Monday, September 12, 2022

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel Tales From The Three Kingdoms

Dark Knights of Steel: Tales From the Three Kingdoms came out last week, a one shot of side stories set in the Dark Knights of Steel universe while that mini-series waits to restart.

I have really enjoyed the main title so when I saw this solicited, I was pretty excited. One thing Tom Taylor has done in the mini-series is quickly build a fully formed world. The main characters all feel pretty three dimensional. What I like about this one shot is it seems built only to further flesh out this world. In three stories, you get some history and some characterization which builds on what we already know. 

In the first story, you see a young Batman and the Els uncover an evil within the kingdom. But you also get to meet some new characters as interpreted in this world. In the second story, we learn the origin of the Robins but set in a fun carnival setting. And the last story shows us an important moment in Bruce Wayne's history, showing where his loyalties lie.  World building wonderful stuff.

We get a different artist on each story, each with a unique style. From loose to detailed, the styles fit their respective stories nicely. In particular, the carnival story is just gorgeous. 

I have been waiting for the next chapter of the main book to come out. This was a nice little morsel to keep me sated for a bit.

On to the book. 

The first story is written by Tom Taylor with art by Caspar Wijngaard. Wijngaard has a loose, sort of cartoony style which works well with this tale from the younger years of the Els and Batman. 

Here we see an orphan from the Arkham Orphanage named James Olsen hired by Perry White. Hey, I like that. It isn't 'don't call me chief' but 'please call me Perry' is a sort of fun inversion. 

I guess no matter the universe, Jimmy is the pal of Superman.

Here we see Kal befriend Jimmy. They both share some pain in their pasts. They both have lost their worlds in a way. See the beginning of this friendship is kind of fun.

Jimmy is seemingly kidnapped from the orphanage by some winged demon. When the King and Queen deny sending help to investigate, Kal decides to go on his own. 

And without his knowing it, Kal is trailed by Bruce and little sister Zala. 

At Arkham we meet young versions of Two-Face and the Penguin. They send the heroes to a mountain in the kingdom where inside a cave we see a gigantic Man-Bat and the missing children.

My favorite moment here was Zala, our Supergirl analog, racing into the cave when she hears the children. She is quick to act. We have seen that in her in the main book. 

Nice splash by Wijngaard. Man-Bat looks monstrous.

Ahh ... but a nice twist. 

Dr. Arkham has been experimenting on the orphans. It explains the look of Two-Face and Penguin. And also what seems to be Killer Croc. Man-Bat was trying to save them from Arkham. 

All things that look monstrous aren't monsters.

Arkham is arrested. 

Oh, but Taylor gives us one more twist.

Arkham is taken away by General Waller, the Els military commander. Waller hires Arkham to continue her work. Perhaps we'll see a Suicide Squad in the main book?

Nice story. I like seeing young Kal spring into action when he thinks there is injustice. I like Zala and Bruce joining in. And Waller's side actions? Delicious.

As good as that story was, I like the middle story by writer Jay Kristoff and artist Sean Izaakse even more. 

Izaakse is new to me but I love his style.

And setting a comic story in a costume party is always a recipe for success. Here Harley Quinn brings Clark and Bruce to carnival. I like how Clark's 'costume' is a pair of glasses while Bruce goes more classic Bat.

But the real fun are all the other interpretations Izaakse gives us. Ragman! Deathstroke! Bane! And maybe Huntress?

The three are victims of pickpockets, the band of Robins.

But we learn these are hard-luck but heroic kids. Even though it might lead to his capture, the Dick Grayson Robin risks his life to save a little girl from being trampled. And check out the girl! It's a medieval Kole!

You know I love Kole!

That act makes Bruce decide the right thing to do is mentor these Robins rather than arrest them. 

Good origin story and one I am glad we have in this universe.

The last story is  written by C.S. Pacat with art by Michele Bandini. 

Again, we get a story a few years in the past. Bruce looks like a tweener here. Bandini's art is suited for this kid story.

He meets the King's Bane. But it turns out Bane is a Wayne loyalist, upset that the Els are sitting on the throne and hoping the have Bruce ascend. 

Bane, juiced by magic given to him by Dr. Crane, vows to train Bruce and make the young Wayne a formidable fighter. 

I like this new piece of history. How did this Bruce become the fighter he is if he didn't do the world tour of the present Batman. Turns out he is trained by Bane. 

But we again get a nice twist. Bruce brings Bane into the castle supposedly to allow Bane to use his magic to kill the Els.

Instead, Bruce cuts Bane's amplifiers. He is loyal to the Els. He won't let others suffer the loss he has. And so he is willing to betray Bane despite the connection to the Waynes.

In some ways, this is very much Batman. He became Batman to spare others his pain. He was taken in by the Els. He won't see them killed. 

So three stories, all filling in some details about the Dark Knights of Steel world, giving us character history and building on the lore. I really liked this.

And hopeful I see Sean Izaaske's work elsewhere. His stuff sparked!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Excellent review, this sounds like a fun comic, the Jimmy story sounds very much my cup of tea.

Sean Izaakse is great, yeah. He’s done a fair amount of work at Marvel, notably on Fantastic Four and the excellent Avengers: No Way Home mini. He’s now on the new Thunderbolts mini, review of last month’s #1 over at my place!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this book mainly for “Medieval Supergirl”, who at least is fun and impulsive…she could anchor her own all ages miniseries, if indeed DC Comics even gave those kinds of projects any consideration these days.