DKTMR 2 coverWith all the action surrounding the holiday season, you can forgive me for not actually reading last week’s release of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2 until last night. Yes, I was anxious to read it. I loved the first issue – our review of which you can find here. I just wasn’t able to get to it sooner. Chalk it up to life’s obligations.

Which is a fitting obligation, I suppose, as that is also Batman’s pre-eminent responsibility: fighting crime. Until his bitter end.

Which, we’re told in last month’s issue, already happened.

Bruce Wayne is dead. Carrie Kelly is now wearing the cowl and cape. Superman and Wonder Woman have a super-powered (and willful) teenage daughter. And there’s a rising threat.

Follow me after the jump for a brief review of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2 and to discover some answer to last month’s oft-asked questions!

So far, Dark Knight III: The Master Race (better, or more quickly, known as DKIII) has been an enjoyable, if slow burn. It has much to live up to, of course, with the mid 1980’s publication of the four-part Batman: The Dark Knight Returns being a high watermark in the pantheon of sequential storytelling. Truly, the series of “Dark Knight” stories from writer/artist Frank Miller, has become a sort of series of else-world tales – reimagining’s of classic characters, put into different times, or predicaments without the drowning food of decades of continuity (and marketing) to hold them back from further interpretation and characterization.

Aided by writer Brian Azzarello and illustrator Andy Kubert, Frank Miller’s DKIII, is an examination of a future world where superheroes are Gods and mankind is something beneath them. At least, that’s the way the story seems to be headed. It’s in the title, after all: “The Master Race”. And, truthfully, no one is very certain at how involved Miller is in this work, other than story ideas and his name in the book’s credits. (But that’s an editorial for after the work is fully published.)

In issue #2, we see Carrie Kelly (who was once a young Robin and now seems to be Batman), escape from police custody using all of the tricks that Batman would be known to use: precise planning, knowledge of enemy activities and proclivities, explosives, and, of course, the giant, larger-than-life Bat-tank from the original Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series. It was great to see this particular vehicle in action again. And it’s with no less awe that artist Andy Kubert draws it, launching, crashing and staring down police cruisers, than how Frank Miller employed those visuals in the original series, all those decades ago.

Meanwhile, at the request of Kara (Superman and Wonder Woman’s daughter), Dr. Ray Palmer (better known as the superhero, the Atom) is working on restoring the miniaturized inhabitants of the bottled city of Kandor to their rightful size.

DKIII QuarThis particular Supergirl is already one that seems aloof and willful and it’s interesting to hear Dr. Palmer mention her as being notably less human than her alien father. She responds to his half-veiled jest by reminding him that she was raised by her mother, an Amazon – a statement that deepens a mystery and begs a question: who is “The Master Race” in this story? One begins to wonder if Kara may not play the antagonist in future issues.

In any case, the hubris of the Atom succeeds in finally restoring the Kandorians to their normal size – but he soon realizes the grievous mistake he made. Most of the thousands of friendly alien Kandorians are restored dead, murdered at the hands of a religious sect who are now whole and, under a yellow sun, have the same powers of the Kyrptonian Superman! “Oh God” says Palmer and the cult’s leader, Quar, acknowledges that designation. The shrunken Atom then dies under the boot of a once-friendly Kandorian and Quar astonishingly incinerates the rest of the bottled city of Kandor with his newly acquired heat vision.

The Master Race indeed. That leaves at least one question answered.

As for the elephant in the room: whether the original Batman is alive or dead – that question is shockingly and thankfully answered in the last panel of the issue.

At his bat cave console, an aged Bruce Wayne is indeed alive – and like when at his crime-fighting peak, he’s certainly been planning.

DKIII #2 was an engaging second chapter of a larger story. It’s interesting to compare the original against this new series, as each 48-page issue of the original series was a sort of self-contained story, full of characterization and a larger plot. That’s not happening here in DKIII. As already mentioned, its story is a slower burn, drawn out over a number of issues, and, although it’s relatively less artistically successful than the mid-eighties tale (what could possibly be better?) it’s still a fascinating, page turning read. I know I want to know what’s going to happen next. Battle lines, surely, will be drawn. The superhero “Gods” of earth, Superman and Wonder Woman, will surely be intrinsically involved. As will the original Batman: nothing but a man, but omnipotent in his desire for justice.

Still, why did Carrie Kelly allow herself to be captured? And why lie about the death of Bruce Wayne?

Wonder Woman Risso artThe mini-comic inserted inside this particular issue showcases the relationship between Wonder Woman and her teenage daughter, Kara. As you’d expect, the Amazonian legend has just as many problems with parenting as any non-powered human. Also written by Brian Azzarello and Frank Miller, and illustrated by Eduardo Risso, it fits into the overall story in every visual sense – not only because Risso’s style employs the heavy use of shadows and light, which is akin to Frank Miller’s artwork, but he’s also inked by Klaus Janson, the unifying art force throughout the DKIII visuals. It’s a really nice chapter, a sort of Director’s Cut scene that adds any perceived missing characterization of the larger story.

Next month brings us issue #3. More questions I’m sure, will be answered as the plot, and the enemy, moves forward with full force. See you then for another review!

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