“Dark Nights Metal” is one of the best comic book events of the ’00s, in part due to the fact that it’s bat guano crazy. Having proven their bonafides writing the excellent New 52 Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (alongside a slew of top tier collaborators) go full cosmic metal for the duration of this DC Comics event. The first potential “Crisis” of the DC Rebirth era focuses on the invasion of the Dark Multiverse, with the cosmic entity Barbatos and 7 literal Dark Knights leading the hostile takeover of Earth-0.
It’s a plot that spans Grant Morrison’s writing on Multiversity and Batman, as well as Geoff Johns’ early ’00s reinvention of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (among many other reference points). The end result is a thoroughly rewarding read through DC Universe touchpoints. Most importantly, “Dark Nights Metal” prioritizes epic, inventive moments new to the DCU. If it’s a scene that sounds like it could be scored to a righteous, earth-stomping guitar lick, it probably fits perfectly. Due to the depth and willingness to ride the lightning across all corners of the cosmos (light and dark), “Metal” provides a thrilling story. Below you’ll find some of the most shocking, least predictable moments that make “Metal” such a success.
*Spoilers For Dark Nights Metal Follow*
15. BATMAN CARRIES AROUND BABY DARKSEID
At the conclusion of the New 52’s Justice League event “Darkseid War,” the titular New God was left reduced to an infant. In Dark Nights Metal #2, baby Darkseid returns as an impossibly adorable dark lord of Apokolips. Darkseid is… extremely cute.
Batman brings baby Darkseid to the alleged temple of Prince Khoufu as a means of better understanding the dark forces pulling at the strings of his life. There’s still concern around Batman’s state of mind at this point. As Wonder Woman says with a preposterously straight face, “Darkseid? Bruce, just because he’s been transformed into a baby doesn’t make him any less dangerous.” Sadly, Batman doesn’t get much use out of Diaperseid before Barbatos and the Dark Knights of the dark multiverse begin their takeover.
14. BATMAN KEEPS JOKER IN A HIDDEN CELL WITHIN THE BATCAVE
On the road to “Metal”, Hal Jordan and Duke Thomas discover a hidden section of the Batcave. Within this secret area, the duo find the Joker, locked up and scrawling numbers on his cell wall. With the exception of flashback appearances in “The War of Jokes and Riddles,” the Joker has been missing from DC Rebirth. His (unlawful) imprisonment in the Batcave appears to answer why.
Despite the ease of rationalizing this treatment of the mass murderer, taking justice into his own hands by locking up Joker and throwing away the key is a bold move by Batman. We’d expect this kind of treatment of villains on the CW’s Flash but not within the Batcave. Hal is particularly outraged, perhaps in part because of the inevitable way such treatment ends: With Joker escaping, and the Batcave at his disposal!
13. SANDMAN SAVES THE DAY
The merits of Sandman’s headline-generating appearances can be debated, but it’s nonetheless wild that the iconic Vertigo creation (by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, and Sam Keith) enters DC Rebirth as a ghostly ally to Batman. “Daniel” enters the final splash page of Dark Nights Metal #1 as an all-knowing entity akin to Marvel’s Watcher, but with much more luxurious hair.
In issue #4, Sandman rescues Batman and Superman from certain destruction. The master of dreams then explains the origins of the DC Cosmos to the heroes, as his own “library of impossible stories” burns due to the materialization of the nightmare stories never meant to be told. For all the threats to his realm of dreams, Sandman remains curiously hands off, preferring to read Batman and Superman’s story.
12. BATMAN HIDES A COSMIC ARTIFACT IN THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE
In the prelude to “Metal,” Batman visits Superman at the Fortress of Solitude and asks to access the secret room he apparently rents out from Supes. Since Batman shot the key to this room into the sun (he’s almost certainly not joking), the impossible door can only be opened by Mister Miracle. Once opened, it’s revealed Batman is storing the Anti-Monitor’s dimensional tuning fork.
The cosmic tuning fork and the power of the Anti-Monitor continue to play a role throughout the event, leading to impossibly perfect pieces of dialogue like Morgaine the wizard stating to a group of fellow Immortals: “You will take the Anti-Monitor’s astral brain and you will fire it through the core of the multiverse, at the rock of eternity, and destroy the dark multiverse once and for all.”
