‘Master Race’ delivers classic Dark Knight tale

Bruce Wayne is old and battered. Superman has frozen himself in his Fortress of Solitude.

Having been beaten nearly to death, in “Batman: The Dark Knight – Master Race,” the third installment in the “Dark Knight” saga, Batman, AKA Bruce Wayne, is being taken care of by his latest Robin, Carrie Kelley.

In 1986, Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” gave comic readers their first glimpse at the alternate future of the Dark Knight Universe and introduced Carrie Kelley, a girl that became Robin after saving Batman’s life. In 2001, “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” took readers back to the Dark Knight Universe.

In 2017, 16 years later, Miller (writer) returned to the Dark Knight Universe to deliver the “Master Race,” a nine-issue alternate future miniseries that has recently been collected in graphic novel form.

Miller has said that the reason he waited so long to return to the Dark Knight Universe is because he needed new material, newer social issues to tackle, and the current climate of our nation, both literally and figuratively, gave him that material.Batman Comic con art.jpg

This is evident in the first panels of “The Master Race Book 1” when the notion of unnecessary police force and brutality is presented by a young man who was doing no wrong and started being harassed by the Gotham City Police Department.

Batman, actually revealed to be Carrie under the cowl, is taking on police brutality in the form of standing up to the GCPD, as well as being beaten senselessly by them. Literally, Batman is taking on the GCPD’s overuse of force. But, symbolically, Batman is taking on the whole notion of police brutality.

It is pleasing to see Miller take on such a hot-button issue, but what it kind of signifies is that Batman is right there with us. Batman has always been the underdog, but this goes to show that the rich don’t always lack compassion for the poor. In fact, it’s as if Batman symbolizes the group of rich people who are fighting Trump’s tax bill that would cut taxes for the rich. We’re all in this together, and Batman is an exceptional example of this.

Batman, or Carrie, gets beaten senseless by the cops and is taken into custody for questioning. She’s asked by Commissioner Yindel where Bruce Wayne is, and she answers with a story about how Batman was basically beaten to a pulp and never recovered.

The sequence of panels ends with Carrie telling Yindel that what she believes doesn’t matter. Although Batman is alive, most of what Carrie said is true.

At the same time, Diana, AKA Wonder Woman, is fighting a Minotaur with a baby boy wrapped in a knapsack strapped to her back. When she returns home, the Amazons that greet her ask if they can help with Jonathan. In the normal DC Comics universe, Jonathan is the name of Superman’s and Lois Lane’s child, so this immediately lets you know that Diana and Clark have at least one child together.

But, if that didn’t paint a picture, the next several panels will. Diana asks for Lara, and she’s told that her daughter is gone. To which Diana replies, “Again, Lara? Can’t you leave him be?”

Then you see a beautiful, snow-covered page with a teenage girl floating at the top of it. Lara, Wonder Woman’s daughter, has gone to the Fortress of Solitude to see her father, Superman, AKA Kal-El, AKA Clark Kent.

Lara, exploring the fortress, found a Kryptonian city that had been shrunk before Krypton, Superman’s home planet, was destroyed.

“Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom” delivers Miller’s interpretation of the Atom, and Lara shows up asking Atom to unshrink the Kryptonians.

In “The Master Race Book 2,” Carrie breaks out of police custody with the help of what I would call the Bat-tank, and The Atom uses his technology to grow the Kryptonians, only to discover that the only surviving Kryptonians are followers of a cult leader called Quar Father, who wants to be worshiped as Earth’s “New Gods.” I feel that this is a reference to the actual New Gods of the DC Universe. It doesn’t really mean much or signify much, but it’s cool.

Superman and Batman.jpgIn “Dark Knight Universe Presents: Wonder Woman,” Lara begrudgingly shows up to a training session with her mom, Diana. Lara believes that because of her Kryptonian heritage, she is indestructible. Lara tells her mother that she’s not like her. She’s not an Amazon, she’s Kryptonian. Then she darts off to join the cultish Kryptonians. I can really relate to this, because my little sister is still kind of going through this rebellious phase. Seeing Wonder Woman, Queen of the Amazons, deal with her daughter – who could potentially be a much larger threat than my little sister ever could – with so much composure and maturity really puts things in perspective for me.

