Although light on plot, “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #5 has plenty of epic character moments to please even the most disillusioned reader. The entrance of Superman in the story, along with more Carrie Kelly, continue to make this third tale in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight World worth visiting.
Written by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Andy Kubert
Batman and Robin prepare for war with the Master Race, and an ally returns from an unlikely place…
If that final page of “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #5 doesn’t have you smiling, then you don’t like fun. This eight-part series has had many great moments, yet issue five is the best of the bunch so far. Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello effortlessly ease into writing the voices of Bruce Wayne and Carrie Kelly. Carrie still, after so much setbacks befalling her in so short a time, contains an optimism and wide-eyed wonder in her outlook on life. She’s the perfect sidekick to the grim Bruce, who actually grins in this issue. Bruce has an understanding of his limitations, attempts to surpass them, and coaxes empathy from the reader because of his tenacious heroism. Miller and Azzarello know how to write effective narration and let us into the heads of this dynamic duo.
There is an economy of words that the writing duo utilizes to great emotional effect. The humorous interaction between Carrie and a particular hero who can read minds is especially noteworthy. When she discovers her thoughts are, she takes it in stride. This is a young woman who, despite her slight stature and limited strength in comparison to her mentor, will go anywhere in order to save the world. Bruce’s thoughts, however, reveal so much in his inner monologue. His treatise on fear and why it holds him together is a surprisingly touching moment. The idea of fear being a motivating force that keeps one strong and happy is a revelation. We all know Batman’s motivations, yet Miller and Azzarello add a levity to Bruce’s stream of consciousness that dips the grim and gritty into a pool of pure joy. That aspect of the previous “Dark Knight” books is woefully overlooked and, thankfully, is present in this month’s issue.
The visuals are given more noticeable breathing room in “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #5. Andy Kubert is generous with gracing his pages with gorgeous splash pages and panels that are wide open vistas of energy. Scenes of evil Kryptonians and selfless heroes populate the book with page-turning excitement. Whether it’s good or evil that’s being rendered, Kubert imbues every inch of this issue with glee. The underwater splash page with oceanic life great and small traversing the seas is simple, yet evocative for its heroic postures and banter. Klaus Janson’s inks bring depth and clarity to the sea life and our heroes, while Brad Anderson’s colors shed just enough light to make the scene that much more magnificent.
Kubert hearkens back to classic scenes from “The Dark Knight Returns”, yet draws them in a way that is not simply in service to fans. Batman is a hero who has weathered the same mission throughout his decades-long career. Kubert, as well as Miller and Azzarello, successfully demonstrate how Bruce has grown during these many years. Smiles, determination, and an acceptance of limitations of age make the final page that much more impactful. The breezy quality in which this issue is written and artistically brought to life is apropos for a hero who is actually, of all things for Batman to be, optimistic. That optimism comes from having help. In essence, from having a family.
The mini-comic in this issue is its only flawed element. Written by Miller and Azzarello and with art supplied by Miller and colorist Alex Sinclair, the comic focuses on Lara. The story feels like filler and, like the art, has a rushed quality. We see a superficial romance blossom between Lara and Baal, yet without any of the depth inherent in the previous pages. Depiction of motion appears computerized and photocopied, with an amateurish air to every aspect of the proceedings. The only explanation I can come up with is that the writers and artists are attempting to say something about the state of a relationship between two immature individuals.Continued below
Despite the jarring minicomic, “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #5 has a main story that delves into the Bat mythos in a way that both familiar and unique. Miller and Azzarello compel us to ponder not only the many aspects of Batman’s personality but also what it means to be a hero. Kubert, Janson, and Anderson breathe unexpected dazzling light into a chapter that surprises with insightful topics while entertaining from page one to one of the best last pages of the month.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Now over halfway done, “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” has proven a worthy continuation of Frank Miller’s vision.