DC's Dark Knight III: The Master Race, written by Brian Azzarello with input from Frank Miller and drawn by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, began with the revelation that Bruce Wayne was dead.
Then, he wasn't really dead but back in action.
Then, during a battle with an army of evil Kryptonians, he was dead again.
But there was one not-so-evil Kryptonian there at the time and, despite their long and usually pretty terrible history together in the world of The Dark Knight Returns, Superman frantically flew his longtime ally to a Lazarus Pit, where today's issue ends with Bruce Wayne being brought back to life -- and youth.
Why's the youth angle particularly relevant? Well, legendary writer/artist Frank Miller has said several times during interviews in support of Dark Knight III: The Master Race that he hopes to continue the Dark Knight brand beyond this series.
"After the first one, I said ‘Never again.’ After the second one, I said ‘Never again,’" Miller told ComicBook.com. "I can’t wait to jump in myself again. There’s no reason not to keep going with these. The character is immortal and more ideas spring to mind all the time."
There's likely an argument to be made that "old Batman" is an essential element of The Dark Knight Returns, given that the groundbreaking original miniseries started with Bruce Wayne retired and ended with Batman faking his death via a heart attack. That ignores the fact that, in all likelihood, at this point the key element isn't the premise or the setting but the creative spark behind it.
Miller's Batman in the DC Universe proper -- young or experienced -- is a wildly different animal than his Dark Knight counterpart. He's said in the past that his controversial and often bizarre miniseries All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is in fact an origin story of sorts for The Dark Knight Returns's Batman, whom some critics have called unstable and borderline fascist.
In All-Star, Batman was a full-on raging lunatic and that "borderline" fascist thing had largely disappeared. The comic's most memorable, meme-able scene centered on him calling 10-year-old Dick Grayson "retarded" after Dick told him he didn't like the name "Batmobile," and then declaring "I'm the goddamn Batman."
When you go to a Lazarus Pit, you go in injured or dead and you come out with a little piece of you missing. Usually you're violent or crazy for a while. Could readers be in store for a Dark Knight universe where Miller's Batman is more akin to his depiction in All-Star Batman & Robin?
It certainly seems possible -- and even if not, the ending of The Dark Knight III #7 means Miller and company will no longer be forced to grapple with the title character's mortality (or lack thereof) in each subsequent sequel.