The Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2: “Book Two”

Written by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello

Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Inked by Klaus Janson

Colored by Brad Anderson

Lettered by Clem Robins

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Here’s a surprise: Commissioner Ellen Yindel may be the most interesting, sympathetic character in this whole affair.

I never thought I’d type those words, considering she was set up from the beginning as an antagonistic oppositional force: she took over from the beloved Jim Gordon, and so hated vigilantism that her first act as police commissioner was issuing a warrant for the Batman’s arrest.

She isn’t evil, but was she positioned as somebody we should root for.  And yet, after the events this issue… she may have a point.

Picking up where the previous issue left off, Carrie Kelley is in police custody after masquerading as the Batman and assaulting police officers.  Other than “Bruce Wayne is dead,” she hasn’t said anything, despite Yindel’s best efforts.

After twenty-seven days, once Yindel puts into perspective just how long Carrie will be in prison, she cracks.

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Carrie recounts the story of the death of Bruce Wayne, how his body was broken after fighting the “toad of a man” Lex Luthor.

But not fully destroyed, see.

Interestingly enough, it all bit omits his confrontation with “Dick.”  This book may still be tainted by the events of its immediate predecessor, but ignoring the massive violation of Dick’s character goes a long way to redeem it.

Per Carrie, Bruce clung to life for three years, all the while regaling her with tales of his more heroic youth.  Eventually, Bruce became almost melancholic, wondering if he’d made a difference, questioning his purpose.

Carrie takes this as a rallying cry to continue with the crusade, as they both call it, ultimately leading to her arrest.

This sequence is interesting in a few ways, not the least bit being how low-key it is.  For several pages we just see Carrie and Bruce sitting in a large, windowed room, the former constantly in tears, the latter bandaged and hooked up to various tubes and machines.  Considering how bombastic this story has gotten over the past two volumes, it’s refreshing to see a quiet narrative passage.  It’s a tad melodramatic, sure, but still nice.

Also interesting are the visuals, which has Andy Kubert at his Milleriest.

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That’s just as unpleasant to look at now as it was in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, made even more so by the fact that it’s actually skillfully drawn.  Some of Kubert’s work is absolutely gorgeous, especially those Klaus Janson ink-heavy pages, but man when he wants it to look rough he succeeds.

Once Carrie finishes her tale, Yindel asks what she did with the body.  In her own words: she ate it.

After that, I started sympathizing with Yindel more and more.  She had that great scene in from of the Batsignal in the previous issue, and it’s clear she’s just a woman doing her job.  She has the best line in the book, too:

most of the folks who… support the concept of Batman are in bed before the tights go on.

In regular continuity, that would indicate someone who just doesn’t understand the good Batman has done.  To an extent, that’s still true, as Yindel isn’t acknowledging how Batman has saved Gotham and the world even since she became commissioner.  The Batman in this universe, however, has become increasingly more of a sociopath (or psychopath; I confuse the two) and has even dragged this girl down with him.

In a way, Miller and Azzarello are almost painting Batman as the villain of his own book, which could actually work for its benefit if handled correctly.  Rather than ignoring everything he’s done up to this point, Bruce has become a danger to the very society he set out to save.  I may be reading too much into it, but if nothing else it’s got me thinking about this narrative on multiple levels.

And what would this book be without another standoff with the police, right?
And what would this book be without another standoff with the police, right?

Whether Carrie and the legend of Bruce Wayne get dragged through the mud or become the real heroes of the book remain to be seen, but we finally get a glimpse into what the latter half of the title refers to.  From here on out I’m going to discuss some spoilery material, so stop reading if you want to stay fresh.

•SPOILERS FOLLOW•

Ray Palmer, the best part of TDKSA and subject of his own backup story in the first issue, has been working tirelessly to finally solve the problem of Kandor.  Working with Baal, a young Kandorian scientist, Ray thinks he has the solution to what was long considered Superman’s first great failure.  He powers his device up, and…

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Initially, it’s a beautiful, almost touching scene that grows much more sinister and unsettling the longer you take it in.

Ray has unwittingly released a cult of superhumans on the world, led by their “savior” Quar, who literally has blood on his hands.

The buildup to this reveal was handled remarkably well, I have to admit, and we see just enough of this group to be left uneasy: the aforementioned Quar, the bodies lying about, the truly disturbing look of joy on Baal’s face.  Once again, time will tell just how effective this “master race” will be, but their introduction can’t be beat.

With Ray’s fate left up in the air, there’s one final scene with Carrie to close out the issue.  I won’t outright say what the final image is before putting it in spoiler tags, but suffice it to say it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone.

Spoiler

[caption id="attachment_25286" align="alignnone" width="640"]UhhhhWHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAT??!?!??!?!! UhhhhWHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAT??!?!??!?!![/caption]

Ok, maybe a little surprising after Carrie’s… delightful story, but still.

•END SPOILERS•

This month’s backup story, Dark Knight Universe Presents: Wonder Woman, takes a look at Diana’s relationship with her daughter Lara.  While there’s a fairly nice fight scene between the two, as a standalone story it’s relatively pointless.  It could have easily been condensed and distributed through the main story and nothing would have been lost.  If this keeps up, that will be disappointing, as I really like the idea of a secondary story detailing different characters and locales.  Unfortunately, with last month’s Atom story and this one here, it’s looking like an excuse to just charge a bit more for the book.

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It does give a little more insight into Lara’s personality and identity, hinting that she may be torn in the upcoming conflict with the Master Race, and Eduardo Risso’s pencils evoke Miller’s style while still retaining his own personality and energy, so it isn’t all bad, just unnecessary.

The length is my main problem with this book, to be honest.  I know they want to get as much as they can out of it, but the first two issues would have flown so much better had they been one volume.  Andrew pointed out that even though Strikes Again was the hottest of garbage, at least each installment felt worthy of its price tag and had enough material to chew on.  This series is streets ahead of that one, don’t get me wrong, but six bucks is pretty steep.

Aside from that, for a series that could have gone so many wrong places, two issues in I’m actually enjoying this story.  It isn’t high art, and there are certainly problems that have spilled over from the previous books, but as a crazy non-canon story I’m at least intrigued.  Bring on more.

BONUS: Like the first issue, this one shipped with a number of variant covers.  Unlike the previous issue, there weren’t, like, a thousand of them.

This one from Eduardo Risso is my personal favorite:

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Recommended if: 

  • You’re at the very least curious.
  • You love this universe.
  • Or you like this universe.
  • Or you just want to wash the bad taste of TDKSA out of your mouth.
  • Let’s face it, that cliffhanger last month needed resolution, whether you’ll like it or not.

Overall: I’m not going to shower this with endless praise, but it’s tighter and surprisingly more thought-provoking than it could have been.  It looks good more often than not, and it reads more like old-school Frank than anything he’s been involved with for at least fifteen years.  If nothing else, I’m intrigued to see where the Dark Knight goes from here and what the Master Race has in store.  It may not address the questions I’m asking, but at least right now it’s making me ask them to begin with.

SCORE: 7/10