June's Dark Days: The Forge #1 began the process of connecting story threads from Scott Snyder's Batman run into the larger tapestry of the DC Universe, and possibly even further. Snyder and James Tynion IV continue integrating these elements and pose even more questions in DC Comics' follow-up Dark Days: The Casting #1, the final prequel to the upcoming Dark Nights: Metal event. Proving that the historically earthbound and cosmically challenged Dark Knight can be the focal point of a "crisis" that spans the world, multiverse, and beyond, the writing team take Batman, and several other characters from the DCU, well outside of their comfort zone and in doing so continue to craft an absorbing storyline that's shaping up to be a potential epic, one decidedly different from previous event stories.
Snyder has already successfully and convincingly taken Batman out of his two most common environments (Gotham City and the night) as seen in All-Star Batman, and the two Dark Days preludes have continued that journey just as persuasively, with his discovery of a dark force that lies well outside of his normal travels. It's not just Batman that's challenged, though -- other heroes from the DC Universe continue to see their own beliefs upended.
Carter Hall, a.k.a. Hawkman, already has a millennia-old history, but his findings regarding this emerging dark mystery, which are related to Batman's own discoveries, stand to expound upon many aspects of his own origin. Batman's own allies and enemies are impacted, as well -- The Joker is poised to be a larger player than thought imaginable, and even Batman's newest crimefighting partner, Duke Thomas, sees his importance escalated -- he finally gets his own superhero name, as well. Snyder and Tynion readily prove that otherworldly, extradimensional storylines don't have to be limited to cosmic or superpowered heroes.
Like in The Forge, the triumvirate of penciler/inker teams combine for a fairly seamless transition between the three primary plot lines running through the issue. John Romita Jr. and Danny Miki move from their All-Star Batman run and continue to dynamically but believably place the Dark Knight in more unfamiliar locales, while the shadowy, historic elements of the Hawkman thread are appropriately handled by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson. Jim Lee and Scott Williams capture the disparity between The Joker's creepiness, Green Lantern's stoic attitude (despite his malfunctioning power ring), and Duke's elevated capabilities with skillful grandeur. Colorists Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper blend together expertly.
While The Forge introduced these three plot threads to readers, requiring them to piece together the connections on their own, The Casting ever so slowly starts to bring them together. There's a long way to go, of course -- the actual Dark Nights event hasn't begun yet -- but the subplots are a little more familiar by this point, and therefore a little easier to digest. As much fun as the previous issue was by way of its required supposition, this issue is just as enjoyable for being able to watch things start to come together. The surprises, like last issue, only enhance the fun -- the nature of the "dark metal" in question is only more tantalizing, and the unexpected origin and evolution of Duke's character are genuine shockers.
There have been a lot of terrific and not-so-terrific event stories at DC Comics over the past 30-plus years, but this one already carries the vibe of being something special. Batman has long deserved such a story centered around his character, and it's about time Snyder, one of the industry's true rock stars, gets a shot to tell it. Dark Nights: Metal #1 kicks off the event in earnest when it goes on sale August 16.