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Reader beware, there be spoilers ahead!
Snyder and Capullo’s Dark Nights Metal was a non-stop warpath through the DC Universe and it’s multiple parallel universes. It required a masters degree in DC literature, and even then you felt a little left out if you couldn’t quite remember every story beat from the past twenty years. The whole thing felt like it required an annotated edition complete with footnotes.
Now, was it awesome!? Yes. It introduced us to the Batman Who Laughs and the whole thing was a lot of fun if not a little ridiculous. The ride was enjoyable, but you felt like you were missing something along the way. I always felt like the kid on the sideline yelling “Hey looks, a New 52 thing!” every once in a while.
This week the first issue of Dark Nights Death Metal, the encore, was released. Did it fair any better?
Right out of the gate, we know we are dealing with a new normal. An immolated Swamp Thing is Diana’s right-hand tree and helps her preside over the underworld. We have villains locked up in this realm and we’re told the Batmen rule above. Bruce Wayne and Superman are MIA. Capullo’s now-signature pencils fill the pages with interesting panels and there are creative uses of negative space, alternating page layouts and some interesting silhouette work. Honestly, there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to Capullo’s pencils other than maybe Batman Who Laugh’s closeups. Those are bit hard to discern. Once you figure out what you’re looking at, though, it’s all gravy. Plascencia’s colors run the gamut from moody and dark to cosmic and psychedelic as the circumstance requires.
Everything about the story requires you to suspend any hold on reality and give yourself over completely to comics insanity. Yes, that’s a Batman T-Rex, and besides that, it turns out it’s actually a robotic T-Rex from the Batcave with that universe’s Bruce Wayne consciousness uploaded. Because, why not, right? To complain that this is all a bit ridiculous would be to overlook otherwise awesome additions to comic lore on the other side of the Big Two- the Venom T-Rex in Old Man Logan, and the various insanities of Secret Wars. Suffice to say, this will be some peoples’ cup of tea and it will entirely turn others off.
The cast of characters in these 29 pages is no less than 26, and that’s only counting those with speech bubbles. This book is stuffed with characters and no explanation about why there are there. You’ll need to look back to Dark Nights Metal for that. So, of course you aren’t going to get a whole lot of character work or growth. This is all about set up and action. There is a sort of recap splash page, but this only seems to land as heady, abstract, cosmic, multiversal type stuff.
There are apparently connective energies that birth multiverses and destructive crisis energies that seek to collapse those multiverses and create one all-important moment. This is a somewhat obvious meta commentary of event and cross-over comics. There are not so subtle jabs at the meta-realworld throughout. Batman Who Laughs suggests calling these events “Anti-Crises” and “Direct Crises”. AC/DC get it? The book’s about multiverses, Crises are DC lingo for multiverse events, AC/DC is a rock band, this series is called Death Metal, Snyder and Capullo like Rock N’ Roll? Ah, forget it. It’s not funny if I need to explain it. These references are cringe-worthy. AC/DC isn’t even Metal, let along Death Metal. Sometimes I appreciate a bit of lip-service to the medium itself. Other times I want the veil between reality and comics firmly shut. There are a few mystery boxes, easter eggs and cliff-hangers sprinkled throughout and I have no doubt they will pay off at some point in the series. After all, this isn’t a J.J. Abrams production.
At the end of the day, you can’t tell a story small in scope that develops characters and also tell a multiverse spanning epic at the same time. Nor does Dark Nights Death Metal seek to do that. This is an action-packed event and issue 1 is preparing you for the dense ride you’re in for over the next few months. Is it ridiculous? Yes. Maybe trying a bit too hard to be extreme and over the top? Probably. Does it make sense? No. At least, not yet. It is, however pretty to look at.
If there could be a main protagonist in this issue, it’s Wonder Woman. As fate would have it, she (supposedly) murders our main antagonist in this event at the end of issue 1. It’s an interesting move and it will be interesting to see if this death is final, has any lasting effect, or ends up being the series’ greatest red herring. The invisible chainsaw is a metaphor for this whole issue. No idea is too ridiculous to include.
Dark Nights Death Metal #1 is on sale now.
Get ready for the earth-shattering encore! The legendary team behind Dark Nights: Metal and Batman: Last Knight on Earth take center stage and reunite for one last tour. When the Earth is enveloped by the Dark Multiverse, the Justice League is at the mercy of the Batman Who Laughs. Humanity struggles to survive in a hellish landscape twisted beyond recognition, while Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman have all been separated and fight to survive. Unleash the beast and let the head banging begin!
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