Dark Knights of Steel #1 Review: A Bold Fantasy Take Grounded by Familiar DC Lore

Dark Knights of Steel #1 kicks off DC's latest innovative Elseworlds-style series draped in fantasy themes and intriguing stakes. Writer Tom Taylor has made a name for himself in recent years by writing several DC series set outside of standard continuity. Taylor's Injustice and DCeased shine not just because of their intriguing story hooks, but also because Taylor has a knack for crafting a fully-fleshed out world that feels familiar yet intrinsically different thanks to a series of cascading effects caused by a single deviation from the DC Universe. 

In Dark Knights of Steel, Taylor is joined by Yasmine Putri, a brilliant artist known mostly for her covers. Taylor and Putri previously worked together on an 8-page Supergirl story, but Dark Knights of Steel #1 is her first full-length comics story. Putri's artwork brings an extra level of pedigree to what could easily become DC's next smash hit. Her characters have a shine and gloss to them absent from usual superhero books, separating Dark Knights of Steel from other comics on the stand. However, Putri also shows off a knack for expressive faces, which allows her art to do much of the heavy lifting during tense conversations and stunning revelations. The combination of Putri's gorgeous artwork and the non-traditional setting and tone of the comic makes Dark Knights of Steel feel different right from the first page, which is fitting because it's unlike anything else DC has published in recent history.

Dark Knights of Steel begins the same way that many DC series do - with a Kryptonian rocket crashing on Earth. However, this rocket contains both Jor-El and Lara, the latter of whom is about to give birth. As a troop of armored knights bear down on the Kryptonian duo, Jor-El's heat vision activates and incinerates the knights, providing a violent baptism for his newborn son Kal-El. It's an opening scene that sets a grim and shocking tone for what's to come and will likely draw comparisons to fantasy series like Games of Thrones, which shares a key rule with the best Elseworlds stories - anything can happen, and no one is safe.

Once Dark Knights of Steel establishes the moment this comic deviates from the standard timeline, the comic quickly shifts to establish its two central conflicts. The first is between the Kingdom of El and the Kingdom of Storms led by Black Lightning. Instead of presenting one side as an antagonist, we see Jefferson act based on a prophecy from Constantine, who warns of a world-ending threat coming from the skies. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne acts as a grim enforcer for the House of El, capturing and imprisoning anyone who uses "magic," the one thing capable of harming his adopted family. Interestingly, Dark Knights of Steel has no supervillains in its first issue; instead, the conflicts are driven by superheroes acting to preemptively snuff out threats. While superhero vs. superhero storylines are usually trite and driven by forced conflict, the fantasy setting and stakes make this particular story feel organic, another cascading effect caused by the deviation to DC lore.

Fans of high fantasy will love Dark Knights of Steel, as will those who already love the DC Universe and enjoy seeing new versions of its characters come to life. But what I appreciated most about Dark Knights of Steel is how it effortlessly establishes its world and conflict in a single issue, all the while reminding us that anything can happen in this series. Dark Knights of Steel is an exciting comic book and will hopefully mark the start of a wider world that Taylor, Putri, and other creators can romp in for years to come. 

Published by DC Comics

On November 2, 2021

Written by Tom Taylor

Art by Yasmine Putri

Colors by Yasmine Putri

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Letters by Wes Abbot

Cover by Yasmine Putri