21st Aug2020

‘Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

I’m not entirely sure why, but DC have always been far better than Marvel with anthology books. Possibly because of their extended history, that they just have that much more material than Marvel had, and could make extra money by packaging old, sorry ‘classic’, reprints with the odd new story or framing sequences. The recent run of DC anniversary issues have also seen them put out some rather good 100 page anthologies, but now with all new material, though with very definite nods towards source material of the past. Which brings us to this ‘Guidebook’. Odd title in a way, as it’s appeared too far down the line into the event to be a guide for anything, but it’s certainly a good opportunity to fill in gaps in the main book, and to give short, sweet glimpses at some of the peripheral characters. Let’s take a peek.

The main event is the lead story, ‘The Fall of Earth’, written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion, and Joshua Williamson, drawn by Doug Mahnke and James Mendoza. This is prefaced by a fantastic two page map, showing the newly remade Earth with the continents remade in the shape of a bat. The Arkham Wastelands, The Hellscape, Gotham, and Megapokolips make up the new Metalverse. For those who came in late, The Justice League lost to the powerful goddess of the multiverse Perpetua, who has let The Batman Who Laughs remake reality with his army of Dark Multiverse Batmen. Earth has take a bit of a beating it’s fair to say. The evil Batmen are actually physical manifestations of ‘our’ Batman’s fears and insecurities. So very smart, very strong, but with absolutely no morality. Earth never had a chance.

Knowing that, the next few pages are depressingly grim. We get a blow by blow account of how Earth’s heroes banded together, because they always win, right? Captain Atom getting blown to pieces was probably a good indication that things weren’t quite that cut and dried this time. Dr. Arkham, the Bat-Mage, DarkFather (who had killed that realities Darkseid himself, yikes), and Bathomet, a Lovecraftian elder god all proved far too powerful. A sentient Gotham itself proved the final straw, as the inevitable defeat saw Superman himself, beaten, used as a living solar battery to power the Sun. Aquaman surrendered to save Atlantis, Wonder Woman did the same to save the Amazons. Truly the end of days…or is it. The end gives us a little glimmer of hope and, without giving away who and where, a shout of ‘bring on the bad guys’ may be in order.

The smaller backups that follow all feature different areas of the ‘new’ world. The first of the smaller backups, set in the Arkham Wastelands, features Harley Quinn in ‘Metal Queen of the Desert’, by Chip Zoarsky and Khary Randolph. It’s a slight Tank Girl-esque story with Harley facing down a mutated Captain Boomerang. Slight story, ok art. Next up, in the Seven Seas, is Aquaman in ‘The Umibozu’, written and drawn by Becky Cloonan. Also pretty slight, ok for what it is, but filler at best. Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy feature in the Hellscape-set third story, ‘Seeds of Hope’, by Vita Ayala and Dan Panosian. This is better, as Poison Ivy escapes from imprisonment only to find Wonder Woman had been protecting her from the outside, not imprisoning her from it. Everything has died, the world is a desert. Still, there is always a seed somewhere…

The final story, set in Gotham itself, is second only to the main story itself. ‘Dragonlance’, by Christopher Priest and Eduardo Risso, features Batman and Jonah Hex in a story that sees Risso channeling his inner-Mignola. On the face of it, it is a simple Batman and Hex versus a Joker Dragon story, but the substance of the story is in the banter between the two main characters. Batman has a Black Lantern ring with huge power, but he knows if he uses it too much it might control him. Hex is the failsafe, given a White Lantern energy bullet to shoot Batman if he is corrupted. Fun stuff. The info text pages between each story also add to the overall package, and by book’s end you do feel you’ve had value for money. On a positive, the book immerses you a little bit more into this mad, bad world. The negative? Main story aside, none of these stories really changed or did anything that moved the story along. Your enjoyment may depend on if this bothers you or not. Me? I’m fine with it.

Not a perfect book, but very entertaining, and the main story is worth the price of admission alone.

**** 4/5


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