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“And What He IS is GONE.” COMICS! Sometimes Persistence Doesn’t Pay Off.

John Kane

Nearly there. Good soldier. Nearly there.

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DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller

Anyway, this…

DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #8
Pencils by Andy Kubert and Frank Miller
Inks by Klaus Janson
Story by Frank Miller (Yeah, right) & Brian Azzarello
Colours by Brad Anderson and Alex Sinclair
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson
Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Riley Rossmo
Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller (WITH Lynn Varley, Klaus Janson & John Constanza. Remember them, DC Comics? You should, you really should. You’ve got one more issue to remember ’em. Then it’s spankin‘ time!)
Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane
DC Comics, $5.99 or $12.99 (deluxe) (2017)

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DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller

Yes! It’s the penultimate issue of that utter pile of shabby tat, DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE! In a colossal coup of creative revivification this issue claws its way up from CRAP! to the giddy heights of EH! Mostly this is because the issue is dipped like a billionaire playboy by day/flying mammal themed vigilante by night in the comic book equivalent of a Lazarus Pit: A!C!T!I!O!N! That’s right, cats and kittens, it’s the slobberknocker it’s all been building to for seven buoyantly shite issues. Kandorians vs Amazons! (not to be confused with “Swallows and Amazons”) Just do that fightin’ stuff for an issue and it’s in the bag; but no, that would be to easy. Faced with the unthinkable, an entertaining comic, Brian Azzarello bullishly shoulders his way to the front of the issue to make sure you get to suffer through some delightfully terrible writing first. You have to eat your sprouts if you want your Artic Roll! To make sure things don’t get too exciting too quickly we have a page of Batman’s “death” being shown via phone footage. A page of little phones acting as panels, that’s some primo creative storytelling right there. Up to date stuff; this isn’t just a bunch of clueless middle aged white men bumbling around ineffectually amidst a world so changed even the women wear trousers now. Don’t tell ’em Doctor Who is a lady – they’ll shit! No, sir, no fogies these; they can sneak “motherfucker” in txt speak into a mainstream DC book, and you can’t get more Children of The Now than that! They don’t do that this issue though; no, this issue their refutation of encroaching sensesence is Carrie watching Batman dying on a mobile phone, like it’s one of those videos of a cat pulling a funny face. About as emotionally engaging too. Carrie’s upset but hiding it behind criticisms of stability of the footage she’s viewing. The Flash knows though. The Flash is there in the Batcave, still footling around on his screens, suspended from the ceiling like a forgotten Christmas ornament. He’s, like, “doing Computers” but, like, super-fast, which is, like, horseshit. He’s got a bunch of those touch screens like Tom Cruise in the future of Minority Report or, uh, like your phone in the Now. His Flash-fast fingers skittering over their surfaces like pink lightning. Since my phone has trouble keeping up with my dawdling digits I don’t really see what super-fast Flash fingers would achieve. A processor can only process as fast as it can process, touching shit really fast doesn’t speed it up. You just get really irritated waiting for it to catch up. Its called lag, Flash and you’re fooling no one. Flash Fact: The Flash is full of shit. While he’s waiting for his processor to catch up with his Flash-fast finger stabbing The Flash fancies trying his hand at multi-tasking, so while he’s pretending to “do Computers” he tries a bit of grief counselling on for size. This bit is where Brian Azzarello gets to blow our minds with his hard won Life Lessons. You might want to write these down on a piece of card to inspire you or your loved ones when Life gets rough:

Flash Thought #1: “It doesn’t matter how fast I am, how fast I run, I know life itself is FASTER.”

Deep stuff, huh? But wait…

Flash Thought #2: “Death is nothing we run towards, it’s what we run FROM.”

I’ve heard life is also like a box of chocolates. And Love is never having to say you are sorry. Imagine getting paid for this tripe, it’s easy if you try. Truly, Brian Azzarello is the philosopher we deserve. The Hegel of poorly written, exorbitantly priced Batman comics which trade entirely on other people’s achievements for short term financial renumeration out of all proportion to the quality of said comics. You can put that on the TPB with my blessing. De nada!

