Comic Review: ‘The Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #1

In Darkest Knight…

Written by:  Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello / pencilled by:  Andy Kubert / inks by:  Klaus Janson

What’s it about?

The Dark Knight has returned once again and his mysterious and brutal attacks on the Gotham City Police set him on a collision course with Commissioner Yindel…

In review

The long awaited continuation of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight saga is finally here as The Master Race is unleashed upon the DC Comics readership who have anticipated this title with both excitement and trepidation.  The sequel to Miller’s seminal masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns and the not-so-well received and downright bizarre The Dark Knight Strikes Again, The Master Race sees Miller team up with celebrated comics writer Brian Azzarello – known for having penned numerous standout DC Comics stories including Batman: “Broken City”, Superman: “For Tomorrow”, Joker and Lex Luthor (as well as a highly regarded run on Wonder Woman for DC’s New 52).

Whilst Miller’s contribution to comics cannot be understated and both Year One and The Dark Knight Returns are definitive Batman stories, his later work was found to be less so and it’s clear that Azzarello has worked with Miller to refine and filter his ideas to deliver something more cohesive and classic that both harkens back to those aforementioned masterworks and simultaneously brings the world of The Dark Knight up to date.  In terms of story, very little actually happens in this opening chapter of The Master Race but this simply follows the slow-burn approach that was a key part of the structure of The Dark Knight Returns.  Instead, readers are reintroduced to Miller’s world and his chosen cast of characters including the likes of Commissioner Yindel, Wonder Woman, Lara and a frozen (undoubtedly soon to be thawed out) Superman.  As with previous Dark Knight instalments there are a wealth of newscast talking heads delivering much of the exposition (as well as conveying commentary on the social and political lanscape) and the Batman’s appearances are kept largely in the shadows before pulling the rug from underneath the reader with a killer final page that will leave many reeling – and counting the days – until the next issue is published.

Much is relinquished to the visuals in this first issue and Andy Kubert’s pencils are the star of the show, enriched by the inks of Miller’s long-time collaborator, Klaus Janson.  Kubert refrains from wholly mimicking Miller’s style in favour of simply peppering his own with subtle hints of Miller-isms.  This is unmistakably the world Miller depicted in The Dark Knight Returns with Kubert delivering panel upon panel of intricate detail that together with Janson’s inks and Brad Anderson’s appropriately muted colours presents an epic, cinematic and nourish visual feast.

The Master Race is obviously Frank Miller’s idea but it’s through his collaboration with co-writer Brian Azzarello and penciller Andy Kubert that this eight issue series is likely to succeed where The Dark Knight Strikes Again failed, time will tell but this feels like it has the potential to be the “next” classic Batman story.

The bottom line:  The Master Race has a lot going for it, despite little narrative progression in this first issue there are hints of big things to come and Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson’s art is nothing short of sublime.

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 is published by DC Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover art for DC Comics' 'The Dark Knight III: The Master Race'#1 by Andy Kubert.

Cover art for DC Comics’ ‘The Dark Knight III: The Master Race’#1 by Andy Kubert.

Comic Review: ‘Justice League’ #43

Written by:  Geoff Johns / pencilled by:  Jason Fabok

What’s it about?

“Taken” – Chapter Three of “The Darkseid War” : as Batman utilises the Mobius Chair to formulate battle plans, Darkseid prepares to bring his impending war against the Anti-Monitor to Earth…

In review

Following the steady (but no less enjoyable) build-up of the opening chapters of “The Darkseid War”, the third instalment of writer Geoff Johns’ latest epic moves things up a notch in a tense and exciting issue of DC’s main Justice League title.

Justice League #43 kicks off where last issue’s tantalising cliff-hanger left off with Bruce Wayne’s Batman elevated to god-like status with the power and insight granted him by the ‘Mobius Chair’.  Not since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns have we seen a Batman this formidable and imposing, establishing his newfound superiority over the rest of the League by literally hovering above them – the pleas of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Cyborg et al falling on deaf ears.

Whilst there is tense interplay between Bat-god and his fellow heroes, the isolation of Lex Luthor and Superman on Apokolips allows for some sharp dialogue between the unlikely ‘allies’ as they fight to survive.  It’s all the more enjoyable given Superman’s vulnerability due to loss of powers (similar to what is being played out in the Superman and Action Comics titles) which Johns utilises to Luthor’s advantage, allowing him further opportunity to show his disdain for the Man of Steel.  Yet, Johns deftly infuses Luthor with some moral complexity by demonstrating his willingness to put his hatred aside for the sake of survival.

What’s most anticipated is seeing the conflict between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor truly come to a head and by the close of this issue there’s no doubt that all will be coming to bear sooner rather than later and the potential and consequences of two of DC Comics biggest super antagonists hopefully played out fully in forthcoming chapters.

Johns has been DC’s key writer for many years and as always it’s clear that he knows these characters well, with a firm grip on DC Comics mythology and he has the perfect partner in penciller Jason Fabok whose richly detailed, solid blockbuster visuals (enhanced by Brad Anderson’s colours) rise to the call of whatever Johns brings to the table.  Long may the partnership continue and here’s hoping that the duo can continue to hit the mark with this ambitious, epic story and beyond.

