Review – Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 (DC Comics)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: DC Comics
Story: Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello
Art: Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson
Release Date: 25th November, 2015

One of the most attention-grabbing new titles of 2015, for both positive and negative reasons, the third (and perhaps final?) instalment of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight” series hit shelves today, and the one question we all had to ask was… just which Frank Miller were we going to see? Would it be the finely tuned, razor-sharp Miller of the iconic Dark Knight Returns, or the muddled Miller of the woefully disappointing, oddly experimental Dark Knight Strikes Back? Well, I’m happy to report that while it doesn’t quite hit the lofty heights of the classic original, this is still a thoroughly entertaining opening chapter, with an intriguing mystery at its heart and some truly impressive artwork to boot.

Interestingly, the status of Miller’s involvement is actually uncertain at this point, with him recently distancing himself somewhat from the series and effectively putting the ball in co-writer Brian Azzarrello’s court. That said, whether Miller is actively involved or not, his fingerprints are most definitely all over this first issue, with Azzarello and artist Andy Kubert each channelling the classic Miller style, both in terms of the narrative and the distinctive visual beats.

Kubert’s artistic style is far more polished than Miller’s earlier work, which makes this first issue a somewhat smoother read, while – arguably – sacrificing some of the grit and emotion. His panel layouts pay homage to the iconic design of the original Dark Knight titles, but he makes sure to add his own distinctive visual flair to the proceedings, showing a masterful grasp of detail and anatomy (something Miller occasionally lacked) during the issue’s many physical altercations. Klaus Janson’s inks also add a much-needed familiarity, making this feel like a Dark Knight book, albeit a cleaned-up and slightly sanitised one.

I’m not going to delve too much into the story itself for risk of spoiling the impact, but suffice to say that we manage to check in with the two other members of the DC “Trinity” along the way, and that the mystery of Batman’s disappearance – and apparent return – provides the main narrative thrust of this first issue. The pacing is measured, with Azzarello displaying a light touch with the exposition and allowing Kubert to carry the bulk of the storytelling with his claustrophobic, bone-crunching fight scenes.  Definitely a wise choice, especially given the eight-issue duration of the series.

Overall then, for a book that managed to have both dizzyingly high and worryingly low expectations, DKIII: The Master Race explodes out of the gate with a barnstorming first issue that manages to capture the edge and intriguing of the original while avoiding the heavy-handed political agenda of its sequel. Pats on the back for all involved then, and consider me firmly on board for the rest of this series.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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