The Dark Knight III: The Master Race #9
Defeated, Quar threatens to destroy the planet, and there’s only one man that can stop him.
Defying all expectations, The Master Race ends as a panacea to everything wrong with The Dark Knight Returns and Strikes Back. It, not-not hamfistedly, responds to the series’ history of Batman being a Randian exemplar and demagogue with a conclusion that depicts heroism at its most altruistic. The mini-story acts as a coda, reinforcing the series’ new perspective on what a hero is and should be, and reintroduces the world’s greatest heroes.
Finally free and cured, Claire asks Batman what she should do with her second chance at life. When he hesitates to answer Claire asks why he does what he does? And both characters decide to do what makes them happy.
King continues to plumb the depth of what makes Batman tick, and comes up with more unique and gently human results than many writers before him. King is comfortable taking his time with Batman’s emotions, letting the character realistically hit emotional walls and take a few steps back multiple times before deducing what he needs to do. This entire issue is just Batman talking to two different women in his life that make him ask himself what he needs to do, and what he needs to be happy. That’s the conflict in this issue.
Unfortunately, before we can solve that, two villains gotta go to war.
Manchester Black reveals himself to Superman, hoping to demonstrate to Jon that his father’s brand of justice doesn’t cut it anymore by showing him what sparing bad-guys like him allows bad-guys like him to do.
So, what we’ve got here is a retread of “What’s so Funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” only longer and more expensive, and not as solid because of it. Honestly, just read that, or watch Superman vs. The Elite.
Green Arrow #24
Green Arrow heads to Queen tower to face Broderick and put an end to the Ninth Circle, and then he must face an ailing Seattle as Oliver Queen.
Believe it or not, Green Arrow might have the best Trump satire in comics at the moment. The speech that Seattle’s new mayor makes over the fallen Space Needle, where he talks about the false values of capitalism and American exceptionalism while selling the city out to literally an evil cabal of military industrialists and bankers doesn’t just capture the comic book villainy of the current presidential administration, but the value system that society has in place to empower them. In this country money isn’t just power, it symbolizes moral high-ground where there is nothing of the sort. The villains in this arc operate under the rules that money is might and might makes right, and its that line of thought more than anything else that makes them frightening.
In this issue, all the terrorism of the previous issues reveals itself to be the cover for more private profiteering at the expense of the public.
Amazing Spider-Man #28
The fate of Symkaria is left to Silver Sable and Mockingbird, who have to defeat the corrupt Queen and stop Osborn’s Goblin missile from turning everyone into goblins, respectively. Meanwhile, Peter takes on Norman mano-a-mano.
Splitting this issue into two stories really does help with the tonal issues I had last issue. It just makes more sense for Sable and Mockingbird to deal with the international rogue state stuff, and leave Spider-Man to battle Osborn. And while the spy stuff still doesn’t stick the landing, Slott still can knock the ball out of the park with the Spider-Man parts. Fighting, powerless, against Osborn recalls the constant struggle of earliest Spider-Man stories. It’s no Spidey lifting Doc Ock’s machine, but it’s definitely reminiscent of that.
The end of the issue also implies a return to the status quo in more ways than that, which, I’m kind of looking forward to.
Katie gets a letter from Madam Masque and decides to follow it right into what she knows is a trap.
The juxtaposition of Katie’s flashbacks to her childhood involving the loss of her mother and her in the present day as quippy, undauntable Hawkeye really makes you wonder how much of Kate Bishop does she put on? In the 55 years we’ve known Spider-Man, we’ve figured out that the mask is what gives Peter the freedom to really embrace his weird quippy sense of humor in the middle of fights, and also how he uses it to unnerve his enemies; but with Katie, it seems like less of an act. She’s just always been preternaturally cool and breezy. But this issue gives that theory some pause. We’ve always known that Kate’s had issues with her dad, but this is the first time her mother has come up, and she brings the tragedy of what happened to her up with her. As jokey as she can be, it feels like we’re about to see Kate when she’s serious.
Black Bolt #2
Black Bolt wakes up in the prison after being killed and resurrected countless times, and Crusher, Blinky, and the other prisoners finish teaching the king of the Inhumans the prison’s rules.
Ahmed and Ward’s second issue builds beautifully on the first, fleshing out all the other characters and pushing the plot steadily forward. Black Bolt relearns to speak in this issue, but remains a man of few words, giving the others room to develop. Ahmed is economical, fitting what most series would take two issues to tell in one, mostly by making every moment count twice.
Crusher steps up to be the de facto leader of the prisoners, which gives him the room to become the most likable character in the book. He has a class feud with Black Bolt, and – at least for now – comes off as the bigger man. Despite or because of his brutish appearance and roots, he’s more experienced with the prison life than the others, becoming a calm foundation for the group. He’s also the only character who finds Black Bolt’s name hilarious, making him the closest thing to an audience surrogate we’re likely to get.
It should also go without saying, but Ward is crushing it on the illustrative side, masterfully weaving panel layout, character design, and his psychedelic palette to create an utterly alien environment.
Brigid opens the Cold House and invites Professor Kerwick to help investigate the scene. Kerwick seems more than satisfied by what she finds, but plays coy when asked for more information. Meanwhile, Robin seeks more control in his government position. And at the end, Brigid accidently turns the Cold House on…
This issue does a good job of (re)introducing the likely villain of this arc, showing us what their motive might be and how many steps ahead they may be of our protagonists. The whole comic has an air of creepiness about it, but this issue more than most, which makes sense considering the Cold House is essentially a sacrificial alter of Christians for Pagans. The final pages show exactly how horrific this comic can go with that sort of thing.
Robin’s short scene reestablishes him as the most likable character in the book’s roster, he’s someone with just as much expertise in his field as the rest of the team, but also seems to have the strongest moral bedrock of them, as his name would imply.
I’ll finish this arc in floppies, but this is definitely a book that would read better in trade.
Paper Girls #15
Firstly, I just want to note that the tension between Mac and KJ is through the roof and absolutely beautiful. More baby gays in comics, please.
And after those first two pages, the girls decide that before any more time-travel shenanigans, they’re gonna rescue Wari’s son from the three men, and Doctor Braunstein is gonna help them.
Despite what happens in this issue, I do hope we get more of the good doctor. Character’s using Yiddish is an easy way to get on my good side, but I also enjoy the implied relationship between her and the rest of the girls. Suffice it to say, even though Jewish people aren’t POC, I still don’t believe that having two Jewish characters in a story is simply diversity in action.
Kaje’s visions also start coming true, unfortunately, this validation comes immediately after a point of no return for her, and segues directly into the end of the arc – which seems to shift focus to another one of the girls, all of whom seemingly end up in different places.