Dark Nights: Death Metal #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo
The long awaited and much anticipated new miniseries from DC Comics, Dark Nights: Death Metal, is finally here and today I’m reviewing the first issue! About once a year, usually in the summer, both of “The Big Two” comic book publishers, DC and Marvel, will put out an epic miniseries “Event”. These are the no holds barred stories, where seemingly anything can happen! Typically, even though one character or one particular team will be the focus of the story, these Events affect and involve the entire DCU or Marvel Universe. These stories tend to have casts of thousands! With huge, status quo changing moments! Whenever the publishers at Marvel or DC are talking about their latest Event Miniseries, they like to say things like, “After this story nothing will ever be the same!”. When you’ve been reading comics as long as I have, there are certain things that you tend to expect to see when one of these big stories come out. There are usually some major character deaths, surprise resurrections, heroes turning into villains and vice versa, things like that. Classic DC and Marvel stories like Crisis On Infinite Earths, Infinity Gauntlet, and Civil War are some examples of Event Comics. Like many things, some of them suck and other become classics.
One of the best superhero Events of the last decade was Dark Nights: Metal written by Scott Snyder and art by Greg Capullo. That story saw the DCU being invaded by the evil, cosmic forces of the previously unknown Dark Mutiverse. The Dark Multiverse is a nightmare realm where the deep fears of everyone in The DCU are made manifest. These are the worlds where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. The Dark Multiverse was ruled by an evil god-like entity called Barbatos. When he came to attack and claim the DCU, his generals were all dark, twisted versions of Batman.
The most terrifying and formidable of the evil Bruce Waynes from across The Dark Multiverse was, without a doubt, The Batman Who Laughs. In his home reality, after The Joker killed Jim Gordon and a shit load of other people, Bruce Wayne finally had enough of the atrocities committed by The Joker and killed him by snapping his neck. BUT The Clown Prince of Crime had one last surprise for his longtime nemesis, The Joker created a toxin that would be released from his body at the moment of his death and turn whoever killed him into the next Joker. The insidious toxin burned away Bruce’s humanity. Batman lost of all his morality, compassion, and empathy. Batman, under normal circumstances, is already as Superman once put it, “The most dangerous man alive.”. This version Batman, without the moral code that stops him from going too far, is a terrifying and unbeatable cosmic horror. Now he’s the apex predator of The Multiverse. Because a Batman Who Laughs is a Batman who always wins.
The Justice League managed to defeat Barbatos and his army of evil Batmen (The Batman Who Laughs managed to stick around The DCU), but it came with huge unforeseen consequences. In defeating one dark god, they unknowingly unleashed another: Perpetua, The Mother and Creator of The Multiverse. However, when Perpetua was freed, it took time for her to regain her full power. She needed help and a certain bald, alien hating, billionaire businessman/scientific genius was just the megalomaniac for the job…
One of the major ongoing stories in DC Comics over the last few years has followed Lex Luthor (with the help of The Legion of Doom) as he attempted to pull off his most ambitious cosmic power grab to date. Luthor set out to unlock the hidden powers of the universe and restore Perpetua to her full strength. Luthor’s endgame was to help Perpetua regain control of The Multiverse and rule over all of creation alongside her as her right hand and most trusted disciple. Everything was going according to Luthor’s plan, that is until The Batman Who Laughs showed up. He managed to make the case to Perpetua that he, not Luthor, was the one worthy of becoming her most valuable acolyte. Luthor had done all the work and The Batman Who Laughs snatched everything right out from under him. Perpetua agreed, and Luthor was cast aside.
Dark Nights: Death Metal is not only a sequel to Dark Nights: Metal, it also builds upon many of the major stories Scott Snyder and others have been telling in the DCU since the end of the first Dark Nights: Metal. Elements from Snyder‘s Justice League run, Doomsday Clock, Snyder’s Batman Who Laughs miniseries, The Flash, and more are all at play. I think one of the things that the story does really well, is that despite all of the groundwork the story has been built upon, it doesn’t feel like you need to have read all of those other stories to understand this one. It’s a more accessible tale than you might think. The story starts very much in the middle of the action, so even if you have read every single DC Comic Book that’s connected to this story, you’re still going to be playing catch-up. Everything in the story is so insane that, part of the fun is figuring out how the hell our heroes have found themselves in this crazy situation.
