If there's one thing that's certain in modern DC, you can't outrun the Batman Who Laughs. It's time for DC's resident speedsters to attempt the impossible in Dark Nights: Death Metal: Speed Metal #1, a high-octane race to a brighter destination in an event otherwise dominated by villainous conquest.
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Wally West, Barry Allen, and Jay Garrick are burning out the speed force to try and outrun The Darkest Knight and beat him for control of the Mobius Chair. With a legion of Dark Flashes and the Knight himself on their tails, it's up to the anti-crisis powered Wally West to win the sprint to end all sprints. This one-shot was initially solicited as The Batman Who Laughs versus Doctor Flashhattan, and you could almost hear the collective groan. Luckily, Williamson mostly ignores the Darkest Knight here and instead decides to run a Flash Family victory lap that offers some real catharsis for the often-abused Wally.
Joshua Williamson writes with heart. Drawing from Wally and Barry's poignant 'Rebirth' reunion and the character dynamic he writes over in the Flash ongoing, he clearly has fun with dialogue. Everyone talks in quotable soundbites, tongue firmly in cheek. (Sample: "Remember: We don't run for us. We run for the world.") There's a certain Scooby-Doo feel to watch the Flashes literally run away from the cackling, phantomic new form of the Batman Who Laughs. Williamson isn't afraid of exclamation marks, his classically minded style an enjoyable contrast to most modern writers – who tend to shy away from the descriptive, exclamatory dialogue that Williamson indulges in.
Narratively, there are a few beats here likely to please. Wally outruns his Doctor Manhattan garb in favor of the classic red and there's a climactic extended Flash Family reunion to please the faithful. The moment Wally reaches the Mobius Chair and throws up heavy metal horns in defiance of the Darkest Knight, you can practically hear the riff that should surely accompany it. It's simple, unconvoluted, and effective. Williamson sure knows how to please his audience.
Dark Nights: Death Metal - Speed Metal #1 preview
Artist Eddy Barrows matches Williamson's explosive energy, filling the page with dynamic movement. His panels often angled into sharp slices of action, directing the reader's eye across the length of the page. His panel borders often morph into crackling frames of pure electricity to illustrate energy disruptions as they happen. In one instance Barrows lays out a 14-panel (!) page to illustrate Wally losing himself to the Speed Force, making for an energetic read. Inker Eber Ferreira's ink-work is thin and precise. He picks out the details in Barrows's intricately speed-lined artwork until you can count the individual hairs on Wally's head. Colorist Adriano Lucas finishes off the issue's visuals in twin tones of electric blue and red.
Dark Nights: Death Metal: Speed Metal #1 ultimately ends on a win for the good guys, balancing out the unrelenting bleakness of Trinity Crisis and offering at least a little hope as we move ever closer to October's Death Metal #4. This is a tidy little one-shot that mostly serves as a celebration of all things Flash and adds an important building block to the overarching Death Metal fortress. There is an emotional buy-in to the Flash necessary to enjoy this at its fullest, but there's enough eye candy here for anyone invested in Death Metal to enjoy. An essential for Flash fans.