Dark Nights: Death Metal #5 review

If I were awarding a ‘line of the week’ award, it would go to the Penguin.

I think ‘I have a very sharp rock’ is funny even without context – I’m a fan of Terra in Teen Titans Go! – but if you need such, Superman has gathered a squadron of supervillains to raze the earth.

Despite the hard rock – no pun intended – look, the Man of Steel hasn’t turned eeeeeevil. Nope, it’s Crisis time again, and with the planet’s destruction seemingly guaranteed no matter who wins a fight between cosmic gods Perpetua and The One Who Laughs, destroying it first actually gives every creature on it a chance of survival/rebirth.

Just go with it… it’s not like I can explain the ins and outs, such as why Superman and Wonder Woman are adorned by matching oil slicks; I’ve not read this series since the first issue. I hopped on for this one, though, having heard it would feed into the upcoming big multiversal reboot that will relaunch The Line of DC Superstars.

So yes, two deities are having a bit of a barney in the aftermath of the destruction of dozens of universes.

It comes after the ragtag Justice League’s battle against Castle Bat – Gotham City animated by the mind of a (more then usual) twisted Batman.

Happily, Lex Luthor is on hand to save the day…and maybe what remains of the Multiverse.

At the start of Dark Nights: Death Metal I was turned off by the randomness of events. It’s somewhat alarming that I loved this issue, by the same core creative team of writer Scott Snyder, penciller Greg Capullo, inker Jonathan Glapion and colourist Ivan Plascencia.

As well as the bonkers Castle Bat, and pugnacious Perpetua looking like a silhouetted Olive Oyl, there’s a fascinating Lex anecdote, a surprising team up between Wonder Woman and Lobo, and the strangest invaders of Earth ever. I don’t know whether it’s due to the undoubtedly talented creatives pulling their story together, or because I’m four months further into a very strange year, but this issue works wonderfully well for me. OK, I’m not about to go out and buy a tie-in focusing on some annoying little scrote named Robin King, but I was a tad disappointed when the cliffhanger arrived.

Somewhere down the line the Batman Who Laughs seems to have become The One Who Laughs, and his voice must have changed, because letterer Tom Napolitano is no longer required to use the unreadable scratchy red-out-of-black font. There are other fancy letterforms, and Napolitano nails them.

The big action set pieces entertain, while little Easter eggs of nostalgia – Castle Bat’s weapons, Lex’s sketches – add extra enjoyment. And huge credit to the three artists for drawing some proper Crisis crowd scenes – any page that features Red Bee, Anthro and Liberty Belle is more than OK by me. There’s a real energy to the art, but also a delicacy epitomised by the translucent beauty of Wonder Woman.

The cover, by the interior artists, is another winner, a movie poster-style mood piece. The perfect entry point to a weirdly delightful comic book.

19 thoughts on “Dark Nights: Death Metal #5 review

  1. I’m so glad you liked this! That’s refreshing to hear. I might read it someday.

    And The One Who Laughs is simply a better name than the ridiculous The Batman Who Laughs. It feels Lovecraftian, somehow, instead of cobbled together by an uncreative kindergartener out in a sandbox. Glad the font’s changed, too.

    That said, while I’m happy that the end result of this might wind up being “we can tell whatever stories we want,” I don’t need to spend $40 on a big fight comic to justify that. Just go ahead and do it, and I’ll read the ones I want, thanks.

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  2. $40? You’re thinking too small! 🙂

    The whole event is more like $125 plus tax!

    Breaking it down, including all tie-ins, there are 24 issues. Seven main issues; twelve one-shots; and five regular issues of Justice League. So far, a few of the one-shots were important enough that they should have been part of the main series; and while the others are not critical, they are reasonably well connected to the main story. So last week was the Lobo one-shot “Dark Nights: Death Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme!” — and it was actually very funny, and amplified Lex working with Lobo.

    Most of the books are oversized with card-stock covers (and with glossy internal pages, but I still don’t know if that is a cheaper or more expensive paper than the matte paper they use for the regular monthlies) – for $4.99 each. (The Capullo main cover also comes with embossed foil – nice and shiny.)