Without going into major spoilers, Earth has been pulled into The Dark Multiverse. The planet has become a terrifying nightmare-scape, ruled over by the cruel and sadistic Batman Who Laughs. Countless twisted and evil versions of Batman from throughout The Dark Multiverse act as his lieutenants and help enforce his will. Our heroes have lost so badly that to keep what’s left of humanity alive, heroes like Swamp Thing, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and others are forced work for The Batman Who Laughs and do his bidding. He’s given his version of the Justice League different roles to play in his new kingdom. They know that they can’t beat him. He holds all the cards in such a way that, the only way our heroes can protect the people that are left is to play his sick game and grudgingly work for him. The Batman Who Laughs is essentially holding a gun to the head of what’s left of humanity, to keep the former Justice League in line. It’s sort of reminds me of something out of Game of Thrones where noble characters have to bow down before a despicable ruler in the name of serving a greater good. Of course Batman, the real Batman that is out there somewhere, fighting almost like a guerrilla insurgency, desperately trying to pull off whatever ever he can to save whatever’s left of this broken Multiverse.
Despite the fact that the whole story is wrapped in Batman iconography and there are evil Batmen everywhere, Wonder Woman is the central character in this story. Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s former home, has literally become Hell, a jail for people that The Batman Who Laughs wants to keep out of the way and imprisoned. With Swamp Thing (who’s seen better days to say the least) as her right hand man and confidant, Wonder Woman has become Hell’s Jailer, The Warden of her desecrated homeland. Despite her dark circumstances, Wonder Woman is pretty fucking cool in this story and I love the choice to make her one of the central characters. She’s really the main character, at least in this issue. but considering what goes down in the first issue alone, I think it’s fair to say she’ll probably be taking center stage for the whole story. If this issue is any indication, that’s a fantastic idea. As cool as Batman is, as smart as he is, and is tough as he is, no one will fight to their last breath like Wonder Woman. She is not content to play her fucked up role in The Batman Who Laugh’s wasteland. Bruce thinks the fight is already lost and all they can hope to do is save whatever good is left. Wonder woman is not having that shit, she knows there must be a way to make things right, to put the universe back together again. And when a very important prisoner is sent to her by The Batman Who Laughs, Diana thinks she may have found her last chance to save the world.
To say anymore would spoil the fun. I will say this, they are not fucking around with this story. Snyder and Capullo have pulled out all of the fucking stops. This is only the first issue and there were at least three or four jaw-dropping moments in this comic book. I was fucking blown away. It’s impressive that while so much of what is going on in the story is dark and bleak, the story never loses it’s thrilling sense of fun. The heroes of the DCU are in rough shape, but it looks like watching them try to set things right is going to be a blast!
I think it’s safe to say at this point that Snyder and Capullo have established themselves as one of the best writer/artist teams in the history of comics. These are two guys operating at the absolute top of their game and it shows in the story. When Greg Capullo’s name is on a comic book, it’s a given that the art inside will be fantastic, but he really knocked it out of the park on this one. It would be easy to take Capullo’s incredible art for granted, because his work has produced so many phenomenal stories over the years. In Dark Nights: Death Metal, literally everything on each page is something totally new, even all of the classic DC heroes in this story are sporting completely new looks. There are so few artists that could pull off a story like this, with the level of excellence that Capullo delivers. Then there’s the coloring by FCO Plascencia (another long time collaborator of Snyder and Capullo’s) which is gorgeous in this issue. The way the bright, vivid colors of Wonder Woman contrast with the dark, more muted tones of the desolate wasteland that surrounds her, is beautiful to behold.
I’ll definitely say this I loved Dark Nights: Metal and this is a much better first issue than that story. I’m sure Snyder and Capullo would be happy to hear, that the comic book is definitely “Metal”. It rocks the fucking doors off, blows out the windows, and leaves you desperately wanting more. I cannot wait for the next issue, because Dark Nights: Death Metal fucking rules! 🤘
Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 – 9/10
Note: DC has put out a prelude story that takes place right before issue #1 begins. You can read it for free on instagram! It’s pretty cool, so I definitely recommend checking it out. Read for free right here: https://t.co/vIJ8HkiZ23
Check out this art from issue #2 hitting stands in July…