Tag Archives: The Dark Knight Returns

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 #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 #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 #40 Review – Dead Again

Batman #40, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #40
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 29, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #40 and the Endgame storyline.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not as big a fan of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman run as a lot of comic book readers. But no one can deny they’ve got big, ballsy ideas. The Court of Owls, Flappy Face Joker, Zero Year, etc. For better or worse, they’re willing to take risks.

Hell, the finale to their Endgame story was so big and ballsy neither Batman or The Joker survived it.

When we open Batman #40, The Dark Knight and his surrogate family have teamed up with the likes of The Penguin, Killer Croc, Bane, and other foes to fight back against The Joker and his deadly virus that has turned most of Gotham into sadistic laughing zombies. But in the end, it all comes down to Batman and The Joker, in a fight that will irrevocably change Gotham City forever…Or not. Maybe they’ll be back in three months. This is a mainstream superhero comic, right?

Batman #40, Batman vs. Joker, Greg CapulloWhile I am fairly critical of the run Snyder and Capullo have had since the New 52 reboot, it’s tough to deny the quality of Capullo’s work. His art has a visceral quality that often sticks with you for awhile. That’s very much on display in the brutal and bloody fight we see hero and villain engage in here. It’s very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s work in The Dark Knight Returns, to which Snyder and Capullo have paid tribute time and time again during their run. Interestingly enough, the Returns fight ended with the Joker having a Batarang in his eye, and the Endgame fight it’s Batman with a playing card in the eye.

The sheer ugliness of the fight was unexpected. But it does fit the idea of The Joker finally taking the gloves off and coming after his “former friend” with everything he’s got. In terms of Mr. J, Capullo does a fantastic job bringing him across the emotional spectrum. From sheer joy, to rage, to desperation. The character is rendered with such bulbous yellow eyes and these shark-like rows of gigantic teeth. This is why Capullo is one of the defining Batman artists of the last decade.

Batman #40, Greg Capullo, JokerThe issue revolves around Batman trying to extract a chemical called dionesium from The Joker’s spine. Dionesium is among the substances that has allowed characters like Vandal Savage and Ra’s al Ghul to live as long as they have. The idea is that after Death of the Family, Joker found a large pool of it in the caves under Gotham, which healed him and restored his face. As a plot point, this is fine. The man cut his own face off. There was obviously going to be some kind of magic comic book cure for him. What I don’t like is the way Endgame makes a mystery out of whether The Joker is this mysterious mythical figure called “The Pale Man,” who’s been around for centuries. In earlier issues we see Joker pop up in old photos, which is never entirely explained. And even at the very end, when the idea has been disproven, Batman mocks him for it.

I understand what Snyder is going for here in terms of The Joker’s cause, and the idea that a mere mortal like Batman can’t control the endless, eternal chaos and randomness of our world. But I dislike the notion that Batman and The Joker aren’t equals on the mortal playing field. These two characters both stand for something very powerful, and very human. The fact that they’re both mere men is important, because it plays into the relatability of their ideals. In theory, anyone could be Batman or The Joker, not because they don’t have super powers, but because they’ve both made very real, very human choices about their lives. Making The Joker an immortal character tarnishes a portion of that human element.

Batman #40, two-page spreadPlus, we all knew he wasn’t “The Pale Man” anyway. So why waste time on it in an otherwise intriguing and compelling story?

There’s also a nitpick I can’t resist here: Why is The Penguin involved in street fight (shown left)? If he’s firing off a bunch of trick umbrella gimmicks, that’s one thing. But he appears to just be fighting like everybody else. That’s a little out of his element, isn’t it? Just sayin’…

Flaws notwithstanding, Batman #40 is a nice finale to the Endgame story, which of course takes us into the whole “Robot Suit Batman” thing they’re starting soon (We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.) We can all make whatever arguments we want about whether it’s a quality issue or not. But for obvious reasons, it’s got historic value.

Image 1 from blastr.com. Images 2 and 3 from newsarama.com.

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