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DK3 Prelude: The Road to the Race

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“A good death? There’s NO SUCH THING….”

Welcome to 2016, almost — the 30th anniversary of The Dark Knight Returns.  As would be expected, marking this kind of milestone, DC Comics is launching their first issue of the “trilogy’s”  finale: Dark Knight 3:The Master Race, which hit shelves Wednesday of this week.

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I’m going to get into a more detailed review of the first issue next week, when I can be a little more liberal with the spoilers — and the first issue has a couple big ones.  So for right now, I can tell you that it’s not a bad read, and that while ridiculously short compared to the format of the first two series’ individual issues, there is some interesting potential in what they’ve shown here.  And speaking of shown, it looks excellent. Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson make a fantastic team. We’ll just need to give the story a little more time to gain momentum before we see if the same is true of Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello.

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DC is making a big deal about this being the first time the Dark Knight Batman has been seen in publication in 14 years, not unlike the big deal they made back in 2001 when Dark Knight Strikes Again was published.  The funny thing about that, is neither time was it actually true.  Old Man Batman has made a curious number of appearances across the DCU outside of his own books, and I thought it might be fun to show off a few briefly here.

Let’s start with my personal favorite, Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth by Warren Ellis and John Cassady.

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In this interesting one-shot, Drummer, Jakita and Elijah are investigating a bizzare murder in their universe’s Gotham City, which appears to have a connection to the Multiverse. Upon visiting the crime scene, in a seedy corner of town known as “Crime Alley,” they find a dimensional tear that throws them into other universes, and those have Gothams with Batmen.  Naturally, they run afoul of the Dark Knight. And then they see the boss.

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It’s just so fun to see John Cassady draw not just Batman, but Batmen. It’s simply fantastic.

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The next one is actually an older classic from Zero Hour; Superman Man of Steel #37 from 1994. In what might have even served as inspiration for the previous title, the Zero Hour event was causing ripples in the DC Universe, trying to tie up loose ends dating back to the original Crisis. In a badly damaged Metropolis, the recently returned-from-dead mullet Superman is contacted by Batman, to warn of some kind of impending time crisis.  Of course, this turns out to be Batmen, from different universes and timelines.

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Like Planetary/Batman, this had to be a blast for artist Jon Bogandove — just look at that cover. And in the funnest segment to come out of Zero Hour, Dark Knight Batman begrudgingly teams up with 1970’s Batman, 1930’s Batman, and his pal the Man of Steel in defending a benefit concert from the attacking Mutants.

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Those of you that know your DKR will even recognize panels John faithfully recreated in this book.

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The last really substantial appearance of the old man would have to be from World’s Funnest, a book most folks missed out on in 2000.  The book’s stars are actually Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, who find themselves in a brawl that spans and destroys several continuities.

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As for what makes this Dark Knight appearance special, Frank Miller supplied the artwork for this bizarre showdown, and in doing so took some major pokes at himself, which makes it all the better.

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There are also some minor appearances in Superman/Batman: With a Vengeance and Justice League: The Lightning Saga, as well as Paul Pope’s awesome Batman: Year 100, but those are more like blink-and-you’ll-miss-it types.

Lastly, there’s the book that pissed me off as a kid:

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So you might be wondering what ‘Mazing Man ever did to me, right?  Well, he tricked me into buying the last issue of his book.  The Frank Miller jam-session cover was just for fun, and there was no Batman to be found inside.  Thirty years later, though, I ain’t mad at the little guy.  Sneaky boots.

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Anyway, join me here again next week as we take a good look at The Master Race #1, and get our spoilers on.