, there it is. May as well have called this one The Dark Knight Reboots. For all intents and purposes, that’s what it was. There’s no official word on a DKIV story going forward. But given what we saw here, it seems pretty damn likely. Between this and the incorporation of Watchmen into the canonical DC Universe, they just can’t help but play the hits. For better or worse…

This issue sees Batman, Superman, Batgirl (Carrie Kelley), Lara the Supergirl, and the other heroes have their final confrontation with Quar and the Kryptonian invaders. Afterward, the Dark Knight Universe has a new status quo. Especially now that Bruce Wayne has been revitalized via the Lazarus Pit. So where do our heroes go from here?

Let’s start with the positives. This issue, and the DKIII main story overall, were really well illustrated. Andy Kubert has been able to meld his style with just enough vintage Frank Miller to make this a unique presentation. Even Miller himself, when working on the mini-comics we got in each issue, was able to settle into a groove. His art has been widely derided in recent years. But while he started off shoddily, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve enjoyed his art this much.

Ray Palmer/The Atom has a really nice moment in this issue where he gets to thwart some of the bad guys. It was clever the way they incorporated Ray into all of this. So to see him “get his win back” in the end was cool.

I also liked what they did with Green Lantern. A little corny? Yes. But he had a great little sub-plot about defeat and redemption. And when you consider one of Green Lantern’s original creators, Martin Nodell, took inspiration from Aladdin and the magic lamp, it makes a kind of sense.

Maybe the reason I’m so into this new take on Green Lantern is because when you close DKIII, it’s one of the few things left that’s really and truly different about this universe. Yes, certain supporting characters are absent. And we’ve got Lara and Carrie in the picture, along with Clark and Diana’s young son. But think about it. We don’t even have that old, gritty, Clint Eastwood-style Batman anymore, now that Bruce has gone through the Lazarus Pit. The Justice League is essentially back together now. What’s left to do in this universe now?

Various points in this story felt like we were gearing up for a passing of the torch. Carrie Kelley becomes Gotham’s protector, while Lara takes over for her Superman. In the end, they pay that off with Carrie becoming Batwoman and teaming with Bruce. Then in our mini-comic, we see Lara is now under the tutelage of her father. This feels like they were didn’t want to remove Batman and Superman, for fear of how it would effect sales going forward. I can understand that. But the ending of this story feels so safe and sub-par anyway, that they may have made that sacrifice regardless.

So why not just go for it? Why not kill the Bruce Wayne character? The Joker had an iconic death scene in The Dark Knight Returns. You can take a crack at doing the same thing with Bruce here. Given how old he is, it’s getting more and more contrived to have him keep coming back in the Batsuit. So have him die in Superman’s arms in issue #6 or #7, prompting Carrie to officially take over for him as Batwoman. There’s an argument to be made for that being the ending DKR should have had.

Then, if you must bring Bruce back via the Lazarus Pit, have it be in DKIV. We can see him challenge Carrie for Gotham City, the effects of the pit having driven him insane.

Many a reader, myself included, has criticized Frank Miller for the bizarre and even offensive choices he made in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman and Robin. But I’ll always credit Miller with being willing to take risks with his art. In the end, DKIII feels like they went too far in the other direction. The Dark Knight Returns has become a timeless piece of art. DKIII seems mostly like something thrown together by editors so that DC can continue to cash in on the team of Frank Miller and Batman. It’s a missed opportunity. With Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, and all these other supremely talented creators on board, they could have made something that allowed DC to sell more books, Instead we got something that feels largely hollow.

***For more DKIII: The Master Race, check out our reviews of issues #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #8.***

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A DKIII: The Master Race #8 Review – Kryptonians vs. Amazons

TITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #8
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLERS: Andy Kubert, Miller
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: March 29, 2017

Need to catch up? Check out issues #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Originally, this was supposed to be the end of the line. DKIII was supposed to run for eight issues before a ninth was announced last September. As much respect as I have for all the talent involved here, they should have gone the other way and capped it at seven. DKIII has an okay story, but it’s officially worn out its welcome.

