DC’s latest event kicked off today with Dark Nights Metal #1 by Scott Snyder, who’s been conducting the Batman train very successfully for a number of years, along with artist Greg Capullo, who’s the penciller on this book as well. The series is supposed to reveal new secrets of the DC Universe and perhaps set the course and tone for the iconic superhero line of books. How did we enjoy the first issue? Well, read on. Spoilers ahoy. Skip to the final paragraph if you want a non-spoilery final analysis.
Dark Nights Metal sets the stage with a mysterious little first page establishing that there were three great tribes of man 50,000 years ago – Bear, Bird, and Wolf. And a fourth “dark tribe,” which appears to be “Bat,” due to the iconic Bat-cowl silhouette. It was this dark tribe that “twisted” things and begat the age of Metal. Okay, so iconic and mysterious and rife with potential.
But then – then we get just a silly scene of the Justice League, battling gladiatorial style for the amusement of Mongul. Why silly? Two things: their powers have been each hobbled by special custom armor that Mongul’s somehow forced them to wear. A thousand crushed suns’ worth of dust for Superman; some mystical artifact for Wonder Woman, etc. Seems like a lot of trouble for the sake of leveling the JL’s playing field for Mongul’s amusement.
Their final battle is to fight some robot toys Mongul’s forced Toyman (the modern, kid version who’s actually an okay dude) to build. Without getting explicit, the League wins by going all “Power Ranger Megazord”… which, I’m sorry, does not say “big fun action.” It’s just kind of dumb. The best thing about this sequence is a joke in an editor’s note regarding Aquaman’s former harpoon hand.
Fortunately, this is only about a 10-page sequence, after which the book becomes much more compelling. Out of the dumb armor, and given a little space to breathe, Capullo’s pencils, which were a little busy in that first sequence, really shine, and show he can render the other six iconic JL heroes (Supes, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Cyborg) as well as he does his usual subject, Batman.
And the story elements from this point forward piqued our interest: a mysterious mountain holding mysterious tech; the introduction of Lady Blackhawk, who turns out to be Kendra Saunders (that is, Hawkgirl), and the portent of a full-scale invasion that the League will need to stop. We delve into some of DC’s best-underused ideas – locations including Nanda Parbat and Skartaris and Themyscira; artifacts such as Nth metal; heroes such as Hawkman and Red Tornado and the (get this) Will Payton/late 1980s’ version of Starman; groups such as the Metal Men and the Challengers of the Unknown. Most intriguing of all – the money idea here – is the idea of the regular Multiverse having a flipside… a “Dark Multiverse.” It is the interaction of this laundry list that further issues will explore. And, curiously, Batman seems to be the linchpin of a dark prophecy, along with “five divine metals.” Finally, a few more cameos of interesting characters to come; most appealing to this reader is a red egg-like shape with a yellow diamond and black bands on it that is most decidedly Plastic Man.
And, the kicker? A character usually confined to the Vertigo line shows up to give Batman even more ominous warnings on the final page.
So – in sum – we don’t really see the benefit at this point from the pointless opening, groan-worthy battle. But the elements after that seem to be leading toward a potential classic: something that incorporates the most iconic heroes, some of the more nostalgia-worthy ones, and many of DC’s best myths into an interesting story that moves the line forward in a new way. No small task for characters that have been around more than 75 years. So all the pieces are on the board; let’s see if it makes for an interesting game, perhaps a noteworthy one on which DC can build from here. Hard to call if the series will succeed in this latter ambition, but it’s a no-brainer that we’ll be checking out Dark Nights Metal #2.
GEEK Grade: B
Images: DC Comics