Dark Days: The Forge #1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Kubert, Jim Lee and John Romita Jr.
Snyder and Tynion weave together an intricately satisfying prelude to DC's DARK NIGHTS: METAL, leaving us with plenty of interesting questions about the future of the multiverse.
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Cosmic mystery building
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Scott Snyder knows how to build a suspenseful mystery. DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1, the first part of DC’s major summer event series, is co-written with James Tynion IV. It recalls more of THE NEW 52 than it does DC REBIRTH, hearkening back to many of Snyder’s best Batman stories in both form and content. The comic boasts epic storytelling, weaving together a mystery spanning all of human history. The scope makes a huge impact, despite leaving out key ingredients — like what in the name of Hawkman is going on? Despite the lack of concrete information, Snyder and Tynion successfully build cosmic anticipation for the possibilities to come.


Dark Days: The Forge #1
Image from DARK DAYS: THE FORGE # 1, courtesy of DC Comics.

The story begins thousands of years ago, with Carter Hall, aka Hawkman (the immortal human one), transcribing the events of his ancient past. He chronicles his discovery of a strange metal — Nth metal — with incredible power. Thousands of years later, Batman attempts to hunt down the origins of that very same metal, now in the form of a substance called Dionesium. Through the parallel journeys of Batman and Hawkman, we learn that the source of the metal goes back to the origins of humanity. Judging by a tantalizing image of a totalitarian Batman statue, this Nth metal could pose deadly implications for the future.

As Batman gets closer to the answers, mysterious forces appear hell-bent on stopping him. Green Lantern is one of those forces. Sent to Wayne Manor, he encounters Duke Thomas, along with another great mystery in the bowels of the Batcave; one that might hold implications just as frightening as the metal.

READ: Here’s our review of THE FLASH #22, as well as our thoughts on the finale to “The Button!”

DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1 reminds me of some of Snyder’s greatest mystery storytelling from his THE NEW 52 Batman days. If one compressed the intense build-up from the seven issues of the “The Court of Owls” series into a single comic, you would have the same kind of storytelling found in DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1. It makes for a viscerally compelling reading experience. The parallel narratives of Hawkman and Batman help to build the intensity higher and higher. While separated by thousands of years, the two men are symbolically united through a shared quest for the ancient metal. The two narratives together create an aura of cosmic significance. The subplot with Green Lantern and Duke following a taunting voice adds even more intrigue.

The result is something of a sensory overload. THE FORGE # 1 is rife with intriguing possibilities of thought-provoking outcomes. The comic includes plenty of subtle references to THE NEW 52. It says a lot about Snyder and Tynion’s storytelling prowess that they manage to cover up the comic’s most glaringly obvious flaw — that the comic delivers absolutely nothing of consequence.

Dark Days: The Forge #1
Image from DARK DAYS: THE FORGE # 1, courtesy of DC Comics.

Since this comic is all set-up, the lack of concrete information is mostly okay. Still, there’s so much that’s hinted at without any explanation. Why is there a giant statue of a Batman-shaped dictator? Is it in the ancient past, far future, or another dimension? Is Plastic Man locked away in a diamond-shaped robot for some reason? Why is Batman so determined to uncover this mystery all by himself? Why does he have the Joker locked away in a Batcave within the Batcave?

Oh yeah, so that’s the big twist at the end. The Joker appears at the end of this comic, revealed to be the mysterious voice Hal Jordon and Duke Thomas have been following through the Batcave. This revelation is stunning for a few reasons. One, it’s the first we’ve seen of the Joker since the events of “The Joker: Endgame.” His presence as Batman’s prisoner suddenly makes it clear why the Joker hasn’t appeared in all of REBIRTH. Second, the comic implies that the Joker is significant to the origins of the Nth metal. He may even have something to do with the cosmic events that took place thousands of years ago.

Third, with the way the Joker speaks to Duke and Hal, he seems a lot more coherent and knowledgeable than the Joker has any right to be. Could it be because of the life-giving Dionesium running through his blood? Like with the rest of the comic, no answers are provided. I never expected the Joker to play any kind of role in an epic time-spanning book like this. His presence alone is one of the most intriguing of the story’s many threads.

Again, it’s all sensory overload. If any of these story threads had been introduced in a recent REBIRTH book, it would have helped the mysteries in DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1 seem less cluttered. Yet we’re immediately thrown back into Snyder’s private world. It’s the world that he’s been developing bits of in ALL-STAR BATMAN, but otherwise hasn’t been seen since “The Joker: Endgame.” The effect is jarring, but ultimately it only barely affects the comic’s impact. Again, Snyder and Tynion are masters of their craft. I have every confidence that the events of DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1 are going to build into something epic and significant, even if it feels like it’s all over the map right now.

Dark Days: The Forge #1
Image from DARK DAYS: THE FORGE # 1, courtesy of DC Comics.

Luckily, Batman’s journey grounds the various threads of this comic. Though unclear why, we understand that Batman himself is at the center of the Nth metal mystery. In conversations with Mr. Terrific, Superman, and Mister Miracle, we learn that Batman is preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice — he’s going to travel to the source of the metal. Through the other heroes’ warnings, we understand that Batman’s quest may change him forever. The imagery of the giant imperial Batman statue invokes plenty of intriguing questions about Batman’s future (or past). The fact that everything Batman stands for could be so radically altered at some point makes the implications of this comic not just multiversal, but personal.

The artwork by DC Legends John Romita Jr, Andy Kubert, and Jim Lee cohere into one style of great scale. Various images, such as the Batman statue and the giant Cosmic Tuning Fork, tower over everything else. They dwarf our heroes. The artwork also assists in the narrative’s various callbacks to old Batman comics. Batman’s hunt for the metal began in “The Court of Owls,” and several totems from that comic are present, a delightful reminder of that series’s greatness.

READ: Snyder has been laying the groundwork for DARK DAYS for years. Check out some interesting tidbits about Duke Thomas in our review of ALL-STAR BATMAN #9!

Even more fun is the throwback that goes all the way to Grant Morrison’s FINAL CRISIS. During Hawkman’s reflection on the dawn of mankind, we see the immortal examine a bat hieroglyph carved into a rock. This would make no sense if not for the fact that Batman was sent back to the Stone Age in FINAL CRISIS. The last page of Morrison’s series featured Batman drawing this hieroglyph. These are clever nods in a book filled with subtle clues, visual suggestions of the DC Universe’s past, present, and future.

DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1: Conclusion

DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1 opens a fascinating can of worms. It reveals several different mysteries all at once — perhaps too many for a single issue. Still, the creative team fires on all cylinders, delivering a tale of epic proportions. Moreover, it presents a potentially character-redefining quest for Batman. It remains to be seen whether DARK NIGHTS: METAL will tie into the greater Watchmen-related events of DC REBIRTH. I’m guessing not since Snyder clearly likes playing in his own sandbox. It’s a good thing he does. I didn’t think it possible that I’d anticipate another comic series just as much as the upcoming DOOMSDAY CLOCK. However, DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1 leaves us with plenty of reasons to be excited for the DARK NIGHTS to come.

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