11. HAWKMAN GUARDS THE FORGE WHERE WORLDS ARE BORN
The prelude issue Dark Days: The Casting #1, confirms how immensely rewarding this event will be for anyone with a near encyclopedic knowledge of the DC Universe. In the span of a single opening, The Casting covers the history of the Hawks, the Al Ghuls, Amazons, the Greek Pantheon, Project Cadmus, and the New Gods. Of course, the issue also finds time for Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s ties to the Challengers of the Unknown, and their ongoing investigation into the root source of Nth Metal.
Snyder and Capullo expand the work of Johns’ and company on Hawkman, transforming the properties of Nth Metal into a “mutant powers go!” concoction for any wielder. Of course, following his explorations, Hawkman winds up trapped in the Dark Multiverse, transformed into the warrior keeper of the dark forge Batman and Superman must confront to escape.
10. THE RETURN OF 52’S SCIENCE SQUAD
From the opening panels of the prelude issue Dark Days: The Forge #1, it’s clear that Grant Morrison’s DC Comics work has influenced Snyder’s approach to “Metal.” The event is an eons and universe spanning story that brings to mind Morrison’s opening on Final Crisis. While Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne and Multiversity are clear touch points throughout, the focus on the weekly 52‘s Science Squad came as a shocking left turn.
In true Morrison fashion, Dark Knights: The Wild Hunt merges his 52 work with Multiversity in a blend of comic book science. The turn is slightly less out of left field than readers may realize (there’s a panel in Dark Nights Metal #1 showing Hawkman working with Doctor Magnus and T.O. Morrow). Nonetheless, few of us were anticipating the likes of Egg Fu, Dr. Sivana, and Veronica Cale playing a role in this event.
9. DARK ROBIN CARRIES A COPY OF DC’S MULTIVERSITY
There are moments that break the fourth wall. Then, there are moments that shatter it, sweep the broken pieces off the edge of the earth, and then reconstruct a new wall with the label: “Check out this broken fourth wall!” That’s what we have in Batman: The Merciless #1, with one the Man Who Laughs dark Robins showing up with a literal hardcover copy of 2015’s “Multiversity” in his creepy hands! It’s a great read, we can’t really blame him.
On top of that, in Metal #1, Kendra Saunders quite literally flips over Grant Morrison’s “Multiversity” map to teach the Justice League about the existence of “a dark multiverse.” The 2015 event is obsessively self-referential, but it’s thrilling to see that approach slip into universe wide events like this.
8. THE FINAL METAL IS CALLED BATMANIUM
In order to create an entrance into Earth-0 for Barbatos and his Dark Multiverse generals, various forces expose Batman to a “mantling” of powerful metals. Bats is exposed to the likes of electrum (“Court of Owls”), dionesium (“Endgame”), promethium (end of New 52 Batman), and Nth Metal (“Dark Days: the Casting”) prior to being tricked into the final element in Metal #2: the gloriously on-the-nose batmanium!
Snyder’s writing style has always pulled heavily from research — old languages, elements, scientific facts about bats — but it’s in “Metal” that he and Capullo lean heavily into “HELL YES” action sequences, and the glorious absurdity of superhero comics. It’s a great fit for the creators, and “batmanium” is only one example of their embrace of the outwardly ridiculous.
7. MARTIAN MANHUNTER IS DISCOVERED IN A PRISON ON THANAGAR
Although we’re rapidly approaching the two year anniversary of DC Rebirth, classic Justice League member J’onn J’onnz has been conspicuously absent for most of the era. That finally begins to change with “Metal,” as Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Mister Terrific discover the Martian Manhunter in deep space. Or rather, Martian Manhunter uncovers them.
Following their imprisonment on Thanagar Prime by Onimar Synn and Starro the Conqueror (direct quote: “I’m back losers!”), Hal and Michael are saved from their cell by J’onn masquerading as a prison guard. As J’onn reveals to his allies, he has been undercover on Thanagar Prime and elsewhere in space researching the same disturbances in the Forc… metal. The League has been without their ally from Mars for too long, so it’s great to see his surprise return.
6. THE SUPER SONS’ PUNK ROCK CODED MESSAGE FROM BATMAN
After Barbatos’ surprise attack on Superman and Wonder Woman in the tomb of Hath-Set (Metal #2), Superman is forced to confront visions of false realities concocted by Barbatos. In one such dream-state, Superman envisions a post-Metal victory party, with Lois, John, Bruce, Damian, and Diana gathered in Smallville for a picnic and concert put on by the Super Sons.
