This week the Dark Knight Returns for a third time with the long awaited Dark Knight 3: The Master Race, and Venom enters the cosmos in Venom Space Knight!
Dark Knight 3: The Master Race #1 (DC Comics)
At long last, Dark Knight 3: The Master Race has arrived. The Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello penned series has a metric ton of hype around it, but many (myself included) are wary after Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Sure, with Azzarello helping on the scripts and Andy Kubert on art, it’s a good chance we won’t be getting DKSA again, but there’s always the possibility that we could get something even worse as well. While Dark Knight 3 isn’t a complete mess, it’s merely a solid opening issue, not the spectacular groundbreaking first issue it’s been hyped as.
Mirroring Dark Knight Returns and Strikes Again, this opening issue is full of the talking heads of the day discussing current events. With the Batman’s sudden arrival back on the scene (fighting cops no less), satires of everyone from Fox and Friends to The Daily Show are talking over these acts of vigilantism, and while it’s interesting to see this take on our culture again, after seeing this in Returns and Strikes it kind of feels a little old. Aside from Batman taking on some police in the opening pages, there’s not much action to speak of in this story, as Azzarello and Miller set the stage for what the world of TDKR looks like in the 3 years since the events of Strikes Again. Mainly this includes a quick check in with Wonder Woman and her child with Superman in Themyscira, which takes up quite a few pages in the book.
In this regard, DK3 is pretty interesting, and this segment of the book is pretty cool. Wonder Woman effortlessly takes on a gigantic monster, all while carrying her child on her back. But we’re here primarily for Batman; so having Wonder Woman take up so much of the book is pretty disappointing. And as good as the final cliffhanger page is for this issue, it comes way too fast. Now, this may be because I’ve read Dark Knight Returns and its sequel in trade form, but I felt that this issue was a little too slow. Right when things start to get interesting, you’re hit with the final page telling you to come back for issue 2. At 48 pages that’s a little distressing.
On the art side of things, Andy Kubert does a really great job of matching Miller’s style from the previous Dark Knight books but also giving it his own spin. You won’t mistake any of these pages for Miller’s work in his prime, but at the same time, Kubert’s pencils aren’t so off the mark that they don’t match up with the style of the previous series. Kubert’s action is extremely well done, and use of shadow from Klaus Janson’s inks is used masterfully.
Oh yeah, there’s also a mini-comic by Azzarello and Miller included in the middle of the book. These mini comics will be in every issue of Dark Knight 3 and star a different DC hero. They’ll also feature a different artist each issue. Since Frank Miller was listed as the artist for this first installment, I’ll admit I wasn’t looking forward to it (if you’ve seen his recent work in the past few years you know why). However, I was pleasantly surprised by how, well, not terrible it was. Either Miller is actually listening to his critics (doubtful) or is going back to his more “classic” style, because the art in this mini-comic is more in line with his work on Dark Knight Returns than anything he’s put out recently. You should definitely read the mini-comic AFTER you read the full issue, as it will go into some points that aren’t touched on at the midway point of the book.
Thankfully, DK3 isn’t a train wreck. But it’s also not the action filled spectacle that we’re lead to believe it should be. Hell, you barely even see Batman in this issue, and when you do, it’ll probably cause you to feel a little cheated out of your $6. The Dark Knight 3: The Master Race won’t convince you not to trade wait if you were planning on doing so, and as slow as this issue is, the ideas presented here are pointing towards a story that should (hopefully) be more coherent than Dark Knight Strikes Again.
Venom Space Knight #1 (Marvel Comics)
The latest Guardian of the Galaxy to get a solo book, Venom Space Knight finds Flash Thompson in space, traversing the galaxy on solo adventures. Venom’s gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, but this opening issue from Robbie Thompson and artist Ariel Olivetti is one of the more welcome changes of pace for the former psycho symbiote.
This issue finds Venom on the trail of an alien pirate on a far off planet. That’s pretty much all you need for set up, as Robbie Thompson gives you really everything you need to know in the first opening pages of the book. Thompson seems to be having a lot of fun with this new spin on Venom. The dialogue is really entertaining and catches you up to speed quickly, and Flash Thompson is actually a really fun and entertaining lead. However, there’s no mention of The Guardians of the Galaxy at all, which is strange since they are basically the reason why Flash Thompson’s Venom is in space.
On the art side of things, Ariel Olivetti does a pretty good job here. The action scenes are spectacular, but Olivetti’s faces tend to look flat and emotionless at times. However, Olivetti creates some really entertaining aliens and creatures, and does a great job of selling the different gags that Thompson places throughout the book.
Venom: Space Knight isn’t a huge, Earth shattering book, but it is a lot of fun. If you’re completely against the idea of Venom being a space faring hero, this isn’t going to change your mind. But if you were a fan of Rick Remender’s previous Venom run, Space Knight is a solid look into how the character has evolved over the past few years. I’ll definitely be back to check out the next issue. Here’s hoping it’s just as fun as this one was.