(sigh) Ok, let’s get this over with. Today, I continue my disheartening drudge through Snyder and Capullo’s Dark Nights Death Metal with Issue #3 out August 12, 2020, or August 11, 2020 if your LCS plays ball with Tuesday release.
I had high hopes that Dark Nights Death Metal would turn a corner in quality in the main series after Snyder’s strong showing in Legends. However, the same pitfalls I’ve been pointing out all along are still present and I fear they will remain through the end of this event. Dark Nights Death Metal #3 is unfortunately another entry into the series with an ironic problem. There’s too much going on, yet simultaneously we don’t get to see any of the coolest parts of what is being explained to us in dialogue.
Before I dwell too much on my grievances with this issue, let’s give credit where credit is due. Capullo’s art is bright, bombastic, and a joy to look out from start to finish. At no point do the graphic depictions of what’s going on inside this book disappoint. It’s what Capullo is forced to draw that I’m so distressed by.
In fictional media, we suspend our disbelief in unrealistic things. Getting the reader to this place of accepting such suspension of disbelief is not a given. It has to be earned and it’s earned through grounding elements. Maybe an observing narrator who shares similar concepts of “normal” or “reality” with the reader. Maybe this happens through gradually revealing how certain elements of magic, science, or character traits operate. The “rules of the story” if you will. There are lots of things happening in Dark Nights Metal that involve flash, flare, and concepts, but so far, none of these concepts have resulted in anything more than a shallow explanation as to that concept’s role in the greater story.
I get the distinct feeling that things happen in this series just for the sheer fact that they’re silly and Snyder is daring you to voice criticism of the idea. Yet again, however, we are told what is happening throughout issue #3 rather than shown the action. Worse than that, so many ideas are discarded without a pay off that it’s getting hard to invest too much shock and awe into any new occurrence that will come as this series drags on. Why do a care that the next new ridiculous thing will happen in issue #4 if it won’t actually have any significance come issue #5? How much time have we wasted on concepts that have been thrown away in three issues here? Like so much excrement hurled against a wall, these pieces fall to the ground only to be replaced by the next flying piece of fecal matter.
We begin our issue with a wrecked Justice League rocket ship. You may remember this from issue #2. Don’t get too excited that it’s showing up again because our main protagonists of this issue, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Harley Quinn, literally spend no time in it. How did they get to New Apokolips? Who knows. We assume in the Justice League rocket, but that trip was just swept away. So, that leaves me with the same question I had from issue #2: what purpose did shaping a rocket ship like all three members of Trinity at once serve? The swift disposal of the rocket reveals the answer: none. No purpose was served by it other than it “looked cool.” At least, somebody at some point along the way thought it looked cool. I can’t help but feel like the Justice League rocket being discarded in such summary fashion is a perfect analogy to so many other ideas in this series. Cheap, silly ideas that are discarded as loose threads left untied. The cure? To explain it away in a dialogue box later.
Another element that is sure to give readers story line whiplash is the fact that Harley is along for the ride. She came out of nowhere in issue #2 and now she’s teamed up with Batman and Wonder Woman. Got it? Too bad. No time to explain. Everything’s too epic to slow down and fill in that hole.
In keeping with this series’ habit of incredibly on-the-nose and cringe-worthy allusions to other pop culture, Swamp Thing makes a blatant reference to Star Wars. The mystery of the “great disturbance in the life force” is immediately cleared up by Batman. “Whatever form Batman Who Laughs has taken, it’s just been born.” Let me be clear about this: as a reader, we have been given absolutely no reason to believe Batman could possibly know this. What information is he basing this on? Is this just a gut feeling? The reader knows that the Batman Who Laughs has become the “Darkest Knight”, but what godly way could Bruce possibly have of knowing that? It’s just a silly excuse to dumb down Swamp Thing’s warning because Snyder couldn’t come up with a better way to show what Swamp Thing is reacting to. Again, this series always tells you what’s happening, but rarely shows you.
The trio’s purpose on New Apokolips is to save Superman who is trapped on some psychedelic elliptical machine like a Deadhead who’s been told by his doctor that he needs to take a statin and increase his daily activity, but go easy on the knees. I have not idea why the least “Metal” piece of gym equipment was chosen as the basis for this contrived torture device Superman is depicted on, but I have to say it is not very “on brand” for this series. Or maybe it is? Who knows. Not much of any of this seems very well thought out, so sure.
Of course, everything that Superman is being submitted to is explained by a Batman who stole Darkseid’s power. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss that happening, Batman just explained it earlier in another dialogue box. Diana and Bruce’s rescue seems destined to fail when Bat-Seid-Man shoots the good Bruce with an anti-life gun. Then nothing happens. In the most anti-climactic scene yet, Bruce explains that he has “Bat-Blockers”, whatever the hell those are, and he used his Black Lantern ring to control Superman’s dying Kryptonian cells. Again, don’t worry. You didn’t miss any cool cellular depiction of Kryptonite rays acting upon Kryptonian cells. Batman just explained it in dialogue again.
Meanwhile, Robin King shows up at our Golden Age heroes’ hideout and does nothing. OK, he doesn’t do nothing. He explains how he has a utility belt full of superhero killing methods. Of course, we don’t see those. They are apparently there, though. If I had to pick a single scene to depict the repetitive, problematic, and clunky formula of dialogue, I think Robin King’s appearance is as good as any. “Hello, this is my name. I am here because of this reason. My power is as follows and I got it in this way I will explain. Now here comes another character. Now I will explain exactly what is currently happening after I explain was has happened up until now, then I will explain what will happen later, but don’t plan on ever seeing that happen.”
If you don’t believe me, just wait for Lobo and Lex Luthor’s explanation of everything they’ve been doing in the background in detail. God forbid Snyder allow us some mystery for more than a single page turn.
So, if we’re reading this right, Wally had anti-crisis energy that he was going to use to reform the Multiverse, but now Lex Luthor is going to do it with Death Metal, a thing we’ve yet to hear or know anything about up until this point. Yeah, sure. Why not. Let’s introduce yet another high concept plot device into this convoluted bag of bolts of a story.
- All aboard! When the Justice League launches its assault on New Apokolips, the team’s goal is to free Superman from his solar prison. But it’s all going off the rails when they learn that the Man of Steel is gone for good thanks to the Anti-Life Equation. Plus, the deep secret of the Darkest Knight is revealed—but how much darker could the Batman Who Laughs possibly get? And don’t miss the surprise return of everyone’s favorite wanna be Robin!
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