Tom Taylor’s Elseworld story of swords and sorcery enters its sixth chapter by stoking the fires of the burning mysteries and misdirection found in this story from the very beginning. So, in the interest of clarity, let’s recap what we know so far:
In this story, Batman and Superman are both half-brothers in a medieval version of the DC Universe! This parallel has finally come full circle with last issue’s revelations and is represented in the dual split on Dan Mora’s illuminated manuscript type cover art for this week’s follow up. Still referred to as The Batman, Bruce is an actual dark knight and sheriff imprisoning the enemies of the Els. Most of these enemies just so happen to be metahumans who can threaten their power. This rule is constantly contested by their rivals, The Kingdom of Storms, led by Tom Taylor’s versions of the Black Lightning family and Constantine. The conflict and subsequent war between the two kingdoms is based on a prophecy formed by Constantine as a child that seems to be coming true, following a series of murders and betrayals with the alien El siblings at the center of it all.
This issue picks up with Constantine lamenting the death of the king of Storms who was seemingly annihilated by Princess Zala Jor-El. Constantine is then both consoled and interrogated by Tim Drake. While most of the other “robins” are squires of the Batman, Tom Taylor cleverly uses him as a “little bird” collecting information as a double agent. The open observations and accusations made on the page by Drake stir the pot of doubt about every incident witnessed in the series thus far. Which is an interesting tactic, considering readers have to now question each incriminating crime witnessed with their own eyes, but I’ll explore this a bit more later. Though Drake is outed as a spy for Batman by Constantine, I don’t think his investigation is quite over.
High fantasy storytelling is nothing without its secret alliances and family squabbles in a post-Game of Thrones world. This series has no shortage of either. When Tim Drake is quickly returned home to the Kingdom of the Els, he wastes no time telling them that Zala Jor El is a murderer and making the case for the Kingdom of Storms. Zala is depicted in a hilariously rendered “who me?” gesture in response, while the members of the court deny it the best they can. The tea gives what it’s supposed to give and divides the room.
Harley Quinn in particular, doubts Drake is lying. Kal El, who seemingly attempted to murder the now missing Batman last issue, defends his sister. Diana is unaffected by the news, despite refusing to believe it when she heard it the first time and left her mother’s side to be with Zala and the Els. It’s never a good sign of innocence when General Waller puts the idea of killing Diana’s mother in the Queen’s ear as a tactic to control Amazonia. Kal El leaves the city to convince Hippolyta not to join The Kingdom of Storms in war, and is stabbed and restrained by the lasso of truth.
If I hadn’t mentioned before, I absolutely love the synergy between Yasmine Putri’s line art and Arif Prianto’s colors. Especially in action scenes, Putri’s panels typically tilt following the momentum. When Drake is thrown through doors, the panels tilt with him like camera tracking shots. When Kal El is stabbed, the blood explodes into the margins while the panels wobble with him. My favorite page is a four panel image of Constantine summoning Etrigan the Demon! Putri’s emotive mystical gestures and Prianto’s reflective and colorful enhancement of Etrigan’s wavy cloak of flames and fish scale armored legwear really sell the moment as a cinematic big deal. Now the Demon is helmed not by Jason Blood but The Demon Head Ra’s Al Ghul. Another villain Constantine strikes a deal with to end this war, apparently by any means necessary
Which brings me to the elephant in the room; who is actually killing everyone? Despite readers themselves seeing Zala Jor El kill the king, the prince, and the metal men in previous issues, she seems to not remember doing so at all. In fact, issue five actually begins with Zala giving her brother an alibi of trying to find the “Green Man” Luthor/Joker who killed her father. Her brother who also seemingly claims to not know where Batman is, despite readers seeing that too. Even to the degree that, while restrained by the lasso of truth, maintains his innocence to the best of his knowledge. Even if both siblings were behind it, why would they lie to one another? Could it have been a big bad like the Green Man who has killed both Jor El and Thomas Wayne or is there a batch of ye olde evil twins out there somewhere? I believe the answer lies in the prophecy itself:
“They will look like us, they will sound like us, but they are not us. They are demons.”
Whether that means the imposter Supermen are supposed to be actual demon doppelgangers remains to be seen. Considering Tom Taylor introduces actual demons in this issue, it may not be so far fetched.
- The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, or Robin Hood appeals to you.
- Excited by loads of DC Justice League cameos/Easter eggs.
- Tim Drake is your favorite Robin.
Tom Taylor has managed to concoct a competent who-dun-it in the middle of a high fantasy Elseworld story. However, for a story centered on The Dark Knight and The Man of Steel, it has more of a wider Justice League style reach, more often focusing on characters like Constantine, Wonder Woman, and others. The only other nitpick is that the television show-like fast travel employed throughout the series thus far has been irritating. Characters go from one kingdom to another and back in virtually no time. Even if most of the major players can fly, it comes off a bit strange as if the two kingdoms are just down the street and their metahuman assassins want to borrow some sugar. That aside, I look forward to reading the next chapter of this engaging and vibrant story!
DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.