Dark Knights Death Metal: Speed Metal #1 review

‘Flashes don’t fight, ya numbskulls.’

You have to love those Golden Age heroes and their down-to-earth ways. Original Flash Jay Garrick is in the Speed Force with a bunch of fellow Flashes when Barry Allen and Wally West start bickering. The Batman Who Laughs and his speed zombies are after them. Who has time for such stupidity?

It’s just one great moment in a book that’s full of them. I never wanted to buy this comic but I’m awfully glad I did. Sure, it has the massively tedious Batman Who Laughs, but it’s not about him. It’s about the Flash Family and, especially, Wally West.

Wally, you will remember has had quite a time of it of late. He lost his life – that is, his place in the world, including wife and kids – when reality changed while he was inside the Speed Force. On escaping, he found that even though he could make some people remember him, wife Linda didn’t, and his children were nowhere to be seen. Little by little, he lost himself, winding up at an idiotic institution for hurting heroes, where he lost control of his powers and several other good guys died. He made things worse when he tried to cover up his involvement by framing other heroes. Offered a chance to partly make up for his mistakes by a Big Cosmic Type, Wally rescued his twins, gained an injection of the reality-changing Dr Manhattan’s powers, and found himself bound to New God Metron’s Mobius Chair.

And more stuff happened in the Death Metal mini-series, but I bailed on that after the first issue so don’t know what. There’s some recap here but trying to understand the plans of this week’s Goddess Above All Perpetua and pals makes my head hurt. Basically, The Batman Who Bores Laughs is after Wally, Barry, Jay and Kid Flash Wallace West and if he catches them, Bad Things Happen.

Wally isn’t having that. He’s regained his sense of self and has ideas. Barry doesn’t think they’re wise, hence the argument. But Jay knocks some sense into their heads – if there’s one thing superheroes get, it’s violence – and the Sultans of Speed come together, trying one plan after another, using their knowledge of the Speed Force to beat back The Batman Who Laughs

I’ve complained about the Speed Force as a magical deus ex machina, many times, but it’s been long established as such, and the ways in which it’s used here – and in this week’s superb Flash #762 – are within the inarguable parameters of: “If we say the Speed Force can do this, it can do this.”

All you really need to know about this book is that it’s full of bonkers action and wonderful character moments – and that it further restores Wally’s reputation as a hero who can be counted on (a very welcome, and reasonable, retcon in Flash #761 put a new spin on the inconceivable way Wally acted in the godawful Heroes in Crisis series).

The great moments include a conversation between Wally and Barry that’s been a long time coming.

Finally, Barry sees Wally as on an equal footing and agrees to go with Wally’s plan to stop running away from the Batman Who Laughs, and take the battle to him. (While Barry here is uncharacteristically wobbly, apparently he’s been through hell in Death Metal, and he doesn’t have a great record for surviving Crises, so I’ll let it pass.)

And so it is that the four Flashes get ready to show just what they can do when they work together.

As for those outfits, I really don’t know what purpose they serve in the story. They appear, Wally reckons, because the Batman Who Laughs is corrupting the Speed Force. Really, it’s because the Death Metal creative crew reckon it’s cool; honestly, Jay, at the very least, should have wiped his face and tossed the chains aside, even if they do match his shiny ol’ hat.

Happily, the look doesn’t get in the way of the story – our heroes don’t form a band – which races along very satisfyingly. I won’t give everything away – if you’re a fan of the Flash, any version at all, buy this one. It’s a winner all the way, full of the kind of heart Geoff Johns gives us on a day without ‘maim’ in it. And for that we should thank regular Flash writer Josh Williamson, who really has come up with a script to remember. He separates the speedsters’ personalities and approaches with skill, builds a fine sense of drama and gives us a wonderfully logical thing I didn’t realise I’d never seen, in Flashes taking up the starting position, ready for the race of their lives. I hope that now Williamson is done with Barry, a Wally series is in the offing.

As for the art, it’s by penciller Eddy Barrows, inker Eber Ferreira and colourist Adriano Lucas, and it’s professional best work. Barrows’ layouts are big and bold, always clear and dramatic, with lightning separating panels adding extra sizzle. Ferreira’s use of shadows and texture helps the sense that darkness is closing in, while Lucas’ colours are a treat for the eyes. While I’m no fan of the multitude of evil Batmen, I can’t deny that the artists make them a formidable threat. And their cracking cover should shift a few copies.

Steve Wands, as ever, letters with real flair, from dialogue to sound effects and back. There’s one point at which he makes an unusual line of dialogue really pop.

I opened this comic fearing it would be another dagger through the heart of Wally West fans. It is anything but. Buy it.

7 thoughts on “Dark Knights Death Metal: Speed Metal #1 review

  1. I can affirm this is a well written and heartwarming adventure of most of the Flash Family. Problems are resolved and yes, Wally is absolved. It still irks me though that Williamson could write like this and chose not to for almost one hundred issues…

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  2. I think it says the outfits change because the Batman who Laughs is pressuring the speed force (using his hands? or blowing real hard on it), finding cracks in it (wherever it is, and whatever it is made of that is “crackable,” so let’s call it a brick wall for the moment) and corrupting it (whatever it is).

    One nice thing about the transformation of the Batman who Laughs into the Darkest Knight (which happened in Death Metal #2) is he now talks in white font on black, which is easy to read. Remember the blinding red font on black? (I think the Robins still talk in that font, so we aren’t done with it entirely.)

    The Darkest Knight design is lame – easier to draw since it’s basically an all-black version of Venom or some symbiote. Somehow, transplanting Batman Who Laughs brain into Dr. Manhattan’s body (in Death Metal #2) led to him transforming into a black wolf-like blob.

    All of the tie-ins so far have actually been fun – ridiculous, over-the-top silliness. Expensive card-stock publications, but with lots of extra pages that maybe justify the prices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I got the bit about corruption, but what does it actually mean? The outfits were from the mind of a filthy Edna Mode?

      Steve Wands and I are Twitter pals and he told me last week that he gets no end of stick for the Batman Who Laughs font… but he did say it wasn’t his idea. Anyway, glad to hear it’s gone now he’s the Batman Who Smudges.

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  3. Oh, I’m glad that the Batman Who Laughs font wasn’t Wands’s idea. It’s really some of the least legible lettering I’ve ever seen.

    I liked the book — it’s definitely got some great moments for the characters (though the Wally/Barry breakthrough is one I swear we’ve seen a couple of other times, and then they start to have conflict and “drama” again). But the thing that REALLY made me smile was how much of a Greg Larocque look — down to the poses! — Barrows gave Wally once he was back in his classic costume. Man, at that point, he was pure Wally. I just loved it.

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  4. Oh, great observation about the LaRocue similarity, that passed my by! I wonder whatever happened to Greg, he was all over DC with Legion and Flash, but then what happened. I’m thinking he may have done a little work for Marvel.

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  5. I’m not really sure what happened to him… maybe he got a job doing commercial art that paid better? According to Wikipedia, he returned to DC for the one of the Flash “Retroactive” specials, but that was the last he’s been in mainstream comics. (I seem to recall an indy book he was trying to get off the ground, ages ago.)

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