Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: What do you think of when you hear the word “sequel”? Do you imagine a story that deepens the themes established in the original (a la The Dark Knight or The Godfather Part II) or do you imagine a story that returns to the well more out of obligation than any artistic impetus (a la The Dark Knight Rises or The Godfather Part III)? Do you imagine a continuation of the original narrative, taking the characters in bold new directions, or do you imagine a barely disguised repetition of the original narrative, taking the characters in safe, predictable directions? While I try to keep an open mind, I’ve been around the block enough times to recognize that most sequels tend to rely heavily on nostalgia, carefully recreating situations to replicate the thrills of the original. Unfortunately, that phenomenon means even my disappointment in The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 all too familiar.
This issue hangs its hat on DKR‘s iconic battle between Superman and an armored Batman. Of course, the rule of diminishing returns means that this sequence has to be even bigger, so Superman is armored, too. And the arrow full of synthetic kryptonite gas is replaced with a thunderstorm laced with synthetic kryptonite. And Bruce’s plan to fake his own death is replaced with…maybe actually dying? It’s hard to know how much to trust that turn of events, since even in DKR, Bruce’s plan isn’t fully revealed until after he’s already come back to life. That is, this could still be part of the plan. It might not be, sure, but the precedent robs that moment of the gut-punch effect it has in DKR. If he’s not dying, it won’t be a surprise, and if he is dying, our suspicion that he isn’t kind of robs that moment of any real impact — our familiarity with this scene forces us to be skeptical of this specific turn of events.
Maybe exploiting our suspicions is smarter than I’m giving it credit for, but for me, it undermines the drama of the scene. That is to say, I think both eventualities — Bruce dying and Bruce not dying — would be better served if we actually believe he might be dying. As it is, our familiarity with DKR forces us to think he might not be, which is enough to push me right out of the scene. Again, I don’t want to suggest that there’s no way that Bruce is dead — the way he’s “killed” certainly doesn’t look like it was part of the plan — just that the cliffhanger works better if my first thought is that Bruce died, not that he faked his death (again).
Unfortunately, in drawing out and expanding upon every development from the original fight, this issue doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other developments. Yindel teams up with the angry mobs, feeling for all the world like Gordon working to put out the fire in DKR. In the backup, Lara fights Carrie before Wonder Woman arrives to put her in her place. That’s a scene that sounds like it should be great, but none of the characters are written with enough depth to suggest why they’re fighting. Without that, there’s no real hope of resolution. Sure enough, the fight ends when Lara slinks away, with no indication of progress (not that I understand any of these characters enough to recognize progress, anyway). It seems like Lara’s emotional journey will be an important one as DKIII wraps up, but I’m not sure I have anything invested in it at this point.
It seems Carrie is also undergoing some kind of emotional transformation, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is. About halfway through the issue, Carrie draws a line in the sand, but I have absolutely no idea where that line is, or what it’s even regarding.
She asserts that “we can’t become this“, but I have literally no idea what “this” is. Is she referring to the bat gang dudes seeming to enjoy violence? Is it the civilian doling out bat-y justice to one of the Kandorians? Is she balking at the sentiment of “by any means necessary” — the phrase she seemed to be thinking before she decided they couldn’t become “this”. I honestly have no idea, but pretty much none of those make sense; a Batman story is a pretty terrible place to make a case against vigilantism, especially when that vigilantism seems to be saving the day.
Michael, I’m kind of at a loss when it comes to this issue. Were you able to draw any more meaning from any of this? I’m finding the art to be as frustratingly unclear as the dialogue, which doesn’t make for the most coherent storytelling. Am I totally off base?
Michael: Drew I take umbrage with your swipe at The Dark Knight Rises because I shall defend that film to my last breath! Other than that, you are pretty much on the money with your assessment of The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 however, as well as the series overall. To their credit, I think that The Godfather Part III or The Dark Knight Rises both actually try to do something different – the problem is that they don’t necessarily feel true to the characters or story that we’ve seen up to that point. DK3 doesn’t feel like it’s trying anything different though – as Drew stated, it’s just repeating the same beats of the original.
Is Batman dead? Absolutely not. That, or he will be quickly resurrected with some Kryptonian tech in the next issue. This nostalgic repetition and our doubt of Batman’s death makes The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 not only boring, but unmoving. In theory all of the elements of this issue should make for an exciting comic book: Batman and Superman teaming up, Gotham City vs alien invaders, Carrie vs. Lara vs. Wonder Woman – but they don’t. Maybe it’s the pacing of the story, maybe it’s because of the bloated sequel machine, or maybe it’s because Batman and Superman suit up to kick some ass AFTER most of the Kandorians are taken out by the kryptonite rain.
I listened to a podcast recently where Brian Azzarello said that DC would give them “52 issues” of DK3 if they asked for it – a reference to the growing number of issues to this miniseries. The Dark Knight III: The Master Race 6 is a great example of how this series is taking its time in all of the wrong ways. The sole reason that Batman gets heat visioned in the back by Quar is because he allows it to happen (perhaps that’s part of his “plan?”) by instructing Superman to let them retreat and “know what fear tastes like.” The other example of Azzarello and Miller stretching it out is when Carrie has her strange epiphany moment in the Batmobile that Drew mentioned above. Quar’s son makes short bloody work of the Bat Boys and a civilian but naturally has to take his time before killing Carrie. My favorite little bit of irony is how he talks about how he’s a god and she’s a tiny animal that he should be wasting his time with, but there he is wasting his time with her before she slingshots kryptonite in his eye.
I stand by saying that The Dark Knight Strikes Again is commendable for taking the nutty old Batman of The Dark Knight Returns to the extreme it does. DK3 doesn’t take the kind of wild risks that DK2 does but it still tries to cash in on the goodwill of Miller’s Batman. I think we outgrew Miller’s Batman a long time ago. Miller’s Batman is the weathered old action hero pastiche who knows that he’s gonna have to save the day because the men in charge are pansies who’ve gone soft in a world of liberals and hippies. This Batman is essentially your crazy uncle who actually turned out to be right about nuclear Armageddon and you’re happy he built that fallout shelter after all. More than anything however, this Batman is a bully: he criticizes and chides the weak and says “I told you so” when he’s right. The most striking part of this was the opening of the issue when he and Superman team up.
Batman slams the head of one of the Kandorians into Superman’s chest – Superman standing resolutely as Batman throws the enemy to the ground. I know that the Kandorian is part of an army of evil aliens but this just feels cruel, and reminiscent of a couple of high school teenagers picking on a kid who’s greatly outmatched. Superman is famous for “hating bullies” so this felt all the more wrong to me. He stands there as Batman goes all excessive force and does nothing. Superman looks…not great in that armor by the way. But really it kind of separates him from the violent situation in a way, doesn’t it? This isn’t the caring, inspiring hero that we love – it’s a cold, hunk of metal devoid of any visible emotion. Kind of seems appropriate though.
Hey, at least Carrie said “Balls Nasty”!
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