While I’ve been enjoying the various Dark Nights: Metal tie-in issues immensely, the main miniseries—the comics written by Scott Snyder—has been much more of a mixed bag for me. The book’s ambition is impressive, and Greg Capullo’s art is typically fantastic, but the story has yet to fully click for me. I’ve been trying to keep an open mind, given how much I love Snyder’s work but, after reading this week’s Batman Lost #1, I think I’m finally ready to admit that this story just isn’t working for me.
Batman Lost—written by Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, with art from Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette and Jorge Jimenez—is a look at what’s happening to Batman as he’s trapped in the Dark Multiverse, attached to Barbatos’s cosmic battery. Barbatos has Bruce trapped in a series of nested hallucinations in order to keep his mind confused and occupied, so he won’t be able to find a way to escape his imprisonment. But Bruce, never one to go down without a fight, tries his hardest to break out of the dreams. Ultimately, however, Bruce appears to give in to Barbatos’s torture, after Barbatos reveals just how intimately he’s shaped every moment of Bruce’s life.
The issue is certainly interesting, although it does spend a decent amount of time reiterating information about Barbatos’s manipulations of Batman that we’ve already gone over several times in prevues issues of the series. Indeed, all of the issues of Metal—both the main issues and all the tie-ins—have had something interesting to offer, to greater and lesser degrees. The problem I’m running into is that, while Batman Lost marks the halfway point of Metal, I still have no idea what this story is supposed to be about.
Obviously, I’m not talking about the plot when I say that. I’m not interested in predicting what twists and turns Snyder has in store. What I mean is that I’m not sure what the thematic purpose of Metal is.
Snyder’s greatest strength as a writer is that he writes very directly to theme. Even when we have no idea where a given arc is going to go on a plot level, Snyder always clearly establishes in the opening issues of that arc what the theme of the story is, what he’s trying to use that particular story to say about Batman and his world. Unlike all of Snyder’s other Batman stories, at the halfway point of Metal I’m still not sure what Snyder is trying to say about the Dark Knight here, especially in light of Bruce’s apparent surrender at the end of Batman Lost.
To be fair, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s still a lot of time left before this event wraps up, and just because Snyder hasn’t laid his thematic cards on the table yet doesn’t he won’t eventually. I guess I’m just frustrated that, after slogging through so many months of extremely dense plotting and byzantine recontextualization of decades of DC apocrypha, I still have no idea what all this effort is for. While there is much that I’ve enjoyed in Metal—especially in the tie-ins—Batman Lost has proven to be the tipping point where those frustrations are finally greater than the things I’m liking.
I won’t be giving up on reading Metal; Snyder is one of my favorite comics writers, and his stories have never let me down before. I’m ready and eager to have all my reservations swept aside with a dramatic and thematically rich conclusion to this story. But after reading Batman Lost I’m also ready to admit that, as much as I wish it weren’t so, Metal might not give me what I’m looking for.
How are you guys feeling at the halfway point of Dark Nights: Metal? Sound off in the comments; I’m genuinely curious to know your thoughts.