Think back to November 2015. That was about 18 months ago. A year and a half. Feels like a lifetime, doesn’t it?
Think about all that’s happened in those 18 months. Not just in the world, but in your personal life. That’s a lot of time for a lot of changes. On the Batman/comic book/media front alone we’ve had three DC Comics movies, the end of the New-52 and the beginning of Rebirth, and I’ve personally reviewed something like four miniseries that have since come and gone.
We have also gotten eight issues of Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Try as I might, I can’t think of the material that filled those right issues. I remember the basic events and the plot, of course, but I can’t recall anything that would warrant a 500 hundred page count narrative.
There’s barely anything here to fill the thirty or so pages of the main story. Truly, this issue is effectively one long, long scene.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything here that works. Even if very little actually happens, it’s a quick, sometimes gripping read. The heroes confront Quar and his diminishing legions in the arid desert, and I was genuinely surprised at some of the clever ways the renegade Kandorians were brought down. Bruce lets the army make quick work of themselves by calling in hordes and hordes of bats in a scene that’s almost comical in how macabre it is. When a majority of his soldiers wish to wash their hands of Earth and make their home elsewhere, Quar stays true to form and eliminates the mutineers himself. It’s cold-blooded and reactionary, a rage-induced fit that may very well have cost Quar any chance of winning.
Quar and his Kandorian army have been strange as villains. They’re the titular “Master Race,” sure, but there’s been very little depth to them. I don’t need to know their tragic back stories or anything, but even as a race of superpowered psychos I never felt like they were a genuine threat. Even after “killing” Bruce they still felt like generic bad guys, maybe a step or two above faceless aliens or robots. Their presence and actions did very little to change the status quo, so even at their most cartoonishly evil they’re ultimately forgettable.
And then… Clark.
I’ve made it clear that I don’t like glowy-eyes angry Superman. It’s an overused image rarely serves the character well. Not to say Supes should be happy-go-lucky all the time, it’s just that anger and rage shouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Superman.
Still, even I can’t deny the catharsis in seeing Superman just let loose on these beings of equal power. Even Bruce is shocked at Clark’s efficiency, commenting on the surgical precision of his friend’s attacks. After complaints of Clark being too passive or timid (or worse) in Miller’s works, it’s rewarding to see him get something accomplished. Kubert’s pencils, often criticized for being sloppy in this series, are still a bit rough in this sequence, but it works in its favor. Superman is an almost imperceptible blur, flying back and forth between the rogue Kryptonians to dispatch them with almost terrifying ease. While I don’t always want this from Superman, it’s a definite high point of the finale.
In the end, though, the resolution is too neat, too quick, and too anticlimactic. I will say that the final fate of Quar’s remaining troops made me laugh out loud, finally bringing a resolution to Ray Palmer’s story, but with so few stakes nothing would have been truly satisfying. Even Quar’s end doesn’t amount to much, though it does contain one of the best illustrated pages of the entire series.
What’s almost laughable is how little Batman does in this book. There are certain things he does to set plans in motion that make it to where he isn’t completely useless, but he does veer dangerously close to Indiana Jones territory in how little his presence effects the outcome. There was the play with the bats, so that’s something, but ultimately this is Superman and the Atom’s show.
In the end, there is almost nothing that changes in the status quo. The fate of Ellen Yindel is still a mystery, as it is frustratingly not touched upon at all, and Green Lantern is wandering around with a creepy floating hand, but that’s about it. The biggest change is in having Bruce become young again,resetting the clock so he could realistically continue to have adventures. I almost wish he hadn’t survived, as the series would at least have a point, but no. Batman lives to fight another day.
All of this builds to a final splash page that pays homage to one of the most iconic images in Batman lore. Personally, I don’t think it was earned, and like this series at its worst it feels like an example of taking something that you like and just repackaging it. It’s a familiar image, striking in its own way, but it rings relatively hollow when it should be moving.
In the end, as a series, Dark Knight III: The Master Race has very little to say. Besides a few interesting character beats there’s very little of consequence in its too long nine issue run. It’s not the genre-defining classic that is The Dark Knight Returns, it isn’t laughably and offensively infuriating like The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and it doesn’t have the surprising emotion of the Last Crusade one-shot. The Master Race is a sequel that nobody really wanted that seems to exist solely to set up even more stories. Given how forgettable this venture was, though, does anybody even want a part four?
Like many epilogues, “Action Comics” here has more actual story than the main narrative.
As I said earlier, very little happens to change the status quo. Pretty much every heroic character survives and gets at least a few panels devoted to them here.
Amazingly enough, the artwork starts out pretty solid. The first few pages from Frank actually look pretty nice, with good proportions and some nice details.
Until, you know, it doesn’t.
That’s only, like, the fifth worst image, by the way.
The best I can say is that everything ends on a positive, even hopeful note. The series as a whole was a disappointment, dragging on far too long and ultimately amounting to nothing. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little moved at Superman finally connecting with his daughter.
Whether I remember most of this series is beside the point. I may not have enjoyed the whole journey, but I did like a few stops along the way.
BONUS: A slew of variant covers, per usual. Here are my favorites, per usual:
- You’ve been reading the whole series.
- You just have to know how this ends.
- I mean, it wasn’t awful, and some of those variants are pretty great.
Overall: After a long year and a half journey it’s finally over. There have been a few highs and several lows, and the average ending doesn’t do much to redeem The Master Race. With so few stakes and the promise of another possible sequel this series isn’t entirely rewarding, feeling like a continuation just for its own sake rather than a story that needed to be told. Still, there’s some good here, like some surprisingly gripping action scenes and the genuinely moving conclusion. I didn’t love it as a whole, but there were just enough parts to like that it didn’t feel like a total waste.