Ye gods, even the title of this 80-page giant is exhausting. I earned a migraine just from trying to decide where to add the colon and the dash.
As for reading this latest spin-off from the seemingly neverending story that is Death Metal, well, it took me three sittings. It’s not that there aren’t some good shorts in here, there are. But there’s also a heck of a lot of sound and fury signifying an attack on readers’ pockets. I’ve never felt the need to follow this big crossover, what with hating the Batman Who Laughs, and Perpetua, and terrible hairstyles.
So I looked and I found a bookend story with a giant yellow Wonder Woman fighting the One Who Laughs (formerly known as The Batman Who Laughs), while lots of Earth 0 heroes and villains fight versions of themselves from the Dark Multiverse. Oh, and there’s a flashback to Wonder Tot Diana learning some lesson about bravery in the face of death. The story by Joshua Williamson and Scott Snyder splits into two parts, with ‘Begin interlude’ and ‘End interlude’ marking the change in artist from Dexter Soy to Scott Koblish, but someone – at least in my ComiXology version – forgot to insert the issue’s other stories in between.
To be fair, I doubt it makes much difference to the experience of reading this issue, which is a pretty mixed bag.
The Super Family fight bad Supermen in ‘First & Last Men’, with Superman betting he can turn the tide of battle by bringing the worst of them around to their side. The “remember what the ‘S’ on your chest means” bit is pretty hoary; it’s also perfect for Superman. Writer Magdalene Visaggio does a good job of giving everyone a moment, while the art by Paul Pelletier, Norm Rapmund and Adriano Lucas is crisp and lovely.
With the One Who Laughs being the transformed Batman Who Laughs, you would reasonably expect the latter, with his deeply annoying red-on-black fonts, was gone for good. But no, he prepared a spare version of himself, and that’s who Batman – apparently dead several months and a Black Lantern – fights for several pages in ‘The Batmen Who Laugh’. It’s generally tedious but looks great courtesy of Alex Maleev, and James Tynion IV takes the piss out of the Bat-God cliche with glee.
The Writer Who Laughs! Well, I think he’s kidding…
There are no laughs to be had in ‘Unstable Atoms’, as the Ryan Choi Atom pushes his limits in the face of apparently inevitable defeat. It’s a decent play of the Hope card again from Kyle Higgins and Scott Kolins.
You want heroes’ heads on spikes, a hulked-out Lois Lane and a tone of unrelenting brutality and anger? Then ‘No More Superheroes’ is for you. Me, I’d like to see writer Regine Sawyer and penciller Alitha Martinez and inker Mark Morales assigned something a little cheerier. I dunno, Lord of the Flies, 1984…
It’s Teen Titans vs Nasty Teen Titans in ‘Falling Through the Cracks’ as Raven resists the call to go the full Trigon, presumably because she only does that in alternate weeks. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, from Che Grayson and Pop Mhan.
Gross from start to finish, that’s ‘Apicius’ by Marguerite Bennett and Inaki Miranda. Sharp teeth bite everything in sight, viscera flies everywhere… it’s pretty horrible, but the presentation of the Penguin is fascinating. It’s not clear how ‘our’ Oswald Cobblepot does what he does in the face of a pack of even more grotesque Penguins than himself, but his narrative voice is excellent.
There’s blessed light relief in ‘Armageddon Blues’ by writer Matthew Rosenberg, illustrator Rob Guillery and colourist Marissa Louise, as John Constantine and an even worse John Constantine go for a drink in a Themysciran tavern. The outcome is predictable but the chat along the way is lots of fun, there’s a bit of depth to our ‘heroes’ and the visuals nicely point up the stupidity of the Death Metal event. Extra points for the reference to a British supermarket.
And finally, a Swamp Thing encounter with a bigger, badder Swamp Thing. The story looks amazing, courtesy of artist Mike Henderson and colourist Adriano Lucas, while Justin Jordan’s story is strong on mood, and I love the idea that what makes a monster is context. I don’t quite get why the ‘Swamp King’ (clever, that) sits in an electric tree, but like the image.
And that’s where the book ends, unless you want to go back to the second half of the Wonder Woman story, which closes with yet another big daft splash page promising the ultimate battle. Again. I didn’t bother.
The cover by Dan Mora is pretty marvellous, even if it all that green at the top and the general air of a good time makes it look more like Christmas With the Super-Heroes than the grimdeath grab bag it is.
So, some good stuff in here, but enough I didn’t like that I wish it had been half the length, and price. And I’m so tired of seeing dozens of little figures bashing each other across ‘The Hellscape. Formerly Themyscira’… the Metal business has gone on for far too long. It supposedly stops any week now, in Dark Nights: Death Metal #7… like the heroes, I’m holding on to that hope.