SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Dark Nights: Metal #4 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, on sale now.
When Hawkman was first introduced, way back in 1940, the concept of Nth Metal was merely a story device that came along for the ride as part of the character's power set. Several decades later, the otherwise inconsequential Thanagarian element has become the focal point of Dark Nights: Metal, and a catalyst for the unveiling of a whole new multiverse.
In the context of Metal's story, Nth Metal has been cleverly referred to as the ninth metal, postulating that there are eight other less pure, derivative metals associated with the substance. Issue #4, though, further establishes the existence of a purer strain – a so-called tenth metal – that was previously unknown. But what is this mysterious powerful element, and how does it relate to the other known metals of the DC Comics Universe?
The Sandman Teaches Batman & Superman About the Multiverse
After Dream, aka The Sandman, helps Batman and Superman escape from the Dark Multiverse, he makes first mention of this powerful metal. Dream establishes that this substance is key to defeating Barbatos and his Dark Knights. This tenth metal is found at the World Forge, center of the multiverse's creation. Dream's revelation also implies the significance of the material: It's essentially the stuff of creation, the matter used by The Forger to shape worlds and universes.
If the weaker Nth Metal has been shown to cause harm to the Dark Knights, then surely its pure Tenth Metal form stands to ultimately spell their end, right? There's a certain kind of broad-stroke logic there. If the worlds forged from the material prove to be unstable, then perhaps the tenth metal itself is the reason for it. Might there be some other element introduced into the formation of the Orrery's more stable worlds that provide some kind of solidification that their dark counterparts lack? A pristine form of Tenth Metal might be akin to Kryptonite to anyone from the Dark Multiverse.
It's likely that this material will serve as a potential weapon in upcoming issues, but who could wield it? Would the pure substance also be harmful to occupants of the existing multiverse? If so, one character stands out as the multiverse's champion, and that's Batman himself. After all, he's been exposed to several other metals that led to the mantling that opened the door to the Dark Multiverse. Could this exposure, which is unique to him and ultimately ushered in this incursion, also prove to be the multiverse's salvation? A Dark Knight vs. Dark Knights showdown, with Batman brandishing a Tenth Metal sword, would be a fittingly symmetrical climax to the storyline.
It's worth noting that in Metal's Dark Days: The Casting prelude, Batman was seen brandishing not only Ra's al Ghul's Nth Metal dagger, but also Apollo's sword comprised of the lesser eighth metal.
There are also the other metals bonded to Batman's DNA – Batmanium, Electrum, Dionesium, and Promethium – that so far have no clear connection to Nth Metal. Whether these metals might comprise some of the first through seventh strains derived from Nth Metal – and what the remaining strains might be – remains unknown. The metallurgy of the DC Universe is a subject that begs further exploration before Dark Nights: Metal concludes.