Joe Meola ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, DC Comics launched the long-anticipated first issue of its Dark Knights of Steel limited series. Written by Tom Taylor and illustrated by Yasmine Putri, this series reimagines the DC universe and characters in a medieval fantasy world that feels like it came from the mind of a fantasy visionary like Tolkien or Martin. This is not the first time that Tom Taylor has put his own alternate reality spin on the DC universe, having already found great success with stories like Injustice and DCeased, but this new release is the biggest and perhaps most interesting deviation from the franchise fans know and love. What sets this series apart from other DC stories is its aforementioned fantasy setting—it abandons the metropolitan cities and galactic empires of the mainline DC universe in favor of a sword and sorcery world based in medieval times—and it is unique among other sword and sorcery fantasy tales to to the fact that it is informed by pre established DC lore.
Dark Knights of Steel has the inherent twist of placing the heroes and villains of the DC universe in the aforementioned fantasy setting, but there are many more interesting spins on DC Comics lore. For example, in the retelling of the destruction of Krypton—Superman’s home planet—it is not a baby Kal-El sent to Earth on a rocket, but rather his parents, Jor-El and Lara. Another notable twist is the close relationship between the El family and the Wayne family; in this story, Thomas and Martha Wayne were once royalty before their untimely deaths, and their son Bruce—the “Bat-Prince”—gave up his royal position to Jor-El and Lara. Additionally, Bruce acts as a protector of sorts to the royal House of El despite their insistence upon treating him as an equal, and seems to have a close bond with Kal-El. Another notable deviation from DC lore is the fact that characters that typically possess superpowers–for example Black Canary–are now portrayed as possessing dangerous magic capable of killing the royal family. However, the biggest twist of DC canon occurs towards the very end of the first issue, when Jor-El reveals to Bruce that he and Martha had an affair through which Bruce was concevied, meaning that this version of Bruce Wayne is the son of Jor-El.
This revelation means not only that Bruce Wayne is half-Kryptonian, but also that Batman and Superman are half-brothers in this universe. The concept of a DC comics fantasy world is quite promising in and of itself, but this new variation of the Batman and Superman relationship adds a whole new layer of possibilities to the story. This is the first time that fans are being given a story in which Batman and Superman are blood relatives, so the sky is the limit for Taylor’s creativity. Will the pair develop a brotherly bond now that they truly are brothers? Given what has been shown of their relationship so far, that is certainly a possibility. It seems that Bruce and Kal-El genuinely care about each other, as demonstrated by the lengths that Bruce has gone to protect Kal-El and his parents, as well as Kal-El’s willingness to protect Bruce. On the other hand, this interesting revelation about Bruce’s parentage poses an entirely different question: will Bruce and Kal-El’s relationship take a turn for the worse? There is a precedent for this possibility, as the Batman and Superman rivalry is very popular in mainstream popular culture, and Taylor has experience writing of conflict between the two in Injustice. This is an alternate universe, though, so anything is possible.
There is also the question of what impact this new information may have on other characters in this universe. For example, what if King Jefferson—the ruler of an enemy kingdom and this universe’s version of DC’s Black Lightning—finds out about Bruce’s parentage? He has already heard a prophecy from John Constantine that “demons” from the sky that look like humans will arrive on Earth, and if he finds out that these “demons” are the current royal family, and that the prince of the former royal family is also one of them, the conflict between his kingdom and the House of El will certainly intensify. And how may this information impact Alfred, who in this universe has served the Waynes and the House of El for many years? There are so many possibilities that could be unpacked in future issues of the series.
The premier issue of Dark Knights of Steel has opened a door to endless potential for this unique take on the DC Comics universe. Tom Taylor has given readers a truly surprising and thought-provoking reveal to ponder as they wait for the release of the next issue.