It is common knowledge that Frank Miller has lost his mind. Sure, you could say All-Star Batman and Robin or The Dark Knight Strikes Again or Holy Terror or The Really Bad Spirit Movie are all part of some intentional satirization, but come on. Dude’s crazy. So when I heard his final chapter of the Giant Elderly Bruce Wayne Saga was called The Master Race I was overcome with giddy excitement at the prospect of yet another fascist trainwreck.
Then they hired Brian Azzarello to co-write. Azzarello can be dark and extreme, too, but he has a respect for DC’s stable of characters and probably doesn’t save his poop and pee in jars. I’m guessing he was hired in the hopes of reigning in ol’ Frank and straddling that line between DC’s beloved grimdark and straight-up fascism. What they came up with is definitely not "Frank Miller Unleashed" but still takes some odd turns for such a high-profile book.
What I’m saying is this comic book is a musical.
But it’s a good musical. I mean, I’m not a musical theater critic (barely a comic book critic, if we’re being honest) but I definitely enjoyed the songs. And I don’t mean "songs" written out like in V For Vendetta, I mean there’s a chip in this comic book that plays different songs for every page. It’s pretty impressive and a real step forward from the same technology that gave us those birthday cards where dogs bark out "Happy Birthday." And I’m happy to report that despite the addition of the chip the cover price remains at the industry standard of $46.99 an issue.
My favorite song in Master Race #1 is definitely "Here Comes Old Nazi Tits," sung by Batman once he discovers that the lady with the Swastikas on her boobs from Dark Knight Returns is behind this new scheme. It starts out in a slow crooner style and then picks up to more of a jazzy duet when Nazi Tits chimes in with Batman, and then a third singer storms in for a grand finale: Killer Croc 2 (who actually turns out to be Nightwing)! It’s a dramatically satisfying song and a real toe-tapper.
My second favorite tune would be "Here Is My Whole Plan Bat-Man" sung by The Joker 3 (Alfred), in which he explains the whole plot of this story to Batman right before Batman rips his head off with a Bat-Wrench. At least, I think it explains the plot. The song is a traditional klezmer piece sung in Hebrew, so I’m guessing only a small fraction of readers would be able to translate the song, assuming someone who speaks Hebrew would even read a book called The Master Race.
"Here Is My Whole Plan" is the only non-English song in Issue #1 but there is a lot of variety in the music here. Batman picks up a guitar and sings some folk music, Superman scats, and Commissioner Gordon’s skeleton sings and dances through some good old-fashioned ragtime. Even the advertisements get in on it, most notably Stephen Amell belting out "My Way" on a one-sheet for Arrow.
The only clunker on the soundtrack is "Robin’s Rap," in which Robin 11 (Damian Wayne III) rhymes his way through a sordid tale of “hoes” and “smoking trees.” I don’t really get why the song was included because it had nothing to do with the story. Honestly I was relieved when Robin got interrupted by having his heart ripped out by Catwoman 2 (Wonder Woman).
The music was indeed a pleasant surprise but the other big surprise in The Master Race #1 was not nearly as amusing. Why was every other page made out of double-sided tape? I don’t know if this is meant as some sort of satire comparing comic books to pornography, or just a weird mistake. Un-sticking my fingers every other page was pretty distracting, and it really messed up the look of the art.
The art itself was another big creative leap that I thought worked pretty well. Frank Miller’s art has come under heavy criticism in the last few years, so fans of drawings that make sense were excited to hear that Andy Kubert would be taking over art duties. And by “art duties” I mean “drawing coloring book pages that are then filled in by Frank Miller.”
It works better than you’d think. It makes for striking and innovative comic art, but different from The Dark Knight Strikes Again in that the colors stay in the lines and you can tell what the fuck is happening. There are a few spots where it is clear Miller tried to draw in a penis with his crayons and Kubert had to rub it out, but besides that the visuals really worked for me.
Miller and his support staff take a lot of risks in The Master Race. Some of those risks pay off and some do not. The important thing is that he is back in just enough of a capacity that DC can put his name on the cover and sell a gazillion copies.
And you won’t believe the identity of The Riddler 4 (The Riddler 3).
You may know Timmy Williams from the sketch group The Whitest Kids U' Know, and you've probably seen him in a gas station buying snacks on his way to do stand-up somewhere.
He's also a huge nerd, as you can see by his Twitter handle: @TimmyIsANerd