In the Knights of Steel universe, the Batman is an emissary of the El Kingdom, caught in the middle of a long prophesied war. Unlike most of the other issues in the series thus far, Dark Knights of Steel #7 focuses more on a developing side plot about demons and magic.
Issue #7 picks up with Prince Bruce being revived at the Kent Farm by a group of metahumans called the Titans. In another world these magical teenagers would be heroes, but here they are a band of refugees attempting to heal the very man they’ve been hiding from. It reads as a “very special episode” mirroring something like The Prince of Egypt, whereupon the prince learns “he too is a Hebrew,” and now intends to change his ways. This twist illustrates how discriminatory Batman’s literal witch hunt has been.
Outside of a nightmare sequence, the story feels surprisingly stand alone. The biggest follow-up concerns the plans of “Etrigan the Demon Head” and his daughter attempting to lay claim to the lives of the Titans. It may be a clue into the overall demon mystery of the series thus far, but it feels like a deviation. A return to the title character should feel more important, considering that Batman’s footprint in the series is somewhat diminishing. Personally, I think when a story refocuses on the lead character it shouldn’t feel like filler.
The artwork of Knights of Steel has its highs and lows. I appreciate the style of Dan Mora’s cover harkening back to the vibe of Heavy Metal! Batman doesn’t ride the dragon in the actual book but it is an exciting cover. The renditions of the Titans aren’t as hardcore as seen in Dark Knights: Metal, but they aren’t so much traditional like Dungeons & Dragons either. In fact, Nathan Gooden’s costumes have more in common with Young Hercules or A Knight’s Tale. Cyborg’s design in particular could easily fit within the He-Man cartoons. Nathan Gooden’s Beast Boy design was the most metal part of the issue, taking the form of a massive horned dragon against demon ninjas. When not looking awesome, Beast Boy takes the form of an underwhelming hobgoblin in a tunic.
Arif Prianto’s neutral earth tone colors are the standout weakness for me. As far as a gradient goes, it skips dark tones completely. Most images will read all the same tone when grayscale. Everything that is supposed to be dark on the page is either a mid tone or black inks. The jarring dark silhouettes in the issue showcase this gap in color definition the best. While I feel negative about this, I doubt the average reader will care or notice. In addition, Nathan Gooden’s line art sometimes comes out oblong and deformed for some reason. On a positive note, the glows of magic and heat vision tend to be the best looking features on the page.
Even though I have been enjoying this series, this issue is absolutely the weakest. The events happening feel like set up for an entirely different storyline altogether. Truth be told, I like the concept of Etrigan for Knights of Steel. However, the clunky dialogue and random clashes of ninjas and knights are out of place. Even the resolution of the conflict doesn’t seem to be well thought out. In contrast, Tom Taylor’s use of the Kents and what they represent is a clever and heartwarming upside.
- Beast Boy becoming a dragon interests you full stop.
- You have a deep respect for the Kent adoptive sanctuary.
- You think a medieval Teen Titans book could work.
Despite the minor hiccups in the storyline and artwork, I still believe Dark Knights of Steel is a fun ride. This particular issue just needed more thought and care overall. I am a firm believer that a good journey is about where you’re going, not what’s in your cooler. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it is going and can only judge it by where we are right now. Tom Taylor is sidelining his grander plot to set up a future one. It is hard to say if issue #7 turns out to be more important or just ends up a “backdoor pilot” for something else.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.