Quar’s Kryptonian forces are at war with Wonder Woman and the Amazons, with Lara the Supergirl caught in the middle. So now the question becomes: What action will be taken by the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman? Meanwhile, the Lazarus Pit has restored Batman. But Quar is preparing to make his final move…

The entire story has been building toward this fight between the Kryptonians and the Amazons. But somehow, like last issue, this still fills like filler and transitional material. Andy Kubert, inker Klaus Janson, and colorist Alex Sinclair get to have flex their muscles by following Wonder Woman through a mildly gory battle sequence. But there’s not much drama in what we’re seeing. It’s just Wondie ripping through the bad guys because of some loophole about magic that isn’t really explained. All with a baby strapped to her back, who is somehow smiling through it all. Quar isn’t there, nor is Lara’s love interest. So these are essentially a bunch of Kryptonian foot soldiers.

This penultimate chapter, and this big battle, might have been the ideal place for Lara to make her choice. Does she side with her mother and the Amazons, or Quar and the Kryptonians? We get no such moment in this issue. Not even a cliffhanger to bring us into the next issue. That might have given this issue the emotional kick it desperately needs.

That’s not to say some of this isn’t fun. While there’s an extremely awkward splash page of Wonder Woman leaping (shown left), our artists do great work with the Amazons. Early on, they answer the Kryptonians’ challenge with a spear in a really cool way. Once we get into the physicality, Sinclair puts a red sky over the proceedings, striking a subtle yet pronounced emotional note. Azzarello also gives Diana a couple of good narration lines about the Amazons being an isolationist society: “Perfection stagnates. Perfection frustrates. Isolation gives to yearning.”

On the subject of Sinclair, this is his first time coloring the main story. You can absolutely notice the difference, everything pops a little more.

So where is Batman during all of this? He’s around. Like all the other characters, he’s being moved into position for the climax. Once he’s suited up, we do get a nice little moment with the Jerry Robinson Batmobile (shown below), its lone fin and big Bat head out in all it’s glory. As a life-long Batman buff, it made me smile.

But it also illuminates a major problem with DKIII. Out of the three chapters in Frank Miller’s so-called “Dark Knight trilogy,” this one may have the least to do with Batman himself. Or even the character’s lore and mythology. This feels less like a Batman story, and more like a Justice League story that Batman plays a big part in. The Dark Knight Strikes Again had a much larger scope than the original. DKIII might have been a good time to tighten the focus again.

There are elements in this story that make me wonder if that wasn’t supposed to be the case at one point. We see Carrie Kelley take up the mantle of Batgirl, the scene she had with Commissioner Yindel on the rooftop in issue #7, and a lot of little moments with she and Bruce. It almost feels like this started as a story where Bruce passes the torch to her, but plans were changed when Miller decided he wanted to do a fourth story. I have nothing concrete to base that on. Just a feeling.

Our mini-comic this month is Dark Knight Universe Presents: Detective Comics. We learn that Bruno, the woman from DKR with the flattop and the swastika pasties, is still alive. We get an incident with her and Commissioner Yindel at a prison, which I assume is supposed to be Arkham Asylum. There’s not much to write home about from a story perspective. But like last month, Frank Miller turns in some surprisingly clean line work. At times he reverts back to more of what he’s given us as of late. We’ll call it “disproportioned.” But by and large, Miller carries his end here.

But man oh man, I wish things would end here. Compared to The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All Star Batman and RobinDKIII is pretty harmless. But from an artistic perspective, it hasn’t been enough to justify dragging the DKR stuff out of the mothballs.

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A DKIII: The Master Race #7 Review – Green Lantern’s Light

DKIII: The Master Race #7, 2016, cover, Andy KubertTITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #7
AUTHOR: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLER: Andy Kubert
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: December 28, 2016

(Need to catch up? Check out issues #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6.)

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Believe it or not, the character with the best showing in DKIII #7 is Green Lantern. It’s not even in the main story. This is the first DKIII issue where the mini-comic has been superior in terms of quality. It may represent the best storytelling in DKIII overall.

