Knight Terrors: First Blood - the opening issue of DC's horror-themed summer event - is here, and it kicks the saga off in suitably dramatic fashion. If you're at all worried about spoilers for the issue, then now is the time to look away, as we're going to get into what happens in First Blood - and who is seemingly killed off - in detail.
The new issue, written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by Howard Porter, opens on John Dee - AKA DR Destiny - enjoying a pleasant dream about his family. That's soon interrupted by a sinister presence. Dee tries to fight back, but the dark entity overpowers him.
Cut to Boston Brand - Deadman - the narrator of the issue. Tracking Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, he learns that something is haunting the world's heroes. Following them leads everyone to a locked room within the Hall of Justice, which Batman opens, only to discover the corpse of John Dee.
This, we soon discover, is actually a bit of a ruse. A call from Harley Quinn reveals that Dee is still in Arkham Tower - comatose, but alive. The heroes rush to the scene, only to witness something tear out of Dee's body, leaving him deadso for real this time.
The rest of the issue sees this new nemesis, named Insomnia on the final page, start to enact his grand plan. A slew of characters as diverse as Superman, Nightwing, the Joker, Hal Jordan, Ravager, and the Flash are all seen succumbing to nightmarish delusions.
But what exactly is his scheme? At one point, Insomnia cryptically says to Batman that he wants the world to "finally see superheroes the way that I see them. Not as heroes. But as horror." He also, on the final page, says that he wants to make them "pay for what they did to me."
That's clearly setting up a mystery over Insomnia's true identity. Will he turn out to be some long-lost villain from DC's past? Seems like a safe bet. We also know that he is very keen to get his hands on the Nightmare Stone - a mysterious totem that appears to be a malevolent version of the Dreamstone that Dee previously used.
First Blood is an engaging enough start to the new event. It's certainly action-packed, cramming in plenty of characters (including an ominous scene with Amanda Waller), and Insomnia is an intimidating new villain, even if the mystery surrounding his identity feels a little tired - how many more long lost villains can be out there? The sense of occasion, of the start of something big moving into gear, is also enough to keep you reading - even if the dialogue is a little whiffy in places.
Besides, the art from Howard Porter and colorist Brad Anderson does a great job of conjuring an appropriately phantasmagoric atmosphere, the bright colors of the early pages subsumed in gothic reds and purples by the end of the issue.
We keep coming back to the late, sort-of-lamented John Dee, though. Although the character first appeared in 1961's Justice League of America #5, and has cropped up in numerous other titles since, there's no doubting that he is best associated with The Sandman.
This, plus a slightly-too-cute reference to Morpheus ("The realm of dreams and the world of death are connected, related, y'know. Like brother and sister or something."), leaves you wondering if we're going to see a more direct link between Knight Terrors and Neil Gaiman's all-time-classic before the story's end. I guess we'll have to keep reading to find out.
Knight Terrors: First Blood is out now from DC. The story then splinters off into Knight Terrors: Batman #1, Knight Terrors: Ravager #1, Knight Terrors: The Joker #1, Knight Terrors: Poison Ivy #1, and Knight Terrors: Black Adam #1, all available now.
You can find out what Hal Jordan will be doing in the Knight Terrors: Green Lantern book in our interview with writers Jeremy Adams and Alex Segura.