Like a raucous Silver Age adventure, Dark Nights: Metal #1 begins in media res, leaving the Justice League to wonder how the tyrannical Mongul escaped watch by the metal-manipulating Braalians, and readers to puzzle over how some of the mightiest heroes of the DC Universe became gladiators in his arena.
While we don’t yet have the answers to those questions, we do know how the ruler of Warworld bound the League to his pit, fighting for the enjoyment of the cheering crowd: the delightfully customized armor first seen in the preview released last month.
In Dark Nights Metal #1, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, we quickly learn Mongul’s minions weren’t merely sticklers for details (and branding) when they crafted the armor — logos on belts and breastplates, little wings on The Flash’s helmet — they were downright devious in the materials they chose. Of course, they’d have to be if they had any hope of subduing the Justice League and bending its members to Mongul’s will, if only briefly.
To that end, the armor isn’t merely “power-dampening,” a vague catch-all that might’ve satisfied some writers and some readers. Instead, the pieces are forged with the many terrible wonders of the DC Universe, tailored to the weakness, or history, of each hero.
The Dust of a Few Thousand Crushed Red Suns
Mongul is nothing if not thorough, as you might expect of a planet-conquering tyrant with a penchant for intergalactic gladiatorial games. Most foes would be content to try to keep Superman constrained by a sliver of Kryptonite, a radioactive fragment from his doomed homeworld. However, that risked not only weakening the Man of Steel but killing him, so Mongul turned to a substance far more ingenious, if unimaginably laborious: “the dust of a few thousand crushed red suns,” presumably fashioned by the forges of Warworld (or is it now “War Moon”?) into the signature “S” emblem on the chest plate of Superman’s armor.
Under their sun, the red dwarf star Rao, Kryptonians possessed the same levels of strength, speed and durability as ordinary humans. It’s only when exposed to the rays of a yellow sun like Earth’s that Superman, Supergirl and other survivors of Krypton gain superpowers. Therefore, while wearing the tailored armor in Mongul’s arena, the Man of Steel is merely a man, at least physically. Of course, Mongul’s resources might have been better spent simply relocating his satellite near a red sun, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
Vibration-Domination Boots From the Dominators
To negate the superhuman abilities of The Flash, Mongul turned to “our friends” the Dominators, the metagene-manipulating aliens who returned to prominence last fall as the antagonists of The CW’s Arrowverse crossover. The name “vibration-domination boots” suggests they were specially manufactured to prevent Barry Allen, or any other speedster, for that matter, from tapping into the Speed Force or, perhaps more specifically, vibrating his body, allowing him to pass through solid objects.
Why Mongul would seek the help of the Dominators to restrain The Flash, and why a race of master geneticists would possess such unique footwear, is anybody’s guess.
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