(w) Scott Snyder (a) Greg Capullo (i) Jonathan Glapion (c) FCO Plascencia
In the weeks leading up to the release of Dark Nights: Death Metal #1, comics fandom seemed to have a weary optimism about the book. Granted, some of that weariness came from some of DC’s recent business decisions, but there also seems to be a sense of fatigue around Scott Snyder’s work after the original Dark Nights: Metal event. This is especially true for the Batman Who Laughs, an interesting new character that suffered from massive overexposure. However, the original Metal was indeed a ton of fun, with the same creative team returning there was hope that Death Metal could be just as fun. As it happens, Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 is a fantastic opening salvo for this new event.
Through both writing and art, Death Metal #1 sets reader expectations for this series. The visuals from Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia are nothing short of stunning. Capullo’s redesigns of characters serve as cues for how much destruction Perpetua and The Batman Who Laughs have wrought on the world. For example, Swamp Thing is haggard, charred, and frail – an indicator for the impact the villains have had on the Earth’s ecosystem. A being of almost god-like abilities is little more than a sentient tumbleweed at this point.
But while the art team does use its images to inform readers about this bizarre, dystopian vision of the DC Universe, that doesn’t mean they are unafraid to cut loose and have fun. There is perhaps no better representation of this than the evil, T-Rex Batman that serves the Batman Who Laughs. For lack of better words, it is one of the most metal images that has ever been in a mainstream comic. There are other great flourishes that would be excessive in most other stories, but are right at home here.
The success of this first issue rides on Scott Snyder’s willingness to reflect on the shortcomings of his work in the time post Dark Nights: Metal. His Justice League run began with promise but ended up feeling rudderless, as it seemingly continued to build toward something that would never come to pass. That doesn’t even include the tiresome use of the Batman Who Laughs. When that character first appears here, Snyder’s script gives a self-aware acknowledgement of criticisms with “Oh I know, I know. ‘You again? We’re so sick of you.'” With that, Snyder immediately earns readers’ trust. From then on, the rest of the narrative falls into place smoothly. Despite the extraordinary positions the characters are in, the dialogue and mannerisms feel authentic and earned.
Though Batman iconography is littered throughout the issue, Wonder Woman is the core protagonist of Snyder and Capullo’s efforts. Though whatever “Generations” plan may be essentially out the window (or folded into this event), Snyder did play a role in establishing Wonder Woman as the first DC superhero in Wonder Woman #750. That added prominence is on full display as she is shown to be the sole remaining member of the Justice League, forced into reluctant servitude of the world’s oppressors. Despite the dire situation, she continues to keep positive, defiant where she can be and keeping people alive. It is also through her that readers learn the grand history behind both Death Metal, but seemingly the entire DC Universe. The revelation comes across as a lesser version of Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity, but it works within the context of this story.
Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 is a success because of its willingness to embrace the craziest elements of the DC Universe and make them a point of emphasis. Like past efforts, the story attempts to explain the convoluted and contradictory nature of the publisher’s history. The difference is that there is a lack of self-seriousness, pushing to give readers a fun time. Even those that have not kept up with the events between the original Metal and this can follow along with relative ease. Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 revels in the insanity of the DC cosmology, and is an absolute blast.