The last battles of Death Metal get a handsomely rendered, but tonally jumbled final collection in Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Last 52: War of the Multiverses #1.
Written by Joshua Williamson, Scott Snyder, Magdalene Visaggio, James Tynion IV, Kyle Higgins, Regine Sawyer, Che Grayson, Marguerite Bennett, Matthew Rosenberg, and Justin Jordan
Art by Dexter Soy, Scott Koblish, Veronica Gandini, Paul Pelletier, Norm Rapmund, Adriano Lucas, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, Scott Kolins, John Kalisz, Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, Emilio Lopez, Pop Mhan, Chris Sotomayor, Inaki Miranda, Eva De La Cruz, Rob Guillory, Marissa Louise, and Mike Henderson
Lettering by Tom Napolitano, Carlos M. Mangual, Rob Leigh, Troy Peteri, Andworld Design, and Dave Sharpe
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Centered around A-lister and cult favorite Justice Leaguers alike, an absolutely stocked cast of creatives shuffle readers through some of the stories we won't be seeing in the incoming Death Metal finale. But the end result stands as shaky, populated with fun moments but no real cognizance between the stories beside a shared setting and slight texture provided by the Tales of the Dark Multiverse one-shots. Unlike most of the other tie-in anthologies of the Death Metal finale, Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Last 52: War of the Multiverses #1 adds little to the ongoing curtain call of DC's latest "Crisis-level" event.
Starting with the good, fans of characters like Swamp Thing, The Atom, John Constantine, and Lois Lane will be happy to see they are allowed ample time in the spotlight throughout this anthology. Faced with the "dark mirrors" of themselves summoned to the final battle from the Dark Multiverse, each story finds a pattern early and then rarely breaks away from it. Opening with missives around the "Trinity" of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman, The Last 52, in theory, is allowing us to see quieter, more character-focused moments amid the massive grappling between Diana and the Darkest Knight.
And in some sections it really works! Stories like "Unstable Atoms" from Kyle Higgins, Scott Kolins, and John Kalisz, which follows Ryan Choi realizing just how much his knowledge of science really means in a reality of gods and multiverses and the Lois Lane starring "No More Superheroes" from Regine Sawyer, Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, and Emilio Lopez provide a neat window into the emotional states and hardships of "regular people" in the midst of the massive conflict.
The anthology's "supernatural" elements also shine. Matthew Rosenberg, Rob Guillory, and Marissa Louise's darkly funny John Constantine-starring "Armageddon Blues" adds a fun slice of black humor to the event as John meets and then fights his "heavy metal" opposite. Justin Jordan, Mike Henderson, and Adriano Lucas' "Reign of the Swamp King" also provides the issue with a bittersweet, sweeping ending beat along with hefty teases of the incoming Future State: Swamp Thing and Swampy solo series.
Unfortunately, as an issue, The Last 52 fails to really hold together as a cohesive anthology. Worse still, the disparate tonalities of the stories in question make it hard to really gain a handle on it. We open with the epic and epically decompressed "Fight!" from Joshua Williamson, Scott Snyder, Dexter Soy, Scott Koblish, and Veronica Gandini. Though mainly centered around the still ongoing Diana/Darkest Knight fight, we are given quick jaunts into her past in Themyscira, again providing us a quiet moment amid the chaos.
But aside from the standout stories mentioned above, none of them really make good on the promise of the anthology's premise. And even though the black comedy of the Constantine story and the more poetic lyricism of the Swamp Thing ending story add a neat flavor to the one-shot, they absolutely stand apart from the more conventional superheroics of stories like "The Batmen Who Laugh" and "First & Last Men". The end result is a real up and down feeling while reading it, one that stands even further apart as they pack in more details from the Dark Multiverse one-shots (which not all readers might have kept up with).
While the tie-in one-shots of this event have been some of the better material of Dark Nights thus far, Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Last 52: War of the Multiverses #1 can't be fully counted among them. Though armed with fun moments and occasionally impressive artwork, The Last 52 doesn't do much but clutter the stage as Death Metal prepares to take its final bow.
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