The Dark Knight Dialogues 002: The Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2

Chad: This time, we welcome the man behind Comics Should be Good, Brian Cronin...

Dark Knight Universe Presents: Wonder Woman #1written by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarelloart by Eduardo Rissocoloring by Trisha Mulvihill lettering by Clem Robins

Chad: When the idea of another Dark Knight comic was even rumored, I exchanged some emails and other messages with both of you where we debated who the right artist would be for a project like this. One of the names that kept coming up was Eduardo Risso and here we have him drawing this month’s mini comic. So, with Miller contributing whatever he added to the story, we basically have the 100 Bullets team here. Is this what we would have preferred the main series to be like? Not just Risso’s line work, but Trish Mulvihill’s coloring as well?

Brian: Yep, we discussed how concerned we were over the initial statement when the project was announced about how there would be “multiple star artists” involved and how it could go very, very poorly and how one of the few ways it could have worked was for Risso to draw the whole thing. This mini-comic shows that yeah, Risso would have kicked ass as the main artist on this series. The Risso/Mulvihill team is one of the most iconic art teams in comics and they did a wonderful job with this mini, even as the subject (Wonder Woman and her daughter, Lara) was not what you would typically expect from their more noir sensibilities (as an aside, let me note how much I love the oddity of “Dark Knight Universe Presents - Wonder Woman #1” - why does the mini-comic inside of Dark Knight III #2 get its own title?). While the art was outstanding, I think we actually managed to go backwards from last issue’s mini-comic in terms of the story mattering. Last issue’s mini-comic introduced a major plot point regarding the Atom’s role in growing the populace of Kandor. This time around, it’s multiple pages to reinforce things that were blatantly obvious from the first issue and the main story in this issue. Still, the art was so good that the comic as a whole still seemed worth it to me - the climactic scene with the sword breaking? Rarely do you have a scene so dynamic while, at the same time, so filled with pathos.

Joey: I think this is more in line with what we should expect out of these mini-comics going forward, a nice self-contained story drawn by an above average artist that illuminates on a moment in one of the earlier issues, ideally the issue you just read. In terms of this story itself, it was probably my favorite piece of the event so far. I may not be as much of a fan of the Azzarello/Risso team as I used to be due to certain projects they have participated in but I can’t deny Risso knows how to draw a dynamic page and he really shows up here. That page Brian mentioned with the sword breaking is probably the first page in this whole thing actually worthy of a proper splash page and really helped deliver that moment and give it the weight that has been sorely missing from this series so far. The coloring here as opposed to the rest of this series really accents the mood of the piece and the fact that it’s a step outside of the usual palette this team works in just shows how in tune they are as collaborators.

As for the writing, this actually felt like a classic Miller inner monologue and it is from a character who we rarely get to see reflect in Miller’s Bat oeuvre so far, and seems consistent with his vision of Wonder Woman too. Here Diana comes off as an older, wiser version of the woman we see in All*Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder #5. There is just as much hubris and strength conveyed but she seems better adjusted, less like she has something to prove. She is more confident, less arrogant. Seeing her interaction with Lara who has that same attitude towards her mother that Diana had towards everyone is actually very endearing. I sense Miller might of had more to do with writing this mini than most would suspect, this actually feels like his world.

Brian: I could see Miller having a good deal of influence on Wonder Woman’s characterization as yes, it is very much on point with Miller’s past take on the character. Azzarello, though, is a strong enough writer that I could also buy him just being that in tune with Miller’s take on the character (and Miller’s trademark writing style). Either way, I do think that the Wonder Woman/Lara interaction is a highlight of the series so far, as honestly, it’s a conflict that feels very natural and is particularly compelling in just how grounded it is as a dynamic. Wonder Woman thinks a certain approach is the right one to use with Lara because it’s the one that worked with her, but she is blinded to how her daughter is rebelling against said approach. It’s good stuff. It’s good stuff that I think was already present in the series, making this feel a bit superfluous, but it’s still good stuff.

Chad: Any time this story, thus far, has focused on Lara is when I’ve perked up the most; the way that The Dark Knight Strikes Again ended, that was clearly the most ‘interesting’ idea that could be built upon. Carrie as Batman is cool and all, but there isn’t necessarily a lot there yet. The daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman coming to grips with the idea that she’s the most powerful being on the planet is something with some meat. And you can already see where it’s heading with the psycho-cult Kandorians… Lara has been foregoing her warrior training because she’s more powerful than everyone else, but she’ll soon run up against beings just as powerful as she is where her natural ‘superiority’ won’t factor in. It’s an obvious place to go, but one that has a lot of room for exploration, especially if she’s backed up by the new Batman who has extensive training in combat and tactics. Basically, the new Superman and Batman reliving the same roles as their fathers… So, I have a feeling this mini-comic will be an important plot piece going forward, albeit in an understated way.

Joey: While Brian is right that a lot of this stuff in this mini is present in the main series, it’s just executed so much better here. These ideas may be in the plot and they may be in the script but you sure don’t feel them like you do here. The idea Chad lays out above for the future of the story is also the reason I think the main series isn’t really clicking for us, how do you go from such celestial concerns told in the most eccentric way at the end of DK2 to these very benign street level problems in DK3 without feeling like it’s just a diversion from the story you would rather be reading? Not saying that you can’t bounce between the ethereal and the mundane and get great results because that is what most of my favorite stories do but I don’t think that is the case here. This mini at least felt like it was at one with the story that will be told if that makes sense.

Chad: I think that points to the tension that we hinted at a bit last time: this book follows The Dark Knight Strikes Again (and uses some characters/ideas), but seems more intent on being a ‘proper’ follow-up to The Dark Knight Returns. “The Dark Knight Returns sequel for those who hated The Dark Knight Strikes Again!” Except, I loved that book. And so did you guys. So… what do we have here really?

Brian: The variant covers, by the way, are depressingly weird in that regard. DC is selling hardcover collected editions of each issue of Dark Knight III, but the hardcovers all feature sketch versions (which is odd enough) of Jim Lee’s variant covers for each issue, but Lee’s variant covers are all homages to the original Dark Knight Returns! What does that say about a comic book series when, outside of the actual “main” covers, all the other covers are telling us, “Man, remember that other series? The one from thirty years ago? Wasn’t that other series really cool?” So I guess I do appreciate that the mini-comics, so far, have at least been spotlighting Miller’s take on characters we only know from DK2 (Wonder Woman, Lara and the Atom) that tie into the current series and not just reverent flashbacks to Dark Knight Returns. I half-expected, “Dark Knight Presents - The Untold Story of the Mom Who Bought Her Kids The Paint Set and Then Got Blown Up.”

Joey: That is a really good point, I am having visions of like J.T. Krul’s very socially relevant “The Untold Story of Arnold Crimp” and thinking we may have dodged a bullet (no pun intended). Maybe we have been too hard on this thing after all.

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