SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #6, on sale now.
Despite three issues being left in the series, Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson already begin to bring some symmetry to their story in “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #6, mirroring some of the events seen in the first issue, and even some iconic events of the original series. As the Kryponite-weakened Kandorian army continue to find themselves on their heels while a united Gotham fights back, there is some seemingly unexpected closure brought to one lead character with his sudden and unforeseen demise at issue’s end.
Amidst the rains of a Kryptonite-seeded thunderstorm, the tide of the battle has definitely turned, but that doesn’t stop the Kandorians from delivering a fatal blow. Despite his diminished powers, Kandorian leader Quar fires off one last blast of heat vision as he’s carried away, directly striking Batman as the beam runs him through. The gravely injured Batman collapses beside Superman, who hears his wounded friend’s heartrate immediately begin to slow, conveyed by Kubert and colorist Brad Anderson’s superimposed EKG-like signal.
The artistic technique is similar to that shown by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley when the World’s Finest were at odds in “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” #4. Although the two are now allies once more, Superman can do nothing but stay by his friend as Batman’ heartrate stops completely, as he once again seemingly dies at Superman’s side.
Of course, Bruce deliberately faked his death last time, but unlike before, this issue provides no such indication that he’s employed a similar trick here. With his final breath, Batman mentions Carrie’s name; whether his words were intended to be in regards to her taking over his role, or perhaps a reference to some means to ultimately save his life, remain unknown.
As she demonstrated in the first issue of this series, Carrie is more than capable of assuming his role, and whether the story eventually ends as it began, with her donning the suit, remains to be seen. Aptly named, she carried the entirety of the series’ first issue as Batman, believed to be Bruce Wayne by both observers within the story as well as those reading it. She could arguably carry the remainder of this story, but previous comments by Miller stating a possible fourth “Dark Knight” series increases the likelihood that Bruce’s death is, again, only temporary.
As Robin, Carrie already proves herself to be every bit the hero, even without the benefit of a Bat-suit. She does have the benefit of the Batmobile, though, as she takes on the newly-arrived Kandorian Baal, still fully-powered after a recent tryst elsewhere with Lara, daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, as seen in last issue’s mini-comic. With her squad of followers adorned in flying bat-suits now incinerated by Baal, followed by his destruction of the Batmobile, Carrie is left to face the overpowering Kryptonian one-on-one. Armed only with a slingshot and a small pebble of Kryptonite, she manages to incapacitate him and send him fleeing, proving her resourcefulness and ultimately, and ironically, faring better against the Kandorians than her mentor did.
The issue carries some parallels and contrasts to the original series; when Quar is struck in midair by a bolt of lightning and plummets to the ground, Kubert’s panel is reversely symbolic of Miller and Varley’s iconic cover to “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” #1, where lightning illuminates the sky behind a silhouetted and newly reenergized Batman. And in another callback to the original series from three decades ago, the world’s heroes, as well as Gotham’s police, its citizens, and even its gangs, stand united against a common enemy, as the gang formerly known as The Mutants, and now known as the Sons of Batman, fire upon Quar once he’s grounded.
While the Kandorians have been dealt a possibly crippling blow, it’s far from a knockout punch, as the eventual clearing skies won’t be friendly to Gotham’s liberation efforts, and there’s nothing to stop the Kandorians from turning their attention elsewhere. Readers will have to wait a couple of months for the forecast, and for any answers regarding Batman’s fate; “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” #7 is currently solicited to arrive December 28.
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