SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1, by Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez Doug Mahnke, Jamie Mendoza, Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Wil Quintana and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Aside from the highly anticipated reunion of longtime Batman creative team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, one of the biggest selling points heading into Dark Nights: Metal was the concept of actual Dark Knights – seven sinister spins on the Caped Crusader, each of whom is inspired by various nightmare scenarios involving both friends and foes.
Through a series of one-shots, readers were gradually introduced to the Red Death, the Murder Machine, the Dawnbreaker, the Drowned, the Merciless, the Devastator and, perhaps the most terrifying of all, the Batman Who Laughs. However, just because these twisted takes on Batman were spawned from the Dark Multiverse to wrestle our heroes into submission doesn’t mean they’re incapable of a face turn.
In Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1, we meet up with The Flash, Cyborg and Raven, who are in the midst of navigating through the Bleedspace of the Multiverse on the Ultima Thule. Unfortunately, the trio quickly discovers they aren’t alone – hot on their heels are all seven of the Dark Knights, who’ve commandeered one of the massive Monitor vessels known as a carrier. What’s more, the carrier is being powered by a caged baby universe (Really!), so regardless of where the heroes run, there isn’t a single place in the entire Multiverse they can hide.
The solution? Infiltrate the carrier and free the baby universe. Admittedly, it’s a feat that’s far easier said than done, but as the Merciless quickly discovers, it’s foolish to underestimate a speedster.
Upon boarding the carrier, Flash manages to disable the gravitational suppressor gates keeping the baby universe contained in quite literally the blink of an eye, much to the chagrin of the Merciless. However, just before the energy from the universe escapes, Red Death arrives on the scene, albeit a bit too close to the blast radius, causing him to be “hit by the pure positive energy of creation.” As a result, his polarity is reversed, effectively exorcising his bat-shaped inner-demons and restoring him to the version of Barry Allen/Flash he was before being corrupted by the Bruce Wayne of Earth -52.
Seeing the world through the eyes of a hero once again, Red Death attempts to atone for his sins by acting as a sacrificial lamb, staying behind to ensure the Dark Knights aren’t able to recapture the baby universe. This restored heroic outlook proves to be short-lived, though, once the Batman Who Laughs catches wind of Red Death’s betrayal, which was apparently part of his devious plan the entire time.
“You were only ever really half a Batman, so you only knew half the plan,” the Batman Who Laughs explains to Red Death. However, there’s no need for him to kill the pawn in his scheme himself; it only takes a few moments for the positive energy from the baby universe to counteract with Red Death’s innate darkness, causing his body to combust in a scene reminiscent of Barry's own sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths, all as the remaining Dark Knights look on in sick pleasure.
For months, fans have been speculating about which, if any of the Dark Knights will have an active presence in the post-Metal DC Universe. The Batman Who Laughs is clearly the frontrunner, and it appears the Red Death is, well, out of the running. And while that question remains ultimately unanswered, if nothing else, Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 proves the fate of the remaining five isn’t as certain.