The varied assortment of Dark Knights has mostly been spotlighted in individual one-shots tying into DC Comics’ Dark Nights: Metal event, but the Dark Knight who started it all gets his own tie-in with Batman Lost #1, chronicling what’s happened to Batman himself since he entered the Dark Multiverse. Writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson team up to tell the far-reaching tale with highlights of Bruce Wayne’s past, present and future; at least as how Bruce interprets them through the dark lens of this sinister dimension. Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jiminez and Jaime Mendoza cram a diverse array of time-spanning eras into the story’s 30 pages, and the entire creative team captivates with a densely-packed examination of selected moments from Batman’s history, and how they tie into millennia of machinations from the dark demon, Barbatos.
The entire issue fascinates by way of its acknowledgement of past Batman eras and storylines, paying tribute to the past while tweaking it to work within the context of Metal. The writers start, in fact, with the very first ever “Bat-Man” story going back to the character’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27. While familiar, there are both subtle and not-so-subtle twists that tie that inaugural story into the fabric of Dark Nights: Metal. The art team honors Bob Kane’s original costume design and nuances, paying tribute to both character and creator by both staying faithful to Kane’s original story, while making it relevant to current events in Metal. The framing sequence around this segment also acknowledges other notable storylines, while possibly foreshadowing a future one.
There are plenty of homages to other storylines, as well, including some all-but-forgotten elements from Grant Morrison’s run on Batman from a decade ago, which get some new relevance of their own — the issue’s very first page, in fact, is evocative of a defining moment going back to Morrison’s groundbreaking Animal Man run. As Metal is heavily based on aspects of Snyder and Greg Capullo’s own run on Batman, there are naturally plenty of nods to many of those popular storylines, as well. While the issue can’t begin to weave parts of every notable Batman storyline from the past eight decades into its fabric, its atmosphere is one of honoring Batman’s past, even within the distorted and corrupt scope of the Dark Multiverse.
As these past events replay in Bruce’s mind, the nature of the Dark Multiverse repeatedly takes him into places ripe with despair, but the past is what anchors him and keeps him from succumbing to the darkness. His acknowledgement of past “cases” — stories to us readers — and how they all “happened” is a tongue-in-cheek allegory to juggling nearly 80 years’ worth of continuity in a modern-day environment of reboots and retcons. There’s also an admission of contradictory storylines — storylines that might not all align in any kind of fictional timeline, but they line up just fine on our bookshelves.
Dark Nights: Metal has been the mechanism for elevating Batman from his historical role as a hero of streets and rooftops to one that legitimately has far larger place within the DC Comics multiverse. Batman Lost #1 goes a long way towards cementing that quantum leap, tying in Batman’s history to that of Barbatos, and does so in a high-thinking manner that attaches new relevance to comparatively inconsequential moments from the past. It’s a Batman comic like no other that’s so much fun, it’s hard to imagine Batman ever going back to capturing muggers and stopping bank robberies.