Counting the Dark Days prelude, we’re now four issues into Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal series. Its been all preamble so far, which on the one hand is perfectly understandable; Snyder is, after all, drawing on decades of apocrypha to weave this tale of the Dark Multiverse that’s been lurking on the underside of the DC cosmos, and it’s gonna take some time to
pull retcon all of that together into something coherent. On the other hand, for a story that Snyder’s been hyping as “metal” in ways other than the metallurgical, its been a little frustrating going through months of buildup, receiving the same information multiple times to make sure readers jumping into the series late can follow along.
Thankfully, by the end of this week’s Metal #2, the story is ready to kick into high gear. The context for what’s happening is established, the players are all on the board (or, in three important cases, off the board), and the twisted games of Barbatos and the Dark Batmen are about to begin. But first, some final stage-setting takes place while Batman plays tricks on his allies, then has the ultimate trick played on himself.
Batman On the Run
One of Bruce Wayne’s central conflicts is the one between his essentially solitary nature and the need for allies. Bruce is constantly being reminded by his friends and family that there’s strength in unity, and tends to find himself in the most trouble when he rejects their assistance out of a noble—though misguided—desire to protect them from physical and emotional harm.
Metal #2 sees Batman trying to go it alone once again, although this time he’s recruited the Bat Family into his plans, dressing them all up as Batman in an attempt to throw the Justice League off his trail. This results in the most pure fun sequence of the issue, as a bunch of Batmen on jet skis get chased by Superman, Wonder Woman, and the other Leaguers.
Batman being my favorite character, it’s always fun for me when he does stuff like this, using his intellect and fancy tech to trip up his superpowered friends. This time it was even more fun, because Nightwing and the gang got in on the action as well. Think of Batman and his allies as “just people” at your peril, Justice League, because you just might find yourselves being lured into a Swamp Thing trap.
Hall of Immortals
Meanwhile, Lady Blackhawk Kendra Saunders met up with the DC Immortals Club at a brand new Hall of Doom in the middle of an Antarctic lava pit, where they discuss shooting the Anti-Monitor’s “astral brain” through the Rock of Eternity, where the mixing of anti- and dark matter could either destroy the Dark Multiverse or do something really bad. I’d say, “you can’t make this shit up, folks,” except Scott Snyder did make all of this up, so kudos to him for being one batshit crazy motherfucker.
This scene is hard to parse. First and foremost, I have no idea what the Anti-Monitor’s astral brain is. Last time I remember seeing Anti-Monitor was in Geoff Johns’ Darkseid War, and I don’t recall his brain turning astral, though it’s possible I’ve just forgotten (feel free to refresh my memory if I have). It’s also entirely possible that we’ve never seen or heard of this astral brain before now, and we’ll find out more later.
Either way, at this juncture I am both confused and interested to see where this story thread goes. This Immortals Club is a fascinating mix of good and evil characters, bound together—even if only loosely—by the unique perspective granted by their longevity. It’s also one of the places where Snyder is playing with dense amounts of arcane DC lore, mixing together these characters’ vast histories with the ancient animal tribes and the many ur-metals of the DC universe. This is an unpredictable group of people, and I’m interested to see what wrenches they throw into the story.
They’re Right Here
As I’ve mentioned, Snyder is pulling from all kinds of different stories for Metal. This issue is primarily about the Final Crisis of it all. When we finally meet up with Batman again, he’s come up with a truly insane plan—even for him—and it’s based on what happened to him in Grant Morrison’s bonkers event comic.
In it, Darkseid unleashed his Omega Beams upon Batman, sending him back in time to the dawn of man (don’t ask). It was there that Barbatos, the big bad of Metal, first saw Batman and hatched his plan to use Batman to open the door for the Dark Multiverse to invade the DC cosmos. Bruce is so terrified by what’s coming—and so determined to face it alone—that he’s decided to use the terrifyingly adorable (adorably terrifying?) post-Darkseid War baby Darkseid to shoot himself back in time again, where he’ll use Carter Hall’s nth metal mace to put an end to Barbatos before he ever becomes a threat.
Things don’t go even remotely according to plan, however, and not because Superman and Wonder Woman try and intervene.
If Bruce’s greatest strength is his intellect, his greatest weakness is the arrogance that comes with it. Bruce is always the smartest man in the room, always one step ahead, traits on fine display earlier in the issue as he ran circles around the Justice League. It rarely occurs to Bruce that he might be playing a game with someone cleverer than he is, so when that turns out to be the case here, he’s caught completely flat-footed.
It turns out that what Bruce thought was the tomb of Khufu, Hawkman’s original life, was in fact the tomb of Hath Set, the man who murdered Khufu and Chay-Ara and began the reincarnation cycle of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Lying in wait were the Court of Owls and Barbatos’s priests, the Strigydae, who anoint Batman with the last metal—appropriately named Batmanium—and turn him into a portal to the Dark Multiverse, setting Barbatos and his Dark Batmen loose upon the world.
As the issue ends, things look bad for the DC universe. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are all out of commission, always a smart tactic on a writer’s part, as it ups the stakes for all the other heroes, who can no longer count on the Big Three to solve the problem for them. A small army of evil Batmen is on the loose, and under Greg Capullo’s pencil they look truly terrifying. Shit has officially hit the fan, Metal is about to get metal, and I can’t wait to see what insanity happens next.