After Batman is mortally wounded in the battle against the Kryptonian army, Superman rushes to save the Dark Knight’s life. But the battle isn’t over. A far more personal blow is about to be struck. The fate of the world, and one special young life, hangs in the balance.

Of course they didn’t kill off Bruce Wayne. They went the Lazarus Pit route. So now he’s not only alive, but he’s been de-aged. We don’t see much of him once he emerges from the pit. But he’s clearly able-bodied, and he’s even got his dark hair back. I can only assume this is a set-up for future stories. Whether DKIV is actually in the works or not remains to be seen. This book has hardly been a critical success. But you can’t argue with sales, can you?

dkiii-7-superman-and-batman

Assuming we will see more Dark Knight stories going forward, I find it odd that we apparently won’t be seeing old man Bruce Wayne any longer. That rougher, Clint Eastwood-style Batman is one of the big trademarks of this universe. Why do away with something like that?

We also get some dialogue between Commissioner Yindel and Carrie Kelley, that implies that their relationship will continue into the future. Essentially as a new Batman/Jim Gordon type pairing. The elevation and establishment of Carrie as a full-fledged hero has been an ongoing theme in DKIII. From a storytelling perspective, it would be fitting to have Carrie take over as Gotham’s protector, while Bruce goes off to do something else. But by God it bears repeating: GIVE CARRIE A NEW COSTUME!

Donald Trump returns in this issue, via a disturbingly authentic sounding tweet: “We won just like I said we would, and now we’ll make the Kryptonians pay to rebuild Gotham City. You’re gonna love it.” Some things are just a little too real…

Between Batgirl and armored Superman, DKIII has definite costume problems. But by and large, Andy Kubert, inker Klaus Janson, and colorist Brad Anderson have given this story a look that feels like great extension of Miller and Janson’s art from the original. In particular, our cliffhanger scene with Wonder Woman and Lara has a great intensity to it.

dkiii-hal-jordanWhen you get right down to it, most of what we see in DKIII #7 is filler and transitional material. That’s part of why the Strange Adventures mini-comic comes off so well. But it’s more than that. It’s also a comeback story that sees a humbled Hal Jordan reconnect to his humanity.

After losing his hand in issue #3, Hal wanders the desert hunting down his lost Green Lantern Ring. It’s in the hands of what appears to be a militant extremist group. (Oddly enough, the ring is still on Jordan’s severed hand. Maybe this is the same group that found Luke Skywalker’s hand and lightsaber after The Empire Strikes Back…) With some help from Hawkman and Hawkgirl, he gains a new perspective on his place in the universe and boldly declares: “I’m back.” In a way, it’s beautiful. Perhaps I’m biased, but Miller’s art even looks a little more polished here.

Notwithstanding the Green Lantern content, DKIII #7 is mostly missable. Right now, I’m hoping for a big finish. Something with a little more personality than we saw from the big attack on Gotham City. But between Kryptonians and Amazons, that may prove difficult.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A DKIII: The Master Race #6 Review – History Repeats

DKIII: The Master Race #6, 2016, cover, Andy KubertTITLE: DKIII: The Master Race #6
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLERS: Andy Kubert, Miller
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: October 19, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As one might expect, DKIII has shown us a lot of the same imagery The Dark Knight Returns did. Armored Batman, Batman being hunted, Batman against Kryptonians, etc.

DKIII #6 gives us yet another one: The death of Bruce Wayne, complete with a heart monitor on the page. It’s just a shame he goes down in perhaps the most anticlimactic way possible.

After striking a crippling blow to Quar and the Kryptonian army via Kryptonite-laced rain, an armored Batman and Superman are set for battle. They’re not alone, as Batgirl, Commissioner Yindel, and the people of Gotham City are set to serve up some justice of their own. But while the battle now takes place on a more even playing field, in the process they’ll sustain a heavy loss…

I’m calling BS on Bruce Wayne being dead. Or if he is dead, he’s coming back by the end of the story. There’s no way Frank Miller’s Batman, even if he’s mostly written by Brian Azzarello at this point, goes out via a quick heat vision burst (shown below). They’ll stick him in a rejuvenation chamber, a Lazarus Pit, or find some other way to restore him. I’m betting this will serve the dual purpose of rejuvenating his body so he doesn’t need crutches anymore.