The bottom line:  With an incredibly talented creative team delivering a visually and narratively epic story, Justice League is currently DC’s finest comic book and not to be missed.

Justice League #43 is published by DC Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover artwork for DC Comics' 'Justice League' #43 by Jason Fabok.

Cover artwork for DC Comics’ ‘Justice League’ #43 by Jason Fabok.

Comic Review: ‘Justice League of America’ #1

Written and pencilled by:  Bryan Hitch

What’s it about?

Receiving a mysterious invitation from a group known as the Infinity Corporation, Superman is soon united with the rest of the Justice League to face the dangerously overpowered Parasite…and the arrival of an alien armada…

In review

This week saw the launch of DC Comics’ much hyped (and equally anticipated) new Justice League title, Justice League of America from comics uber legend Bryan Hitch.  Best known for his collaboration, as artist, with writer Mark Millar on The Ultimates – the celebrated and influential reimagining of Marvel’s Avengers – Hitch now brings his talents as both penciller (aided by inks from Andrew Currie, Daniel Henriques and Wade von Grawbadger) and writer to the DC Comics Universe.

Reportedly years in the planning and not to be confused with DC’s short-lived New 52 Justice League spin-off of the same title, Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America kicks off with a an extra-sized premiere issue that strikes an effective balance between character, story and epic action.  Titles from a single writer/artist have often been middling at best (Tony Daniel’s creatively flawed run on Detective Comics springs to mind, as does David Finch’s now defunct Batman: The Dark Knight) yet overall, Hitch has managed to deliver a solid first issue.

Whilst this issue largely focuses on Superman and the shocking discoveries he makes at the mysterious Infinity Corporation it’s not long before the Man of Steel is united with Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman and Cyborg to face the threat of an overpowered and oversized version of Parasite.  That just leaves Aquaman, who has his own separate sub-story focusing on tensions between the mainland and Atlantis that will no doubt have some bearing on what’s to come in subsequent issues.

Hitch is an effective storyteller, as a writer he adeptly builds the foundations of the story and its unfolding mystery and for the most part accurately captures the voices of the central DC Comics heroes as well as delivering the epic widescreen visuals and action that will both delight and excite readers.  It’s an unenviable and herculean task but, the odd character niggle (there are brief moments where Batman seems a little too maniacal) and artistic ‘glitch’ (the odd weakness in Hitch’s figure work/character facials), Hitch generally pulls it off.  It doesn’t quite hit the heights of Throne of Atlantis but it’s more than commendable and far above your average superhero comic.

The undisputed talents of Bryan Hitch aside, what’s great about Justice League of America is its accessibility.  Whilst running concurrently with Geoff Johns’ main Justice League book, Hitch’s title isn’t too entrenched in the continuity of the ongoing events of the wider DC Universe making it easy for new readers (or those who are somewhat behind with DC’s ‘New 52’, like myself) to get on board and enjoy these characters and a decently entertaining, action packed superhero yarn – here’s hoping Hitch can maintain the quality and, perhaps even surpass it, in issues to come.

The bottom line:  Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America is off to a promising start with an exciting and epic premiere issue that’s sure to entice readers enough to come back for more.

Justice League of America #1 is published by DC Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover art by Bryan Hitch for DC Comics' 'Justice League of America' #1.

Cover art by Bryan Hitch for DC Comics’ ‘Justice League of America’ #1.

‘Man of Steel’ Sequel Delayed Until 2016

Whaaaaat?!  I hear you all cry (well…I certainly did), in hindsight it was inevitable but now a reality – Warner Brothers have announced that the release of their as yet untitled Man of Steel sequel (which I still refuse to call Batman vs. Superman) has been pushed back by almost a year to May 2016.

It’s a smart move, with the inclusion of Batman and Wonder Woman it was already a massive undertaking and given the continuous raft of rumours (that seem to be emerging almost on a daily basis) surrounding possible casting and additional DC Universe characters being incorporated in some capacity (Green Lantern and, now, Aquaman), could this end up being an even more ambitious project than DC/Warner Brothers had initially intended?

Following the success of Marvel Studios, particularly the overwhelming response (both commercially and critically) to Avengers Assemble, DC/Warner Brothers have naturally become restless in their efforts to cultivate their own cinematic universe and more development/production time will surely allow them to fully realise this goal (and not to mention 2015 is already overcrowded with high profile releases).

All that’s certain at this point is that Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne will return and will be joined by Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a film we’re assured that will be very much a Man of Steel sequel that will undoubtedly build further towards Justice League.  Zack Snyder will direct from a screenplay by David S. Goyer.

But let’s not get carried away with all those rumours, they are exactly just that.  The prospect of throwing more DCU characters into the mix is both tantalising and disconcerting – it could very easily fail as much as it could work, so let’s have faith and wait to see…

What are your thoughts on the Man of Steel sequel?  Leave a comment below!