It has been two months since Dark Nights: Death Metal #3, but we’ve had plenty of cool one-shot stories to keep us fed. The fourth issue is out this week and it aims to reveal what Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will do when faced with realities where major Crisis events in DC Comics history went right for its villains. The heroes are trapped and they must find a way out and, as Scott Snyder put it in our interview last week they must find a way of “unknotting the DC history in a way and allowing it all to kind of become relevant.”
It’s obvious the two-month gap was part of the creation process as Dark Nights: Death Metal #4 opens with a good deal of recap. Agent Rock is back and he’s here to catch us up to speed. This is helpful, especially if you missed the tie-in issues, because it keeps everything quite clear and prepares us for the journey ahead.
Once that’s out of the way, we enter three narratives. The first is Batman in the Crisis of Infinite Earths–he’s stuck in a white void of nothing–the second has Superman in Final Crisis, and the third is focused on Wonder Woman in Infinite Crisis. Each scene helps us understand how these events ended when the bad guys one and are effective in showing just how bad it is for everyone. The heroes have insurmountable odds of winning given their situations.
Cutting into these events is the Flash family, who is being chased by the Batman Who Laughs, tying into Speed Metal and the Robin King descending on Harley Quinn and Swamp Thing, which in turn ties into Trinity Crisis. This issue is a natural progression of all the stories that came before it, which is a tricky thing to pull off.
This is largely Wonder Woman’s story. Batman’s interactions are more to reflect the Crisis he’s in rather than accomplish anything, and the same goes for Superman. Instead, Wonder Woman attempts to reason with Superboy Prime. All three heroes have no edge, or really any reason to believe they can escape their situations. That’s where hope comes in. At its core, this is a story about idolizing heroes and the perfect outcome. The problem with this is that’s not realistic and we must temper our expectations but never lose sight of hope. That concept is pure and works well with who these heroes are.
There’s also some time devoted to Robin King–possibly one of the most intriguing characters in this series–in a conversation with Harley Quinn. There’s an idea here that’s interesting, especially coming from a purely evil character like Robin King, that should have fans talking.
Narratively speaking, it’s not exactly clear how Wonder Woman saves the day, which takes some of the enjoyment out of the triumphant turn in the story. Each hero is trapped in another reality with very little power, so Wonder Woman’s words are the only thing that helps pull them out of it. It’s a willpower thing and it’s quite sudden. Adding to this, if you’re not familiar with the three different Crisis events, this issue doesn’t do enough to explain who the villains are and why. That’s on you as a reader, though — prior knowledge of DC Comics events is a prerequisite to get the most out of a story like this.
This book continues to look great with illustrations by Greg Capullo, inks by Jonathan Glapion, and colors by FCO Plascencia firing on all cylinders. The scenes with Batman in the white void are cool, and the designs of each villain are unique and representative of their respective Crisis events. There are instances where the book can feel tightly packed, as if an additional panel or page could help flesh out the movement and action of a scene, but each panel itself pulls off an effective facial expression or emotionally impactful beat.
Dark Nights: Death Metal #4 is an interesting look at three major DC Comics Crisis events and how they’d play out if the supervillains won. This issue forces Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to confront those worlds and that adds a wrinkle to their experiences. This issue also holds a deeper purpose that energizes the heroes and the reader too.