DKIII #6, 2016, Andy Kubert, kill shot

DKIII was originally advertised as the final installment in the Dark Knight series. So it’s possible they were intending to kill Bruce off here. But now I’m betting plans have changed. If DKIII has proven anything, it’s that there’s still great value in putting Frank Miller and Batman together. The first issue sold 449,100 copies, making it one of the best selling single issues since the turn of the century. Since then, the book has remained a top 10 seller amongst all publishers.

Frank Miller may be controversial, and neither sequel has done much justice to the legacy left by The Dark Knight Returns. But when you put Miller on a Batman book, it’s newsworthy. That’s a well DC can go back to when they need a boost. Miller is apparently willing to go back, as last year he talked about being the solo writer for a Dark Knight IV story. I believe DKIV is happening. But Miller by himself? I’ll believe that when I see it.

As for this issue, it’s mostly fluff until the finale. It looks pretty, and we get some decent one-liners. (“You want to shut him up, or should I?”) But when we open the issue, our heroes already have the battle mostly won. Most of the action comes from a fight between Batgirl/Carrie Kelley and Baal, Lara’s love interest, who is unaffected by the rain. The Batmobile winds up shredded, which is a cool visual. She eventually ends up beating him with, of all things, her slingshot. Another callback from The Dark Knight Returns.

By the way, can we get better costumes for DKIV? Superman’s armor doesn’t look any less stupid this time around, nor does Batgirl look less gaudy.

DKIII #6, 2016, Frank Miller artOur mini-comic this time is Dark Knight Universe Presents: World’s Finest #1, featuring a confrontation between Lara and Batgirl. Wonder Woman eventually intervenes. I’d be interested to know why this wasn’t in the main issue, with the Baal/Carrie fight getting the backseat. There’s so much more meat here, and it’s in line with what we’ve built up to. The Kryptonians have convinced Lara to turn her back on her family and humanity at large. One would think the story culminates in Batman and Carrie having to stop her, which creates tension with Superman and Wonder Woman, and all the drama you mine from that. Where we go now that Bruce has “died” is an interesting question.

As for Frank Miller’s art…it’s Frank Miller’s art. At this point, it is what it is. Here’s what I will say: These mini-comics have always been beautifully colored by Alex Sinclair.

I’m almost past the point of judging DKIII as good or bad. It’s already not my cup of tea. And yet, I keep slapping cash down for it. At $5.99 an issue, it’s not cheap either. But as DC knows all too well, comic book fans will pay to read what Frank Miller has to say about Batman. It’s been 30 years since The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, but maybe we’re all secretly hoping he has one more classic left in him.

Again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

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A Dark Knight III: The Master Race #5 Review – Awkward and Armored

DKIII #5, cover, Andy KubertTITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #5
AUTHOR: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLER: Andy Kubert
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: June 29, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When All Star Batman & Robin came out, people reacted strongly to Frank Miller’s portrayal of Batman. It obviously wasn’t his first go-around with the character, but people reacted very strongly to that story in particular. Miller’s take on Batman has always been a little edgier. But the consensus seemed to be that he took it too far. Batman was too violent, too animalistic, and his catchphrase about being ” the goddamn Batman” was downright stupid.

It’s a fair guess that one of the reasons Brian Azzarello was brought in to work with Miller on DKIII was to keep him from going too far again. We were doing pretty well until last issue, when we were introduced to Carrie Kelley’s ungodly Batgirl costume. In issue #5, something similar happens. But this time we’re venturing back into the realm of stupidity.

As an army of Kryptonians prepares to decimate Gotham City unless Batman shows himself, our hero has once again armored up to face seemingly insurmountable odds. But he’s not alone. While Batgirl and Aquaman work to get Superman back in the fight, Batman tends to The Flash. But when time runs out for Gotham, what will The Dark Knight have up his sleeve?