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DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller

Having subjected your brain to such crushing inanity Azzarello and his boring compadres step it up because then Batman (not dead) and Superman show up and Carrie is reunited with her presumed-dead mentor in a scene as emotionally rich as watching a bank manager adjust his tie. Carrie’s almost preternatural deductive abilities smash into action and she notices Batman is now both alive and…young(er)! She fails, however, to notice that this basically destroys the whole USP of the Dark Knight timeline (i.e. old Batman) but I don’t. There are a lot of ellipses in this bit. But then there are a lot of ellipses in this series as a whole. This gives much of the dialogue the air of something overheard in an old people’s care home, as our cast of chumps struggle to complete the most basic of sentences without an ellipsis slipping in. Perhaps in the world of the Dark Knight timeline they still use lead water pipes, or maybe it’s all those punches in the head catching up with everyone. It certainly couldn’t be the case that Azzarello is just trying to get his malnourished words to take up more…space. I mean, why have one word balloon when you can have two? Why have one panel when you can have three? Why take a page when you can take six? Why eight issues when you can bloat it out to nine? No reason, pad the shit out of that mthfkr! So, Batman haltingly (ellipses again) chides Carrie for wrecking his car (I’ll take it on trust that she did, I can’t recall it; it must have been really exciting that bit) but it’s just a feint as he unveils…his other, older car! The existence of this other, older car is amazing to Carrie, despite the fact she is apparently super deductive and shit and has been living in the Batcave for some years now. For a series that really, really wants us to be impressed by Carrie Kelly it does a great job of making her look a clueless fool. Brrp! Brrp! Brrp! Brrp! It’s Wonder Woman on the Batphone! Great Scott, Batman! Those Kandorian Kooks are at it again! Reception’s not too hot on Paradise Island but they get the gist and Superman swooshes off to rejoin the plot and for Batman and Carrie it’s atomic batteries for power! Turbines to speed…!

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DKIII:TMR by Miller, Janson, Sinclair, Robins and Azzarello

Someone must have forgotten something when they wrote this part of the comic, because there’s no indication of where precisely Batman and Carrie are going. I thought they were going to Paradise Island, but on rereading it they say they’ll be too late (how they know that is not revealed), so they are going. uh, somewhere. It’s typically muddled but I think actually they were going to the minicomic, wherein they save Lady Jim Gordon from Bruno, that clearly mental trans character with the swastikas on his/her tits. I think we can tell how many people are actually reading this series from the hullabaloo the reappearance of a clearly mental trans character with swastikas on his/her tits has engendered. That is: none. More people got upset about a Howard Victor Chaykin comic, and the number of ratings for Howard Victor Chaykin comics on Comixology rarely break single figures. I can only imagine the sales are so high for this vacuous bumblefuck of a comic because Retailers are ordering stupid numbers to get the ridiculous number of variants. I find it remarkably hard to believe that there are thousands of readers actually purchasing and enjoying something so flagrantly inept. Mind you, I find it remarkably hard to believe that the solution to Marvel’s current woes involves more Brian Bendis comics. Yet it does. One of these sales inflating variants on the last issue, I note, was by one Howard Victor Chaykin. In keeping with the general unfairness of the universe I didn’t receive the Howard Victor Chaykin cover, but I have seen it. Unlike every other variant cover I have seen it doesn’t feature a scene from The Dark Knight Returns. I guess Howard Victor Chaykin didn’t get the memo, or didn’t want to do that, the errant creature. So, that’s two high points to this corporate malignity of a thing: Frank Miller and Howard Victor Chaykin made some coin. Frank Miller draws the minicomic, with inks by Klaus Janson, and their art is the best thing by far on these pages. Script wise Azzarello serves up a truly intellectually arthritic performance; it’s basically a Miller impression, but it’s about as good as one of my impressions, which my Lady of Infinite Patience deems “shit”, and she loves me, so you can imagine how shit they are, and so in turn you can imagine how shit Azzarello’s is. And it really is best left to your imagination. On no account should you exchange money for this twaddle.

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DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller

Meanwhile back at the main comic…the Kandorians want Superman’s super son, because B’al D’ee says so. This is about the level of motivation on the part of the villains by the way: because. It’s not really enough, I think. They just popped out of the bottle and started killing everything, there’s a worrying lack of clarity about why. Apparently they do what B’al D’ee says but, again, no real reason is offered. Which is particularly unfortunate when everything B’al D’ee has done thus far has failed so pathetically. For most of the book he and his flock of Kandorians have been floating over Gotham like a malign Macy’s Day parade. This didn’t get them what they wanted. Nor did some of their number ingesting nuclear bombs, and then one of them falling on Moscow to prove a point. (Why Moscow? Because nobody cares about Moscow. Certainly nuked Moscow has been lacking from any conversations within the book. You’d think nuking a city might merit the occasional mention but, no: fuck Russia. And the millions that died in nuclear fire? Seriously, this comic is in a barely vegetative state when it comes to thought.) So this guy, this B’al D’ee, has an army of people, each of whom is more powerful than a thousand atomic bombs anyway, and that’s his plan? To have them swallow a bomb and bellyflop onto cities. It’s rubbish, as plans go. So rubbish in fact that he and his Super crew just got their asses handed to them by the people of Gotham. So now they are off to fight an island full of Amazon warriors. Good plan.