    A few, like the 5-part Justice League tie-in that just happened, are regular comics priced at $3.99.

    It’s a serious commitment.

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    1. Nice job with the maths! I’d tell Rob, don’t bother… it’ll all be on the DC app or whatever it’s called. I read the first issue of this series, this one, Speed Metal, Multiverse’s End and Rise of the New God and don’t feel I’ve missed out. It’s interesting to hear the Lobo book is entertaining. Hmm…

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    2. Thanks for doing the math, TN! I was just ballparking the essentials without the spinoffs… but I didn’t realize the scope of how many spinoffs there were! OOF.

      That’s the one thing I love about DC careening into stories where I don’t have any interest (or barely any, in this case) — I can save a lot of money by amputating whole arms of the DCU until they grab me again.

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  3. Batman Who Laughs became the Darkest Knight after he was killed — remember the end of #1, which you reviewed? Wonder Woman ran her chainsaw through in the closing panels.

    In the next issue after that (I think), a team of Alfreds surgically implanted his brain into the skull of a Bruce Wayne/Dr. Manhattan hybrid (a Batmanhattan!). (Team of Alfreds? Sure, why not.)

    This elevated BWL into having Dr. Manhattan-level powers, and then for some reason he evolved almost instantly into his final form as the Darkest Knight, with his wraith-like black shape. (It’s a really boring design, and I wonder if the design was to save time – pretty easy to draw and ink him now.)

    They really had to do something like this. How could a mere Jokerized Batman hold his own vs. Perpetua, a cosmic deity who holds planets in her hands? But now, the Darkest Knight is her equal – the two of them engage in outdoor fights where they literally throw planets at each other. (You can’t really take that kind of activity indoors, so I wonder what they do when the weather’s bad.)

    The happy side-effect is, once Batman Who Laughs changed forms, the red font on black was gone. I’m so glad they used that as an opportunity to get rid of that headache-inducing typeface.

    The One Who Laughs strikes me as intended to be a funny honorific.

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  4. Yes, Lobo issue was fun! Some people think of Lobo as vile, and he is worse in some of his versions than others, but I always find him over-the-top funny.

    This issue had 3 stories, all of them good. The final story by Sam Humphries, drawn by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, is hysterical. “Look! A rocket!” “Probably dangerous. — I know! Let’s drive right up ta it!”

    And then the moment in the middle story where Hawkman says “The inner sanctum is collapsing! I knew this day would come. This way, hurry.” Cloonan took that straight from the B-movies.

    All the art was terrific, too.

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  5. I read this because it was given to me by the owner of the comics shop I visit. He told me, yes, ‘I know you are not reading it because the first issue sucked so much, but this one is actually good’

    He wasn’t wrong. And what kills me is that all that time on Justice League and all the other BS felt completely wasted, because I read this and knew exactly what was going on without any reason to have read anything else in this retched years long self indulgent story.

    I liked the way the characters worked together. I liked all the little jokey lines here and there. The art was a bit messy, but still capable.

    I just can’t get over how ridiculous the whole thing is.

    We are looking at the return of the old continuity, with lots of multiversal elements, which I will be glad to see, because I love that stuff, and while I enjoyed this issue, I am still going to avoid this mess. Unless I get another free copy.

    DC is in trouble, and I think this book is a good indication why. They’ve lost the plot, the script, and the director just walked out and flipped them the bird.

    Mind you, it is still better than the mess Marvel has become. With just a few exceptions.

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    1. It’s down to taste as always. I read over a dozen Marvel titles a week, and while it used to be almost equal DC titles, recently I’ve read as little as one in a week. Different people see different companies in trouble…

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      1. The Jed McCay Black Cat series was great (and it’s coming back), Peter David has two hits with teh Maestro’s origin and the series of minis with untold tales of Symbiote Spider-Man. Juggernaut’s been awesome and I’ve enjoyed every new X-Men title except Fallen Angels and Wolverine (I don’t like Wolverine as a solo character so don’t even sample his series). Guardians of the Galaxy has recovered from its time aping the movies and Cates juvenile writing and unbelievably, Savage Avengers is even better than the sophomoric Avengers title! I could go on but there really is so much amazing Marvel work coming out every week!

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