Batman, Superman, Andy Kubert, DKIII: The Master Race Let’s dive right into this. To fight back against the Kryptonians, Batman seeds the clouds over Gotham with synthetic Kryptonite and causes a rainstorm. This produces a pretty cool visual of the Kryptonians falling out of the sky. Once the fight is on the ground, Batman is in his element. But he’s got back up: Superman. The Man of Steel is now wearing a suit of armor, presumably to shield himself from the Kryptonite.

This idea is fine. But what ruins that last shot, and moves it into the unintentionally funny category, is the way Superman’s head and neck are drawn. What in the blue hell is happening there? They’re both looking up, which explains the angle of Clark’s head. But where is his neck? He looks like a toy that’s had its head shoved down into its body. How’s he supposed to turn his head in that thing? The sheer awkwardness of Superman’s look completely kills the epic team-up vibe they’re going for, and ends the issue on a surreal and bizarre note.

Also, I think it’s supposed to be, “I’ve got your back.” Sorry, grammar nazi.

Toward the middle of the issue, Azzarello channels Miller by Batman a lengthy inner monologue about fear. He writes: “Fear. The strongest, purest primal motivation there is. My lieutenant. My nanny. My invisible friend. Fear is why I get out of bed. Fear is what I dream about.” This is a little weird, but not offensive by any means. Considering how Miller has personified Gotham and other cities he’s written about, we got off fairly easy.

DKIII: The Master Race #5, Andy Kubert, AquamanKubert’s Miller-ized take on Aquaman and the undersea life is really interesting. Kubert hasn’t spent much time with Arthur, let alone in a story like this. His scruffier take on the character fits this world well.

What doesn’t fit this world, or any other world, is the pink and green Batgirl costume. I still don’t understand it. Is it supposed to mimic the brighter colors that Robin wears? That might not be all bad. But why pink and green? It’s such a bizarre combination.

This issue’s mini-comic spotlights Lara the Supergirl, as she gets acquainted with one of the young male Kryptonians. While I haven’t been enamored with any of these mini-comics, I will say I enjoyed this one the best. The dialogue was awkward, as was the art. But at its core, it’s a story about a young girl still coming to terms with who she is. She is both Kryptonian and Amazon. Judging by a discovery Quar makes in this issue, I suspect her loyalties to both groups will be tested very soon.

Five issues in, it’s apparent DKIII isn’t going to have the satirical or insightful edge that The Dark Knight Returns had. That’s fair enough. The world Miller created in that original story had build up some ill will between The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All Star Batman & Robin. Things almost needed to be redefined, especially if they want to tell more Dark Knight stories going forward. As a result, what we’re getting is a fairly safe story.

But at this point, perhaps we’re better safe than sorry…

Image 1 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. Image 2 from aquamanshrine.net.

A Dark Knight III: The Master Race #4 Review – Nagging Distractions

DKIII: The Master Race #4, cover, Andy KubertTITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #4
AUTHOR: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLER: Andy Kubert
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: April 27, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Flash is kind of a big deal for DC right now. He’s got a TV show on The CW that pulls in millions of viewers per episode. What’s more, it’s actually a damn good show.

Viewers of said show may want to avoid this issue. Their hero not only goes out like a chump, but he’s wearing one of the gaudiest costumes the DC Universe has ever seen.

We open the issue with a showdown between father and daughter. It’s Superman against Lara the Supergirl, who happens to have an army of Kryptonians behind her. Once they’re done with him, Batman is next in line. Quar, leader of the hostile Kryptonians, demands that Batman be produced or Gotham City will be destroyed. Once again, The Dark Knight is about to come out of retirement. But this time, he seemingly has no choice in the matter.

The Flash, Andy Kubert, DKIII: The Master Race #4, 2016This issue devotes three pages to The Flash being taken out by a Kryptonian. I can’t say I was a fan. He doesn’t even put up a fight. He simply gets his legs taken out, and it’s all over. If you’re going to devote that much of your issue to taking out a hero, that’s fine. But come on! This is The Flash! Now more than ever, this guy is one of DC’s big guns! Give him at least a little offense!

