Beware spoilers abound!
Dark Nights Death Metal Legends of the Dark Knights is probably the comic with the longest name this week and probably the one most talked about. It has the first appearance of Robin King inside (depending on how you look at it) and some background on a lot of Batman Who Laugh’s Dark Knights. If you were expecting full on origin stories for each Dark Knight, this book delivers with varying degrees of success. Some of the stories are only two pages long, after all.
It’s a hard task finding copies of this issue today at cover price online. TFAW already sold out of the first printing and is on to taking orders on the second print. You can find a first print on Ebay for around $19.99 at the time of this writing and the 1/25 Kaare Andrews cover can be found for silly high prices around $200 at the time of this writing. People are really banking on Robin King become a big player in the Dark Multiverse. You can also read Legends digitally on Kindle and Comixology.
Seeing as I’m the resident “what’s actually inside this book” dweeb, let’s take a look at the stories inside.
I Am Here (Snyder, Tynion IV, Williamson)
The first story is by the driving creative force behind the entire Dark Multiverse and the Metal series, Scott Snyder. While my discontent with the happenings in the main Death Metal series are no secret, I liked this short story quite a bit. This story is basically Batman Who Laughs’ internal monologue as he awakes from surgery during
Death Metal issue #2.
The story takes place over the course of 16 pages, with 5 double-page splash pages. It balances equal parts of re-telling the back-story that occurred in Dark Nights Metal, re-telling Batman Who Laugh’s origin, and telling the Dr. Batmanhattan origin story. If I disliked the prop that Snyder turned Dr. Manhattan into in Dark Nights Death Metal #2, there is a small dash of redemption here. This story actually takes the time to explain Batman Who Laughs’ motivation, his new power set, and gives some foreshadowing of where we’re going with Death Metal as the story progresses. Keep in mind that Dr. Manhattan is a quantum being who can exist outside of linear space and time. In a sense, Batman Who Laughs always was going to become the Darkest Knight, using Dr. Manhattan’s power, and always knew about Wonder Woman’s betrayal through his past-present-future vision of events. This is heady stuff, but executed well. Unlike the main Death Metal series, that splatters the page with new characters, new events, and a status quo you’re expected to just accept at face value, this story has a chance to breathe and earn your understanding of the state of the Dark Multiverse. If anything, I would call this story within this issue essential reading before even undertaking reading the main series. On philosophical point I particularly enjoyed was Snyder’s casting of all multiversal Batmen as reactions to outside forces. Batman Who Laughs seeks to become that cause, not a reaction. He seeks to become the bullet that killed his parents, not the boy reacting to the bullet. Great narrative themes at play here that I think will add to any readers enjoyment of the main series.
Daniel’s art is crisp, clean and a delight to look at. The double-page splash pages are effective at communicating the epic scope of the conflict, the multiverse, and Batman Who Laughs’ lofty goals.
King of Pain (Tomasi, Rossmo)
King of Pain is Robin King’s origin story. Comicsheatingup.net had spoilers of this story earlier this week. People have pointed out that this Robin King is probably different than the Robin in Death Metal #2, as that Robin is a Damian Wayne, whereas this Robing King in Legends is definitely Bruce. Time will tell what the connection, if any, between the two is.
This story is enjoyable enough, if not entirely consistent with the theme of the Dark Multiverse. To my understanding, each Dark Batman is intended to arise from some dark fear a Batman on Earth-0 has. A nightmare doomed to fade if not brought up into the main multiverse. Robin King is cast as a simple sociopath version of a young Bruce Wayne. He was always tickled pink by the pain of other creatures and cared little for his fellow man. As a logical extension of that, he is no victim of the Joe Chill killings in the alley, but a perpetrator. Are we saying that Bruce Wayne always feared he would be spoiled by his upbringing? That he overcompensates in his service to Gotham because of this fear? I don’t buy that as I understand sociopathy to be an intrinsic attribute to a certain percentage of the population. It’s not an effect of privileged upbringing, but merely enabled by those privileged resources. As such, I’m not sure the premise of this story fits the rules Snyder put down for dark Batmen.
Like I said, the story is enjoyable enough, but it’s a pretty monotone representation of evil lacking much motivation other than the fact that he was simply born that way. What he does with this lack of inhibition can be imagined. He’ll kill unabashedly. Ho-hum. Not a terribly interesting set of character traits or motivation. How many characters do we know like this already? Joker, Carnage, Punchline, Harley to a lesser degree?
The art is stylistic and juxtaposes nicely with the dark themes. The soft rounded lines mixed with the dot-matrix shading hide the blood and gore that are waiting a few pages away. A nice subversion of expectations and a pleasure to look at.
Batmanasaurus Rex (Bennett, Igle)
Batmanasaurus Rex is a two-page story if you can call it that. I’m not sure that B. Rex’s origin was actually every explicitly promised, but that was certainly an expectation. This story does not deliver that. We know Batman was buried in the Batcave and uploaded his consciousness to a robotic T. Rex from Death Metal #1. At the end of this short story, we know exactly the same amount about this version of Batman. One of the two pages is almost a full page splash and it shows off Ingle’s beautifully detailed line work quite nicely. Seeing B. Rex chew and Arkham inmate is about as much as you can get out of this story.
This Man This City (Tieri, Francavilla)
This short story was actually what I was most excited about since I learned Francavilla was drawing a story for this issue. In this story, Tieri writes to Francavilla’s strengths in the occult horror vein.
I’ve always been a big fan of Francavilla’s thick, but intentional line work and heavy use of shadows. With Francavilla, there’s relatively little difference between black and Gray and his colors often jump right to the next extreme. This contrast is always a pleasant change of page to read. In particular I just love the blues and the distorted window shadows in this scene in Bruce’s study.
In terms of story, Tieri crafts a wonderful take on Bruce’s dark nightmares. A sacrifice of something he loves needs to be made for Gotham to rise up, literally and figuratively. What will he give up for his beloved city? Heavy stuff here and I loved every panel!
Road Warrior (Johnson, Spicer)
Here’s yet another 2-page “story” that really doesn’t tell us much. Bruce Wayne uploaded his consciousness into the entire internet and became
SkyNet all technology. The people rose up against him. All that remained was Batmanmobile. The end.
The colors are a nice change of pace when it comes to the palette of this issue.
I Shall Become (Ennis, Jones)
Now, in the category of “Most Enjoyable Two Page Story in Dark Nights Death Metal Legends of the Dark Knights” the winner is……..(drumroll)….. I Shall Become by Garth Ennis!
With an infinite amount of Dark Batmen in the Dark Multiverse, they can’t all be winners, right? So, what about a dark baby Batman? This story follows Bruce as he comes to terms with his limited skill set and it’s hilarious. Great, bright art by Joelle Jones brings the whole bouncing bundle of joy of a story to the next level.