Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Slamming together threads from the original Dark Nights: Metal, his wide-ranging run on Justice League, and even lingering developments from Doomsday Clock, longtime Bat-writer Scott Snyder saddles up with artist Greg Capullo once more for Dark Nights: Death Metal. Continuing the saga of the Batman Who Laughs, Death Metal is as dense as it is wildly over-the-top, as Snyder and Capullo aim for maximum fan service with every page and plot point.
From the jump, Snyder and Capullo drop us in the heart of this bleak chapter of the DC Universe (“the real DCU,” as the captions claim), with Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing acting as begrudging wardens for the enemies of the Batman Who Laughs, who has amassed an army from across the Dark Multiverse. Yet when Diana is brought an unexpected prisoner — Wally West, fresh off his own limited series where he gained Doctor Manhattan’s powers — she and the original Bruce Wayne will each do what they can to thwart the Batman Who Laughs’ rule.
While there’s a veritable encyclopedia’s worth of mythology for readers to chew on, the real staying power of this first issue has to come from Capullo’s sense of design and action. This is not the DC Universe you’ve come to know and love — similar to his work with Snyder on Last Knight on Earth, Capullo makes all of his Death Metal characters look badass as hell, particularly a charred and desiccated Swamp Thing who shows fire from every breath. And it’s a credit to Capullo that he’s able to keep up with such crowded pages without the storytelling suffering — most of his pages have six to nine panels to deal with, yet he doesn’t skimp on the cool moments, like Batman revealing himself from under a magical stealth cloak, or Wonder Woman finally getting to show off her Chainsaw of Truth.
If some of those concepts sound a little off-the-wall to you, that’s honestly the tip of the iceberg here — Snyder takes the dial set from the original Metal and his previous Last Knight on Earth series and cranks it to 11, throwing subtlety to the wind and electing for pure adrenaline action. And the more I think about it, the more I think that might be a feature rather than a bug — there’s a lot of continuity to get through in this series, but even if you haven’t read Snyder’s previous body of work in Metal or Justice League, it’s hard to deny the inherent fanboy appeal of Batman enlisting an entire potter’s field of Revolutionary soldiers to fight for him using the power of a Black Lantern ring, the tongue-in-cheek alternate universe Batmen like B. Rex (a robot dinosaur Batman whose tiny arms won’t allow him to drive or throw Batarangs) or Bat-Mage, or the ongoing teases that might imply a Manhattan-sized reveal later on in the series.
Of course, that does mean that while Death Metal is loud and proud, you could also argue that the series is ultimately preaching to the choir. If you aren’t readily familiar with the rest of the saga involving the Batman Who Laughs and his magical benefactor Perpetua, some sequences in the book are going to be an uphill climb, particularly a double-page info-dump tying together various elemental energies ranging from the Forces of Justice, the Speed Force, and the Emotional Spectrum with increasingly complicated additions like Crisis and Anti-Crisis Energy. Given the title of the issue is “It All Matters,” Snyder is clearly going for the same holistic approach that Grant Morrison did in his Batman run, folding in every corner of continuity at once — but in the longer-term, that approach can also be a dangerous one, one that can prioritize minutiae rather than characterization and emotional catharsis.
Even despite a few continuity bumps in the road, Dark Nights: Death Metal absolutely one-ups its predecessor in terms of intensity and tone, and will likely be a crowd-pleaser for anyone who’s enjoyed Snyder and Capullo’s work together over the last decade. This series is all about escalation, and Snyder works overtime at coming up with insane concepts that Capullo absolutely home-runs off the page. While it remains to be seen if all of Snyder’s long-running plot threads will eventually stick the landing, the unabashed energy of Death Metal is the sort of thing most event books would kill to emulate. After this bombastic first issue, there’s no doubt readers will be excited to see what power chords Snyder and Capullo will come up with next.