That costume is a leftover from The Dark Knight Strikes Again. That alone should have been a red flag. I understand that book can’t be completely ignored. But there are certain things from DKII that need to be left in the past. This costume is undoubtedly one of them.

Sadly, it’s not the only awful costume we’ll see…

Surprisingly, the first thing we see when we open the issue is The Atom. Despite the CRUSH we saw in issue #2 that seemed to indicate Ray Palmer had been killed, apparently he’s alive, albeit in a microscopic state. I can’t say I’m sad to see him back. But his death was a nice punctuation mark on the arrival of the Kryptonians. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how he factors in later.

Quar, Lara, and the other Kryptonians either kill or neutralize Superman, depending on how you interpret the issue. Despite all the blood he spills in this issue, there’s no way Superman is gone. Not with his daughter playing such a crucial role in things. If there was ever a time for a reconciliation between Batman and Superman, it’s now.

DKIII: The Master Race #4, Carrie Kelley, Bruce Wayne, Andy KubertOnce again, Andy Kubert does a fine job evoking Frank Miller’s style, while still making the book his own. This is most evident in the way he draws Bruce Wayne. The detail he puts into the character’s facial expressions and his scarred physique are fantastic. It’s almost as if someone has flipped a light on, allowing us to see details we’ve never seen before.

One of my few complaints with the art in this issue involves the scene where Commissioner Yindel sees Batman for the first time in the story. She’s been searching for him since the first issue, and now they’re finally face to face. We see Batman shrouded in darkness, holding the flask he’s just taken from a hopeless Yindel. I envisioned this scene being as impactful as Superman’s return to consciousness last issue. It isn’t. I think it would be different if Kubert, inker Klaus Janson, and colorist Brad Anderson had taken him out of the darkness a bit more. This Batman doesn’t always lend himself to the whole shadowy figure of the night routine. He’s big, bulky, and brash. This would have been a big time for one of those toothy scowls he’s always flashing around. DKIII hasn’t given us much of Batman in all his grandeur yet. This would have been a good time to play that card.

This issue’s mini-comic gives us Batgirl as we’ve never seen her before: Drawn by Frank Miller and wearing Joker colors. Seriously! What the hell is up with that costume? If Batgirl has ever looked worse, I can’t remember it. That’s not even getting into how weirdly she’s proportioned.

Dark Knight Universe Presents: Batgirl #1The story mostly consists of Carrie Kelley, after being given the Batgirl costume by Batman, fighting off some thugs at a dock. Aquaman emerges from the water to save her when she gets in over her head. Why he happened to be there is anybody’s guess. Hopefully we’ll learn more next issue. But if what happened to Green Lantern and Flash is any indicator, I’m hoping he’s got good healthcare down in Atlantis.

This issue is still decent in terms of the core story. But the Flash interlude and the weird acid trip that is the Batgirl issue prove to be nagging distractions. As such, this is the least satisfactory installment of DKIII thus far. Brian Azzarello maybe in the driver’s seat, but Frank Miller’s fingerprints are still there….

Images 1 and 3 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.blogspot.com. Image 2 from newsarama.com.

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A Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3 Review – Questions and…Compassion?

DKIII: The Master Race #3 cover, Andy KubertTITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLER: Andy Kubert, Miller
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: February 24, 2016

***Miss the last two issues? Boom and Bibbity-Boom.***

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for DKIII: The Master Race.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3, the table is set for a battle of epic proportions. Heroes against Villains. Kryptonian against Kryptonian. Even father against daughter. The fate of the entire planet hangs in the balance.

But, um…can I just ask a few questions before the fighting starts?

Now released from the Bottle City of Kandor, the bizarre and sinister cult leader Quar and his seven children are wreaking havoc on Earth as only Kryptonians can. They give the world three days to surrender. With no other choice, Bruce Wayne and Carrie Kelley seek out Superman, who is in exile at his Fortress of Solitude. And when he finds out what his fellow Kryptonians have done, the Man of Steel will not be happy?

