Dark Days: The Forge lived up to it’s name by revealing, oh, about thirty different proverbial irons DC Comics has been keeping in the fire. With a cascade of new information and returning faces, the road map for the highly anticipated Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo helmed Dark Nights: Metal is starting to make itself more and more clear.
But more importantly, though Snyder is on record that Metal is not a capital-C Crisis, it’s more obvious than ever that it’s going to be on the same scale as those sorts of DC events.
Let’s take a look at what we know, and what it all means.
PLAYING IN TUNE
With the help of Scott Free (making a major return just in time for his Tom King and Mitch Gerads-helmed solo series, no doubt) Batman is able to recover an item he’s, apparently, been keeping stored away deep within the vaults of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
The “item” is actually a giant golden tower that may or may not look familiar to long time DC readers as a “cosmic tuning fork” straight off the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Don’t worry, if you found yourself scratching your head at that reveal, you’re most certainly not alone. It’s been over a decade since we’ve seen anything like it.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version of what it is, and where it comes from:
As part of the original Monitor’s plan to “reconcile” the multiverse that was being eaten away by anti-matter he placed these tuning forks across multiple Earths and sent heroes to go defend them from anti-matter shadow demons. The Monitor’s theory here was that these tuning forks would allow him to align the vibrational patterns of these disparate Earths and save them from the encroaching nothingness that threatened them.
Much later, during Infinite Crisis, one of these tuning forks would make a reappearance, this time combined with another Crisis on Infinite Earths holdover, the corpse of the Anti-Monitor. In this event, Alexander Luthor, Jr. (a hero from Earth-3) planned on using the power of the tuning fork and the Anti-Monitor to resurrect some of the Earths that had been erased out of the Multiverse back in the original Crisis.
You might be recognizing a reoccurring theme here. Every time one of these golden pylons ends up in play, the stakes are almost immediately elevated to cosmic status.
And with cosmic stakes on the table, a Crisis-level event can’t be too far away.
Of course, we’re left with some questions about just how Batman got his hands on the tuning fork in the first place, or where it may have came from — whether it’s a relic from the Monitor or Alexander Luthor, or somehow, neither. But as Mr. Miracle advises, regardless of where the tuning for came from, it’s absolutely dangerous, and probably better left alone.
Which, of course, means Batman is going to continue to experiment with it.
LET’S GET CONSEQUENTIAL
So, what are Crisis-level events?
Well, the concept itself actually originated back in the ’60s, at the dawn of DC’s official adoption of the multiverse concept. It began as a way to describe moments when heroes from different Earths were brought together for a common cause.
Since then, the concept has evolved and adapted to refer to nearly any major cross-title event within DC’s Multiverse that has the potential for major, lasting consequence — usually of the sort that has some bearing on continuity either in a textual or metatextual sense (i.e. erasing characters from existence or changing a character’s canonical history in a way that retcons their previous introduction, and so on.)
A key component of a Crisis has as much to do with scale as it does with connection — a true Crisis-level event happens on a unified front across multiple books. It’s, to put it simply, not an event that any ongoing story can just “ignore” and move on from.
Now, oddly (or appropriately) enough, there hasn’t been a true Crisis event since 2009’s Final Crisis, though the subsequent continuity reset of Flashpoint certainly fits the bill despite never getting an official Crisis designation.
In fact, more and more, it’s seemed like DC is actively avoiding the Crisis moniker, whether in deference to the “finality” of Final Crisis or some other reason. The fact is, at this point, the official naming convention hardly matters — what matters is that the potential for some extreme heavy lifting on the continuity-and-consequence front is now, definitively, on the table through Dark Nights: Metal.
And, perhaps more significantly, it will be the first time that can be said for the DCU since Flashpoint and the birth of the New 52.
Which isn’t to say the New 52 didn’t try it’s hand at event-style storytelling. To be completely fair, it had it’s share of event stories during it’s six year run, but none of them managed to broach the true Crisis-level threshold by having any lasting or universal effects that echoed out to more than a handful of ongoing books. That’s not to say there weren’t attempts, Convergence came close, but the lack of meaningful or noticeable consequence kept it off the radar — largely thanks to the New 52’s general lack of connection between ongoing series and their stories.
Even Rebirth has avoided crossing the Crisis threshold by actively keeping itself in check as a line-wide initiative, rather than a line-wide event. However, the slow burn mystery of the hows and the whys of Rebirth has poured fuel into the furnace, as it were, and set the stage for bigger pushes like Metal to take the helm.
By including a cosmic tuning fork, Dark Days: The Forge has effectively thrown the gauntlet down to readers who remember the stakes of dyed-in-the-wool Crisis events, signaling that there is, definitively, something major lurking just over the horizon.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The truth of the matter is this: a Crisis-level event is the next logical step for Rebirth. Though each individual book has been doing a considerable amount of leg work as far as covering the ground lost, deleted or simply ignored during the New 52 shake up, there are still major connecting threads that remain glaringly absent.
Whether or not Metal is an official “Crisis” is really beside the point — if it can make good on it’s very obvious foreshadowing, Metal is poised to become the next entry in a legacy that has kept the DC multiverse running for decades.
At the end of the day, Crisis-level events are more than just engines for change — they’ve functioned as litmus tests for the health and cohesion of DC’s Multiverse itself. A good Crisis event provides a touchstone for readers, a point of reference and a solid timeline that echoes cross each book, and an undeniable sense of shared space between heroes and the enemies they face. All of which might sound a bit daunting, but if Metal can embrace this cosmic past in full, we may very well be looking at the true return of DC’s heart and soul.