Dark Knights of Steel readies itself for the final phase of the story. As Protex conspires to destroy the El Kingdom once and for all, the heroes plan out all their necessary defensive measures. Although there is only one more issue to go, the penultimate chapter shows a a surprising amount of restraint. In fact, Tom Taylor’s introspective take is a welcome calm before the inevitable storm.
Much of the heroic preparation is mostly quiet and mental. Firstly, Constantine continues to throw a pity party over his responsibility for current events. This time both Harley Quinn from the El Kingdom and Lois from Amazonia join him. The three meet for a drink to pull Constantine out of his blame spiral and into planning mode. Secondly, Bruce and Kal reconnect with each other as brothers. Amid the confusion at the start of the series, Kal and Bruce have become estranged. Not only does the truth clear their animosity, but also allows them to bridge the growing distance and bond as family for the first time .
Additionally, Knights Of Steel #11 seeks to resolve Alfred’s redemption story. Despite sharing all that he knows, Alfred feels complicit in the White Martian scheme by hiding his identity. Regardless of his shame and honesty, no one can quite trust him anymore and decide to imprison him. To make things worse, Protex invades the castle to kill the Martian before he can ruin their plans further. However, because the princes still consider Alfred to be a beloved ally and surrogate father, they set out to rescue Alfred. Personally, I believe rebuilding the trust within the characters before facing external forces provided a great narrative opportunity for the finale.
In addition to their many abilities, the major threat Protex and his White Martians pose is their possession of Kryptonite. The battle between Protex and the princes manifests as a stand out action set piece. Protex earns his fearsome reputation by showing off his heat vision, flight, telepathy, intangibility, and using glowing tendrils from his Lantern ring. He even looks gloriously regal wrapped in his golden crown and bands, even when monstrously deformed. In a way, his design reminds me of Queen Akasha from Queen of The Dammed (2002). Admittedly, the only thing the heroes are capable to use in defense is fire. The squabble as a whole serves as an omen of the conflict ahead.
I couldn’t help but notice several incidental comparisons to Game of Thrones‘ eighth season episode titled, “The Last Of The Starks.” In the episode, the armies gather at Winterfell to prepare to stave off the prophecy of the Long Night. One glaring similarity is that both kingdoms surround themselves with fire to stave off the enemy. I’m certain that there is also no coincidence that the White Walkers, White Martians, Jon Snow, and Bruce Wayne are nearly one to one parallels. In contrast, the heroes forge Valyrian steel weapons to harm to the White Walkers, while the Martians are the ones who forge Kryptonite weapons to fight the Els. Most importantly, both feature unlikely alliances between former enemies in the kingdom, including the “magic” metahumans once captured by Batman.
Lastly, I want to once again credit Yasmine Putri’s artwork for adding charm and style to the story. The designs for all the otherworldly creatures and breathtaking environments contribute to the book’s magical tone. On a technical note, I’ve found enjoyment in the many cinematic perspectives Putri frames in the panels. The lighting and color are notable highlights that give life and tone to moments of melancholy or action. I especially like the bright and explosive effects that draw the eye during the vicious conflicts. Although, the figure and facial work may be amorphous at times, nothing ever goes “off-model” enough for the average reader to notice.
- You are into sword and sorcery stories like Game of Thrones or Dungeons & Dragons.
- You find Batman using heat vision on an alien creature while holding a broadsword awesome.
- Won over by interpersonal melodrama.
Despite being a quieter and introspective issue, Tom Taylor uses the opportunity to mend broken character relationships. Siblings, mentors, allies, and enemies all get a chance to reconnect in the interest of the bigger picture. Even the antagonists have a moment to breathe on the page and set the stakes for the finale. Outside of a few nitpicks, the illustration, color, and framing choices give the book a cinematic tone and quality that I appreciate. Some readers may find the focus on the relationships melodramatic, but I personally value character development over action. Overall, this is a fantastic penultimate issue that clearly bets it all on the finale. Judging by the cliffhanger, there may be a lot more surprises in the chamber.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.