Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is one of my favorite creative teams in comics. While I consider Grant Morrison’s Batman run to be the character defining run, Snyder and Capullo’s is my favorite to revisit. Batman: Last Knight on Earth was a fascinating cap to their Batman work, and Dark Nights: Metal was a fun, albeit messy, event. So it pains me to say that Dark Nights: Death Metal is one of the most incomprehensible, illogical, creatively bankrupt events in recent memory.
I’ll be first to admit that most of the blame for Death Metal’s failings falls on Snyder’s putrid writing, as Greg Capullo’s visuals are at least fun to look at. The idea of an evil Batman who’s also a T-Rex is absolutely bonkers and entertaining. However, it also makes no sense and outside of a unique visual gag, offers nothing to the story. That’s one of the best ways to describe Death Metal within the context of DC’s overall canon – visually interesting, but nothing else. Sadly, Death Metal also falls victim to creative bankruptcy. It’s a regurgitation of ideas executed better by other creators, while also continuing DC’s efforts to strip-mine Watchmen for any remaining shreds of prestige.
The Batman Who Laughs was introduced during the original Metal as a character with an interesting design, but who has since been overexposed and overstayed his welcome. He is meant to be a dark reflection of Batman, essentially his opposite. But that character already exists, he’s called the Joker. The Batman Who Laughs is an amalgamation of these two opposing forces combined with a corporate focus group’s vision of “heavy metal.” But in the end, it was the overexposure that caused reader to tire of him quickly. So when he was offed in the first issue of Death Metal, it was generally well received. However, it may be that character that held the concept of Metal together.
I hate the notion that creators should “stay in their wheelhouse,” because it limits what a given creator can do. However, it seems that this logic should apply to Scott Snyder, who has been trying his hardest to do a Grant Morrison impression. From Metal to Justice League and now Death Metal, Snyder’s writing has attempted to build and expand the DC mythos by exploring long-established concepts. The problem is that the new elements Snyder has introduced add nothing to the overall narrative, nor do they possess the subtext that Morrison’s works have. For example, the out-of-nowhere appearance of Mandrake in Final Crisis #7 (especially if you didn’t read Superman Beyond) seems nonsensical, until you realize that it’s supposed to represent last-minute editorial decisions or mandates that creators have to react to. There is none of that subtext in Snyder’s writing.
Snyder is also trying to build upon the “Batgod” of Morrison’s Batman run, only instead of focusing on the heroic aspects of the character he spends time showcasing how dangerous Batman is within the DC Multiverse. Errr, make that the Dark Multiverse, because we can’t just have a multiverse, we have to have multiple multiverses, which is just fucking redundant. Yes, Morrison’s Batman was practically a god, but Morrison never forgot that he is ultimately just a man. His run ends with a downtrodden and emotionally damaged Bruce Wayne having to deal with all the shit he went through. Through this “crazy” and “fun” ride of Snyder’s, he seems to be taking all the wrong lessons. Like Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen, Scott Snyder is focused on making sure things look cool (which, to Greg Capullo’s credit, they do) while completely missing the heart.
Speaking of Watchmen, this is the kind of stuff people feared when DC decided that it’d be a good idea to start incorporating elements of the 1986 classic into the DC Universe proper. Whereas Doomsday Clock was a surprising and respectful follow-up to Watchmen, Death Metal pretty much slit its throat and had sex with its corpse. In a book with a dinosaur Batman, a Joker Batman, and a bunch of other evil Batmen, why not add in a Dr. Batmanhattan? Just… ugh.
I know we’re only three issues in (plus tie-ins), but Dark Nights: Death Metal is quickly rising to the top of “worst comic events” simply due to its lack of originality. Remember that wave of terrible spoof movies that were a blight of the late 2000s? This is like that, but for comic events.