From the very first scene, Dark Knights of Steel #1 takes everything you know to be a foundational truth of the DC Universe and tosses it away to create a new world of swords and sorcery that twists and turns with nearly every page. Between Injustice and DCeased, writer Tom Taylor is no stranger to turning the DCU on its head. Combined with the artistic talents of Yasmine Putri, the duo undoubtedly have a must-read hit on their hands.
Dark Knights of Steel opens on Krypton, moments before the disaster that brings baby Kal-El in his rocket to Smallville. It’s a place that ought to be very familiar to even the most casual DC reader. And for the first few pages, everything plays out as expected: Jor-El and Lara clutch one another as doom draws nearer. A rocket begins to take off, narrowly escaping the dying world and subsequently crash lands in a verdant field.
Of course, we already know that the rocket will be landing in a fantasy-themed DC Universe. Taylor and Putri know that we know this too, and so it’s all the more shocking when Dark Knights of Steel reveals its first of many twists — Jor-El and Lara themselves emerge from the rocket. It’s a twist that at first appears so simple, but with a few more page turns, has ramifications that will play out, presumably through the entire twelve-issue run.
I won’t go too deep into spoiler territory here — you really should pick this book up. What I do want to go into is the scale and scope of the project. At first glance, Dark Knights of Steel could appear to be just “Batman with a sword.” But within the first ten pages, Taylor and Putri have gifted us with so much more. There’s prophecy and political machinations at work just below the surface of the gorgeous fantasy aesthetic.
In his work on Superman: Son of Kal-El and Nightwing, Taylor breaks those characters down to their core essences and uses that to build new, modern stories that are familiar and fresh all at once. The same goes for Dark Knights of Steel. By boiling characters like Superman and Batman down to their most recognizable traits, and then crafting twists like the one above, Taylor creates a domino effect of subverted expectations. I’m sold! Tom Taylor, you got me again!
Yasmine Putri’s art complements and further expands the scope of Taylor’s script. Establishing shots of a castle high among the clouds reflects the epic fantasy nature of the story. But it’s the scenes that take place within the castle walls that Putri’s impact is felt the most. Dialogue scenes play out with a ton of tension. The characters’ facial expressions are rendered with great detail. Camera placements in each panel keep the drama of the scenes high while also maintaining a sense of space.
Seeing Bruce, atop a parapet, looking over his shoulder at a crackling lightning bolt creates a sense of foreboding danger while also speaking in the same visual language we have come to expect from Batman stories. We’ve seen Batman and Gordon meet on rainy rooftops far too many times to count at this point, but I can’t say I’ve seen Bruce as vulnerable as he is here.
Dark Knights of Steel #1 is yet another alternate DC Universe from the mind of Tom Taylor that lives up to the high bar he’s continually raised for himself. With art and colors from Yasmine Putri, the epic scope of this fantasy series can be fully realized while still giving the space for more intimate, dramatic scenes.
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