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Has there been a comic series of such varying quality in recent memory?  I remember finishing the first issue of DK3 last November (no, that one before that) and being pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t an outright offensive mess.  Hardly a classic in the making, but it was a decent start to a series nobody was really asking for.

Things trudged along slowly, with little elements and characters being introduced to advance the story, but it was perhaps a bit too slow.  As such, the series started to run out of steam after just a few issues, and a switch to a bi-monthly shipping schedule didn’t help the almost glacial pace.  I was getting bored, and I have a feeling a lot of other readers were too.

Then, something magical happened: the book got nuts.  Not necessarily good, mind you, and the sporadic scheduling was still a bit of a black-eye that the series has yet to recover from, but man was that one issue entertaining.

But after that… nothing.  Four months passed until the next issue dropped, and it barely had any story to justify the length of a backup let alone the main narrative.  The Master Race had hit its nadir, and the decidedly lukewarm response reflected the public’s indifference.

Keeping up the trend of inconsistent quality, we now have the seventh issue.  It is by no means perfect, but it’s still a surprisingly enjoyable read with some truly great moments.

Like most of the other installments, this issue serves to propel the story along and set up an even bigger confrontation than the Gotham City showdown with the Kandorians.  The difference between this issue and the previous one is that it feels like the story is actually moving.  We see characters for the first time in months, and even if there are something like three or four different cliffhangers the plot finally feels like it has a direction.

With Batman gravely injured, his allies are in disarray.  Superman has taken his body to hopefully get him healed, and Carrie is none the wiser until a genuinely moving moment with Yindel.

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I may be in the minority for enjoying Kubert’s style here, but man if he doesn’t draw some great facial expressions this time around.  That shot of Carrie’s eye says more than any monologue could, and the look of sorrow and regret on Yindel’s face is just more proof that this series all but belongs to her.  It’s some quality visual storytelling.

Those two share the best scenes of the issue, as Carrie gains the confidence she needs and Yindel further understands the need for the Batman.  I’m growing more and more convinced that these two will be the leads before long, and if that’s the case I might be on board now.  I never really thought much of either Carrie or Yindel, but they’ve grown quite a lot over the course of this series.  Say what you want about the quality of the storytelling, there’s no denying these ladies are the best thing about it.

Let’s just give that costume another pass on the drafting table, Carrie.

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Quar and the Kandorians, having regrouped above the clouds, plot revenge against Superman, and the scene is pretty great for one reason: Baal’s stupid melted face.

Seriously, forget that guy.

Really though, Quar makes a threat that leads to the main cliffhanger of the issue, and based on #8’s solicit it’s looking to be a pretty exciting conflict. Wonder Woman finally makes another appearance, and while she’s more bloodthirsty and uncaring than I’m used to, the promise of Kandorians versus Amazons is pretty intriguing.  Lara being caught in the middle just ups the drama.

Green Lantern and the Atom make brief appearances as well.  They aren’t particularly memorable (though Hal does feature in the backup), but hey, at least we’ve caught up with them.  Little victories, right?

Amazingly enough, it’s Bruce’s story that’s the least interesting.  I liked Clark’s concern for his friend’s well-being, though some of his internal monologue was a tad too “mopey Superman” for me.  Considering he’s fearing for Bruce’s life, though, I can let it slide.  The disconnect I have with Bruce’s plight is that at this point, it’s already been done.  Multiple times.  So really, whether Bruce lives or dies, it will feel anticlimactic.  They’ve gone to this well so many times that the drama is all but lost.  There is a twist introduced in Clark’s solution that I’m curious to see play out, but really, Bruce can’t live or die at this point.  He faked his death in The Dark Knight Returns and we spent a good two issues thinking he was dead here, so at this point either outcome will just result in disappointment.

No matter.  This is pretty solid storytelling, and I enjoyed this issue more than I thought I would or probably even needed to.  The Master Race has my interest again.

Now let’s see what the citizens of Gotham think:

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Truly, the hero we need in these troubled times.

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“Strange” is right.

Wandering through the desert, Hal Jordan happens upon a man who claims to know what Hal is looking for.

And that’s his hand, of course.

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This is truly a bizarre backup, in that parts of it are relatively normal and others are just plain weird.  I like the little touch of having the hand and ring in a yellow box, which explains why Hal couldn’t reach out to and control the ring.  Once his hand starts crawling around is when things just get downright silly, going full-on Thing.

Hal is also watched over by… I guess it’s Hawkman and Hawkgirl?  It’s weird.  Their designs are weird.  It’s unclear if he can actually see them or if they’re truly “guardian angels,” which is also weird.

Bat-Mite makes an appearance as well, and actually figures in not one but two separate panels.  He’s green-hued, though, so is he a manifestation of the ring?  Is he just trying to show camaraderie with the Green Lantern?  I don’t know.  Who knows?  So weird!

It doesn’t look half bad either, which is a pleasant change.  I’ll cop the old joke of “it doesn’t look half good, either” which is also true, but parts of this backup look pretty good.  Hal cuts a fine figure, and the desert natives don’t look as rough as I’d expect from Frank.  It’s the Hawkpeople that bear the trademark unpleasantness, with sloppy line work and just weird designs.  This is one of the better backups as far as the storytelling goes, but it still bears the sloppy visual style that takes away from the goodwill that the narrative earns.

BONUS: Here’s my favorite variant, this time from Howard Chaykin and Jesus Aburto.

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Just the lightheartedness of this image was refreshing.  It may not be the best illustrated variant (though it certainly isn’t close to the worst), but it’s the most memorable and the one that stuck out to me the most.

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been reading thus far.
  • You’re holding out hope that this story will go somewhere.
  • You want to be surprised at how pretty ok this issue is.
  • Bababooey, chums.

Overall: The best this book has been in months.  It may not be necessary, this series may be a cash grab, but this issue is at least worth reading.  At this point I’m much more interested in the secondary characters than I am the Dark Knight himself, and the series’ strength is in those subplots and the supporting cast.  The Master Race looks to be going in some interesting directions and has my attention once more.  And really, at this point that’s saying something.

SCORE: 7/10