Comic Review – Dark Nights: Metal #6

Dark Nights: Metal 6 Cover

It spoils little to reveal that Dark Nights: Metal concludes with the heroes of The DC Comics Multiverse victorious and the literal rising darkness that threatened to destroy all of reality vanquished. As with all good stories, the important part is the journey, not the destination. Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia have taken us on one heck of a journey.

On the surface, the idea behind Dark Nights: Metal was insane – crafting the comic book equivalent of a progressive rock album, mixing the aesthetics of Frank Frazetta and King Crimson to create a story that seemed more appropriate to Metal Hurlant (or Heavy Metal Magazine, as it became known in the USA) than DC Comics. Somehow, the creative team made it work and continues to push this idea into the final chapter, as Wonder Woman does battle with the assembled legions of fallen Justice Leagues from alternate realities born of nightmares, given form by a mad god!

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When the first issue came out, it was said that Dark Nights: Metal would redefine The DC Comics Multiverse forever. It was assumed that this referred to Scott Snyder’s attempts to codify their Periodic Table, expanding upon the properties of fictional substances such as Nth Metal and Promethium. It was also presumed that this would have something to do with the discovery of The Dark Multiverse – a hereto unknown level of The DC Comics Multiverse where the heroes lost and their worlds fell to chaos and entropy.

Dark Nights: Metal #6 goes far beyond this, however. The finale of this issue sets the stage for the next level of DC Comics Rebirth and indicates that some big changes are on the way. Anyone who is interested in the Rebirth revival in general would do well to pick up this issue, as it appears to lay the groundwork for some of what is to come in the solo books of all the current Justice League members with one notable exception. (Presumably they’re keeping Superman’s future a secret until Action Comics #1000 comes out?)

Unsurprisingly, reference is made to Scott Snyder’s upcoming No Justice series which will reportedly redefine the Justice League in much the same way Snyder’s run on Batman revitalized that series. A reference is also made to the upcoming Sandman Universe Special, which will introduce four new books – The Dreaming, Lucifer, The Books of Magic and House of Whispers – that will reveal the new status quo of Neil Gaimans’ Endless and their place in the new cosmology. There’s also an interesting bit of news regarding Jack Kirby’s New Gods that is sure to lead to big things in the future.

Thankfully, Dark Nights: Metal #6 is a solid work of action and adventure, even ignoring the significance of everything it has established. Those who missed the earlier issues can give thanks that the series has proved popular enough to merit reprints of the earlier issues, so you should be able to pick up the entire series with no problems if you don’t want to wait for the eventual TP collection.

10/10

Dark Knights: Metal #6 releases March 28, 2018.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

 

Comic Review – Detective Comics #976

Detective Comics 976 Cover

Tim Drake (a.k.a. Red Robin) had a plan.

Years earlier, he had taken up the mantle of Batman’s sidekick, realizing that Batman functioned best when he had a partner. Tim also realized that Bruce Wayne – much as he might deny it – was mortal and would not be able to be Batman forever. Tim devised a plan – to take all of the many vigilantes operating in Gotham City, and unite them officially as one group, training together and working to watch one another’s backs. This would establish a chain of heroes who could continue Batman’s legacy, generation after generation.

Dubbing this group The Gotham Knights, Tim pitched the idea to Batman, who approved it. He then placed the assembled team – consisting of Red Robin, Stephanie Brown (a.k.a. The Spoiler), Cassandra Cain (a.k.a. The Orphan) and a reformed Basil Karlo (a.k.a. Clayface) – under the control of Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman).

Now, Clayface is dead by Batwoman’s hand and she has left The Gotham Knights to join with The Colony – a militaristic vigilante group established by her father, who aim to protect Gotham City with lethal force. Stephanie Brown has hung up her cowl and broken off her relationship with Tim. And Cassandra – who was never all that stable to begin with – is in an even worse state following the death of Clayface, who was her closest friend.

Tim thinks he knows how he can fix The Gotham Knights but Batman is refusing to give him that chance, retreating into himself as he always does when he loses someone close to him. And as Tim Drake is approached about a new partnership by a most unlikely ally, The Colony moves to recruit more of Batman’s disillusioned trainees.

Detective Comics seems to be the least appreciated of DC Comics’ many Batman comics at present. It lacks the flash of Tom King’s Batman, which has redefined the Batman and Catwoman relationship and has now inspired a wedding between the two. It lacks the weight of Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal, which has built upon seven years of Batman comics by one of the longest partnerships in American comics. This is unfortunate, because James Tynion IV has done the impossible with little fanfare, restoring many beloved Gotham City vigilantes who were long neglected during The New 52 era to new prominence and introducing them to a new generation of readers.

Sadly, Detective Comics #976 – the first chapter of the Batman Eternal arc – is not the best issue of this series to start with. While all of the new arc openings on this series to date have been good entry points for new readers, the mythology James Tynion IV has established has finally become too involved to be easily summarized and absorbed. While a new reader could pick up this issue, it would lack the punch that is felt by those who are, much like Cassandra, still coping with the loss of Clayface. There’s also a distinct lack of explanation regarding who certain characters are and why they are significant to the story.

A larger problem is the artwork by guest artist Javier Fernandez, which is incredibly inconsistent. Fernandez’ style is largely sketchy and thinly outlined, save for the occasional panel that is drowned in black ink with shading that almost seems to be randomly applied. This leaves the book with an odd look that is further distinguished by the muted colors chosen by John Kalisz. Those who have been reading Detective Comics since the start of DC Rebirth won’t have much trouble muddling through the artwork for the sake of the story, but new readers would do better to start with Vol. 1: Rise Of The Batmen and work their way up to this issue.

