Monday, May 2, 2022

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel #6

Dark Knights of Steel #6 came out last week, marking the halfway point of the maxi-series. And this one ended, as much of this series has ended with a great cliffhanger.

I have been very impressed by this series so far. Sure, this is just another Elseworlds take on the DCU, this time set in medieval times. But writer Tom Taylor has kept his foot on the gas the entire time. Things happen pretty fast in this book, with deaths, plot twists, and declarations of war happening in each issue. Add to that solid characterization and new takes on classic properties. 

In this issue, the fire is stoked for an all out war between the House of El and the House of Lightning. But more and more it is becoming obvious that there is another power lurking in the background, manipulating these two kingdoms into battle. I am still putting my bets on White Martians. We'll see if I'm right. At the very least, it looks like Zala Jor-El, the Supergirl analogue, is probably not a killer. 

Yasmine Putri is again on art and everything is just gorgeous. There isn't necessarily a heavy action issue. Instead Putri gets to show off her expressive work here. The looks of shock, horror, and anger throughout the book are spot on. So much of the story is told by the art here, not words.

And this Supergirl-centric Joshua Middleton cover is just gorgeous.

I am having a ton of fun with this book. It hasn't missed yet. 

On to the details.

The House of Lightning is preparing to coronate their new Queen. 

But court mage John Constantine is still mourning King Jefferson. He not only loved him as King, but had feelings for him as a man. Certainly John is canon bisexual but I didn't get any sense there was romance between him and Pierce. Perhaps he loved from afar making the death that much sadder.

We learn that Tim Drake is a page in the House of Lightning. But Constantine knows he is a mole for Batman, a Robin. 

That means that Tim is part of the House of El, the very people who killed Jefferson and Jacob. He blast Drake with magic and then tells Jennifer Pierce of this spy. She nearly kills him before setting him free. She won't sully the coronation.

John seems a bit unhinged here with grief. An angry Constantine is a dangerous one.

Limping back to the Court of El, Drake hopes to reveal all he has learned. 

I have really loved the Jester Harley Quinn in this book. She clearly is smarter than she acts. And she has the freedom to really say and do just about anything.

I just love her dialogue here, telling Tim just who he is about to present to.

Drake tells them how Zala killed Jacob and Jefferson, in front of hundreds of people.

Kal immediately thinks it is a lie. But there are all those witnesses. Even Harley wonders if Zala is innocent.

I love the art here. The shock on Zala's face in the second panel is great. But the look of denial on her face in the last is pure gold. We don't need Zala to verbalize a denial. The art tells us everything we need to know.

The Zala that killed has to be a White Martian. 

Another idea would be an Amazon wearing the Mask of Proteus given the 'no more Kings' line. Hmmm ...

The Amazons side with the House of Lightning. A war is coming.

I do love the secrets and strategies and maneuvers these houses make.

Here Amanda Waller, general for the Els, reminds Lara that Diana loves Zala and would never betray that love. If Hippolyta dies, Diana becomes Queen. Suddenly the Amazons would support the Els.

Would Lara ever plan regicide? 

But that sounds like the Waller we know in all times.

In another great turn by Taylor, he has Etrigan be the demon form of Ra's Al Ghul. After all, the name means 'Head of the Demon'. That is a tremendous and simple and brilliant link of two characters.

John asks Ra's to raise Jefferson from the dead. But no magic could bring him back with the wound he has. Instead, Ra's will bring Jacob back ... if John turns over the Titans to him. 

We have yet to see the Titans in this book so I like how we will get even more versions of characters in this shockingly broad universe. I love the Ra's/Etrigan link. Of course, given the "Lazarus Pit" connection it makes sense that Ra's could resurrect people.

But why do I get the sense it isn't going to be pretty?

Given the events, Kal decides to try and stem any war from breaking out. 

He heads to Amazonia to try and plead the case that this is a set up.

Hippolyta isn't hearing any of it. And it looks like the Kryptonian vulnerability to magic is part of this world too. 

Now for me, this is Hippolyta. She is the warrior more than the ambassador. But talk about act first, ask questions later.

Bound with the lasso of truth, Kal is interrogated by Lois Lane.

I love Lois here as well, brilliant and working angles behind the scene. She knows something isn't sitting right in her mind. She feels like 'invisible strings' are being pulled. Check out that first panel with her in deep thought. That is fantastic line work. 

Hmmm ... could the invisible line be a hint about it being Martians?

But this is all coming too late. Hippolyta has set sail with her army to take on the Els.

That is a solid ending to this first half of the book.

I really like the strategies and machinations happening behind the scenes, the plotters trying to secure victories in battle. The hints of this third power playing with this world like a chess board is delicious as I wait for the reveal.

The Putri art is incredibly lush. This is one of those books that I thumb through almost immediately after I read it just looking at the art. 

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Putri has the knack too many artists lack of illustrating the dominant emotion and speech each character should have. But maybe it's good writing that allows this by presenting something dominant that can be illustrated clearly that way in a panel. (Though this implies decompression, as a single panel can't do more than some pretty basic interactions. I'm in favor of decompression, though - things get to play out with more nuance.)

Taylor is also at his best when being inventive (he always does manage to surprise) while avoiding overt references to current social and political issues. A lot of people hate Taylor for that side of him, which has been at play throughout Son of Kal-El.

There must be metaphors at work here too, I'd have to think about it. If there is, It's not the main thing that comes to mind.


Martin Gray said...

Top review. I’ll definitely give this a look beyond that first issue once it shows up on the app.


Sorry. Super excited.

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

This elseworld is a pleasant suprise especially after the amount of zombie and dark version.

I'm still waiting to see barabara gordon/batgirl in this series, maybe later?

Anonymous said...

Can a White Martian successfully imitate heat Kryptonian heat vision? Just what powers beyond shape shifting do they have? This might be a good start given the overall adherence to canon so far.