Review: The Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3

DK3 #3 CoverThe hardest thing for Batman is to admit his greatest strength: He’s just one man, and sometimes he needs help. With so much at stake, will he turn to help of the Super variety?

The Dark Knight III: The Master Race has been an interesting series for me so far. In the first two issues, and even a bit in this third one, we’ve seen flashes of classic Frank Miller, who is helped by Brian Azzarello on writing duties. While the first issue especially felt a lot like the original, this latest issue instead feels more like one particular work of Miller’s more recent years, Holy Terror. And it’s the similarities where I go back and forth on this issue and even writing this review, of mixed emotion.

For those not in the know, the last issue saw the freeing of Kryptonians trapped in the glass city of Kandor and it turns out those freed are religious zealots bent on taking over the world. That’s about what you need to know really, and you might guess where I’m going from here.

Holy Terror came out in 2011 and was filled with Islamaphobic dribble straight from Miller. The story was rumored to be originally a Batman tale that had the Caped Crusader going up against Al-Qaeda, and when rejected Miller reworked it. You can see the Batman influences as the main character is strikingly similar and “Catwoman” even makes an appearance. Knowing Miller’s views expressed in that graphic novel and elsewhere influences my reading of this latest issue.

The Kryptonian religious zealots can be read as stand ins for Islamic Jihadists down to their subjugation of the world under their religious dogma, use of suicide bombers, and some of the general wording. While Batman vs Al-Qaeda was rejected, Miller may have gotten his wish to have Batman fight Islam, only with a slightly more allegorical and veiled spin on it. For a series that began with a statement on police brutality, the shift in tone is noticeable and a bit fascinating. While I thought the series was going on way, it has shifted instead to be focused more on the rise of ISIS (a genie let out of a bottle), their rise to rule a geographic space, their fanatical devotion, and death cult world view that includes self sacrifice to achieve their murderous ways. The parallels are obvious and clear.

And when it comes to that, I’m not sure how I feel or what I think. Is it bad? Is it good? Is it somewhere in between? With one issue, it’s hard to say, but the issue is blunt with little nuance, and that’s where I think it fails the most. The bad guy’s motivation isn’t clear other than religious extremism. It doesn’t give us the reader anything new to think about other than a cartoonish simplified take of what Miller thinks ISIS is.

The art is the style we’ve come to expect where Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, and Geof Darrow mimic a classic style that I personally enjoy. To me, it’s a style I’d have expected out of the British pulp adventures of the 80s and one that it’s much rarer to see today.

It’s hard to say if I had no idea of Miller’s ideological leanings how my views of this issue might have changed, but even without that knowledge it’s clear Miller’s focused on the rise of Al-Qaeda’s more insane offshoot ISIS now. I can’t judge the whole tale since there’s much to go, but this issue is a huge shift from the first two in its tone and what it’s trying to say. It’s one I expected considering how the last issue ended, but I clearly still wasn’t prepared for.

Story: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller Art: Geof Darrow, Klaus Janson, Andy Kubert
Story: 7 Art: 8.2 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

4 comments

  • Brett, I agree the story sort of side-stepped it’s own intro. In fact, from the introduction of the frail Batman in this issue to the Batman making an appearance on screen at the end, I often find myself thinking, “What… what about what I just read?” DKII left me very apprehensive about DKIII.

    • Yeah, the screen ending was interesting. He could be putting on a show but be frail ala the Princess Bride. But this was a definite change of direction and voice.

      • Yeah, it could absolutely be an act. I hope it’s an act or it makes me feel like there’s no consistency in it.

        • Yeah, this is a hard issue to judge on its own. Could be bunk and bunk going forward, or a so-so issue that’s solid in the overall narrative.