Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

The good news?  You can immediately tell that Brian Azzarello is involved here.

I mean, immediately.  The cold opening involves a kid texting his friend that he's seen Batman, and it's the first sign that someone has managed to restrain Miller.  Their conversation is initially a little difficult to read (you have to sound out "Cn" to get "seen"), but you eventually get it.  It's essentially like "shock" in the Marvel 2099 Universe.  But, you can also tell that Miller would've taken it too far, somehow.  This entire sequence would've been impossible to understand, simply because Miller would've used the texting format as a license to be incomprehensible.

I'm glad to say that this erring on the side of comprehension continues throughout the issue.  The grand ideas are all there:  Carrie has replaced Bruce and appears on the scene attacking cops, Yindel is completely disillusioned as Commissioner, Superman has mysteriously been frozen, and Wonder Woman is ruling Themyscira while toting around the son that she had with Superman.  It's high concept.  But, the fact that I can explain the status quo as clearly as I did there is a testament to the fact that this series is a significant improvement over "The Dark Knight Strikes Again."

By making the broad outlines of the story already clear, it makes it that much more exciting trying to tease out the details.  Superman and Wonder Woman's daughter, Lara, visits the Fortress of Solitude, where he's encased in ice.  She wonders to herself "Why did you let the ants knock you from the sky?," and we're obviously left wondering how he got in this situation.  At the end of "The Dark Knight Strikes Again," Miller leaves his fate perhaps the most unclear.  He seems to have bought into Lara's exhortations that he stop seeing mankind as something to serve, but to rule.  Did Bruce have to put him on ice, literally?  Adding to the possibility that the main threat of this series will be the Kryptonians (possibly the master race of the title), Lara finds the bottled city of Kandor in the Fortress.  In a brilliantly packaged small "issue" inserted into the larger issue, Lara brings Kandor to the Atom to be enlarged.  What could Lara do with ten million full-sized Kryptonians?  I've got some ideas.  But, our biggest mystery is left for the Bat-family.  Carrie seems to be in a feral state when Yindel finds her attacking the cops.  When she asks her where Bruce is, she cryptically responds, "Bruce Wayne is dead."

The hard part about rating this issue is that it comes with so much history.  Is it amazing, because I want it to be amazing?  Is it exciting simply because it's not awful?  In the end, I gave it three stars because I'm actually happy that it's just solid.  It sets up the story, builds up the mystery, and sets a mood.  Kubert, Janson, and Anderson make it dark and moody when it needs to be, like when the texting kid runs through the rain-drenched streets, and colorful and grandiose when it needs to be, like when Diana defeats a rampaging monster threatening a local Themyscira tribe.  It takes a world that had seen its foundations undermined in the last outing and gives it the stability that it was missing.  As such, I'm happy to give it three stars, and I'm hoping to give later issues more.

*** (three of five stars)

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