Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 review

Here’s Sgt Rock talking about turds.

That’s cool and funny, apparently.

Here’s The Batman Who Laughs.

Letterer Tom Napolitano unleashes the unreadable BWL font once more

Again.

Here’s a world ruled by said Joker/Bruce Wayne mix, full of his dark Bat-Knights and Groblins and an emaciated Swamp Thing and a defiant Wonder Woman and a mysterious prisoner in robes…

… hey, those robes aren’t purple! Is this even a DC comic?

Apparently so, it says so in the comic itself, firmly putting the ‘meta’ into meta-humans. I suppose that’s where Sgt Rock comes in too, as he’s addressing the readers directly. Which is great, that’s what’s been missing from this really terrific year, one of my childhood heroes literally talking crap.

While I never made it to the end of the original Dark Nights: Metal series, I did stick with writer Scott Snyder’s long – oh so very, very long – Justice League run before it stopped. The 39-issue serial didn’t actually end, unless you call the heroes failing miserably and running through a magic door an ending; I don’t, the 87 or so story strands simply moved out of that series and into this one, as Diana notes.

Throughout, artists Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion give Diana the dreamy gaze of a Silent movie goddess – think Lilian Gish, Amazon Princess; it’s rather lovely

So there you go, the final issue of Snyder’s Justice League faded out on a moment of hope, as the heroes went to a place where all stories would matter, and they’d fight to make things better, and hopefully beat Maleficent wannabe Perpetua. But as we rejoin the narrative, the heroes have already been beaten, off-screen. As happened so many times in Justice League, it’s a case of tell, don’t show, the story being interested in big ideas but not the connective tissue that might make them work.

Ah yes, that prisoner? It’s Wally West, because he’s not been miserable enough lately. He explains all to Diana.

Connective energy. Crisis energy. Perpetua. OK, got it, that’s clear as mud. And I think this is where I jump off the Death Metal bandwagon or monster truck or whatever. Because it’s more of the same, as far as I can see – more creepy Batman cosplay, more villains winning because the story demands it, more heroes getting EXTREEEEEEME. Knuckle dusters and chainsaws and scythes, oh my.

I’m with Wally. I’m so tired of the misery, the madness, the Dark Multiverse. Precisely one good thing happens this issue, but it’s bound to be undone sooner rather than later. Bless Scott Snyder for his enthusiasm, I heard him this week on the excellent Word Balloon podcast and he sincerely finds this story fun and wants us to enjoy it as much as he does, which is why I laid out the money and gave it a go. But honestly, Batman as a robot dinosaur? The Invisible Plane turned into a transparent chainsaw? Jonah Hex turning up for two seconds to make a gag about how ugly he is? It’s all too random, like something Snyder’s Sgt Rock would throw at the wall to see if it sticks.

It’s time for me to bow out because rather finding my joy, I’m thrown into a miserable mood by Death Metal. I may pop back for the end, when we’re likely getting the next big DC continuity transition, but for now I’ll seek my kicks somewhere other than Route 666. Meanwhile, there are plenty of Snyder stories I really do like.

Death Metal #1 is a success in that it’s just what its creators want it to be, the start of a big, sprawling, unabashedly silly superhero saga. But for me, it’s the promise of many months of depressing comics inspired by Heavy Metal album covers. Penciller Greg Capullo is excellent at such things – there are individual images here by him, inker Jonathan Glapion and colourist FCO Plascencia that are visually arresting, such as the chapter title pages, and there’s an obvious glee in every line of the twisted landscape. Still, the overall Dark Multiverse vibe is too strong for my taste.

So while I’m keen to learn this series’ destination, this isn’t a journey I want to take. Call it Metal fatigue.

12 thoughts on “Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 review

  1. Yep, I read this one digitally — the only way for my eyes to take that damn Joker font anymore — but while it’s got a few touches I appreciate (loved the moment when Batman used the ring!) — and a character I love in Wally West, I’ll be happier catching up with him after all the sturm und drang. Till then, I’m out.

