Tag Archives: Klaus Janson

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars #1, I Can Sell You A Body #1

***”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

You know what sucks? When your favorite comic shop closes down.

Here’s to Rockhead’s Comics and Games in Kenosha, WI, for feeding my weekly comic fix for the last two years or so. You guys were awesome. I’m truly sad to see you go…

TITLE: Star Wars #1
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto (Co-Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva and GURU-eFX.
RELEASED:
January 1, 2020

This debut of Marvel’s post-Empire Strikes Back title is pretty much what you’d expect, with the characters reeling from what happened on Bespin.

But interestingly, this issue actually takes places during the events of Empire. A certain amount of time passes between the Star Destroyer escape and the closing scene. But how much time? When we open this book the Rebels don’t trust Lando, and Luke isn’t even sure he wants to be a Jedi any longer.

I’m hoping Luke doesn’t get a lightsaber in this series. The green one doesn’t come along until the next film, after all.

TITLE: I Can Sell You A Body #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Ryan Ferrier
ARTISTS: George Kambadais, Ferrier (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

What we have here is a mini about “reverse exorcisms,” i.e. spirits of the dead being found new bodies by our main character, Denny Little.  But things go awry when he gets mixed up with the mob. Y’know, the way you always do when you gain the power to communicate with the dead…

Ferrier and Kambadais don’t waste an inch of space here, putting out a really dense issue. But the story has promise, and the art has a nice charm to it. I can see myself following Denny for four issues.

TITLE: Action Comics #1018
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

I was actually dreading this issue. Simply because of John Romita Jr’s art.

Romita can be hit-or-miss as it is. But Action Comics #1018 has a rushed quality, as if the deadline was breathing down his neck. As such, the end product often looks awkward. Or worse, bush league.

Case in point, the way Superman is posed on the cover. What is that stance, exactly?

As this issue is partially about the Justice League fighting the Legion of Doom in the middle of Metropolis, this was a particularly bad time for a performance like this. Bad form, JRJR.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1018
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, David Baron (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Rafael Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and John Kalisz.
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

This dialogue in this issue is really awkward at times, which is not a problem Tomasi usually (if ever) has. For some reason, Batman is uncharacteristically chatty.

Case in point, he leaves a crime scene and says to the cops, “Got what I needed. Scene is immaculate. Left behind only my boot prints. Merry Christmas.”

Um…thanks?

On the plus side, Tomasi tugs at our heartstrings in his own special way by showing us Bruce spending his first holiday season without Alfred. Very reminiscent of the stuff he did on Batman and Robin all those years ago.

TITLE: Lois Lane #7 (of 12)
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2019

While I continue to love simply having that Greg Rucka, street-level aesthetic back at DC, I’m losing interest in the mystery of who’s trying to kill Lois Lane and why. Frankly, the subplot about the public believing she’s having an affair with Superman is far more interesting. I’m curious to see how Clark revealing his identity to the world will effect this story, if in fact they cross over.

The back and forth between Lois and Renee Montoya is fun. It’s obvious Rucka is happy to be working on his version of the Question once again.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Shazam!, Killadelphia, MMPR

***”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.***

***Author’s Note: If I display a variant cover, it’s because I purchased the issue in question with that cover.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Shazam! #8
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Michael Cho.
RELEASED: November 27, 2019

I’ve always admired the firm grasp Geoff Johns has on the less renowned DC characters like Green Lantern, the Teen Titans, and now Shazam. He can do anything…except get these books to come out on time.

This issue misses Dale Eaglesham, whose pencils have provided the sense of fun, adventure, and fantasy elements that define this book’s identity. Still, Scott Kolins is more than serviceable, especially during the scenes in the undead “Darklands” realm. Michael Atiyeh makes them very interesting from a color contrast standpoint. It’s like this bright red superhero has stepped into an old Universal monster movie.

TITLE: Killadelphia #1
AUTHOR: Rodney Barnes
ARTISTS:
Jason Shawn Alexander, LuisNCT (Colorist), Marshall Dillon (Letterer)
RELEASED:
November 27, 2019

I mean, c’mon. The title alone makes this worth a look.

If you’re into the stuff Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do, you’ll like Killadelphia. Or at least this first issue. It’s got a great pulp-noir-meets-horror feel. A second generation cop investigates the most bizarre case his famous father ever worked. What he uncovers is, as the book itself puts it, “There are vampires in Philadelphia.”

