Dark Nights: Death Metal #2
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and Fco Plascencia
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
The sophomore event slump becomes explicit in Dark Nights: Death Metal #2. Standing very much as a transition issue, taking readers deeper into this new Bat-themed apocalyptic landscape, Scott Snyder starts to set the stage for the second act of this "anti-Crisis." Unfortunately, in the transition, there isn't much plot to speak of. Instead we are treated to a string of disparate "big moments," all in service of shoving readers down the grimdark path for the next major bout between our heroes and the forces of the Darkest Knight and Perpetua.
This disparate feeling also extends to Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and Fco Plascencia's artwork. Swapping the bombastic action of the opening issue inside cramped interiors crowded by dense dialogue boxes, Capullo's usual expressiveness and burly action is very much absent here, much to the issue's detriment. Though appropriately silly and large in scale — albeit perhaps not in the way Snyder and Capullo might have wanted — Dark Nights: Death Metal #2 finds the event falling into a familiar follow-up foul-up.
That said, Snyder and Capullo opens on a bolt of energy. Anxious to capitalize on the Batman Who Laughs' death, our heroes once again gather to marshal their strength and strike while they have the opportunity. And just in case you didn't get the direction of the sequence, don't worry, because Scott Snyder is tracking it all via some somewhat on-the-nose narration about the "wisdom of generals" and how wars are won "hill-by-hill."
Unfortunately, Snyder never quite moves out of the telling gear into the showing, continuing the sequence well past its endpoint for another 'come to Jesus' moment between Diana and Prime Batman, who has been hidden away in a hidden Bat-Bunker with the remaining members of the Justice Society of America and Jonah Hex, as they try to recruit more heroes from the Multiverse. That's right, after years of being benched, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Ted Grant return to the pages of DC only to… instantly move off-panel again once Snyder is done with them.
The sort of fly-by-night plotting spreads further to the bad guys, as the Evil Alfreds and Groblins (Goblin-Robins) repair the Batman Who Laughs with barely an explanation as to how and why. It all speaks to the larger problem of Death Metal #2 in that there is nothing to hang these "big" moments on.
In the past, Snyder has contextualized his biggest feints and turns with deep dives into the characters emotions.
'Superheavy' had weight because we were made to care about Jim Gordon stepping into the Bat-Armor, just as Mr. Bloom was made compelling by his sordid history with Gotham.
'The Black Mirror' was engaging because we were tracking Dick Grayson's legacy as a member of the Bat-Family and how he was coping with the loss of Bruce Wayne.
But with Death Metal, we just witness the smashing together of toys to prop up a scarred world we haven’t even seen the most interesting parts of yet. The promise of the map in the opening pages still goes unfulfilled here, and after this issue, I'm not completely sure it ever will be. Especially if the story is just more strung together scenes with no real thematic resonance or connection.
Even the visuals, long held as one of the draws of this event, take a significant hit in this second issue. Gone are the expansive, gorily detailed action scenes, and in their place are people in ridiculous costumes in static poses talking. The interiors aren’t great shakes, either, aside from a fun crypt that Jonah Hex and Prime Batman are inventorying for potential resurrected soldiers. The space itself is much a standard dark, heavily shadowed mausoleum, but the markings on the walls and slats are fun shoutouts to other B- and C-list "forgotten" heroes that fans will enjoy seeing.
Occasionally the trio get a chance to show off, usually in a single page splash or quick montage layout. Highlights here include the finished shot of one the main preview pages, showing the hierarchy of villains with Apex Lex and Doctor Manhattan looming over DC's power Trinity as they’re swallowed into darkness. Also impressive is the poster-ready debut of the Darkest Knight, the new form of the Batman Who Laughs who had his brain transplanted into a Bruce Wayne who is also a Doctor Manhattan (Comics, everybody!). Now a being of living darkness, this new Manhattan-Who Laughs looks more like a Diablo villain than a DC baddie, but it is a much-needed visual shot in the arm.
But like the issue overall, none of it much sticks, and we are left with another goofy cliffhanger to lead into what is presumably another pretty goofy issue of this event. Somehow operating as both silly and self-serious, Dark Nights: Death Metal #2 ends up exemplifying the worst aspects of both as well as failing to raise the bar as a sequel.