The sons (Damian and John), seemingly both playing lead guitar, blast out a righteous punk rendition of the classic Batman theme. Notably, the chord progression alternates between D & C, a part of a coded message to Clark (standing for Diana and Clark) by Bruce Wayne, trapped in the Dark Multiverse by Barbatos. It’s tough to say what’s more wonderful: DC’s Trinity carrying a secret code based on their initials, or Bruce hiding his warning in the Super Sons’ backyard concert.
5. LOIS LANE GETS TURNED INTO A DOOMSDAY
During Batman: The Devastator, the dark Bruce Wayne preys on Lois’ trust of her husband’s friend to trick her into shaking his Doomsday virus infected hand. The gambit results in the spread of a Doomsday virus across all of Metropolis, infecting everyone from Supergirl to Lois herself. The issue features a haunting splash page by Tony Daniel with Lois transforming into a gray-spiked creature of Doom, with her son John only inches away separated by glass.
Lois isn’t the only significant other of Justice Leaguers to suffer in “Metal.” Aquaman watches Mera transformed by “The Drowned” Batman into a monstrous sea creature drawn by Liam Sharp. Likewise, Steve Trevor is made to bow before Batman the Merciless, and Cyborg’s dad, Silas Stone, is made to listen to his son beaten and disassembled by the Dark Knights.
4. BARBATOS SHAPED BATMAN’S LIFE SINCE THE DAWN OF MAN
Batman Lost asserts that Bruce Wayne’s journey to the Stone Age (pursued by the Hyper-Adaptor) in the post Final Crisis miniseries Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, led to Barbatos marking Batman as his ultimate entrance into the world. It’s a wild and mind-bending exploration of time travel that replaces the chicken and the egg with tribes of bats and birds.
Much like Morrison’s “Return,” Batman Lost spans the very history of man, including DC Comics references like “Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City,” and “Batman: Year One.” To the last reference, Barbatos claims — and convinces Batman — that he was indeed the famous bat that came screaming in the window of Wayne Manor during Bruce’s famous declaration: “Yes, father… I shall become a bat.” It’s a devastating revelation for Batman, a severe blow to his free will that causes him to shout the unthinkable words “I give up.”
3. PLASTIC MAN IS AN EGG
You’d be forgiven for finding the whole “Plastic Egg” component of “Metal” particularly confusing. Early on, it’s made clear that Plastic Man is one of a shortlist of DC heroes sensitive to the multiversal frequencies of metal, but it’s relatively strange that the typically carefree jokester is holed up in egg form. Hal Jordan doesn’t understand why the eel egg is so essential either, at least until Mister Terrific provides an explanation in Metal #5.
In DC Rebirth, the vat of chemicals that transformed Eel O’Brien was a science experiment (possibly conducted by the court of owls) exploring the properties of metal. As a result, Plastic Man’s body is a superconductor for multiversal energy, and he’s been bombarded with visions of the dark multiverse since the barriers began to collapse. The egg is Eel’s way of staying (relatively) sane as he battles the dark urges of Barbatos.
2. SUPER-CHIMPS ARE THE DC MULTIVERSE’S LAST HOPE
When your event is already bonkers, why not introduce a 53rd universe to the multiverse consisting of Super-Apes? That’s exactly what happens in Dark Knights: The Wild Hunt #1 as Bobo, the Detective Chimp, works alongside the Science Squad to prevent multiversal collapse. The issue even begins with Detective Chimp’s origins, as Bobo slowly loses his intellect in real time.
Right as failure of both the Justice League and the Science Squad seems imminent, the 53rd Universe of Super-Chimps make their grand entrance. The Bat-Chimp tells Bobo: “D.C. You wondered what it meant, but think about it, Bobo… Brother… Detective Chimp… Ready to save the universe, Bobo?” Given the Man Who Laughs manipulations of the would-be heroes up to this point, it’s shockingly logical to hand the reins to the monkeys.
1. BARBATOS HAS JOKER DRAGONS
As a cosmic villain, Barbatos is actually a bit dull. Aside from his unending mantra that “All roads lead to darkness” and his manipulations of Bruce Wayne in Batman Lost #1, there isn’t nearly as much personality to Barbatos as someone like The Man Who Laughs. The Dark Knights are the compelling villlains of “Metal,” while Barbatos is merely the source of power that allows their invasion.
Fortunately, Barbatos makes up for personality deficiencies with cool accessories. Namely, the one-time dragon destroyer of the World Forge keeps his very own pet Joker dragons soaring around the recently erupted Challenger’s Mountain in Gotham City. Sure, you could make a case that all this is calculated set-up for a poster-worthy Greg Capullo splash page with Batman riding a Joker dragon… but who cares?!
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