Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 is a lot. It’s so much, that when you put this book down you’ll realize why there are so many one-shot stories coming in August and September. This issue is dense with detail and complicated at times, but fancy-free and wackily over-the-top throughout. It’s a single-issue comic book I literally read twice, flipped back and forth a few times, and finally came to a resounding conclusion: through the chaos and all-out fun, there is a deep story with complex storytelling ideas at work.
This book throws you into the deep end right off the bat. As you can see in the preview, we open on Sgt. Rock in an underground bunker. This character bookends the issue and effectively lets Snyder and Capullo speak vicariously through this 60-year-old character to remind us this is big fun and boisterous ride we’re about to go on. It’s a story about revenge — after being served a “turd-burger” — but it’s a story about having fun, too. At face value, it’s a weird character to pop up, but in hindsight, it serves as a means to ask us to keep calm and carry on. This is going to be nuts.
The very next page drops us once again into the deep end. We soon find out Wonder Woman is the main character in this issue and she serves the Batman Who Laughs. Through a few scenes detailing how we got here strewn across the book, we learn the Batman Who Laughs has taken over everything and rules in some capacity with Perpetua. Readers who have a deep understanding of backstory and lore in DC Comics will get a real kick out of this story thanks to some interesting reveals and how this ties to many other stories. Doomsday Clock is just one that is referred to.
This reads like a punk rock version of what Dan DiDio was going for with 5G. Things feel like they’re resetting and realigning. The multiverse even seems to be a character in itself, more or less. It’s a lot to take in for just one issue and it forces you to have to reflect a bit on it all.
Hung and laid out over all these big ideas — some of which come with pages covered in captions over montaged art — are the stupid, fun ideas. A T-Rex Batman is just one of many little details Capullo fits into this book. There are quite a few pages where you can linger and stay on a panel to understand the implications of these many Batman characters. The creative team seems to have thrown up their hands and asked, “Why not show all Batman characters in all existences?” It makes for a Where’s Waldo sort of experience throughout.
Speaking of art, illustrator Greg Capullo, inker Jonathan Glapion, colorist FCO Plascencia, and letterer Tom Napolitano all bring their A-games. This is an event, after all, and there is event-caliber art to ogle over here. Cool montaged scenes tying together past events clearly convey history, full-page splashes dazzle, and lighting/color is a key element throughout adding a good sense of mood and atmosphere. Key reveal moments go off without a hitch, too.
How all these crazy visual ideas and details on each page, and all the continuity and plot explained to readers comes together may require you to flip back and forth and reread. I contemplated whether this was a bad thing or a good thing. Does the narrative hide behind the crazy-fun visuals, or do the bonkers ideas mixed with complicated continuity and rules actually help one another? I’m honestly not sure we can determine that until the series is over.
On the one hand, I felt confused at times and downright frustrated with what the creative team was doing. On the other, I got excited to try to piece it all together, to figure out how a full page of captions and a single blue-tinted Batman behind it all helped or hindered a reveal later, or simply to understand if what I’m reading is revolutionary, or overly complicated schlock. Ultimately, I determined the flipping back and forth and bold ideas you don’t normally see in a comic book were a good thing. I put this book down feeling challenged and excited for how the story unfolded. You don’t get that everyday in comics or in superhero comic book stories at that.
Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 is a boisterous blend of dynamic riotous visuals, ideas, and intriguing storytelling twists. It reads like anyone can pick it up for the wacky, crazy ideas, be absorbed enough in the plot developments to keep reading along with longtime readers, and excite in sharing in something brand new.
It’s fitting coming from Snyder and Capullo since they’ve told so many stories together, and it’s exciting to see them try new things and surprise us. It’s quite clear both are going down in comics history as one of the most dynamic, creative teams of all time.
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