And so here we are at the start another “universe-shaking” multi-issue comic book event that will Change Everything As We Know It. Does Dark Nights: Metal #1 deliver in its promise to shake up the DC Universe down to its very foundations? And does it live up to its two highly-ambitious “prologues,” Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting?
Spoilers, obviously, ahead!
Dark Nights: Metal #1 opens up with a poetic scene on the beach 50,000 years ago, a scampering lizard, and some talk about the three “great tribes of man”—the wolf, the bear, and the bird. These tribes lead a somewhat idyllic life of discovery until the coming of “the dark tribe.”
Cue the shadow of Batman’s cowl. Cue: BLOOD (da-dummmmm). End-scene.
This was pretty much the sort of heavily esoteric and symbolic stuff of The Forge and The Casting. But perhaps realizing that there are a LOT of Dark Nights: Metal comics to sell and a Justice League movie is coming out in only a few months, writer Scott Snyder chooses to switch to a relatively generic superhero narrative for the next 9 pages.
Oh sure, there’s plenty of action in this sequence, which features the core Justice League (with the exception of Green Lantern, the very same bunch as featured in the JL movie) being forced to fight in some sort of gladiatorial arena by alien tyrant Mongul. They then face off against a team of their giant mecha robot counterparts called “Fulcum Abominus” (sort of reminiscent of those JLA bots in JLA Classifed: Cold Steel).
Then Batman figures out how they can access these logo-thingies inside each robot and somehow get “absorbed” into the robots themselves. Then…they form “Voltron.”
Cue: title page, credits, Power Rangers theme song.
Honestly, not what I was expecting, based on the intriguing kookiness of The Forge and The Casting. Not terrible, certainly—but not what I was expecting.
But you gotta think of the Kids. I get it.
So the Justice League come back to Earth to find that Gotham City is completely fucked up and has a gigantic “mountain” that sort of grew out of nowhere. The team enters a door to the mountain that seems to have the Challengers Of The Unknown symbol on it, find a pod full of hibernating humanoids, and get confronted by some futuristic-looking Blackhawks.
Lady Blackhawk—a.k.a. Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders—tells the gang that a terrible invasion is immanent, and invites them to Blackhawk Island in the South pacific to explain Everything. Once there, she talks about the mysterious and powerful Nth Metal, literally rolls out the old “52 Worlds” map, yadda yadda yadda “dark matter,” and then implies that Batman is the trojan horse for the Beast Of The Pseudo-Biblical/Lovecraftian Apocalypse (a.k.a. “Barbatos”).
Obviously by the time she gets to that last bit, Batman is like “fuck this, I’m out” and quietly exits the building while his hapless fellow Justice Leaguers have to fight a crazed Red Tornado; because Batman is an asshole.
Batman returns to the Batcave to examine samples and do research. We see that little lizard from the beginning of the story scamper about, and then the Dark Knight gets visited in his study by…
wait for it…
And there you have it. The Sandman characters are apparently getting integrated into the proper DCU. Boom!
So what is my verdict for Dark Nights: Metal? Not quite as “deep” or intellectual as I would have liked it to be, but perfectly serviceable as the first issue of this sort of mass-market crossover event. The art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion is fine—even really beautiful in a couple of places. It’s all cool for what it is. It’s just not Watchmen, Crisis On Infinite Earths, Legends, Kingdom Come, or even 52. I don’t want/need a special collector’s omnibus edition of this miniseries. It’s “OK.”
And…this first issue was not as interesting/exciting to me as those two prologue comics. But I’m pretty sure I’m not the core audience this series is geared towards. Rather…I’m pretty sure Snyder’s original conception of this miniseries, as evidenced by the prologues, would be something readers like me would have been really interested in.
But there are movies and video games to sell. I don’t even mean that in an accusatory way. There are literally movies and video games to sell, because—to hear DC itself tell it—the current comic industry is not going to support that DCU Empire all by its lonesome.
So there you have it. If you’re a general fan of these characters, it’s worth a look. If you are seeking Art—or at least something to the standard of the upper tier of “prestige” television programming—you might be a little bored in places.
I’ll give it another issue.