Best page in the book? When our main character opens a door, sees a bunch of vampires hanging from the ceiling, and runs away in terror when they give chase…

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #45
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli & Igor Monti (Color Assistants), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: November 27, 2019

“Necessary Evil” progresses nicely with a great “heel turn” this month. Parrott and Di Nicuolo are usually my guys as far as PR comics go. But one particular moment felt wrong…

There’s a scene where Zordon, talking to the Red Omega Ranger (Does he know it’s Jason?), says that Lord Zedd is formidable, yet “an adversary I was confident that they could handle.” While I’m sure this isn’t how Parrott meant this, that makes it sound like Zordon considers Zedd more of a nuisance than a threat. Didn’t he originally describe Zedd’s arrival as “the thing I have feared most”?

TITLE: Action Comics #1017
AUTHOR:
Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED:
November 27, 2019

On page one, panel one, we get a big dumb Batman robot suit. For me, that’s about the worst way to start an issue of anything.

This issue does a nice job forwarding the “Invisible Mafia” story as it crosses over with the “Year of the Villain” stuff. It looks like we’ve got a big Justice League vs. Legion of Doom fight coming at us next time.

Justice League hasn’t been on my pull list since “YOTV” started. *sigh* I suppose I should probably catch up if I’m going to fully grasp what’s happening with Lex  and the gang.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1016
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS:
Doug Mahnke, Tyler Kirkham (Co-Penciller and Co-Inker), Christian Alamy (Co-Inker), Keith Champagne (Co-Inker), Mark Irwin (Co-Inker), David Baron, (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 27, 2019

Ugh. There’s another stupid modified Batsuit in this issue. What happened to the Hellbat armor Tomasi used in Batman & Robin and Superman? Wouldn’t a modified version have worked here?

Bad costume notwithstanding, I love the way this Victor/Nora story ends. “A vicious circle,” as Batman calls it. Tomasi also works in an amazing callback to a New 52 event. Continuity, ladies and gentlemen. Use it well, and it’ll do wonders for you.

This story leaves Mr. Freeze’s status quo dramatically altered. Now it’s just a question of how long DC keeps it that way.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Spider-Man #2, Batman #81

*”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

TITLE: Spider-Man #2
AUTHORS:
J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS:
Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico (Inking Assistant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel and Dave Stewart. 
RELEASED:
October 16, 2019

Whether you like this J.J. Abrams stuff or not, I can say his name value got me to buy a Spider-Man comic again.

Ben Parker got into this dad’s old costume pretty quickly. But I buy his motivation: He does it to impress a girl. I mean, c’mon! He’s a ninth grade boy. That’s usually about as complex as their motivations get.

Sara Pichelli continues to turn in not just awesome art, but art that’s distinctly different from her work on Miles Morales. Needless to say, she’s become one of the definitive Spider-Man artists of this era.

TITLE: Batman #81
AUTHOR:
Tom King
ARTISTS:
John Romita Jr (Penciller), Klaus Janson (Inker), Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer) Mitch Gerads (Co-Penciller, Co-Inker, Co-Colorist)
RELEASED:
October 16, 2019

I’m not the world’s biggest Tony Daniel fan. But the switch from his art to John Romita Jr’s has been jarring.  The look and texture of the story has changed halfway through. That’s rarely a good thing.

When Tom King tries to pull the “Batman had a plan all along” card, my initial was, “I don’t buy it.” Also, King makes the Flashpoint Batman’s fighting prowess so exceptional it almost becomes cartoonish. Especially with how it’s executed.  Maybe these opinions will change once the story ends, or I have more time to absorb it. But for now, they’re losin’ me…

TITLE: Star Wars: Allegiance #2
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS: Luke Ross, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Marco Checchetto
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

I’m finding myself wanting more Kylo Ren in this book. Especially after reading that Snoke one-shot they put out a few weeks ago, where the two characters go to Dagobah. Still, I understand why they might not be able to do that, as we’re obviously building to the movie. We do, however, get to spend some quality time with Rey, which is nice.

We learn in this issue that Admiral Ackbar has a son, but only met him once because “his focus was elsewhere.” Apparently the only good dad in the galaxy was Bail Organa…

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #2
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell-Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Inks)
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

I’m digging this book so far. Attention-grabbing title aside, Tynion, Dell-Edera, and the rest of this team have started a great horror-mystery. It’s got kind of a Stephen King/YA novel/Twilight Zone feel to it.

As the mystery of this supernatural child-devouring menace unfolds, the book manages to entice the hell out of you with how gorgeously grotesque some of these things are. The intrigue there, along with our likable female anti-hero, makes it easy to come back for more.

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

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.

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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 #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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