When it comes to event books, especially from the two big publishers of Marvel and DC, there is a lot of build-up in terms of placing characters into mini-adventures that teases the big event, and thus we have the preludes. As an introduction to DC’s summer event of last year, Dark Nights: Metal, this compilation of old and new stories gives readers an idea of what to expect in the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo storyline.
Kicking off this book is the two-issue prelude to Metal, Dark Days: The Forge/The Casting, written by Snyder and James Tynion IV. Comprising of three narratives, Dark Days delves into the history and mystery of the Nth Metal, beginning with Carter Hall AKA Hawkman who has written journals about the multiple lives he has lived.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Green Lantern Hal Jordan investigates a dark presence that is hidden within the Batcave, where he pairs up with Batman’s new youthful sidekick, Duke Thomas. As for the Dark Knight himself, he has been investigating random frequencies that have appeared across the Earth, which he believes are a part of a bigger mystery that he has been investigating for years regarding mysterious metals and dark energy.
On the basis of these two issues, there is a lot going on as the three narratives are over-chunked with multiple characters popping in for a page or so, while tapping into aspects of DC’s history, some of which are told through the journals of Hawkman. It does feel like the writers are relying too much on readers who would have an extensive knowledge of DC to make it all coherent. Even the World’s Greatest Detective himself, who seems to know more than he ought to and he’s not given much insight to us about what’s going on.
As well as setting up Metal, this is also a loose continuation of Snyder’s Batman run during the New 52 as you see the return of a certain clown figure and how the brief but odd partnership of Jordan and Thomas reacts to this villainous presence, even if just raises more questions than provides answers. Whether or not this will add to the mystery of the three Jokers that was established in the beginning of Rebirth, I’m personally more interested in what Tom King has in store with the Joker, with a much-anticipated wedding along the way.
Given the scale within this prelude with grand ideas of sci-fi and fantasy thrown in nearly every page, Dark Days is drawn by three of the most prolific artists in DC. However, the usage of these artists is very strange, as despite the structure of the three narratives, none of the trio’s art is staged to illustrate one subplot. Despite Jim Lee’s impressive illustrations of the claustrophobic Batcave, the next pages would are John Romita Jr’s blocky-looking characters that are very distracting. As for Andy Kubert, his art can be rough around the edges, but he does have fun drawing Hawkman’s adventures throughout the ages.
Following over seventy pages of new material, the rest of this 258-page book, under the curation of Snyder, is a series of random issues that tie into the mythos of Metal in some way. From a couple of issues of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis to a couple of Endgame from Snyder’s Batman to a nonsensical single issue of Tim Seeley’s Nightwing, none of them make sense if you’re a newcomer to DC Comics, and probably aren’t that beneficial even if you’re a completist who wishes to see all connections and references for the bigger picture.