While DC didn't hype this week's Death Metal anthology special The Last Stories of the DC Universe too aggressively, readers wanting to keep up with DC continuity in the aftermath of Death Metal may want to check it out.
Taking place during the events of Death Metal #5 on what all the heroes expect is the last night before their likely defeat at the hands of the Batman Who Laughs, friends, teammates, and even adversaries gather and talk and reflect on their lives and mostly their relationships, and some of the stories seem to be seeding upcoming storylines.
Perhaps the most significant developments happen in the Bat-family story 'We Fight for Love' by writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Mirka Andolfo.
Gathered in an encampment with other DC heroes in the Hellscape (the island paradise formerly known as Themyscira), the core Bat-family of characters - Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, Tim Drake, and Damian/Robin - retire to their own private little section of the camp and have a lot of conversations about what they all expect may be their last night alive.
Most of the dialogue is reserved for Dick and Barbara and their very complicated relationship, as they bicker and flirt and confess feelings for and apologize for the hurt they have caused one another until …
...they get married.
Batman does the quickie honors, so it's unofficial mind you, but Dick proposes and Barbara accepts on the condition it's only for that one last night since they probably won't survive the upcoming battle with the Batman Who Laughs. They both agree their "marriage" will be annulled and void if they live (which they will, of course), but Dick also promises to win her back if they do, which seems to be foreshadowing plot points involving the pair to come.
The happy couple is later seen revealing their one-night commitment-in-spirit to their friends from the various Titans teams - including Starfire who says "I'm happy for you both" - in another story in the special.
The return of Oracle?
But temporary marriage might not be the story's biggest development for Batgirl. While DC has been making it pretty clear in recent months Barbara will be taking on more of her Oracle role again in the Bat-verse, and perhaps serve as a 'Batgirl Prime' to Spoiler and Orphan who are almost certainly going to receive a new Batgirls post-Future State series, it appears Barbara may also be returning to her state of paralysis sooner than later.
Batgirl fans know Barbara was shot in the spine and paralyzed from the waist down by the Joker in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's seminal Batman: The Killing Joke from 1988, and that she reinvented herself for over two decades as the DCU's preeminent freelance intelligence source/hacker to superheroes while using a wheelchair, a heroic identity some readers felt was superior to her Batgirl persona.
In 2011's 'The New 52' reboot, however, Barbara returned as Batgirl in a series by Gail Simone, in which it was revealed the events of The Killing Joke remained in-continuity and happened three years prior, but that Barbara's paralysis was healed by a special implant developed in South Africa.
DC has hinted from time to time that the implant's effect may not be permanent, including as recently as September's Batgirl #48 when Luke Fox helps her reattach it after Barbara removed it herself in issue #46 to escape the Joker's control. Luke tells her there is "no next time" if the implant gets removed again and Barbara tells him matter-of-factly she doesn't need it to work forever, and that she'll be fine without it.
Then in October's Batgirl #50. Barbara's inner dialogue in the series' final issue reveals her implant won't work anymore "one day," but that even if that occurs or she grows old and her Batgirl days end, she'll use all her skills to still be of service to and a hero for Gotham City.
In comic books, 'someday' can be indefinite, but 'We Fight for Love' in The Last Stories of the DC Universe seems a little more definitive, however.
In conversation with Batman about who may or may not survive the upcoming fight, Batman says he hopes someone they love will live on and that he hopes it'll be Barbara, who responds, "Even if I do make it out of here ... my body, my implant is at its end."
Interestingly, Barbara doesn't clarify if she knows the implant will fail or if she'll choose to discontinue using it.
Given that after January and February's Future State DC's entire regular line will return in what the publisher is hoping is a jumping-on-point for readers, you can likely expect Barbara to be back to her pre-implant Oracle status quo when she turns up in a Batman title and/or as a cast member of a Batgirls series, almost exactly a decade since her 'New 52' return as Batgirl.
Speedy's back ... sort of
Other interesting moments seeming to foreshadow upcoming development or just plain interesting curiosities from the issue include:
In the Titans-centric story 'Together' written by Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, and Death Metal architect Scott Snyder that serves as bookends to the other stories, Batman uses his Black Lantern ring to resurrect a somewhat zombified Roy Harper to join the battle, who seems quite okay with his condition and very happy to be there. And this all happens in the presence of Wally West.
Earlier in the story, an apologetic West is reunited with his former Titans teammates for the first time after the events of Heroes in Crisis, who surprisingly accept him back into their fold. Zombie Roy (who Wally inadvertently killed in that series) tips his baseball cap to Wally standing a few yards away.
I do ... again
And there is almost a second marriage in the story. The story is mostly just Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance walking and talking on a beach, although temporarily interrupted by Joker Megs (giant Jokerized sharks from somewhere in the Multiverse).
Oliver gets down on one knee seemingly to propose but he appears to chicken out at the last second to the relief of Dinah. She wants to marry him but doesn't want to be asked in such a dire circumstance.
Soon after the almost-proposal, they're approached by Laurel Lance-Queen, the Black Arrow. From one of the 48 of the 52 Earths destroyed by the Batman Who Laughs, she is the daughter of her Earth's Dinah and Oliver, who had opposite superhero roles - Dinah was the archer and Oliver had sonic powers.
Laurel also tells them her Aunt Helena made the crossbow she's carrying.
After some sentimental sort-of family times, it is revealed Oliver was hiding an engagement ring and in fact, intended to propose.
Aquaman says his goodbyes
In an Aquaman story 'Whale Fall' by Christopher Sebula and Christopher Mooneyham, DC's King of Atlantis spends a long time ruminating about the nature of life and particularly death in inner monologue, and more or less says goodbye (in his mind) to infant daughter Andy (who we know becomes Aqualass to Jackson Hyde's Aquaman in Future State) in the final moments.
If Newsarama were to take bets on what major DC hero doesn't make it out of Death Metal, that story places Aquaman at the top of the list.
Freminies to the end
And in 'Last Knights' by Jeff Lemire and Raphael Albuquerque Hal Jordan and Sinestro meet up, with the long-time villain requesting Hal grant him the use of a Green Lantern ring for the final battle.
At first, Hal refuses, but then reconsiders thinking to himself everyone deserves another chance and powers a ring for him. After reciting the Green Lantern oath Sinestro remarks he'd forgotten how it feels like not to be afraid.
Hal and his one-time instructor-and-later--arch-villain then launch into the sky to enjoy one last night of flying before the final battle.
Whether this portends a redemption turn by Sinestro in writer Geoffrey Thorne's upcoming new Green Lantern ongoing series remains to be seen.
Sinestro and Hal are two of the greatest Green Lanterns of all time. Find out where they rank in our countdown (but yeah, Hal is probably #1).