“Tales from the Three Kingdoms”
Writers: Tom Taylor, Jay Kristoff, C.S. Pacat
Artists: Caspar Wijngaard, Sean Izaakse, Michelle Bandini
Color Artists: Caspar Wijngaard, Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Wes Abbot
Review by Sharna Jahangir
Warning: there are minor spoilers in this review
Dark Knights of Steel: Tales from the Three Kingdoms has finally been released. The book contains gorgeous character arcs and fun villain cameos, but I’m strongly looking forward to, what premises to be, an epic end to this series. I also cannot wait to collect the anthology of this arc as the art is so beautiful.
It’s been a while since Tom Taylor’s Dark Knights of Steel 12-issue series began, and although the first issue pulled readers in with such a phenomenal hook, the lack of promotion and staggered release dates have had many of us wondering where this arc is going.
This side-quest anthology tells us the coming-of-age background of the children from the House of El. A quick recap: Kal El’s parents adopted Bruce Wayne after the Wayne King and Queen mysteriously passed away. In this issue we follow young Kal, Zara (Kara/Supergirl’s alternate version) and Bruce in this fantasy version of the DC Universe. These are alluring tales, if the reader’s wanting backstories for these characters. In my honest opinion, though, I would’ve loved it if they just continued on with the turmoil and intensities present in the main, ongoing Dark Knights of Steel saga.
We see each young hero go through a test of character, and that’s captivating. We watch the princes and princess grow into their skills to become the fighters they are today, and it’s very interesting. All this also adds to more to Tom Taylor’s world-building, I’m guessing (and hoping) that there may be other stories,or more intricate character profiles, coming out after the main 12 issue series is complete.
A stronger sense of the fantasy world our beloved characters are in will only help it become more and more immersive, as some of them aren’t strongly tied to their original identities. For example, Kal-El is portrayed in no way as a humble, mild-mannered reporter; this version is far more hot-headed. Another major difference is that these iterations of our heroes aren’t afraid to kill. So, being given a deeper understanding of this Elseworlds tale is great. Even if you haven’t been enjoying the world from the previous issues, then this issue is the perfect pick up!
One of the stories, “The Flock”, is an enjoyable read and we get to read about more Robins. Pulling from more Disney/Fantasy/Medieval aesthetics, they are very Robin Hood-esque, which I guess fits them perfectly! I think the most exciting part of this issue is the final story for and the villain… (spoiler!) Bane. He is indeed a Berserker version of the character, and his moments are very cool.
The fight scenes in Dark Knights of Steel: Tales from the Three Kingdoms all look great! The art for this issue is certainly a strong and major selling point. The expressions and depictions of the younger heroes are both adorable but still easy to take seriously. The Man-Bat and other villain portrayals in this world are all well-done and immersive. I love the vibrant use of purples and other bright colors. Although there’s darkness in these stories, it doesn’t give you a feeling of all doom and gloom (however with Tom Taylor, I never know what to expect on that front! He’s an expert on delivering emotional whiplash, which is one of the many reasons we love his works!)
The clothing and animated style of the art is wonderful and friendly. Every artist created excellent work in this issue. The intensity of Bane is also wonderfully captured.
If you’re just beginning your delve into this Elseworlds style tale with Dark Knights of Steel: Tales from the Three Kingdoms, then this is a perfect issue! It’s a great reminder that the story’s still ongoing, because it’s such a great series. My only complaint is that it’s been paused for far too long. However, I much prefer delays to cancellations.
Here’s hoping that all my favorite characters will get to experience a little romance, healing, and care in future issues, amongst all the action and drama.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment