DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 By Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's epic reunion brings us Batman's most important mission yet -- with Multiverse-shattering results.
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The Final Case Begins
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DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 weaves together various threads from Scott Snyder’s DARK DAYS preludes, as well as his run on the New 52 BATMAN and ALL-STAR BATMAN. Snyder continues the grand cosmic tale of Batman’s quest for the Nth metal. This time, he brings in the rest of the Justice League and broadens the scope of Batman’s story. Much like Snyder’s DARK DAYS prequels, the revelations in DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 pack an unbelievable punch. We come to understand the shocking role Batman is meant to play in the war between bats and birds. Snyder unleashes his Dark Multiverse in the harrowing beginning of what looks to be Snyder’s Batman magnum opus.

Dark Nights: Metal #1
Courtesy of DC Comics

The story begins with a Warworld-inspired gladiator match between Mongul’s robotic minions and the Justice League. The quick and brutal battle paves the way for the League’s return to Gotham. There they immediately discover a mysterious mountain that has decimated a huge portion of the city. The mountain appeared apparently out of thin air, in the midst of a “dark energy” lightning storm. In the depths of the mountain, they discover a hidden base where they’re intercepted by the Blackhawks, a covert team of anti-apocalypse agents Batman encountered in ALL-STAR BATMAN.

Their leader, Kendra, is the many-times reincarnated lover of Carter Hall (Hawkman). She informs the League of the dangers of the Dark Multiverse and its overlord, Barbatos. Kendra reveals that Batman is destined to be the emissary of this harbinger of evil, and will allow Barbatos’ entrance into our heroes’ world. Kendra and her team hasten to capture Batman, but the Dark Knight, of course, is one step ahead. Batman escapes, along with a sample of the Nth metal. Yet Batman quickly discovers that the journal of Carter Hall doesn’t lie, and Barbatos may soon be unleashed upon the Earth.

With DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 and its two preludes, Snyder has proven to be a master of jaw-dropping revelations. Combining the Batman mythos with elements of ancient history and mythology is no easy task. But Snyder has managed to make it all utterly convincing. When you boil down the contents of DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1, our heroes don’t really do all that much. They mostly stand around a table and listen to a history lesson. Yet this happens to be the most fascinating history lesson a Batman fan could hope for. It also serves to bring out a not-often explored quality in the world’s greatest detective — his unrelenting stubbornness.

READ: For a glimpse into Snyder’s epic prelude to METAL, take a look at our review of DARK DAYS: THE CASTING #1!

Even after hearing that the house of Wayne was destined to bring about the fall of mankind, Batman STILL hastens to do exactly what the journal warns — stealing the Nth metal and unwittingly turning himself into a human doorway for evil. This tendency of arrogance and blindness has been explored by Snyder before, especially in “The Court of Owls.” Batman refused to believe in the Owl legend simply because he couldn’t personally find any evidence. It’s this exact same trait that blinds Batman to the dangers of the Nth metal — only this time the implications are on a much grander scale. Batman isn’t only endangering himself this time. He’s endangering the fate of the entire Multiverse.

There’s a sense of scale to this comic that’s truly inspiring. Starting the issue with a huge space battle sets the stage for the epic conflict to come. It’s a bit jarring opening the first page and seeing our heroes decked out in gladiator outfits inside an outer space arena. Yet the effect is cinematic, particularly in the way the battle “cuts” to the title page right in the middle of a Batman expletive. This is exactly like the sort of fight sequence that begins a lot of superhero movies. Those opening battles are all sensory overload, and the plot only jumps in following the title sequences. Snyder makes deft use of this cinematic technique, and it bleeds over into the entire comic.

Dark Nights: Metal #1
Courtesy of DC Comics

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 contains a palpable sense of tension and dread. Much like Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy, the suspense builds and builds through the pages until reaching a fever pitch. The visual element is a key part of this suspense, and it’s wonderful to see artist Greg Capullo back at work with Snyder. Capullo’s artwork crosscuts between ancient history and modern day Gotham, complementing the dual narratives nicely. Hawkman’s journalistic warnings grow more and more uneasy as Batman draws closer and closer to finding the truth. The final pages are particularly prominent for this crosscutting, as Batman walks through his own house to find the journal; a house that suddenly looks like a stranger — even to Batman.

The only thing odd about Capullo’s art is that for some reason the characters look like they’re constantly smiling. This was especially noticeable during the scene where Kendra describes the history of Barbatos to the League around the table. This is a scene that should have been fraught with tension. Instead, everyone stands around smiling about the impending apocalypse. This might be more a problem with the inking than with Capullo’s pencils because the problem boils down to a thin line that’s stretched across each character’s mouth. This line makes it look like they’re smiling, while their other features demonstrate otherwise. This is probably something that should have been given a closer look before this issue went to publishing.

READ: Want to go back even further? Then read up on the first part of this epic saga with our review of DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1!

Another slight problem is the sudden gap in time between DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 and DARK DAYS: THE CASTING. The two preludes built upon one another, and it was easy to assume that build-up would continue right into METAL. Instead, the momentum between the comics is largely lost. A lot of that has to do with the absence of the Joker, who was at the center of the most shocking twists of the DARK DAYS comics. Joker isn’t even mentioned in METAL, which is definitely odd. Still, I assume he’s being saved for a grander purpose later on (especially since one of the later entries is to be titled “The Batman Who Laughs”).

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1: Final Verdict

The gap in time and odd artwork issues aside, DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1 is an endlessly compelling tale and a worthy continuation of Snyder’s Batman saga. The issue doesn’t quite capitalize on the momentum left over from DARK DAYS, but it does pick up enough plot threads to build some exciting momentum of its own. It continues to use history and mythology to repurpose Batman as the focal point of a nightmarish evil. This is a frightening and exciting prospect, and I can already imagine the implications when Batman and Barbatos come face to face.

At a key point, Carter Hall refers to this as Batman’s final case. This is a comic book, so obviously nothing is really final. Yet DARK NIGHTS: METAL may well be Snyder and Capullo’s final Batman case. Judging by their work so far, it’s going to be one hell of an ending.

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