Hey there! Dark Nights: Metal is DC’s big summer event for this year. With the all-star creative team of the New 52’s Batman, this event has been pushed as something new and exciting, unlike anything that’s done before. I’m going to try and review the entire thing if my wallet can keep up. Here’s the first set of reviews, focusing upon the first issue of this story and the prequels Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting!
Dark Days: The Forge #1 & Dark Days: The Casting #1
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, Pencils by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert and John Romita Jr., Inks by Scott Hanna, Klaus Janson and Danny Miki, Colours by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper, Letters by Steve Wands
Well, these prequels are certainly some dense comics. It took me about three reads before I had managed to get my head around it all. That’s because, well… They’re kind of a mess on most levels.
The plot and art are both all over the place. Characters drop in and out of the story frequently. Things that seem important are introduced then drop off the face of the earth. Dialogue feels stilted and out of character, especially Joker. He’s clearly Snyder’s favourite character but I can only guess Tynion did his bits because he’s just boring. Exposition is a serious problem here. It’s clunky and prevalent in every part of this story. The worst part is that it isn’t even useful to understand what’s going on. There’s secret societies and ancient conspiracies connecting everything in the DCU, but it’s all so vague. I know that the mystery is important here, but after 70 pages of comics I still don’t know what Metal is actually going to be about. That’s a serious problem for issues touted as prequels.
The art isn’t much better. While I’ve noted which pencillers do most of their section, it’s by no means set in stone. The three pencillers definitely should have been sectioned off from each other. Their styles are nothing alike and the transitions between them range from smooth to non-existent. You might go from JRJR to Lee in the middle of a conversation, or between all three near the end of the comic. Lee does a fantastic job and his pages are the best-looking. His sharp figures combined with Alex Sinclair’s rich colours are an instant win. However they can’t redeem Kubert and JRJR, both of whom seem rushed. You get some great looking pages followed by things that just look dodgy. In particular JRJR should’ve either been given another time to polish his art or he should not have been picked for this project. His art isn’t just sloppy – it’s bad.
The standout part of the issue, surprisingly, was the Hawkman segments. I’m don’t like much about the character, but Synder or Tynion managed to get what I do like down. Rather than a brute space cop, this Hawkman is an archaeologist first and foremost. Besides being a cool job, it allows the story to give the coming crisis a feeling of epic scope. Like Batman in the present day, Hawkman describes himself a detective of sorts as he uses his immortality to solve a mystery that spans centuries.
They’re also the only segment that has a consistent art team, with Kubert drawing all but one page. I’m not usually a massive fan of Kubert’s art; I find his style to look over-the-top, with a Batman that looks kind of ‘roided up. However by going with his father’s pulpy style, he finds a balance that really works. It feels like a throwback to the old DCU, with Hawkman’s old costume and a mostly fun tone. Klaus Janson’s inks are too heavy in the main story, but they do a great job in setting a progressively more ominous tone here. The last couple of pages in particular use shadows really effectively.
There’s a lot of parts in Dark Days that feel like advertisements for the Dark Matter line. Almost every book gets a plug here. Some are only throwaway pieces of dialogue, but others feel forced. The best example of this is Dubbilex’s appearance, who pops up to tell Batman that this Damage guy is bad news bears before fainting and dropping out of the story completely. If DC wants to have a line of books spinning out of Metal, that’s fine by me. If they are going down the Marvel road of making their event about the spinoffs, then there’s a problem. DC’s been pushing Metal as a fun, self-contained romp, not a prequel to a line of books. Maybe this will just be confined to Dark Days, but it still rankles.
Overall, Dark Days is kind of a mess. Some bits are good, some bits are pretty bad, and some bits are just plain confusing. Topped off with a $10 price tag, I’d wait until these are collected before you pick them up.
Rating: If you want?
Dark Nights: Metal #1
Written by Scott Snyder, Pencils by Greg Capullo, Inks by Jonathan Glapion, Colours by FCO Plascenia, Letters by Steve Wands
Now, this is more like it.
