It’s been almost two months since the last Scott Snyder-penned issue of Dark Nights: Metal hit comic stands, but this week Snyder is back—along with artists Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia—with the fourth issue of the main Metal miniseries. With the tie-ins mostly wrapped up Metal is heading into its endgame, and while this issue still has a couple final expository hoops to jump through, Dark Night: Metal #4 is a mostly exciting comic that sees the welcome return of Batman and Superman to the action, another appearance of Dream, and setups to a number of epic confrontations.
Batman’s been out of commission since the end of Metal’s second issue, all the way back in September, and Superman since not long after in issue three. While they’re still on the sidelines of the action for the bulk of the issue, it’s very nice to have them freed from captivity, and there were a bunch of great moments with them.
As we now know, there are nightmare versions of every hero in the Dark Multiverse, not just of Batman, and Barbatos’ plan is to have them all invade the DC universe once Earth is pulled down far enough into the dark for them to break through. This issue treats us to a fun glimpse of a few Dark Multiverse Supermen: a Luthor-Superman, a Bat-Superman, and, weirdly, Superman Blue from the 90s. The designs of these Supermen are unsurprisingly cool—stemming from Capullo’s pen as they do—but I am curious why Superman Blue is considered a nightmare version of Superman. Maybe it was just meant as a fun callback for fans.
Anyway, Batman and Superman finally escape Barbatos’ multiversal battery with some clutch assistance from Dream of the Endless, and it’s with him that they spend most of the issue. Metal’s cosmos-spanning complexity has required Snyder to unload a lot of exposition over the course of the story, and this issue is no different. Thankfully, the exposition here was less arcane metallurgy (although there was still some of that) and more interesting revelations about Barbatos’ origins and the creation of the multiverse. This is the kind of backstory I’m interested in, especially when it’s told through excellent, efficient use of the one page spread like it is here.
The best moment of the issue comes when it’s finally time for Batman and Superman to leave the Dark Multiverse. Dream creates a pathway for them that will only work if they go through with hope in their hearts. But Batman, who’s spent what felt like thirty years living in the nightmares we saw in Batman Lost, doesn’t think he has any hope left. Luckily, he’s with Superman, the most hopeful person who’s ever existed. Superman reminds him of the inspiration he provides others and then pushes Bruce to find at least one thing that inspires him.
I’ve written before about how Batman’s struggle between isolation and embracing the family he’s created is one of the character’s central conflicts. This issue is a beautiful distillation of the idea that Bruce is stronger with his family than he is without them, as it’s thoughts of Damian and the rest of his adopted children that pull him back from the brink of despair. This is a wonderful moment, both as a reminder of the depth of Bruce and Clark’s friendship and as a rare moment of sentimentality from Bruce.
Elsewhere, the Justice League, having escaped the clutches of the Dark Batmen in the Bats Out of Hell tie-in, have returned to their mission gathering Nth Metal. Aquaman and Deathstroke have entered a portal inside the tomb of Atlantis’s first king, Wonder Woman is now on her own fighting Black Adam and a twisted Kendra Saunders at the Rock of Eternity, and Hal Jordan and Mister Terrific have been captured by Starro and the emperor of Thanagar.
Like the Batman/Superman portion of the issue, this is all stage setting for the big action to come, but it leaves our heroes in very interesting places. Doctor Fate appears to be dead, Hal and Mister Terrific are captives, and Aquaman and Deathstroke are headed who knows where. Not to mention the fact that Bruce and Clark are facing down a monstrous Carter Hall at the birthplace of the multiverse. I’ve had my share of criticisms of Metal, but I can’t say that Snyder hasn’t thrown some seriously epic challenges at our heroes in this story, and now that we’re approaching the end things are getting exciting. Now if he would just explain what the hell’s going on with Plastic Man.
The art in Dark Nights: Metal #4 is typically stellar. After the time they spent working together on the early issues of New 25 Batman, Capullo, Glapion and Plascencia know exactly how to play to each other’s strengths, and their work combines for truly stunning imagery. This issue in particular is a great showcase for their work, as the story takes us everywhere from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of outer space; from the hellscape of the Dark Multiverse to the Escher-esque geometries of Dream’s library. Put these three talents together and there’s literally nothing they can’t do.
Dark Nights: Metal #4 feels like a real turning point for this story. While Snyder still has some explaining to do regarding how Carter wound up in his current state, it appears that we’re finally moving past the heavy exposition that’s bogged this story down and heading into what should be an action-packed finale. While some of what’s come before wasn’t my cup of tea, this was a solid issue that leaves me excited for what’s coming next.