Engulfed within a sea of darkness, fear’s slender fingers begin to methodically weave and coil around the hero’s throat. Chilling clamors calling from the gloomy twilight begin to activate those portions of the brain responsible for imagination. Visions of abominable animals and barbarous beasts more cruel and terrifying than anything previously conceived begin to formulate within the hero’s mind. With minimal effort, fear’s grasp constricts around his throat, leaving a mammoth lump impossible for the hero to swallow. He gasps for air as he chokes on it.
“This Nightmare Has Just Begun.” Dark Nights Metal #1 Review
Dark Nights Metal #1 had an immense weight bearing down on its shoulders as it needed to provide some payoff for the mysteries discovered during Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting while also stoking the fires of audience curiosity through providing more questions for the reader to ponder. Thankfully, Dark Nights Metal #1 is the perfect start to an event spanning the entire DC Multiverse.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are left largely uninhibited as they are given all of the action figures in the toy box to smash together completely synchronized to the deafening beats of a screaming metal soundtrack. With this issue, Dark Nights Metal is poised to become a heavy metal mosh pit of over-the-top superhero action channeling the best aspects of the company’s history that may leave the heroes with a few new scars to proudly display as badges of honor.
Scott Snyder uses Dark Nights Metal #1 as the overture for his grand rock opera. The tempo is quick as the air fills with desperation. After facing wave after wave of onslaught, the Justice League is forced to fight for their lives against the Fulcum Abominus, robotic monsters emblazoned with their own crests, on Mongul’s War Moon. It is only with Batman’s quick thinking and strategic mind that the League is able to defeat the Mongul and his wretched robots.
It is during this time that the tempo slows and Snyder uses this time to continue establishing the imminent threat to our world as well as establish unknown regions of the DC’s Multiverse. Through establishing the DC Multiverse’s equivalent of the distorted version of reality popularly known as the “Upside-Down,” Scott Snyder has added depth to the DC Multiverse not seen since the mysteries presented in last year’s DC Universe Rebirth.
From literally “uniting the seven” via robotic Justice League themed robots in a Super Sentai styled battle set on Mongul’s War Moon to the appearance of Challenger’s Mountain in the midst of Gotham City, Dark Nights Metal #1 provides the reader with over-the-top action as well as meaty mysteries to ponder during the downtime between issues. Bonus points are definitely deserved for establishing a link between Grant Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne and Final Crisis to the overarching narrative. All that was missing from the issue was those dramatic arm movements and head nods indicating a character’s dialogue.
“Fulcum Abominus. Abominus, like something that defies the order of things… and fulcum from the late roman period. A warrior formation cry made from deep in the throat.”
Fear has been a thematic impetus for Dark Nights Metal since Scott Snyder first laid the event’s foundation in Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting. The creation of the Dark Multiverse is contingent on our heroes’ fears. Ultimately, these cruel creations are the result of a hero’s nyctophobia, fear or the dark, or xenophobia, the fear of situations perceived as strange. This is an excellent choice of theme considering its relevance to modern society as well as each individual’s personal connection to these fears.
A majority of the narrative presented in Dark Nights Metal #1 draws connections to thematic elements regarding fear. However, the bombastic opening sequence stands out as not only an excellent blockbuster movie moment involving the Justice League, but strangely out of place in regards to thematic elements surrounding fear. This seems oddly out of place in a Scott Snyder story due to his meticulous planning and spider-web connections between plot and story resolution. It is only after taking time to digest the above quote, similar to the manner in which the Fulcum Abominus consume the heroes, that the connections begin to appear.
The Toy Man’s mechanical monsters derive their name from two elements regarding fear. Abominus, or something that defies the order of things, is directly related to the concept of xenophobia. As humans, we often fear things that we consider strange or things that defy our understanding of order. Oftentimes, fear is characterized as a lump in the back of a person’s throat.
Fulcum also plays with this notion as the cry comes from deep within a warrior’s throat. It is only through overcoming this fear residing in the back of the Fulcum Abominus’ throats, without the use of their full powers, that the heroes could finally reunite to defeat the villain. This bombastic opening to Dark Nights: Metal #1 is a concrete interpretation of the metaphorical actions the heroes must take to defeat Barbatos. These small connections have added to the overall depth of the story and created a rock opera that all readers will enjoy.
Final Rating: 4.5/5.0
“And… we’re fulc’d.” Dark Nights Metal #2 Review
“The origin story of our Multiverse, it’s a cautionary tale. It says explore too far and you may just become the villain of your own story.”
Batman has stolen the most powerful weapon in the universe and he has aimed it at the heart of existence. One of the most powerful themes to explore when writing Batman is the razor-thin line he must balance between hero and villain. This blurred dichotomy often results in the hero making interesting and compelling choices with which the audience can relate. Perhaps Harvey Dent’s quote from The Dark Knight summarizes it best: “…You either die a hero or live to see yourself become the villain.” Scott Snyder uses this theme expertly in the narrative construction of Dark Nights Metal #2.
