Cue the Motörhead, get your leather on, and throw the horns up because it’s time to get really Fr*&king Metal!
As the sequel to DC’s 2018 event Dark Nights: Metal as well as to Scott Snyder’s recent run on Justice League and DC’s big summer 2020 event, Dark Nights: Death Metal comes to kick ass and take names. Does it succeed in doing that? Let’s find out!
We open the issue with Sgt. Rock (a classic and enduring DC character dating back to World War Two) giving the reader (that’s you guys) a speech tantamount to “things may be sh^t but it’s time to pull up your pants and lock and f*4king load!” like he was General George S. Patton played by an Army of Darkness-era Bruce Campbell. It’s fun, insane, and totally unexpected.
From there we move to Wonder Woman in what used to be Themyscira, but is now Hell, where she's breaking down her invisible jet to turn into more invisible weapons with her invisible chainsaw.
So, basically what has happened here, from inference and some later exposition, is that the forces of Perpetua and the Batman Who Laughs (Scott Snyder’s last 2 years of DC work) have won and while Perpetua is out in the multiverse destroying it so she can recreate it in her own image, BWL has been given free reign over the main earth. He’s press ganging a bunch of superheroes to do his bidding and put Diana in charge of Themyscira / Hell as its warden, where all who oppose Perpetua and the BWL now dwell. Of note, Swamp Thing is a prison guard and the Joker is imprisoned and absolutely hates that there are a bunch of evil Batmen in charge. Anyway, it’s new inmate day as more evil Batmen transport a hooded individual who Diana seemingly knows.
The Batman Who Laughs makes a metatextual dig at himself, saying he knows how everyone is so sick of him, but just loves to torture the heroes so much. We also get to see more multiverse version of evil Batmen, who the BWL uses to keep the press ganged heroes in check. There’s a Dr. Arkham Batman for Harley Quinn, a Cthulhu Batman for Aquaman, and a Darkseid Batman for Mister Miracle (as well as Superman who’s imprisoned and being tortured on New Apokolips). So what’s today’s evil morning report? Perpetua has wiped out Earth-22 (the Kingdom Come universe) and now only eight out of the fifty-two earths in the multiverse stand in the way of her plans. In return for the “compliance” of the heroes during this time, they will get to live on an Earth of their choosing with their loved ones once Perpetua reshapes the multiverse.
Pretty F*%king Metal.
In the chaos of this fight, Wonder Woman heads back to Themyscira to talk to the mysterious hooded person who was brought in earlier. He turns out to be Wally West, but with Doctor Mahanttan powers (see Flash Forward for all that). Wally reveals to Diana that he’s discovered the secrets of the multiverse through his Doctor Manhattan powers, which is that all power in reality is split between two poles; the positive energy (speed force, emotional spectrum, the forces of justice, etc.) and the negative energy a.k.a. Crisis energy (anti-life, chaos magic, the forces of doom, etc.).
In the beginning, Perpetua used Crisis energy to create reality making it a multiverse that cannibalized itself and preyed on others in the name of its creator. Perpetua’s kind discovered this and imprisoned her in the Source Wall for her actions and restarted reality. Ever since, she’s been whispering to beings to try and start a crisis. After all of the Crises, Doctor Manhattan’s recent involvement in the DCU, and the final battle between the forces of justice and doom, she’s won, dimming out the positive energy in the multiverse and keeping those who remember the Crises as prisoners to fuel herself. A desperate Wonder Woman asks Wally if it’s possible to use Crisis energy against Perpetua, creating the first Anti-Crisis but she’s interrupted by the Batman Who Laughs, who brings up the concepts of Anti-Crisis and Direct Crisis energy, all to make an AC/DC joke.
He begins to back Diana into a corner and threatens to kill everyone in unimaginable ways if she doesn’t go along with the plan. The one thing you don’t do to a Wonder Woman with nothing left to lose though, is back her into a corner. Remember that weapon she was creating with the remnants of her invisible jet? Well, now the Batman Who Laughs does too as Diana plunges it into his chest, killing him. What should be a joyous accomplishment is undercut by the backup plan that he had in the event of his death: the unleashing of the “Final Bruce Wayne”…
We close the issue out like we opened it with Sgt. Rock, but now he’s got no legs or a lower half and he’s rescued by a shadowy Batman.
So, Dark Nights: Death Metal …
WHAT THE F@%K JUST HAPPENED??
And I mean that in two ways.
Issue one is a lot, but I think that’s kind of the point. It’s a grand scale, bombastic event that’s been built up for two years from its creative team. It’s also a Crisis or at least Crisis-esque so you know they have to go big or go home. To a degree, it definitely benefits from all the craziness and insanity that comes with the story. The art alone is so freaking awesome, it should be album cover art. The intro and ending were amazing and a fun way to start the book and end it with a circle back and tease to the next issue. Batman with a black lantern ring, raising the dead (he has a scythe too, did he kill Necron?)?
Wonder Woman killing the Batman Who Laughs with a piece of her invisible jet?
Guest appearances by Sgt. Rock, Jonah Hex and Lobo?
It's all so crazy awesome and looks and feels pretty F*%king Metal!
That being said, it does get to be a bit much at times, especially with the story at hand. While I’m only somewhat familiar with Dark Nights: Metal, I did read all of Scott Snyder’s Justice League and I have got to say I’m pretty sick of the Batman Who Laughs and Perpetua. I’m glad that this story (hopefully) means the beginning of the end for them. Perpetua’s whole domination and recreation of reality is fine but it’s been a fairly slow build up and it’s a payoff I’m hoping to get some enjoyment out of. Circling back around to the “it’s a lot” comment, Crises past and present are involved in the story all tied together by Perpetua’s machinations and while I’m expecting to see some continuity deep cuts and callbacks, I fear that the book will be caught between trying to do its thing and not overlap with discontinuity.
Speaking of call backs, let’s talk about Doomsday Clock. You all know I really dug that book by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank despite it being a Watchmen sequel that crosses over with the main DC continuity. I like that it’s left the door open for other creators to reference it and use it in stories more, like here. Now, it’s not the reference part that really bugs me, it’s the further use of plot points and characters from those series that drives me nuts. Wally West gaining the power of Doctor Manhattan (which is from Flash Forward, so I don’t blame Scott for that) is really a weird turn for that character. Now we have what looks like a Bruce Wayne-Doctor Manhattan that appears towards the end of this book? This immediately lost me. Implying that Doctor Manhattan had something to do with what happened in the final showdown between the Justice League and Perpetua burns me because we don’t need more of him showing up in this universe, much less interacting with Perpetua. He goes from omnipotent observer to willing participant in 3 different series? Too much.
Overall I enjoyed this first issue of Dark Nights: Death Metal. It’s big, insane, and encompasses a lot of continuity, both from Scott Snyder’s work as well as from the larger DC Universe. As a fan, I can both thoroughly enjoy it while also being a bit nitpicky about a few things here or there. It’s a bit of a rough start, considering the grandiose nature but I think you can jump in right here without having to go back and read all of Scott’s work in the past two years. Snyder does a decent job in the kick off to the culmination of his Justice League story, filling it with both narrative logic and awesome insanity. Greg Capullo brought his A-game to the issue's art. If you were to tell me that both Dark Nights series were just an excuse for him to draw cool shit, I’d believe you. It’s all fantastic!
Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 is indeed pretty F%&king Metal!
Verdict: 7.5/10 Evil Alternate Universe Batmen
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