WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
When it was announced that comic writer Tom Taylor (“Superman: Son of Kal-El,” “DCeased,” “Nightwing”) was going to pen the series “Dark Knights of Steel,” something told me that I had to read this story. Something also told me that I was going to be in for a treat.
And sure enough I was.
“Dark Knights of Steel,” is not just a retelling of the origin stories of our favorite heroes and villains of the DC Universe in the vein of a medieval epic like “Game of Thrones.” In some ways, it is a story about family. In other ways, it is a story about a sinister conspiracy involving kingdoms. I feel that it is also a story about one man’s birthright and another man’s revenge.
When I read this “Dark Knights of Steel no. 1,” there were several twists I did not see coming.
The first twist is when Taylor takes us back to the fateful moment of the planet Krypton’s doom. We see Jor El and his beloved wife Lara, the parents of Superman, lament their planet’s impending destruction. You know how this story goes: the rocket ship blasts off from an exploding Krypton and it ends up on a grassy field on planet Earth. At this point, you’d think that this is where Jonathan and Martha Kent come into the picture to see a little curly-haired boy, who would become Earth’s greatest champion, stretching his arms out to them in a loving gesture. However, we see that Ma and Pa Kent are nowhere to be found and even more surprising,we see that Jor and a pregnant Lara are the occupants of the crashed spaceship. And what is even crazier is that Lara is about to give birth. Jor-El, notices a group of knights on horses surrounding him. As Jor-El tries to get help for his pregnant wife, the knights shoot their bows and arrows at him and suddenly, he kills the assailants with his heat vision. After that,Jor El and Lara welcome their son Kal-El to the world that they now call their home.
19 years later, the Els would establish their own kingdom alongside Thomas and Martha Wayne (a king and queen who would mysteriously die leaving their son Bruce an orphan). Both Kal-El and Bruce would become princes of the Kingdom of El. However, not everyone is happy to welcome the family of strange visitors from a dying world. Hence comes the second twist.
The El’s arrival is foreseen in a doomed prophecy by a young John Constantine and King Jefferson (aka Black Lightning). King Jefferson’s fear that the Els would take over the world causes him to send assassins who wield magic to assassinate them. This causes Jor and Lara to outlaw magic and forbid Kal from accompanying the Bat-Prince Bruce Wayne on his mission to fight the magic wielders.
Prince Kal-El, like his original counterpart that we know and love, is always eager to help much to the annoyance of Bruce. We see that he has a sense of justice and holds all life (innocent or evil) sacred. This is shown when he questions Bruce and his father on how to treat the captured Banshee (Dinah “Black Canary”Lance). While he seems to be a bit of a boyscout, he also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he brushes off the fact that Bruce is only an orphan when Jor El suggests that the Bat-Prince sit on the throne. When I read the interaction between Kal and Bruce, I saw that Kal may see Bruce as a rival for the throne since it is his birthright. This brings us to the third twist which involves Bat-Prince.
Bruce the Bat-Prince is every bit as Batman as Batman can be. He is stoic. He is as Harley in this universe would put it “ dark and brooding.” And like the original Batman, he has help in the form of his trusty friend (and occasional servant) Alfred and his “Robins” (Dick, Jason, Duke, and Stephanie). And comes the twist that drops the bomb: Bruce Wayne is a product of a tryst between Jor-El and Martha Wayne. That’s right, Jor-El reveals to the shocked readers and Batman that the Dark Knight is his son which makes him Superman’s Kyptonian-Human hybrid half-brother in this universe. And while Bruce is processing the revelation, Jor-El is assassinated by Green Arrow and the “Green Man” (Green Lantern) which causes a grief stricken Bruce’s eyes to turn into the familiar heat vision red. And that is when the story of “Dark Nights of Steel” actually begins.
Tom Taylor wrote an epic comic book story with the perfect ingredients: the DC Comics and medieval archetypes! And the twists in this first issue were the chef’s kiss! And I suspect that there are more twists and turns to come.
Another thing I enjoyed about the comic was illustratrations and coloring done by Yasmine Putri. Purtri’s art was the icing on the cake for this medieval DC epic. My favorite scene in the first issue is where Bruce and Jor-El are having their talk at the castle. The lightning is a common trope used in the Batman mythos and also serves an ominous omen for things to come. Another favorite drawing is the half splash of Bruce cradling his father Jor-El in his arms. It is here where we will really see him become the Bat-Prince, full-circle, and with Kryptonian powers which makes him more dangerous.
Overall, it is a retelling that would make everyone who has ever read, watched, or heard the stories of the heroes and villains of the DC Universe talk about this story for years to come. I’m serious when I write this! I am already looking forward to reading issue no. 2 and to see where it goes from there.
“Dark Knights of Steel no. 1” is available at your local comic book shop or wherever comic books are sold!
“Dark Knights of Steel no. 1”
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Yasmine Putri
Colorist: Yasmine Putri
Letterer: Wes Abbot
Publisher: DC Comics
An entire medieval world will be forever changed when a spaceship crash-lands from a doomed planet. Monarchs will die, kingdoms will rise, and what seemed the end of the world for many…was only the beginning! An epic high-fantasy story set in a DC Universe where nothing is what it seems… From worldwide bestselling writer Tom Taylor (DCeased, Superman: Son of Kal-El) and acclaimed artist Yasmine Putri comes a generational tale of good and evil within a brand-new DCU!