From the complex plan involving multiple Bat-men to the manipulation of The Parliament of Trees and the bat-transmitters broadcasting his own heart-beat and the kidnapping of Baby Darkseid; it is clear that Batman has a plan for nearly every contingency. However, Snyder uses this innate characteristic of our hero to draw connections to a pivotal theme established in Dark Days: The Forge, Dark Days: The Casting, and Dark Nights Metal #1: Fear is the impetus that results in all of the strategic plans created by The Dark Knight.
This is made evident when Superman states, “I know his heart. And he made this by transmitting his own heartbeat. But the rhythm… He’s scared, Diana. More scared than I have ever seen him.” To be more specific, it is Batman’s xenophobia, described here as a fear of the strange and unknown, which drives his need to explore as well as solve the answer to a plethora of “What If?” scenarios. In many situations, fear drives Batman to blur the line between hero and villain without ever crossing it. As a result, we empathize with Batman as he initiates every insane contingency to stop this threat, because on a human level we have all experienced this fear in some capacity.
One of the best parts of any Batman story written by Scott Snyder is his research, attention to detail and planning. The way in which Snyder ties together all of the previous stories from The New 52, as well as Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, and The Return of Bruce Wayne is a masterclass in storytelling. One of my favorite clues within the issue comes from the name of The Judas Tribe’s high priests: The Strigydae. Another way of spelling this word is strigidae, which is translated to “true owl.” With the mention of their name, Scott Snyder foreshadows one of the largest twists within the issue: The Court of Owls is behind this process known as the Mantling. Additionally, The Court of Owls make up The Judas Tribe which is particularly fitting because the Owls betray the other bird tribes much in the same way that Judas betrayed Jesus.
In the end, it is only fitting that Snyder provides payoff to both central themes to this conflict. The Court of Owls were able to use Batman’s reckless obsession to bring him to the exact location in which they needed him. As the Mantling is completed, Batman’s fear ultimately turns him into the true villain of the story: Barbatos and The Dark Knights of the Dark Multiverse. The execution of this payoff is perfect and sets a terrifying stage on which The Dark Knights can rock. Dark Nights Metal’s tempo is accelerating and the reader can distinctly hear the drums of war thumping in the distance.
Final Rating: 4.5/5.0
“In the End, All Road Lead Back to the Dark.” Dark Nights Metal #3 Review
One of the most powerful aspects of Dark Nights Metal has been Scott Snyder’s master thesis on fear. Throughout the first two issues of Dark Nights Metal, Snyder has explored how fear can motivate us to make choices that can blur the line between good and evil. Fear can also cause us to be the architects of our own destruction. The exploration of these themes have allowed the story to resonate with readers on a personal level. With Batman off the table, Snyder continues the exploration of these themes using Superman as the lens to focus his concepts.
One of the ways in which Scott Snyder continues this dissection of fear is with a monologue delivered by The Batman Who Laughs to Superman. “See, down in our realm, worlds are created by all you people up here. You fear or hope for something, and it births a world. They tell us we’re your Bruce’s greatest fears come to life. Like, say, oh, I don’t know, one day you get out of control and he experiments with the Doomsday Virus to stop you and destroys the planet? The thing is, each of us has killed you — all of you—on our worlds. We cross the lines he’s scared to. Which actually begs the questions… Are we really his fears? Or are we his desires? Food for thought.”
This furthers the notion that Batman’s fear of the unknown often causes him to blur the lines between hero and villain. Are the plans that we concoct out of the fright of something terrible really a fear or are they our greatest desires? As humans, do we secretly like to blur those lines between good and bad? It is possible that sometimes we do bad things with the best of intentions. The Batman Who Laughs offers no resolution, only the questions to keep you awake at night as you make the futile attempt to slumber while considering your past actions.
Scott personifies fear and how it can affect the audience with these monstrous Dark Knights. As the lonely Superman pummels the Devastator Batman on a snow-covered field of battle, he screams, “You’re monsters. Nothing more!” The monster responds, “You can feel it, right? We’re not made from the same stuff as you. Your rules don’t apply. Every punch you throw, it just makes you weaker. You can’t hurt me. You can’t hurt any of us… We can sure hurt you.”
In this moment, Scott is describing what can happen to each of us if we try to fight our fears alone. Simply trying to pummel your fear into a bloody pulp will only make you tired because fear is in your mind. Even though you can be afraid of physical threats, such as spiders, fear itself is not made of matter nor can be touched with your bare hands. Additionally, fighting these fears without any help can make you weaker and give fear more power and control over you. Additionally, if you don’t listen to the vibrations, or your feelings, you can misinterpret what they world is trying to tell you.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo offer a great deal of insane, grandiose metal action and beautiful visuals throughout each of these issues. However, it is these statements about fear that really resonate with the reader. It is the treatment of these themes that ultimately elevate this event above those written in previous years. Careful planning and expert execution by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have elevated Dark Nights Metal into a must-read rock opera for fans of the DC Universe. Every reader should be ready to confront their fears and jump into this heavy metal mosh pit with their favorite heroes. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are creating their magnum opus for the DC Multiverse.
Final Rating: 4.5/5.0