What I know about Batman comes from Adam West. Superman is Christopher Reeve or Dean Cain; Linda Carter taught me about Wonder Woman. The first I heard about Green Lantern was a reference in The Big Bang Theory. Atom Man is a total newbie on me. So when I sat down to read Batman – The Dark Knight: Master Race, I didn’t have any idea what to expect…
Batman is dead. The only bat in Gotham is Batgirl, but she seems to be working for the other side – battling cops rather than villains. Later, she is cornered by the police – and boy, the brutality! It makes you feel sorry for the officers!
There’s also a monster that’s a Minotaur (head of a bull, torso of a man), but with four-legs and a horse body below. Wonder Woman turns up to save some Amazonian natives from the fiend – although she’s not instantly recognisable, as she appears to be wearing black lycra shorts with white stars. She’s also got a baby on her back, and a daughter, Lara, who she discovers when she gets back to their city, has gone missing.
Lara, it turns out, has gone off to see Daddy Dearest – Superman – but he’s frozen in his icy Fortress of Solitude. Not quite so stiff is the miniaturised city of Kandor, which is screaming for help – and understandably Lara answers that call. Miniaturisation apparently being rather more his ‘thing’, Lara acquires the assistance of The Atom to un-miniaturise the good citizens of Kandor – and what a mistake that turns out to be, as most of the population of Kandor have been slaughtered by acolytes of the evil Quar. The mistake then gets personal when Quar miniaturises The Atom to the point where he can sit of an atom nucleus.
So Lara has unleashed the crazed and power-hungry Quar and his followers, and they want the Earth. Believing themselves to be Gods in comparison to us puny humans, they want our love and devotion. They want dominion over all the Earth, and they’re starting with Gotham… Where’s Batman when you need him?
I don’t think I’m giving up any secrets when I say, of course, the good guys win in the end – but getting there is one hell of a rollercoaster ride! The entire Justice League have a hand in the success – although Green Lantern’s hand isn’t actually attached to him anymore. Admittedly, Aquaman, the Flash, and Green Lantern make all-too-brief appearances; but they are enjoyable, even for people who have never read any of their previous comics (like myself).
Now, personally, I’m not a huge fan of DC Comics (or Marvel, for that matter) – I prefer the smaller presses – but parts of this volume really drew me in. The whole world of superheroes is just so seductive and comforting; we all need a Superman or a Wonder Woman in our lives. What makes the powers the Justice League’s continued popularity is clearly on display in this volume. If you have ever enjoyed a comic featuring any one of them, then this volume has something to offer.
It’s not all about the classic characters either. Lara’s rebellion may be typical stroppy teenager behaviour, but rebellion from the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman is a whole lot messier and more interesting than the traditional tantrum and slammed doors most parents have to put up with. Then there’s Carrie Kelley, aka Batgirl: of all the characters, I love her the most, and she is the most likely to get me reading more DC.
On the other side, Kryptonian villain Quar makes a reasonable Ming The Merciless, although he lacks the panache of the Flash Gordon villain. He is so different in his outlook compared to Superman that it’s kind of hard to credit, but then he has been locked in a miniaturised city for who knows how long, and that has to be enough to send anyone crazy. His wives are straight out of the Dracula’s Brides mould, which are actually quite fun to read about, as are the hoard of Joker minions. However, their leader – a Nazi-styled “Queen” with Swastikas for nipple covers – I could have done without. But I guess, if you’re going to have equality of heroes, you should have equality of villains too.
Indeed, on the subject of equality, DC has done a cracking job here of improving equality in the hero-verse. So many of the new faces in this volume are women – and importantly, we haven’t lost any of the men either. The men are still around – not to save their women, but to work with them.
In addition to the nine-part epic Batman: Master Race storyline, this volume also includes a number of crossover issues from other titles. This leads to a wide range of artists with very different styles, and to be honest, some are better than others. The scrappier art style by co-writer and comics legend Frank Miller that originally appeared in Dark Knight Universe Presents: Batgirl #1 does not come out particularly well in this respect; it’s badly drawn and hideously coloured – come on, I mean who puts a bat in lime green and pink? Similarly, while Wonder Woman looks more like an Amazonian than the pageant queen of old – which is good – in some frames, if she didn’t have breasts, you wouldn’t know it was a woman at all. In my opinion, he’s clearly a better writer than artist.
Batman – The Dark Knight: Master Race is well worth a read, and you will have fun getting to the end, which in itself opens up some really interesting possibilities. The writing is good, even if the artwork is variable, but overall it’s a very good offering. For me, this is a four out of five, but for those who follow any one of the Justice League, I can see that would tip this into five out of five.