05th Jul2018

‘Dark Knights: Metal – Deluxe Edition’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Written by Scott Snyder | Art by Greg Capullo | Published by DC Comics | Format: Hardcover, 128pp

dark-nihgts-metal-dx-cover

Metal is one of those “event comics” that, even as a more casual reader of DC’s particular brand of comics, was hard to ignore. The bombastic nature of the marketing, the sheer aduklation poured upon the book by fans and critics alike all made Metal a must read. And so to Dark Nights: Metal – Deluxe Edition, a new hardback collection of the core Metal storyline from the creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

The official synopsis reads thus: “The Dark Knight has uncovered one of the lost mysteries of the universe…one that could destroy the very fabric of the DC Universe! The dark corners of reality that have never been seen till now! The Dark Multiverse is revealed in all its devastating danger–and the threats it contains are coming for the DC Universe! With appearances from heroes, villains and faces long forgotten, DARK NIGHTS: METAL will examine every choice a hero doesn’t take and every path they don’t walk, and open up worlds that are forged by nightmares.”

Dark Nights: Metal follows on from Scott Synder’s run on the solo Batman book post-Rebirth etc., a series I have not had the fortune to read – I always find the Bat-books something of a hard slog when it comes to DC’s output, I prefer the more lighter tales set in the DC universe. Speaking of universes, at the core of this story is the well-known idea that the DC universe is actually a Multiverse, a collection of 52 universes (hence DC parlance of reusing 52 in books, and reboots. “The New 52″ anyone?) but here Snyder posits that said 52 multiverses also have an opposite, a anti-matter to their matter, or in this case more of a Anti-Monitor to the Monitor… And, given the dark nature of this new-found corner of the DC universe, that means Snyder and artist Greg Capullo can have infinite amounts of fun bringing readers all sorts of weird, wonderful and sometimes downright creepy iterations of their most famous character, Batman. Including one particular “Batman” who looks a LOT like Judge Death from 200oAD… But maybe that’s the Grant Morrison influence coming through?

Story-wise Dark Nights: Metal is all over the place, whilst this “Deluxe Edition” contains the core issues of the miniseries it still feels like there’s a lot of the plot missing. Judging by what I read here it would seem that, much like Marvel do with their event books, to really know the full Metal story you need to read ALL the Metal books: all the tie-ins, one-shots etc. Because without them I’m sure you’d get as lost as I did when reading this book; and that’s not the only reason readers might get lost. You see Dark Nights: Metal is a very dense story – compacted into a short mini-series, this tale honestly needed more breathing room, perhaps and extra couple of issues. When I say dense, if I tell you not only is there page after page of action and story to comprehend, but then there’s a ton of dialogue (like Brian Michael Bendis levels of dialogue) and on top of that there’s also a narration running throughout the book, interwoven at various points in each “issue” to try and hold everything together. It makes for very heavy reading – which is probably why I had to read through Metal a few times before writing this review!

Whilst the story told within its pages is quite dense, the actual plot of Dark Nights: Metal is, relatively, simple… Even if it feels like it’s a ridiculous tale that has stepped straight out of the 90s to now! OK, here goes. There are metals, a bunch of metals, that the evil Barbatos has been slowly poisoning Batman with (ever since traveling back in time in Final Crisis) in order to gain access to to the multiverse, using Batman (and later Superman) as a key of sorts. Then there’s Hawkman, who disappeared years ago on a quest to uncover the truth about the aforementioned divine metals – his journal provides clues to solving the “invasion” of the multiverse, as does a particularly mystical character who hasn’t been seen in the DC universe before.

You see,  it’s not only Grant Morrison (and in particular his Final Crisis DC multi-book story from 2008) that has influenced Snyder. Dark Nights: Metal also features one of Neil Gaiman creations very heavily – Dream from The Sandman, who makes his DC Comics debut in this story, guiding Batman and co. on their quest to defeat Barbatos and his dark universe armies. Eventually the “trinity” of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman gain the power of the tenth metal, which is more powerful than the metals that have poisoned Batman AND the Nth metal (thought to be the strongest of all the metals) and defeat all of Barbatos’ dark universe armies and restore balance to the multiverse.

So Batman poisoned, doorway from dark universe opened, bad guys attack, Earth almost pulled into the dark universe. Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman get armor, give it to rest of the heroes, and everyone kicks arse… Simple right? So why then is Dark Nights: Metal so much hard-work? Hell, the 1990s over-the-top Rob Liefield-inspired titles, which this most closely resembles, were never so complex. But hey, at least we get some amazingly creepy villains from artist Greg Capullo – such as shame then that you need to read MORE books to get a handle on just how villainous they truly are!

Beautiful to look at, hard to comprehend, Dark Nights: Metal may be just that step too far in terms of storytelling for all audiences (and not just Batman devotees). The book is out now in a hardback Deluxe Edition that, alongside the mini series, also features variant covers from a variety of DC artists, plus sketches of the Dark Knights from Greg Capullo and interior sketches for Dark Nights: Metal #1.

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