With most of their recent stories for DC Comics orbiting around Batman and the extended Bat-family, writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV get to break free of that familiar trajectory and explore the rest of the DC Universe in Dark Days: The Forge #1, one of two prequels to the long-anticipated Dark Nights: Metal event beginning in August. With a superstar roster of artists including Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr., the first one-shot doesn't just feature characters that Snyder and Tynion haven't gotten to touch yet -- the issue points towards one, or more, far-reaching revelations regarding the history of the DC Universe. While the questions are only beginning to be asked, it's clear that Snyder has been thinking about them for a long time, as elements from his "New 52" run on Batman begin to resurface with a possible relevance and connection to past DC history.
Snyder has already spoken of the significance of the metal-themed titles relating to Thanagarian Nth Metal, pointing in turn to Carter Hall (Hawkman) playing a key role in the story -- which he does indirectly starting with this issue. Snyder and Tynion overlay Hall's narration of a newly discovered mystery behind the Nth Metal that seemingly connects it to other strange present-day occurrences -- some already established by Snyder, and some new. The teases put forth by the writing team do indeed entice, almost agonizingly so, as connections between not only story threads from Snyder's Batman are established, but also ties to other forgotten aspects of major DC storylines from decades ago.
Those who believed Snyder's Batman outing to run parallel alongside the other happenings within the DCU, but independent of them, will want to give his five-year stint another look -- while arcs like "Endgame" and "Superheavy" work just fine as separate storylines, Dark Days: The Forge shows that aspects of those and other stories will not only connect, but be critical. This one-shot is all about making the possibility of those connections known, and there are quite a few of them, saturating the issue with notions that require readers to put down the comic and think for a moment.
While functioning largely as a promotional piece for Dark Nights: Metal, Snyder and Tynion don't forget to make the issue a lot of fun along the way. In fact, the large number of guest appearances serve as a kind of introduction of Batman's world according to Snyder to the rest of the DCU at large, and seeing this world come forth into the light makes for a captivating introduction, as well as solidifying Batman's universe with the rest of DC's.
Artistically, the book's three pencilers, along with inkers Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, and Danny Miki, turn in a strongly laid out and aesthetically pleasing issue. The issue's worst fault is the disparity between Lee's crisper lines vs. Kubert's simpler approach, vs. Romita's blockier style -- all are strongly executed, but there's a noticeable bump as one transitions to the next. This isn't a lapse by any means -- the issue almost reads like an anthology anyway, where such transitions are to be expected, and for three of DC's marquee art teams to grace a single 30-page story is a gift to readers.
Dark Days: The Forge admirably does its job by putting forth a large number of questions of sufficient magnitude that will bait readers, but all creators involved ensure that it reads far better than an elaborate advertisement. The story continues in the upcoming one shot, Dark Days: The Casting, which goes on sale July 12.