Dark Nights: Metal #1 kicks off the event in spectacular style, with a rockin’ title page and a take-no-prisoners attitude. It feels a lot better put-together than Dark Days, with a confidence that the prequels didn’t have. It starts off with a really fun sequence and an excellent setpiece that sets the tone for the rest of the comic (and hopefully, the event). This might have been a bit of a waste of page time considering the $5 price tag, but it keeps the issue from feeling like all set-up. There’s multiple moments that are just rad, that make you grin and think ‘that’s so dumb… I love it’. There’s no Joker thrown in, which is a definite plus. There aren’t any Dark Matter plugs and the continuity references are less hardcore. It feels brash and fun and every inch a story the creative team are bursting to tell.
And man, the art brings it. Metal’s biggest selling point is the creative team. It’s the reunion gig for the original team of New 52‘s Batman: Greg “Pain Bringer” Capullo, Jonathan “Guillotine” Glapion and FCO “Killer” Plascenia. These guys clearly have a successful working relationship and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Glapion turns in great work for the most part, although a few dodgy inking jobs still appear. Capullo is clearly the star of the show as much as Snyder. Besides being the more metal of the two in real life, he’s got the perfect style for this DC event. His figures are cartoony but have real weight with fantastically animated faces. I doubt he had to do much research into metal discography, but there are numerous images that would make fantastic album covers.
FCO Plascenia continues to be the unsung hero of the team. In Zero Year and Superheavy he managed to incorporate harsh yellows and purples into the Batman colour palette and he continues using these shocking yet visually gripping contrasts here. An issue that contains the harsh sun and sand of the desert or the greens and purples of the forest shouldn’t line up with the blacks and browns of Gotham… But it works so well. Almost every page in this comic looks amazing.
Don’t get me wrong, this issue falls short of being truly great. It’s got the same issues as a lot of event comics #1s. Snyder has to deliver even more exposition here, but the information is a lot clearer than in Dark Days. It’s relevant to what’s happening in the issue and there’s no annoying ‘mystery’ aspect. It doesn’t excuse the problem, but it makes it easier to swallow. Snyder also has to provide some inciting incident in the first issue while setting up the event to come, throwing the overall pacing off a bit.
Metal #1 is thrilling from beginning to end and it’s captured my attention like no event since Siege. It feels like a passion project unleashed upon the DCU and manages to live up to the massive hype placed upon it. Is it too focused on Batman? Maybe. Is it a hell of a ride? Definitely. And with that cliffhanger, I’m definitely on board for next issue.
The event so far:
- Metal #1
If you want?
- Dark Days: The Forge #1
- Dark Days: The Casting #1
Next time: The event (and tie-ins) kick off in Metal #2 and Teen Titans #12!
- We’re all agreed that Damage is going to be the worst Dark Matter book, right? It looks like a badly designed version of Hulk. Those never go well.
- DC deciding to spoil the cliffhanger on the Monday before this released was probably the most annoying thing I’ve seen them do in a while. Thanks for also putting it in the thumbnail of an article five days afterwards too CBR, I’d only just managed to avoid it the first time.
- Batman riding a velociraptor was Dr. McNinja level Rad and I love it.
- I’m delighted and genuinely surprised to see that DC decided to bite the bullet and make Barbatos the villain of this event. While I’m not huge on the antagonist of DC’s big event being the villain of a Batman event six years ago (and a very complex one), it’s always nice to see Morrison stuff turn up. Looking forward to seeing that.
- Fate is gonna be in this I guess? I’m game.
- The Joker has been in every main-book Batman story that Snyder has written and his inclusion in Dark Days was really bad. I’m sick of Snyder’s Joker. It’s a good design and he writes him well enough, but I hope he stays out of this event.
- Another thing we should all be able to agree on: The prequels should’ve been called Dark Days: Prelude to Metal #1 & 2. Having them be two separate one-shots is needlessly confusing. I know everyone reading this is going to be a purveyor of comic book news sites, but not everybody is.