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DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller

It isn’t of course, it’s a disaster of a plan. It would have probably been a catastrophic toilet blowback of a plan even without Brian Azzarello suddenly, seemingly apropos of nothing, deciding that Amazons are magic. Maybe they always have been, I don’t know, but if they are magic a decent writer would have given some indication in the preceding seven issues that this were so. But not Brian Azzarello! Piff paff! poof! Alah Ka Zam! Magic they am! Kandorians are Kryptonians and Kryptonians are powerless against magic. I remember that from back when Superman comics weren’t edited by a sex pest. What follows then is a fight scene totally without suspense or stakes as the Amazons moulinex the Kandorians into a lumpy red paste. It’s an extended exercise in gratuitous sadism instead of a battle. Butchery, in fact. If you’ve ever seen a butcher go at a cow’s carcass you’ll know that the outcome is never in doubt. As resolutely one-sided as the “fight” is, it does however give Kubert’s art a chance to shine. A chance he endearingly semi-fumbles in that now (after seven issues) familiar way. While utterly at a loss with all the talking (crap) heads stuff which makes up the bulk of the series, Kubert’s clearly trying in the battle scene. There’s some panels with proper impact, such as the one where the Kandorian limbs fall like bloody rain, but for every success there are about three fails. And it’s the fails that take it. There’s the Wonder Woman leaping page fail, which tries to make an asset out of laziness and too much white space, and is undone on the page turn where the focus can’t fail to be Wonder Woman’s terminal case of Plate Face (i.e. it looks like her face is drawn on a paper plate). Or the astonishingly ill-advised decision to draw the Amazon cavalry descending from the sky from the rear, which results in the reader staring into a page full of horses’ asses. Flying horses’ asses, perhaps, but horses’ asses nonetheless.

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DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller

The battle ends as Superman arrives. Superman, you may recall, shot off to prevent his wife and two kids from being slaughtered by the Kandorians. You’d imagine there’d be a certain level of urgency propelling him. Yet he seems to have to taken the scenic route (isn’t he supposed to be as fast as the Flash; hence their annual races?) Even better (i.e. even worse) when he finally deigns to show up he takes the time to knock on the gate in the wall surrounding Amazon city. He doesn’t knock it down, he doesn’t fly over it, he doesn’t even jump over it, no, he just knocks on it until someone opens it. Just stands there knock-knock-knocking while on the other side his wife and two children are trapped amidst warring factions. Just knocks on the door. Now, I get that Martha and Jonathan Kent raised him proper, but there’s a time for politeness and a time for jumping over that wall. It is a supremely bone headed scene that encompasses the entire series thus far in miniature: it’s stupid and goes on for far too long, which just makes the stupidity both more apparent and more painful. Knock! Knock! Who’s there? Someone who’s paid a lot of money for a comic which is almost serenely EH!

NEXT TIME: something better. Something – COMICS!!!

4 Responses to “ “And What He IS is GONE.” COMICS! Sometimes Persistence Doesn’t Pay Off. ”

  1. DK: TMR would have been more entertaining if the people of Gotham City defeated the Kandorian swarm with Kryptonite-laced bug spray.

    I think I lost it with Superman knocking on the gate to the Amazon city. What, he couldn’t use his super-hearing to make sure his loved ones are ok? Or was the gate some sort of magical door which nixed his X-ray vision? I wouldn’t be surprised if the gate was made out of impenetrable Stupid-plot-device-ium.

  2. Nearly there. Musn’t. Black. Out.
    zzzzzzzzz

  3. Thank you! Always a pleasure. And I know what plate face is, now.

  4. @Peter: That would indeed have been more entertaining!
    That gate’s not even magic, and even if it was, he could have jumped or flown over it. It’s amazingly poor stuff!

    @sean: Not now, old man. Not now. Just a little farther.

    @Kevin: Thanks for reading! I made Plate Face up, but hopefully it’ll catch on. Sounds like a Dick Tracy villain, now I think about it…

    Stay gritty, peeps!

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