Dark Knights of Steel #1 had a lot of ground to cover, wouldn’t you say Matina?

For sure! It was a busy, busy first issue. 

If I’m honest, it was a little too much for me. In our first review, I covered the lengths writer Tom Taylor and artist Yasmine Putri went to pack as much lore into its premiere as it could – to the detriment of the story, I think. Despite some amazing art, I think there was a lot of room to grow in the comic’s following issues. Fortunately, it does so in exactly the way I wanted: letting the characters breathe, and slowly unravelling the consequences of their actions. 

My thoughts exactly, Nick. I put down this issue delighted that it was slowing down a bit to really take time with the characters and explore the space a bit more. 

Let’s see just how this second issue builds and improves upon the first!

First, I want to talk about the nature of an Elseworld’s story – probably the most important matter to address, seeing as some content in this issue is already drawing some attention on Twitter. Everyone and their mother has a different definition of what makes a good Elseworlds story at this point – maybe it’s a slight reinterpretation of a classic character, maybe it’s a complete redo from the ground up. I think, at its bare essentials, Elseworld stories are fundamentally about shifting around building blocks: taking fundamentals about your story’s world, and seeing other ways in which they can fit together. Not all blocks will be the same, and I think that’s okay – just so long as they’re making something interesting, which I think this book does.

For me, it’s often very hard to get into Elseworld stories because they are often so very different from the tales I know and love. Oftentimes they are exploring aspects of characters I either totally don’t agree with –I’m looking at you Injustice and your Superman choices– or I’m not all that excited about the big changes to the world or setting. That said, I think when the setting and character choices work together, they make really cool stories, which is exactly what I’m seeing here so far. 

Spoiler
In short, Kara and Diana kissing is not that big a deal.

Yeah, exactly!

What I like about this story is how it handles the cycle of violence. Every character is feeling some level of grief, concern or regret, and they have different ways of processing that grief, depending on how close they are to the situation. Seeing a rift between Clark and Bruce so early in the story is almost off putting, though it makes perfect sense given the circumstances. While I don’t love how every character acts – those objecting over going to war over the death of the King feel a little unrealistic for this setting, for example – it’s a great way of showing where each of these characters stand on a moral issue, despite remaining on the same side.

Agreed. I love how we’re seeing things from a variety of viewpoints, and that these kinds of actions –killing a king– result in a ripple effect that has huge consequences both intended and unintended. It is a cycle of violence and it’s very clear from these two issues that there is not one singular person or kingdom at fault for pushing it onward. I also love how the prophecy is already being turned around and questioned by each party involved. Prophecies are tricky lines to balance in stories because you can fall too heavily into “it’s fate” or “fight fate” mindsets, and here Taylor’s really playing in those spaces. What is assumed might not be accurate, and even with knowledge of the future it is not the full picture. 

As before, Yasmine Putri is clearly the best artist you could have picked for this book. Whether it’s through iconic silhouettes or the slightest differences in expression and mannerisms, you never have trouble recognizing who someone is – or how they’re feeling in any given situation. Acting through art is not always easy, but there are a lot of subtleties Putri is able to portray here, especially when it comes to the emotion of loss. Just look at the silence in this panel, and how it speaks volumes without either character uttering a word.

What I really want to praise, once again, is the character designs. There are certain characters – Constantine in particular – whose outfits don’t seem as if they would be easy to adapt into a fantasy setting! Making these costumes look different yet still recognizable is an incredible feat of creative effort, and this bears reminding every time a new player in the DCU steps onto these pages.

Agreed! I mentioned it in issue #1, but the designs are phenomenal. Each character is very distinct in who they are supposed to be and yet they belong in this world that Taylor and Putri have created. It’s gorgeous, and I cannot wait to see more characters populate this world. 

Recommended If:

  • You were worried that the initial issue went a little too fast.
  • Black Lightning’s role as a major character intrigues you – he’s a really interesting element to the story that adds a lot of nuance!
  • You’re completely down for heroes at odds with one another in a sprawling fantasy setting.

Overall

Concluding thoughts, Matina?

We’re only two issues in and I’m still really excited to keep reading this series. I liked the opening issue, even as busy as it was, and I like this one even better. The slower pace that takes it’s time exploring the domino effect of Jor El’s death is something I really enjoyed seeing. Through it, Taylor’s layering conflict and tension between characters and countries and relationships in a way that has me at the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next. And after this issue, I’m happy to stop guessing at the future and let it play out on the page. 

This has definitely eased a lot of my doubts about the series, despite my own enjoyment of its first outing. There’s a level of depth to these characters, and a lot of it is expressed visually rather than verbally – it’s the kind of story that makes you want to chart the allegiances of every character in order to theorycraft where the story might head as it progresses. That, to me, marks the sign of a good fantasy.

Score: 8.5/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch @MatinaNewsom