Medieval castle? And Jor-El and Lara alongside baby Kal? I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore in this limited series from writer Tom Taylor and illustrator Yasmine Putri.
It looks like Olde England but we’re in The Kingdom of Storms, and as the last family of Krypton get their bearings, a young mystic announces their presence with a prophecy.
Two decades later, and it seems young Constantine may have been correct. Jor-El and Lara are on the throne, and the king who wields the black lightning is a rival. In this neck of the narrative, young knight Bruce leaves the court to track down a suspected sorceress, the Banshee.
Luckily, the ‘bastard Bat-Prince’ has help from the young noble Kal-El, despite the super-powered scion of the El family having been told by the rather imperious Bruce to let him handle it.
Banshee beaten, the young men return to the castle, to be greeted by the jester.
And that’s just the beginning of the intrigue in Dark Knights of Steel. Tom Taylor’s previous alternate takes on the DC Universe have spun out of recognisable continuity but this is a case of so far, so Elseworlds. It’s a bit Kal, a bit Last Family of Krypton (and if you don’t know those stories, seek them out). It’s the characters we know already in an unfamiliar scenario and setting, which makes me less excited than usual at the prospect of a year-long Taylor story. I enjoy seeing him go from DCU to DCZ in short, logical steps, not a single bound.
But, Taylor hasn’t let me down yet, and this has to be something other than ‘what if Superman arrived on Earth in Ye Olde Days?’ You wouldn’t get people named Jefferson and Dinah in an England-alike. As for Eddings the scribe, the only character in the book without an obvious comic book inspiration, I assume that’s a nod to fantasy author David Eddings. ‘The Green Man’ mentioned in the Constantine scene is most obviously a reference to Swamp Thing, but I wouldn’t have been surprised were Taylor to have swerved in the direction of the Joker or, more interestingly, the Creeper (anyone but the excruciating Gar Logan). As it happens, we do find out who the Green Man is at issue’s end…
The visual tone is set by the extremely attractive artwork of Yasmine Putri, who looks to be working in watercolours. Expert eyes could put me right here, if I’m wrong. Whatever the technique, the pages are compelling, with gorgeous backdrops and clever character redesigns – I especially like the look for Kal, the white tunic and clasp combo is very attractive. Dinah looks exactly like regular flavour Black Canary – that may be a clue that what this series will be about is a changed DCU getting back to regular continuity.
The always excellent letterer – sorry, calligrapher – Wes Abbott adds to the Middle Ages mood with his carefully chosen fonts, and has me intrigued and amused by his credit…
‘Abbot’ rather than ‘Abbott’? Methinks our wizard of words has a clerical bent. Very good, sir!
And ‘very good’ applies to the whole Ben Abernathy-edited issue, from the cracking cover illo – with mighty masthead by Darran Robinson – to the classy cliffhanger. I’d love to hear your thoughts and theories on this debut.