December 1, 2022

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Noteworthy Issues: Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 (June, 2020)

The Dark Multiverse has infected the 52 universes, rendering them a harsh and nearly barren landscape controlled by the Batman Who Laughs. But there are always heroes out there...

Scott Snyder spent a good deal of time, often with artist Greg Capullo, putting his stamp on Batman and then the DC Universe as a whole.  After revising how the multiverse was created, a threat to it from its very creator, and a “dark multiverse” where everything went wrong, it was time for Snyder to put an end to whatever it was he was doing.

That’s more or less what Dark Nights: Death Metal is all about.

Issue:  Dark Nights: Death Metal #1, June 2020

Writer:  Scott Snyder

Artists:  Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

The Plot:  Perpetua has won.  The Batman Who Laughs seems to control reality.  What heroes that still exist are subordinated to the Batman Who Laughs or are outright missing and fighting a fruitless guerilla war against overwhelming odds.  But Wonder Woman has her own plans for all that.

Commentary:  OK, somehow I am not sure how much I am going to like this.  On the one hand, I am a self-confessed sucker for alternate reality stories.  Even though this is supposed to be the mainstream DC Universe after Perpetua took over sometime between the end of Snyder’s Justice League run and this issue, it doesn’t look even remotely like anything DC has ever presented as “reality” before.  But on the other hand, Snyder’s storytelling style isn’t always my bag.  I like a lot of what he does, but he does have a habit of having his heroes, no matter how powerful or competent they are, always seem to be losing and running away until the last minute when they pull off a win.  That bothers me, and nothing is more symbolic about how much that bothers me as much as the Batman Who Laughs.

I get why he exists.  He’s the idea made flesh that Batman can defeat any opponent “with preparation”.  His whole thing is he is a character with Batman’s strategic mind and the Joker’s morality.  Heck, I even think it was rather clever how Batman defeated this guy at the end of Snyder’s first act in this grand story he’s telling, namely Dark Nights: Metal, by showing that, yeah, the Batman Who Laughs can probably defeat either Batman or the Joker one on one, but if the two somehow joined forces and attacked him together, he’d be toast.  Having the Batman Who Laughs as leader of a team of Dark Multiverse Batmen, each one possessing the warped abilities of a different member of the Justice League, was fine, but as I said, I got tired of seeing the Justice League lose to those guys every time in a way that made it look like the League never stood a chance at all.  Letting the League win a skirmish once in a while rather than always retreating or getting knocked out would have helped a great deal for me to accept things.  They could still be losing the war, but let ’em win a battle once in a while!

The other thing is the Batman Who Laughs is, for me, way too overexposed.  I haven’t read the mini-series about the guy yet–and I probably will–but between various Dark Nights stories and Snyder’s Justice League, he sure has been around a lot, and I’d rather not deal with him too much.

So, it was with great satisfaction that Wonder Woman actually took care of that clown.  I’m sure it’s temporary, but Snyder managed to remember that Wonder Woman herself is a fantastic strategist in her own right, and what makes her good in this instance is that while the Batman Who Laughs knows exactly what plans he (and by extension, regular Batman) would come up with, Wonder Woman herself would come up with a radically different plan that the Batman Who Laughs wouldn’t see coming, and the splash page showing what she did is oh-so-satisfying.

That said, there is a lot to like about this first issue.  Wonder Woman is in charge of the prison where the Dark Batmen lock up the world’s supervillains.  Her sidekick is Swamp Thing, and since the world is devastated,  he’s an emaciated husk of his former self.  The various other Batmen that are on display are rather cool, with a particular notice to the Batman who is somehow a mind possessing the dinosaur statue from the Batcave.  He keeps insisting he is Batman even if he can’t throw a batarang or drive the Batmobile because he’s a talking dinosaur.  As for the regular Batman, he’s reduced to hit and run tactics designed to get small victories and nothing else.  Superman, we’re told, is off somewhere else.  Aquaman seems to be controlling the seas for the Batman Who Laughs, and Perpetua controls all as she finalizes her power over the entire multiverse that she was supposed to sacrifice herself for during the creation of.

Much of Snyder’s script here is to establish this rewritten reality as well as briefly explain how it happened, how Wally West, empowered with Dr. Manhattan’s abilities and working with the Justice League, was unable to stop Perpetua because reasons.  Honestly, I’d rather just get the quick recap and leap feet first into this new storyline.

The point is, I rather liked this first issue.  Will that hold for the remainder of the run?  Given my track record with Snyder’s work, I kinda doubt that, but I’ll see for myself eventually.

Grade:  A-

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