In just two weeks Dark Nights: Death Metal #7 wraps things up, but before then Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder are teaming up for a Superboy-Prime story worth checking out. He gets a major focus in Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Secret Origin, which explores their journey from super-fan of Superman to one of the most powerful villains in DC Comics who was involved in the Infinite Crisis event. This character appeared in Dark Nights: Death Metal #4 and returns here in epic fashion to help turn the tide as the cover shows.
As a one-shot, this issue works well. It reads like an epitaph for Superboy-Prime, reminding new and old readers alike what this character has gone through and who they are as a person. It opens on Earth-Prime in 1984 when the character was just a boy obsessed with comics. The first seven pages are devoted to the character’s origin story, drawn and written well to make you feel for him. Sure he’s done terrible things since, but it’s a nice way to start off the story of a supervillain who wasn’t always so bad.
At its core, this is a story about losing someone you love and not confronting it. Superboy-Prime has gone on to do terrible things because he’s neglected to understand his feelings and anger around that loss. The meat of this book is focused on that element building up inside the character as he battles the Batman Who Laughs, who is now in god-mode. There’s a touching element involving Krypto the super dog and how a bit of kindness goes a long way in allowing self-reflection. It is a bit of an oversimplification to use the dog narratively to turn Superboy-Prime into a more thoughtful and empathetic character, but it works for the most part.
To say this is an important part of the event is an understatement. It’s unclear where things will pick up exactly in the 7th and final issue, but here we get a singular focus on a major character and how they took part in helping vanquish the Batman Who Laughs. There is also a nice connection between superheroes and comic book readers and the love of the art form. Fans of Superboy-Prime and his story will love this while fans of the infinite opportunities for stories in comics will too.
Narratively speaking it’s clear how this fits into the event, but it also feels a bit stuffed in at the last moment. It’s hard to see how Superboy-Prime was set up to be such an important element of the event, as this issue and its narrative seems to come up out of nowhere. This issue also utilizes the tried and true problem solver of a character fighting harder to win via sheer will.
The art throughout this book is great. Pencilers Ryan Benjamin, Richard Friend, Francis Manapul, Jerry Ordway, Paul Pelletier, and Norm Rapmund join together to draw a few pages each. Ordway opens and closes the book and is given Superboy-Prime’s non-superhero moments which gives the art a classic feel, tying well into the history. Manapul gets to draw nine pages that feature some of the most touching moments. Benjamin and Richard Friend are tasked with much of the punching bits of the narrative with lots of flash and effects looking quite cool. Pelletier and Rapmund get to draw a major turning point which does well with the layout design to convey a chaotic moment where Superboy-Prime totally owns the Batman Who Laughs. Somewhat surprisingly, the art gels together well even though it’s chopped up mid-scene for much of it.
This is without a doubt a must-read for those who enjoyed Infinite Crisis and the Superboy-Prime character in general. As we get closer to the end of this event it’s quite clear the creators are aiming to capture the joy and beauty of comic books on the largest stage one can take these characters. For that, the event feels richer with the Dark Nights: Death Metal The Secret Origin story as one of its main chapters.
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