'DKIII: The Master Race' comes to an end this week

Cover to ‘DKIII: The Master Race’ #9. Art by Andy Kubert/DC Comics

By Brad SunDKIII: The Master Race has been the very definition of a mixed bag. Throughout the course of its nine issues it’s run the gamut from smart to dumb, fascinating to boring, inspired to lazy. A day may come when we learn what exactly was going on behind the scenes, how involved Frank Miller really was, and how a series with so many delays could often feel so rushed and first drafty.

Until then, we can at least content ourselves with a pretty decent final issue that, while still irritatingly inconsistent, at least manages to capture some of the grand operatic absurdity of its predecessors.

Nowhere is this better captured than on the two dueling covers by Andy Kubert and Frank Miller, an electrifying diptych of pop art virtuosity that portrays Batman and Superman as the scrappy elder gods of our collective modern mythology. Whatever one may think of Miller’s recent output, it’s hard to deny the sheer visceral energy of his ink-splattered excess, a righteous vision that is unfortunately not matched in the issue’s interior art.

But even if Kubert and inker Klaus Janson’s pages are best described as competent rather than exemplary, they still resonate well enough to give each of our heroes their due, from the Green Lantern’s triumphant return to the Atom’s long awaited (and conveniently timed) rebiggening. The same cannot be said for Brad Anderson, whose by-the-numbers coloring underscores just how vital Lynn Varley was to the original’s iconic visual signature.

'DKIII: The Master Race' comes to an end this week

Interior page to ‘DKIII: The Master Race’ #9. Art by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson/DC Comics

Save for a few eye-rolling lines, co-writer Brian Azzarello thankfully keeps his overly-fussy wordplay to a minimum, but you’ll still miss Miller’s distinctive voice while reading Quar’s incessant monologuing, a generic and repetitive bore.

Indeed, the “master race” of Kandorian conquerors has been DKIII‘s most glaring shortcoming, an assorted grab bag of villainous clichés that makes the entire series feel less like a true sequel, and more like a disappointingly conventional superhero yarn that just happens to be set in the Dark Knight Universe. Perhaps the most damning thing about this final issue is how predictable it ends up being.

Turning something as deeply personal as Miller’s career-spanning bat books into a collaboration was bound to produce a flawed end product. Yet taken on its own merits, The Master Race still managed to offer its fair share of far-out comic book wackiness and genuinely thoughtful character moments. The series ultimately delivers an optimistic ending that, if not quite profound, at least feels sincere. It’s a fitting conclusion to a perplexing miniseries, even if it can’t live up to the audacity and ambition of its pedigree.

DC Comics/$5.99

Written by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello.

Pencils by Andy Kubert and Frank Miller.

Inks by Klaus Janson.

Colors by Brad Anderson.

Letters by Clem Robins.

5.5 out of 10