Is Superman’s Role More Critical Than Batman’s?
Transported by Fate to the extra-dimensional watering hole known as The Oblivion Bar, Superman is reunited with The Justice League as well as other heroes, all of them licking their wounds after their own failed attempts to defeat Barbatos and the Dark Knights. Thanks to vibrations emanating from Plastic Man’s otherwise dormant egg enclosure, the team is able to glean the coordinates of the few remaining traces of the pivotal Nth Metal that’s key to defeating the Dark Knights (as revealed in last week’s issue of Green Arrow), as well as another crucial piece of information: the location of the entry point to the Dark Multiverse itself. While the rest of the team goes after the metal fragments, Superman, The Flash, and Steel all head to the Fortress of Solitude – or more precisely, the Monitor’s long-hidden dimensional antenna that lies beneath it.
Eventually, Superman realizes the Dark Multiverse’s location is in close proximity to another dimension that he’s much more familiar with – The Phantom Zone. Pooling their talents and powers, the three heroes succeed in opening a portal from the Fortress directly to the heart of the Dark Multiverse itself. Superman successfully crosses the breach and enters the Dark Multiverse, only to discover a horrifying truth: His arrival was expected, and a trap lies waiting for him. Several dark, withered incarnations of the Man of Steel entrap him, and we learn Batman’s cross-dimensional message was warning him to stay away, not embark on a rescue. Though thee reactive Nth metals embedded in Batman’s body were used by Barbatos as the battery to open the door for an incursion, the intended target all along was Superman himself.
The Other Reasons Superman Matters
The Man of Steel is not only DC’s flagship hero, but also one of its most powerful and prolific, so it’s only logical that his presence here wouldn’t be relegated to the sidelines. While Snyder has convincingly shown that Batman – a hero with no superpowers who historically has been grounded within a very small corner of the DC Universe – can be brought to the forefront of a discovery of a brand-new multiverse, Superman is pretty much the character who can’t be kept far behind. This is a guy who can push planets around, after all (in some continuities, anyway) so it would be odd indeed if Barbatos – or any supervillain, for that matter – didn’t seek out such a powerhouse to further their own ends.
It’s not just his muscles that matter, though – Superman brings another whole dynamic to Snyder’s story. Batman was conceived in darkness – as a hero, sure, but a dark one throughout most of the character’s history. Add the notion of a Batman who has turned into a bad guy – not to mention a decidedly evil one, with several heinous and horrific counterparts – and Dark Nights: Metal stands to become too dark and grim a mainstream superhero tale. The presence of Superman dilutes the darkness, if only a little, and is exemplified here in his optimistic, albeit false for now, hopes of finding and rescuing his crimefighting partner.
It’s also important to note, it’s not as Superman, but as Clark Kent, that he plays an important and largely unexplored role as a pseudo-uncle to young Damian Wayne. With Damian’s kidnapped father serving as the focal point of a multiversal crisis, Clark provides Damian with the comforting presence of a family figure, as well as providing a familial bond in the search for his crimefighting “brother.” Metal serves a sensible and high-profile launch point for this family dynamic, which has been touched upon but not fully pursued since the advent of Rebirth.
Fans will have to wait until nearly Christmas for Dark Nights: Metal #4, which is now slated for release on December 20. A look at Bruce Wayne’s tribulations in the Dark Multiverse, though, will come a little sooner in Batman Lost #1, on sale November 8.
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