5/10

Detective Comics #976 releases March 14, 2018.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

 

Comic Review – Dark Nights: Metal #3

There is nothing Batman hates more than a mystery. He became a master detective, not because he relishes solving a puzzle, but because he cannot bear to be ignorant. That was to be his downfall and the downfall of the multiverse.

Because Batman could not leave well enough alone, his efforts to solve a mystery tied into the ancient Court of Owls who had manipulated him all of his life and Gotham City for generations led to Bruce Wayne becoming the gateway to somewhere dark… a multiverse made up of all the worlds where the heroes were a second too late. Where the good guys became greater monsters than the villains they fought. Where evil triumphed in the end and the world fell into oblivion.

Seven Dark Knights came forth. Seven versions of Bruce Wayne that fell to the darkness. Seven versions of Bruce Wayne who had been denied the light and were determined to see it destroyed…

 

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Building off the mythology established in their now legendary run on Batman, it should be no surprise that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have delivered a story as epic as any we could have imagined with Dark Nights: Metal. The most truly miraculous aspect of this third issue, however, is how accessible it is to any reader who failed to pick up the first two issues. Every aspect of the story so far is explained, from how Batman’s actions have caused the current crisis to the events of the related Gotham Resistance story line that ran through the Teen Titans, Nightwing, Suicide Squad and Green Arrow series. It’s a novel touch and one more mini-series should indulge in for the benefit of those readers who were late to the party but don’t want to wait for the trade paperback collection.

Scott Snyder’s script for this issue is a masterwork, easily introducing obscure new characters such as The Nightmaster and Detective Chimp into the narrative with no fuss, muss or confusion at all. While much of the issue is concerned with exposition and setting up the next series of action events, the dialogue masks that fact very well and it’s amusing to read all the characters playing off of one another.

Greg Capullo is also at the top of his game here. Capullo has altered his usual penciling style somewhat, forging a new aesthetic inspired by the works of Frank Frazetta. Despite the generally dark coloration and heavy inks (courtesy of FCO Plascencia and Jonathan Glapion respectively), the general appearance of the book is surprisingly uncluttered. The artwork is detailed yet the line work is largely light and breezy. The colors stand out all the more vividly despite the general muted tone of the finished artwork. One particularly noteworthy aspect is the effects used to create the illusion of flickering firelight on a still page.

Bottom Line – if you haven’t been reading Dark Knights Metal, it isn’t too late to jump in on what will likely be the best event comic of 2017.

10/10


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Batman: White Knight #1

“This is an Imaginary Story… Aren’t they all?”

With those words, Alan Moore opened one story and ended an era at DC Comics. Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow was written to given the story of Superman an official ending of sorts before DC Comics rebooted their continuity with Crisis On Infinite Earths and formed what became known as the Post-Crisis Universe. Before then, any story that took place outside of the established canon (i.e. every wacky story involving Lois Lane marrying Superman) was dubbed an Imaginary Story.

Following Crisis On Infinite Earths, these non-canon stories were published under the Elseworlds imprint. The name may have changed but the base idea was still the same, allowing writers a chance to tell stories set in other realities and timelines. The first of these – Gotham By Gaslight – was set in a world where Bruce Wayne became Batman in Victorian era Gotham City and stalked a clownish Jack The Ripper.

Many of these Elseworld stories – such as Hawkworld and The Killing Joke – were absorbed into the canon due to positive fan reaction. Others, like the western-themed Justice Riders and the alternate-future Kingdom Come, became part of the canon Multiverse formed after Flashpoint.  The Elseworld imprint is used sparingly these days but DC Comics still tells tales set in other realities.

Batman: White Knight is the latest of these stories. Set in a reality where The Joker has been cured of his madness, the early previews promised a story where the newly-sane Jack Napier would find himself reluctantly thrust into the role of savior when it becomes apparent that The Batman has gone over the edge in his efforts to fight crime in Gotham City.

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Surprisingly, the early synopses buried the lead on Batman: White Knight. After a three page introduction depicts a gentlemanly Joker confronting a clearly crazed Batman in Arkham Aslyum, the rest of the issue depicts a flashback to One Year Earlier. It is here we see the final battle between The Joker as we know him and a Batman who has begun to prioritize catching criminals over saving lives, much to the sorrow of Batgirl, Nightwing and The GCPD. The end result is a Joker who literally had the sense beaten into him and is determined to deliver justice to the corrupt and incompetent administration that allows a Batman to run riot.

Countless other stories have examined the idea that Batman is just as crazy and dangerous as the villains he fights and the concept of The Joker going sane or becoming a hero. Despite this, writer and artist Sean Murphy has managed to put a unique spin on both ideas with White Knight. Fans will no doubt draw comparisons to The Dark Knight Returns – both because of a similar sequence where reporters argue over the morality of Batman’s actions and The Joker’s monologues regarding the abusive relationship that he and Batman share. Murphy builds beyond these themes, however, and manages some subtle and relevant commentary on the issue of police brutality.

Murphy’s artwork proves the equal of his writing. Rich and atmospheric, with thick inks settling to form deep shadows around the original pencils, Batman: White Knight looks somber even for a Batman title! Ironically, given the title, there is no pure white to be seen anywhere in this world. Even in the brightest moments, colorist Matt Hollingsworth allows no off-whites into the artwork – only muted shades of grey which make the dark night seem all the darker. The final effect is fantastic, making this book a must-read for all Bat-fans!

10/10


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.