Still Master Of His Domain?
♦ Tripwire’s editor-in-chief dons his cowl, practices his scowl and takes a look at Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race, out now in hardcover from DC…
Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race
Writers: Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
Artists: Andy Kubert & Klaus Janson, Frank Miller, Eduardo Risso
Colourist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Clem Robins
It was just over thirty years ago when The Dark Knight Returns came out. I can still remember picking it up from one of the comic shops in the West End and it felt like nothing else that had come before. Its four volume story resonated throughout the industry and it cemented Frank Miller’s reputation. Fifteen years later, we had The Dark Knight Strikes Again, a sequel that played a lot more fast and loose with the story than its progenitor and while it had its moments, it didn’t hold together as well as the first series. So fast forward to 2016 and the industry is treated to the third Dark Knight series, Master Race, presumably a nod to Bernie Krigstein’s seminal EC story. Collected in hardcover this month now that the individual series has ended, Master Race is a better story that The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Bringing in Brian Azzarello to script it and getting Andy Kubert, inked by Klaus Janson, a direct connection to The Dark Knight Returns, means that the storytelling is tight and the art has an old school comic feel to it. Kubert and Janson are a good match and Andy Kubert feels like a modern version of his late, much-missed father Joe with art filled with flourish and energy. Azzarello is also one of the best comic writers of the past twenty years and he is able to channel Miller’s hardbitten superhero dialogue while putting a spin on it which shows a direct lineage between this and the work he has done on series like 100 Bullets.
But there is a flaw at the heart of Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race. Actually there are a couple of flaws to be honest. When the original issues were published, as well as the main story, DC included a minicomic they called Dark Knight Universe Presents which were mostly drawn by Frank Miller. Unfortunately though without the tight inks of someone like Klaus Janson, Miller’s art in 2017 looks ugly and inconsistent. There are occasional sparks of his old style but they are too few.
The other problem here is that, while Master Race is definitely a better tale than The Dark Knight Strikes Again, where we are introduced to a world without Batman with a new threat in the shape of Superman’s fellow Kryptonians and his grown up daughter, it still doesn’t quite have the punch and drama of The Dark Knight Returns.
The hardcover is a hefty and well-designed book although it may have felt like a more complete volume if it had included some of the variant covers that DC commissioned for the series.
Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race is an entertaining enough read but it does fall prey to the law of diminishing returns. Apparently the next Miller DC project will be a Superman: Year One graphic novel with art by John Romita Jr and perhaps it is time now for Miller to call it a day with the Dark Knight as it feels like he’s not got anything new to say about him anymore.
Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race is out now in hardcover from DC.