DC Comics will launch a new line of comics titled Dark Matter spinning out of the previously announces Dark Nights: Metal event. The titles will include a new version of The Challengers of The Unknown by Scott Snyder & Andy Kubert with additional series by James Tynion IV & Jim Lee, Dan Abnett & John Romita Jr, Dan Didio, Justin Jordan, Justin Jordan’s beard & Kenneth Rocafort, Robert Vendetti & Tondy Daniels. More details at EW
Nothing But Comics is about to hit our two-year mark and in observance of the site’s anniversary, every Tuesday from now until we finish, one of our staff members will list off their favorite series, runs or issues of all time. This week it’s Dean. Continue reading Tuesday Top Ten: All Time Favorites Dean
By Frank Miller, Brian Azzerallo, Andy Kubert, Brad Anderson, Klaus Janson, Clem Robins
The Dark Knight 3: The Master Race is one of the most challenging comics I’ve read in a while. For reference, it beat out Miracle-Man. But that was written by Alan Moore, I go in expecting not to understand 40-60% of what goes on. Frank Miller, for better or worse, I think I can understand well enough. It’s plain to see for everyone though that this book is not a “Frank Miller book”.
Parts of it feel like Miller while other parts are more Azzerallo and discerning the difference between the two is an ongoing process. For example, the portrayal of Carrie Kelly. In Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Carrie was a young, spirited girl who become Batman’s assistant through sheer gumption. In his sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Carrie shed the Robin mantle to become Cat-Girl while at the same time becoming much more sexualized . While the latter is unfortunate, the former showed her independence as well as her acknowledgement of a female idol. In this series, she goes from pretending to be Batman to becoming Robin again. I feel pretty safe in attributing that to Brian Azzerallo.
In this issue, Batman and Robin travel to the Arctic to convince Superman the world, and his daughter, need him to defeat a group of homicidal Kryptonians from Kandor. As they travel the planet demanding total obedience, shutting down our communications grid that blinds us to the horrors of the real world, members also question Patriarchal power structures and the heroes who defend it. It’s a bonkers plot that sounds like Miller’s brainchild, but the way its handled, tactful, feels very much like Azzerallo.
On art, Kubert’s pencils act as a spiritual successor to The Dark Knight Returns . While not always consistent, his work here is much better than previous books and very solid. With Anderson’s colors and Janson’s inks, this book feels like enough of a tribute to the past while still being contemporary enough to stand next to other Batman books on the shelves. Some panels feel incomplete or unfinished, like cityscapes, but Kubert keeps the human figures proportioned well enough without feeling like a hasty scribble. The Green Lantern short at the end of the issue feels very sketchy and not in a good way. It’s not horrible, but Green Lantern’s age looks like it jumps from 12 to 22. His legs at times look like large mannequin appendages and his posture looks still even when floating in the air.
Dark Knight 3 The Master Race is not the train-wreck it could’ve been, though now I’m increasingly curious what Scott Snyder’s imprint would’ve resulted in. How it stands now is an occasionally thoughtful mediation on our current political climate without casting harsh judgments, while attempting to realign its fallen heroes back to their potential as watchful protectors of humanity.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent
I’ve read the debut issue in the third installment of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight saga at least five times and I’m still not sure I fully grasp it. Being essentially two comics in one with over six different creators credited in it’s creation, set in our present yet only six years from the original in the fictional continuity and a political view that seems out of step with Miller’s based on his own statements and past work, The Dark Knight III The Master Race #1 may be one of the most complicated comics I’ve read in quite some time for many separate reasons.
