Dark Knight III: The Master Race #5
Written by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
Art by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Frank Miller, Brad Anderson and Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by DC Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
With theKandorians holding the Earth hostage, Bruce Wayne has a big problem on his hands — and he can only get by with the help of his Super-Friends. Despite its occasionally violent veneer, Dark Knight III: The Master Race’s focus on its sidekicks as well as the reunion of Aquaman, the Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman smacks of nostalgia more than outrage, as Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, and Klaus Janson’s fifth issue cements what this series is going to be — a superhero team-up more in the spirit of a Silver Age story than a continuation of the seminal Dark Knight story that redefined Batman and superhero comics for decades.
At the core of the story, Miller and Azzarello are aiming towards the confrontation of the Super-Daughters, Carrie Kelly and Lara, but the writers are taking their time getting there as the story continues to focus on their aging progenitors. As they set up the two young and strong women, creating comparisons and contrasts to their paternal figures, theses two appear to be on a collision course similar to Batman and Superman’s in The Dark Knight Returns. Miller and Azzarello are playing with the Silver Age concepts of the children of Batman and Superman succeeding them but in those halcyon days, it was supposed to be Robin and a young Superboy, not two girls. Carrie has all of the drive and determination of her mentor, but Lara, the offspring of an alien and an Amazon, struggles to find a people that will accept her. Is she an Earthling, an Amazon, or a Kryptonian? Lara’s struggle continues into the Miller-drawn minicomic included with this comic. Flirting with one of the Kandorians, Lara’s true isolation and naivete take center stage as this new Superwoman has few of the morals or values of either her father or her mother.
Too often in this issue, Miller and Azzarello force Kubert and Janson to draw sequences that call back to Miller’s storytelling in The Dark Knight Returns and also its sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Iconic moments from Miller’s original foray into the Dark Knight’s world like the first appearance of the Batmobile, the ugly fight with the Mutants’ leader or even the climactic battle with Superman are echoed in this issue, showing just how capable of an artist Kubert is while also demonstrating that he is not allowed to put his own mark on this Batman story. Kubert and Janson’s imagery gets more exciting the further they are allowed to move away from the main story, such as in a deep sea sequence early in the issue which might be one of the most evocative things that Kubert has ever done. Their depiction of Aquaman’s dark world and creatures, for example, is breathtakingly original in ways that their callbacks to Miller’s work feel forced and simply remixed.
Usually judging a book by expectations from past works is unfair to the creators, but so much of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #5 is designed to recall those past works that there is no way to avoid comparisons. The last page itself is actually pretty laughable because of the power and emotional depths of the comics that it homages are completely missing in this series. While bits like a kneecapped Barry Allen or the Kandorians holding Earth hostage might prove a mild shock to casual readers, this issue — and really, the whole series so far — is missing any of the bite and anger that Miller and Azzarello have put into any of their past Batman work. That lack of anger-bordering-on-contempt that Miller and Azzarello have had for these superheroes makes for a fairly harmless story that lacks any relevance in the story being told through the pretty Kubert/Janson artwork. In the place of the memorable past work of these creators is a story that’s a fun diversion that barely belongs in the same class as The Dark Knight Returns. DKIII is turning out to be one of the best World’s Finest stories that DC Comics has ever produced.
All of the politics and rage of Miller and Azzarello’s story is purely surface level, which is really the biggest disappointment of this issue when you consider the pedigree of these two writers. Harkening back more to the innocent spirit of the 1950s than the grim-and-gritty 1980s, Dark Knight III: The Master Race #5, Miller and Azzarello’s writing is fairly unambitious toward triggering any fanboy buttons that both writers have been known to push often in the past. And while Kubert and Janson are perfectly capable of recreating beats of classic comic books, it’s only the rare instances where the artists are allowed to create their own moments where Dark KnightIII: The Master Race #5 gets to be anything other than a pastiche of an old-fashioned team-up comic book.