Dark Knights of Steel #3 Review: Brilliant, Brutal, Bloody Fantasy

Dark Knights of Steel #3 continues to showcase the new fantasy-themed version of the DC universe developed by Tom Taylor and Yasmine Putri, while removing several key players from the board in brutal and bloody fashion. The newest issue, released this week, continues to escalate the conflict between the Kingdom of Storms (led by Jefferson Pierce and his family) and the House of El, with another "shock" death that showcases just how deadly the characters of the DC Universe can be when the ethics and morality of superheroes are removed entirely. 

While Dark Knights of Steel is ostensibly a fantasy book, the creative team of Taylor and Putri are telling a rather simple story about how fear and violence only begets more fear and violence. In the opening issue, King Jefferson of the Kingdom of Storms has Jor-El assassinated due to a prophecy preaching doom "coming from the stars." Over the past two issues, we've seen the repercussions of Jefferson's actions, with the new character Zala Jor-El starting a one-woman superhuman campaign of revenge against him. In the previous issue, we saw Zala kill Jefferson's son in cold blood. In the newest issue, Zala escalates things even further, with another deadly attack on Jefferson and his forces as the Kingdom of Storms entreats with their longtime allies the Amazonians.

What's fascinating about Dark Knights of Steel is how the creative team keeps the spirit of certain characters alive and well while showing how radically different their actions would be in a harsher world where morality feels relative. Kal-El, for instance, retains his optimistic and hopeful outlook, but is constantly overshadowed by his half-brother and sister, who are both people of action over in the series. There's also no true "heroic" faction in the story – neither the Kingdom of El with its policy of imprisoning superhumans nor the Kingdom of Storms who naively expected a royal assassination to come without incredibly deadly repercussions are exactly clean. There's no good or evil in this comic (at least... not yet), just characters with clear motivations that are unafraid to wield their superhuman powers with deadly results. 

This is what I appreciate most about the new series – all of the shocking deaths and the political maneuvering make perfect sense in the context of the story. Zala's murderous rampage (and she really ups the body count of Dark Knights of Steel in this issue) is driven primarily by grief and predicated on her Amazonian war training. Bruce's authoritarian imprisonment of metahumans is driven by his love of his adopted family and fueled by his feelings of being an outcast due to his bastard parentage. That's a testament to the creative team's construction of this Elseworlds universe, the characters have incredibly clear and simple motivations which fuel everything they do.

Dark Knights of Steel #3 is a fantastic comic, one that tells a great story unshackled by the constraints of continuity. Almost every character in the series is a recognizable one, but the new setting and backgrounds free them to behave in new and interesting ways. While those behaviors are often bloody in nature, it feels organic and inevitable instead of crude and shocking. No one is safe in Dark Knights of Steel and that's making for an excellent story.  

Published by DC Comics

On January 4, 2022

Written by Tom Taylor

Art by Yasmine Putri

Colors by Arif Prianto

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Letters by Wes Abbott

Cover by Yasmine Putri