April 18, 2024

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

The world of Death Metal, explored.

Well, looks like there’s another special anthology issue of Dark Nights: Death Metal.  I may not have cared much for the first one, covering different Dark Multiverse versions of Batman, but maybe this one will be a bit different as it’s more a way to establish setting, maybe explain a couple things.

Oh, I still have no idea when Harley Quinn hooked up with the heroes, but it’s a start.

Issue:  Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1, August 2020

Writers:  Scott Snyder, Becky Cloonan, James Tynion IV, Vita Ayala, Joshua Williamson, Priest, and Chip Zdarsky

Artists: Dan Panosian, Becky Cloonan, Doug Mahnke, Eduardo Risso, and Khary Randolph

The Plot:  Some backstory comes up as the world of Death Metals stands revealed.

Commentary:  OK, as a cohesive narrative, this may not have worked too well.  But as a series of stories to give the reader some idea what the greatly altered DC Universe Earth looks like…it still doesn’t work as well, but it did provide a few answers like why Wonder Woman and Aquaman seem to be working for the Batman Who Laughs.  Mostly, it explains how the heck the Earth got rewritten while introducing a few more evil Batmen from the Dark Multiverse.

Special mention from me:  Dr. Arkham, the Batman who became a mad scientist.

However, the first story, co-written by Snyder, Tynion, and Williamson, is basically how all this stuff went down.  It’s brief, delivered by a hooded figure whose identity may not be too big a shock for anyone really paying attention.  It’s an effective story, all told.  Unlike, say, when Snyder recounted the Batman Who Laughs’s origin story in the previous anthology, this was actual new information. Yes, it fits the Snyder pattern of having the heroes just outclassed way too easily, but something big had to happen to rewrite the entire planet.  How did the heroes get captured?  Why are some working for the Batman Who Laughs?  Were any wiped out?  Why are Earth’s continents now shaped like a giant bat-symbol?  These are answers that may have been a bit much in the pages of a regular issue, and instead, Snyder opted to cut right to the chase with his craptastic world, showing the heroes can still fight back.  The fact that they may even be winning, or at least on the path to victory, is a nice change of pace.

As for the rest, they were fine.  The weakest was an Aquaman story as he searches for and ultimately fails to find a way to get out from under a Lovecraftian Batman’s aquatic thumb.  A Harley Quinn story shows how she is the last uncorrupted member of the Suicide Squad, finding a hyena pup that quickly grows to monstrous size as a sidekick, probably the closest the book has to a funny story.  Wonder Woman’s story shows why she agreed to be the warden for the supervillain prison, and it fits the character pretty well.  And finally, Batman and a Black Lantern Jonah Hex fight a Joker dragon in a story by Priest and drawn by Eduardo Risso that felt a bit underwhelming.  I mean, I generally expect better from those two even if I don’t recall ever seeing a collaboration between the two before.

So, the main story, plus some side pages detailing who was where, was nice, but obviously this isn’t something to be read by anyone who has no interest in the main series.

Grade:  B-