    (I *will* catch up on Snyder’s JL series though, as they’re on sale this week for 99 cents, and I’ve been enjoying them at that price.)

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  2. You can call it Metal fatigue. I’d call it good taste. It’s mind boggling to me that this crap sells, though with comics being the only periodical publishing with secret sales amounts who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Snyder was saying on Word Balloon that the first Dark Metal series did double what DC expected, and that if people respond well to the early stages of this sequel, more tie-ins will be added. So that’s more money saved by me and you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand the sentiment, but I am a HUGE Diana fanboy, and I am so excited to have her (and not Batman) at the center of a huge event for once. So I’m sticking with it.
    And btw, if you haven’t read it, check out Wonder Woman: Dead Earth. Dark, yes, but so so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a huge Diana fanboy too, just not so much the current DC-preferred version, with sword… I don’t think a chainsaw is going to be more to my liking. And while I’m down with the principle of Diana at the centre of an event, remember Amazons Attack?

      But I honestly hope you have a great time with things.

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  4. I’m fine with the story. I’ll read it and follow it to see what happens. Capullo’s art is a draw even if the story is dark and weird and not really my thing. The characters are what draw me in more than the story and there were enough character moments to keep me invested.
    But, if they really wanna thrill me, they’d toss out all that heavy metal influence and embrace some New Wave music!

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    1. See, I can’t even IMAGINE a comic whose aesthetic is based on New Orleans Funk and R&B.

      On the other hand, we might get to see this scene:

      ATOM: “I figured out why I wasn’t caught under Starro’s mental influence! It wasn’t because I was in the Microverse… it was because I was at a Microverse Dance Party!”

      NIGHTWING: “You heard him, Justice League! Get twerkin’! The only thing that can stop Starro is constant motion in the backfield! SHAKE THOSE TAILFEATHERS!”

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      1. Ha, that would he hilarious to see. Me, I just don’t understand the notion of a music aesthetic in comics, I don’t know what that means. I’m getting quite anxious trying to work it all out, it feels like that time UK composer Howard Goodall made an ‘easy to understand’ TV show about understanding mucus; it was like higher maths and I got stressed out.

        I realise this is just me!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh – first of all, I was surprised but happy you switched to traditional black text on white background here. I wouldn’t go so far as to lump the prior color scheme in with the Batman who Laughs font, but this is easier on my eyes, so I hope you decide to keep it. But I can manage with whatever you choose.

    The chapter title pages have a cool treatment, but they are all, or mostly all, sections of panels, blown up. Most of the source material is can be found on the pages which follow. I’m not positive where the image on the Chainsaw title page comes from, but there’s a pretty good chance it’s a reverse blowup of the chainsaw on the main cover.

    I didn’t read the first Metal series, so I think the last time I thought about heavy metal was in the 1970s or 1980s, and frankly knew nothing about the death metal branch. So, I’ve educated myself a bit on Wikipedia, and see where they’re coming from. What’s surprised me in browsing the (currently) 23 reviews at comicbookroundup is how many of the reviewers consider themselves fans of heavy metal music and are familiar with Death Metal in particular. I guess there’s an intersection between comic book readers and metal fans that I didn’t know about.

    This book is – they say – going to celebrate that “everything matters,” but this seems like a heck of a way to get there. The metal theme is closer to “nothing matters.”

    Still, I’ll read it. Sigh.

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    1. I’ll try not to read it, but Lord, I’m weak.

      Thanks for the info about the chapter art, boy, was I asleep at the wheel! Still, I like the treatment.

      I don’t know about Death Metal at all, I assume it’s Norse bands who sing about ancient execution rituals involving flesh wings… eurggh. Mind, if Snyder doesn’t come up with the Death Metal Men, he’s missing a trick.

      I was just having a fiddle with WordPress last night, investigating star ratings – it seems to be a question of plug-ins you can get only by going to the very expensive Business level, I’m Premium – and started having a play with backgrounds. I will stick with this, it’s lovely and sharp.

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