The Dark Knight III: The Master Race rises above all other reviews in this column as the third trek into this Frank Miller universe has been a long time coming. This story could very well be the Holy Grail when it comes to comic books, especially given that the upcoming Batman v Superman movie is greatly influenced by the first book in this trilogy. The dark, gritty tone has returned and with it is a very interesting Gotham that mimics much of today’s society and does not shy away from the civilian’s relationship between the police department.
Other than The Master Race, these past couple weeks saw more unique stories from Vertigo and a few major storylines coming out of the Superman and Flash books. Without further ado, here are the reviews for the past two weeks of comics:
The Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 – Grade: 4.9
The art is sublime and the story is clearly building up to the main conflict, but that is actually where the only misstep lies. The story’s pacing starts quickly and then slows to an abrupt halt only to pick back up towards the end in a big way. That is the only thing that keeps this from being a perfect start to another fun story in the Dark Knight universe. The biggest issues when it comes to sequels or follow ups years later is that they may not be necessary or they may lack the same quality, however this is a superb beginning for Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello as the Master Race is poised to be something special.
Action Comics #46 – Grade: 3.8
DC Comics has been having a field day with de-powered Superman and they seem to have found a sweet spot with the character. His Action Comics-run has been solid, but has a hard time living up to Superman’s incarnation in his own book. Wrath, the source of the Shadow Warriors, has not really lived up to be a memorable villain like she was made out to be. The final pages lead to a prizefight of sorts which will make the next issue well worth picking up.
Aquaman #46 – Grade: 3.6
Aquaman gets a teammate in Wonder Woman for his fight against Atlantis in an issue that proves to be a fun diversion from the main storyline. This Aquaman run has not been a peak for this character in any way, but the portrayal of Wonder Woman in this issue was a particularly nice surprise. Hopefully the insertion of the Justice League will give this book the boost that it needs right now.
Art Ops #2 – Grade: 3.2
The first book was well worth raving about because of its premise and ability to grow, but Art Ops took one giant step back in its second book. Vertigo’s new stories and different style is a welcome read almost every time and Art Ops just fell flat on this occasion. The story felt incredibly disjointed and character motivation lacked the follow-through necessary to make any of it believable. However, the art was once again spectacular from Michael Allred and Matt Brundage which is necessary to distract from the story’s woes.
Batman & Robin Eternal #7 – Grade: 4.5
Essentially, this issue continues the deep dive into the Bat family that readers have come to expect from Batman & Robin Eternal. The way that the audience gets sucked into the story is really breathtaking and Scott Snyder continues his amazing run with all things Batman. Most of all, Mother has proven to be a worthwhile villain in every way imaginable and the Prague setting gives the story an adventurous feel.
Batman & Robin Eternal #8 – Grade: 4.2
This was a good issue, just not as good as the last which is why it gets the lower score. The build up to Grayson’s meeting with Mother and the fight scenes involving Cassandra Cain and Bluebird carry action throughout the issue. Thematically consistent with the rest of the series, Dick Grayson runs his operations drastically different from Batman which causes more comradery throughout the Bat family.
Batman: Europa #1 – Grade: 4.8
Jim Lee’s art is always the most amazing thing about any book that he is involved in and that is definitely no different with Batman: Europa. Luckily, his art is not used in vain as the story is equally amazing and Europa gets off to a fast start. Batman’s forced to ally (in a way) with the Joker in the search for a cure for a deadly virus that both of them have contracted. Needless to say, the dynamics involved leave a lot of room for fun storytelling and character interactions.
DC Comics Bombshells #5 – Grade: 3.9
DC Comics Bombshells is a series that is a welcome change to the norm, but only two-thirds of the characters actually landed this week. Supergirl and Stargirl just do not resonate like Batwoman and Harley Quinn resonate in this issue and it hurts that their story actually closes out the book. Otherwise, this is a marked improvement over Bombshells #4 and the more Batwoman and Harley Quinn appear in this universe the better.
The Flash #46 – Grade: 4.1
Professor Zoom’s plan to destroy the Flash comes to an immediate, albeit satisfying close while opening up a huge showdown between the two speedsters. The trouble with the issue is that Zoom’s lies are all-too-conveniently shattered by a loose end that likely would not have been left by a smart villain. A villain that defeats himself is slightly frustrating, especially when that villain has proved to be so intelligent leading up to the battle.
Jacked #1 – Grade: 4.6
Jacked feels like a story that has a strong message and delivers in a lot of ways, yet it could fall short if it tries to say too much. Sometimes a book comes along that wants to be politically or socially driven, but then alienates the audience by driving it home too often. Jacked tows that line really well in the first issue and this miniseries feels like it has the legs to be both impactful and entertaining.
Justice League of America #5 – Grade: 3.4
Martian Manhunter is supposed to be disconnected from the world, but in this issue he is also disconnected from the audience. Manhunter has always been best in small doses and there have not been many strong takes on the character when looked at in-depth and sadly this issue did not do any better.
Red Thorn #1 – Grade: 4.6
There is a definite horror vibe to this Vertigo book and that element is paired with a good mystery about the apparent death of the main character’s sister. While the drawings coming to life idea has been slightly done recently with Art Ops, this tone and take is much more sophisticated and dark. This book should definitely be picked up by any horror-occult genre fans and has a lot to offer even the most average comic reader.
Superman #46 – Grade: 4.2
Avid Superman fans should definitely pick this book up as it has big consequences for the story moving forward. Other than that, the barebones wrestling Superman is back and having a good time just going about his business and avoiding anything over-heroic. Staying in the dark to protect his friends actually allows the hero to cut loose for the first time and it is truly fun to see Clark Kent just enjoy himself even if it is only for a short bit.
Superman: Lois and Clark #2 – Grade: 3.7
DC Comics has approached the relaunch following the Convergence event with an open ear and stories like Lois and Clark are here because of that. These different takes and views on heroes actually allow the reader to enjoy the characters in the way that they actually want to. This take puts Superman and Lois Lane with a child and living a life undercover as normal people while Clark only uses his powers scarcely. However, it does not take long for people to find out and the entire family ends up on the run which leads to some intriguing family dynamics.
Telos #2 – Grade: 2.3
Telos is a character with no real ties to the DC Comics universe other than being the puppet of a larger villain in the Convergence event. His character’s story was probably best suited to either end with Convergence or to be told directly afterwards because this series just feels like filler to a story that has already ended. Any hope that the story finds its footing lies solely with the character connecting to other things in the DC Universe that gives him some sort of relevance.
Titans Hunt #2 – Grade: 3.8
Titans Hunt has a central mystery in regards to who is actually hunting down these heroes and how they are all connected. Roy Harper and Dick Grayson are two standout characters in this issue and it is entertaining to see just how far these characters have come since their time as Teen Titans. The cliffhanger leaves off on a strong note with the arrival of a Justice League member as the mystery grows deeper and darker.
Wonder Woman #46 – Grade: 3.5
Wonder Woman is atypically an exciting character, but this story just seemed like a convenient way to bring back fallen gods and tie up loose ends. Wonder Woman also felt off-kilter with her reactions and they felt disjointed from her character’s motivations. However, the dialogue was well written elsewhere and the interactions between the other characters felt very natural which helped the issue significantly.