Death Metal finally gets to the good kinda crazy in Dark Nights: Death Metal #3. Headed to New Apokolips thanks to the repaired carapace of the super-robot from the first series, Batman and his rag-tag Justice League aim to free the most powerful amongst them... JARRO! Oh, and Superman, too! Not to mention a whole mess of captured superheroes who will serve as fuel for Darkseid-Batman's New Apokolips, a massive Anti-Life Engine on the Moon.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
If this sounds pretty silly, I assure you it is. However, this third issue finds the creative team engaging in a much deeper and much-needed self-awareness and movement away from self-seriousness. Snyder's script this time around, though still hindered somewhat by the heavy-handed Sgt. Rock narration, leans into the cosmic calamity that is the DC Universe, and the issue itself is all the better for it. This pivot into silly also proves a boon to the artwork of Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and Fco Plascencia, all of whom adapt well to the new trippier scope of the event and more Kirby-inspired visuals of the new Moon set. Though still dealing with the maudlin set-up of the previous two issues, Dark Nights: Death Metal #3 helps the event find its feet and not a moment too soon.
Though the 'Super-Bot' was the cliffhanger of the previous installment, Scott Synder proves early that this issue is moving a lot quicker than the previous installments. Aimed toward the impossible prison moon of New Apokolips, ruled over by a craggy, almost Frank Miller-inspired Batman-Who-Anti-Lifes, our heroes need backup and they plan to get it with a super-jailbreak.
It's not exactly the most complex of set-ups, but Snyder in this sort of burly, slightly broad mindset is a lot of fun to read. Better still, he mines a lot of fan service and Kirby Krackle-fueled speed out of the simple premise, aiming our cast at the New Apokolipians, framed inside of an impossibly designed 'Anti-Life Engine' that uses both Superman and Mister Miracle as batteries.
Again, this stuff is really silly and broad, doubly so once reveals start to hit like that Darkseid/Batman is packing a twisted version of the Radon Bullet gun from Final Crisis and that Prime Batman is shielded with a Black Lantern Ring, but it's the kind of silly I can get behind.
There is also a real energy to the script itself that sets it apart from the dour opening issues. With a set goal and rich tapestry of DC history to work and pull from, Snyder's script this time around seems to have upshifted tremendously from the bald world-building of the opening issues. The issue starts to lean that way in the B-plot concerning Robin King and his hunt for Wally West, who contains the last bit of "Crisis-Energy" the Darkest Knight needs to fully come into his power. But even then, the literal speed and quick pace of Snyder's use of Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally 'Doctor Flashhattan' West (more shades of Final Crisis with our "three generations of Flash") keep it from getting dragged down too terribly with the exposition.
This speed and direction also works to improve the work of Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia, all of whom thrive in the Kirby and Speed Force-inspired trippiness of this third issue. The absolute standout sequence is the Anti-Life Engine, a massive, intricately designed piece of Kirby technology that serves as Superman and Mister Miracle's cage. Though the "inputs" seem fairly simple, the art team directly connects the insane upper half into the set itself, blossoming out into a massive dome of spirling, roiling colors and shapes. It's properly 'big' for this event and finally allows the series a showstopping moment.
Later on, they double down on the '70s psychedelic feel with a sprint through the Speed Force as Jay, Barry, and Wally all try to keep ahead of the Darkest Knight in order to keep Wally from his grasp. Here the shots get surprisingly intimate, highlighting the emotional states of each Speedster as the chase endures and literal flashes of Speed Force and velocity streak past the panel layouts and character models.
Armed with plenty of splashy visuals and a renewed urgency to the narrative, Dark Nights: Death Metal #3 puts the event on solid rails as it barrels toward its surely huge conclusion. Thanks to a keen energy and silly reverence to the weird and wooly world(s) of the DCU, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia deliver just the shot in the arm this event needed as it heads into its operatic endgame.