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3, Andy KubertAt the end of issue #2, we finally see Bruce Wayne. He’s mostly as we remember him, only he now walks with a crutch attached to his right hand. On the very first page, Bruce talks about how his body has worn down, and “I can barely walk.” This development is very believable, as we know how much punishment Bruce put his body through over the years.

But here’s my question: Just how able-bodied is Bruce Wayne these days? There’s a frustrating inconsistency in Bruce’s presentation thus far that I’m hoping is rectified in future issues. Obviously he’ll always have a certain physical strength. But near near the middle of the issue, we see him trudging through deep snow toward Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, using a sledgehammer in place of his crutch. A short time later we see him swing the hammer at full force. Then at the end of the issue, he’s back on the crutch. So what’s the deal? What’s the balance between Old Man Bruce and Batman? He talks like he’d be a liability to Carrie in a fight. But he’s bound to get physical at some point, right? He is Batman, after all.

Also, what’s the deal with Superman? When the story started he was simply frozen over. Is he in some kind of prolonged meditative state? How is it he’s just been sitting there for years on end?

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3, Andy Kubert, sledgehammerStill, after two issues of build-up, Azzarello and Kubert succeed in making Superman’s return feel like a big deal. Practical or not, that shot with the sledgehammer (shown right) is pretty cool. As is the moment when Big Blue finally rises from that chair. The character doesn’t have his usual iconic, American feel here. Rather, we have a sleeping giant that has awakened to find something very angering, very offensive, and very personal. To Kubert’s credit, that first shot of an awake Superman feels very much like a Frank Miller Superman, even down to his proportions being a little bit blockier.

On the other hand, the Bruce Wayne we see here isn’t necessarily consistent with Miller’s recent work in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All Star Batman & Robin. Miller’s Batman work has always been noted for its grim tone. But as the years went by, his Dark Knight became much angrier. All Star in particular featured a much more vengeful, rage-filled Batman. At times he was practically heartless. But in our opening scene, we see a softer side of Bruce. We’re reminded that he cares for Carrie, and that he actually believes she’ll one day be better than he ever was. He worries about being a liability to her in a fight. This is how we know DKIII is an Azzarello story, and not a Miller one. Modern-day Frank Miller stories were sadly devoid of scenes like this. It’s very refreshing.

DKIII: The Master Race #3, Andy Kubert, QuarThat’s not to say Miller’s fingerprints aren’t on this book. At one point, one of Quar’s children swallows a seed of some kind and then commits a fiery suicide, destroying Moscow in the process. This, combined with Quar having multiple wives and being part of a religious movement, seem to hint that there’s a little Holy Terror in DKIII. That’s rather uncomfortable to think about.

The media satire continues in this issue. It’s distracting at times, but least its placement in the issue makes sense. We see the likes of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly, and even the hosts of Fox & Friends commenting on the destruction of Moscow, and pondering Quar’s demand for surrender. Analyzing the role media plays in our culture is a trademark of these Dark Knight books. But we’ve reached the point where, unless something new is brought to the table, it’s become more grating than insightful.

Our mini-comic this time around features Green Lantern returning to Earth to assess the threat. But when he runs into Quar’s wives, things don’t go well. It’s actually kind of brutal what happens to him. And unlike our previous forays with The Atom and Wonder Woman, I’m not sure how this plays into the larger story. One can argue it helps establish Quar’s wives. But we already knew they were Kryptonian, and thus capable of mutilating human beings. So what’s the point? John Romita Jr. helps Miller with the breakdowns, but it doesn’t help with the overall quality of the art. Miller is still Miller, for better or worse.

DKIII: The Master Race #3, Andy Kubert, mediaDKIII continues to have a coherent narrative. You’d think that would be a given for most stories, but considering what we’ve seen in Miller’s recent Batman works, it’s worth noting. Andy Kubert’s art is also in sync with the tone of The Dark Knight Returns, while still maintaining its own identity. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. Thus far DKIII is by no means a masterpiece. But even at $5.99, it’s worth a purchase. Perhaps for its significance to the fanboy subculture if nothing else.

Image 1 from batman-news.com. Image 2 from dccomics.com. Image 3 from comicvine.com.

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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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