In “The Master Race Book 3,” readers see Bruce and Carrie in the Batcave watch as Quar Father sends a Kryptonian follower down to Moscow with a pill that turns him into basically a nuclear bomb, and destroys it.

At this point, Batman decides it’s time to shatter Superman’s ice cocoon and put a plan into action to stop the Kryptonians.

“Dark Knight Universe Presents: Green Lantern” presents a very different and emerald take on Hal Jordan’s origin story. It has him encountering three female Kryptonians for what’s best described as a trippy encounter that traumatizes Hal and sends him on a journey of self-discovery.

In “The Master Race Book 4,” Lara beats Superman tirelessly. Carrie helps Bruce get into fighting shape, and Flash tries to join up, but his legs are brutally taken out by a Kryptonian.

“Dark Knight Universe Presents: Batgirl” has Batgirl, Carrie, on a mission at the Gotham docks, that really demonstrates her impressive and brutal fighting ability.

At the docks, Batgirl is met by Aquaman, who has a grand entrance, as usual. He takes Carrie back under the surface with him, and “The Master Race Book 5” picks up with Carrie and Aquaman locating Superman, who had been cast in black matter and frozen in the arctic by the cultist Kryptonians.

The Flash gets taken to the Batcave to run operations for everyone else, since his legs are out of commission. Batman wreaks havoc on the Kryptonians in his bat-tank to draw them all to a central location. With the help of Aquaman, they drop synthetic Kryptonite rain on the Kryptonians, draining them of their power.

Batman is in a metal suit, similar to the one that inspired his suit in the “Batman v. Superman” movie. Batman is brawling with a Kryptonian and starts taking a beating when Superman shows up in a metal suit similar to Batman’s that would allow him to resist the Kryptonite rain.

After a short intermission of “Dark Knight Universe Presents: Lara” – when one of the Kryptonian men makes advances at her – “The Master Race Book 6” picks back up with Batman, Superman, and Batgirl putting the beat-down on the Kryptonians. They’re running scared when Quar Father looks back at Batman and effectively kills him with a pinpoint heat vision beam.

Master Race coverIn “Dark Knight Universe Presents: World’s Finest,” Batgirl and Lara have a confrontation and Wonder Woman steps in to defuse the situation.

“The Master Race Book 7” picks up with Superman taking Batman to the Lazarus Pit – a well known source of longevity in the DC Universe that can potentially drive someone mad. Bruce comes out of the pit looking like he’s in his prime. He’s delusional at first, but Superman is able to calm him down. Lara tries to take her brother, Jonathan, at Quar Father’s request, and her and the Kryptonians are met with full resistance by Wonder Woman and the Amazons.

“Dark Knight Universe Presents: Strange Adventures” has Hawkman and Hawkgirl teaming up with Green Lantern.

“The Master Race Book 8” has Lara joining forces with her mother, Wonder Woman.

Batman and Batgirl devise a plan, and Superman flies to Amazonia to meet a Wonder Woman drenched in the blood of Kryptonians.

“Dark Knight Universe Presents: Detective Comics” centers around Commissioner Yindel. It’s a cool story with a really weird villain character in it. It doesn’t really add all that much to the whole “Master Race” arc other than a “this is what Commissioner Yindel is up to” kind of story. But the weirdness lends its hand nicely in the book.

In “The Master Race Book 9,” Batman, Superman, Atom, and Lara are the key figures in defeating the Kryptonians and restoring order to Earth.

This is followed up by “Dark Knight Presents: Action Comics,” which really nicely wraps up “The Master Race” for all of the heroes, and they all basically ride off into the sunset.

Everything about the book transcends time. The art is a mashup of modern digital comic art with traditional-style penciling, as well as popping colors that invoke a sense of new and older comics all at once. The story will always be used as a marker of the social and political make up of our country at this point in time.

Written by Miller and Brian Azzarello, drawn by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, and colors by Brad Anderson and Alex Sinclair, “Batman: The Dark Knight – Master Race” delivers a truly classic tale of the Dark Knight and his super friends.

I give the graphic novel a 9 out of 10.

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