As Frank Miller has gone on the press circuit for a final promotional push, he’s been noticeably distancing himself from the project, saying “It is in Brian Azzarello’s hands right now” and even mentions that DC was planning out the series without his knowledge initially. Miller has also stated that he wants to make a fourth Dark Knight series after this one as his “response” to what Azzarello wrote for this installment (to his credit, he has also put his support behind Azzarello implicitly for his writing on the current series). This kind of makes sense when you consider the books politics versus those of Millers. Frank Miller’s own views are impossible to ignore at this point because even if you disregard his online diatribes about the occupy Wall Street movement (mysteriously scrubbed from his website), the weird allusions to traditional gender roles that he made in Playboy last year, his frequent comments on conservative blogs or the allusions in his work to Ann Raynd; his last published comic was Holy Terror; a graphic novel filled to the brim with and designed for in his own words, degrading and disgusting Islamaphobia. And that is Frank Miller’s right to create whatever he want’s as it’s my right to reiterate that it’s absolutely fucking disgusting while questioning whether the guy who was the driving creative force behind my favorite comic of all time is devoid in some of the most basic tenants of logical reasoning and empathy.
As can be ascertained from Azzarello’s past work all the way up to his co-writing on the best issue of 2015, the writer does not share those same views with Miller and that’s apparent in The Dark Knight III from the outset. Now I suppose it’s possible that Miller’s own perspective has evolved over the years or they are more complex then what he’s displayed publicly, all of that seems relatively probable (he claims to have voted for Hillary Clinton and will vote for her again if she get’s the nomination for what that’s worth). But I don’t think that’s the case, I don’t think the guy that was calling Occupy Wall Street protesters “pond scum” is now empathizing with the cause of Black Lives Matter or the guy who said just last year said that “I believe there has been a crisis of masculinity in modern times…I believe it’s a biological function of men, because we tend to be larger than women, to be protective of them” is now writing a story where a women beats the shit out of at least ten male police officers simultaneously. I’m sure the broad strokes plot concepts were Miller’s as Azzarello has said and the back up feature which he illustrates is naturally given more of his input but in a lot of ways, this almost feels like friends and admirers of Miller working together with his blessing to course correct some of the more bigoted idea’s he’s associated himself with over the last few years through the prism of his most influential work. Yet by doing so, the creators manage to hit on a lot of what made Miller’s comics so special in honoring his best qualities in the comics execution.
While it’s entirely debatable at this point just how involved Miller is on the project, the influence his work and aesthetic has is undeniable. Azzarello, Kubert & Anderson have created a comic that looks and reads like an issue written and illustrated by Miller in his prime. A big part of that is Klaus Janson, whose ink work here creates a visual continuity with the original series where he inked over Miller’s pencils. And in that way, the book looks great but it’s not just Janson that gives the book a classic Miller feel. It’s the contrast in dialogue between the street kids, the cops & the professional talking heads, the narrative structure, the bursts of raw violence, the panel layouts, the movement and facial expressions, even the way Kubert draws the different character’s fighting styles feels analogous to classic Frank Miller. And while a copy can never match the quality of the original, that they can come as close as they have here is kind of a feat in and of itself. In the abstract, The Dark Knight III The Master Race #1 is a really cool fucking comic that’s well structured and entertaining. It’s impossible that it could ever escape the context of it’s original source material or creator but it manages to exceed expectations in spite of that. As for Miller’s own art contributions, while his cover work work for the back up comic was widely mocked, the quality in craft and vibrancy in visual narrative within that sections actual interior pages feels undeniable and is probably the best art of the entire issue.
There is so much going on with this comic and so much baggage that it’s bringing with it that’s impossible for me to address fully or with any kind of totality in this review space. As I said above, The Dark Knight Returns is my favorite comic of all time and that’s by a wide margin but when this book was announced, I had no intention of picking it up due to all the things Miller has said and done over the last few years. I can’t tell you if this makes up for the latter, if it’s an homage or reductive, if it’s own politics are sincere or just a way for Miller’s friends to soften his bigotry or how much Miller even had to do with the books creation. What I can tell you unequivocally is that, this a good comic worth reading that takes one of the mediums most talented and most flawed individuals and get’s to the essence of what made him so special while engaging head on with our world in 2015. I can’t say if that makes it a Frank Miller comic but it’s what a Frank Miller comic was when the original Dark Knight series was being published and it’s what a Frank Miller comic should be.