Friday, March 31, 2023

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel #10

Dark Knights of Steel #10 came out this week and we are starting to tie up all the plotlines as we head to the conclusion. Last issue we had finally had the bombshell drop. The White Martians have been manipulating everyone, forcing the super-powered kingdoms to fight each other and eliminate the super-powered beings on the board, softening the world up for a takeover.

With the reveal out of the way, it is time for some of the background to be explained.

Writer Tom Taylor seems to thrive in these Elseworlds situations. This issue he does a good job of giving us the origin of the Martians arrival as well as setting up the end war. Heck, he even goes back to the original prophecy that is driving the plot, revealing who 'the Green man' is. I have enjoyed how well Taylor is juggling the characters here, giving each of the main characters their own personality, their own backstory, their own worries. We are only ten issues (and one special) in but I feel like I know these versions of familiar characters.

Yasmine Putri continues to stun on art. Our last issue came out two months ago. If Putri's art is what is taking so long, it is worth it. I'd rather have a unified look. The fantastical elements and the quiet moments all work well here. This issue ultimately is a sci-fi issue which shows her breadth nicely.

Best of all, the story has reached the right place for the 10th issue of a 12 issue series. Taylor has 2 issues to wrap it all up. I get the sense this won't be rushed.

On to the book.

Last issue ended with the double surprise. The White Martians were revealed. And then Alfred reveals that he is actual J'onn J'onzz. I was not expecting that.

While the three armies - the House of El, the Amazons, and the House of Storms - as well Batman and his titans come to realize how they have been played, they wonder if J'onn is part of the problem.

Luckily, Princess Diana (now Queen Diana since Hippolyta was killed last issue) uses the magic lasso to confirm his innocence and lack of ill will. 

This is a very nice turn.

I also love how guilty John Constantine feels about what has happened. It was his prophecy which stirred up suspicions which the White Martians took advantage of. Such a simple way of showing it art-wise, that hand rubbing his own neck.

The 'real' Constantine lives with guilt from his actions. It drives him. So I think this is also a nice riff on current continuity.

At least Queen Anissa acknowledges that they all have been fooled.

It is amazing how a common enemy can suddenly end a war.

Yes, there is a battlefield filled with the dead of the three armies. But now that the White Martians have been discovered, it is time for them to unify.

I love how Lara is the first to extend the olive branch. The wounded of the other armies will be welcomed into the House of El for rest and treatment. I love how she shouts down Amanda Waller. Now isn't the time for paranoia.

I could gush about Putri all review. But love the expression on Lara in these three panels, from caring peace-keeper to steely-eyed queen.

Meanwhile, Diana mourns her mother. 

When Zala calls Diana 'your majesty', we see Diana breakdown. This isn't the time for courtly titles. Diana needs the support of her beloved.

This was my favorite scene of the book. Such a powerful moment.

The three queens - Lara, Anissa, and Diana - all convene to interrogate Alfred more. But before they can begin, a fourth queen arrives ... Ivy.

It is pretty clear that Taylor is giving us a world with powerful, caring women leaders. And I like how Ivy represents the planet, not the kingdoms.

But I especially love Harley. That sheepish expression is perfect.

It is here, again wrapped in the Lasso of Truth, that we learn this is J'onn J'onzz. And we learn about Mars.

The White Martians and the Green Martians lived in grudging peace. That is until a charismatic, fascist leader named Protex arose in the Whites. He quickly turned the peace into war. The Whites were savage and were slaughtering the Greens. See how much more subtle an allegory is when compared to the 

But the Greens were smarter, building more powerful weapons. 

Suddenly the planet was ravaged. J'onn was the lone survivor of the Greens. He went to Earth. About 20 White Martians survived. They also came to Earth.

The Els harbored J'onn because of the 'green man' prophecy. But as Alfred, J'onn learned to love the Els, to be loyal. 

This origin takes up the bulk of the issue giving Putri pages to draw aliens, alien landscapes, and science fiction war.

While the war has cost the people of Earth dearly, it has suddenly united them. 

Protex has been behind it all. He'll pay. 

And finally we get the prophecy paying off.

With his presence known, Protex doesn't need Lex/Joker/Green Lantern to do his dirty work. Protex kills Lex and takes the Green Lantern ring for his own. At last, behold 'the green man'. 

Whew! Another great issue. While the J'onn origin ran a touch long, it definitely filled in a lot of the backstory needed to explain how all these Martians ended up here. I love the politics of the world, the queens uniting to fight this foe. But the smaller emotional moments, building up these characters, are what really hit here. The guilty Constantine. The mourning Diana. The loving Zala. The sheepish Harley. It all just clicks.

Wrap it up in the delightful art by Putri and you have a winner.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

This one just isn't grabbing me, but at least they aren't making a burnt offering of the Kara Stand In, maybe all the male characters will die fighting the White Martians leaving women to rule the Earth. its not the most original story, but it beats "DCeased" where Supergirl pretty much just grunts in the background.



William Ashley Vaughan said...

This issue has a terrific variant cover by Ejikure of Zala and Diana.