One of the big mysteries at the core of DC's Dark Nights: Metal event concerns the so-called "Dark Multiverse." Longtime DC readers are used to the idea of grim, even evil alternate versions of their favorite characters. Indeed, the publisher has just teased seven one-shots featuring diabolical mash-ups of Batman and his Justice League teammates.
However, according to Metal writer Scott Snyder, that's not all there is to the Dark Multiverse. We looked back over the past few months to see what Snyder and others have said about it, and about the event generally. What we found paints a much more complex picture.
TURN OFF THE DARK?
Those Bat-mashups notwithstanding, Snyder told CBR recently that the Dark Multiverse wouldn't be simply "a billion Earth-Threes or just evil versions of our characters." Back in December, when the project was just a "Batman heavy metal rock opera," Snyder also said he didn't want the as-yet-untitled tale to be "grim" – and specifically not "superheroes arguing over something." Instead, its tone would be "celebratory, and huge, and crazy [typified by] out of control dinosaurs and lasers."
Even so, in April Snyder allowed for a bit of grimness, as he and Capullo planned to "dig beneath" all their Bat-work to "a place of terror and twisted nightmares." A contemporaneous DC press release also referred to "every choice a hero doesn't take and every path they don't walk" in relation to "worlds that are forged by nightmares." Still, Snyder promised that "[e]ven with terror and nightmares, it won't be grim." In May, he expanded on this: "We're trying to go really big. [E]ven though it has darkness in its name ... [its spirit] is anything but dark.... It's going to be scary [with] big-ass villainy and monsters and all that stuff, but it is also meant to be off-the-wall, bonkers fun, where we just want to melt your face off and rock out all summer long."
In that vein, Snyder conveyed his and Capullo's enthusiasm thusly: "Let's just have a huge rock and roll party — if [Frank] Frazetta and Jack Kirby had a baby to a heavy metal soundtrack, this is that event. Battle armor, dinosaurs, robots. It's really meant to be a celebration of comics storytelling and a thank you to the fans." To that end, Snyder and Capullo created a special "melt your face" Spotify playlist; and lobbied DC for a first-issue embossed cover with "pyro" effects. (The result may be somewhat subdued, but you can still see the devil horns.) The rocking-out comparision didn't stop there, with Snyder describing Batman's role as "a lot of lead guitar."
Taking all that together, we're guessing Metal will lean gleefully into its excesses without dwelling on its horrors.
THE NOTES YOU DON'T HEAR
Besides, according to Snyder, Metal's "dark" aspects are more scientific than sinister. Snyder alluded to the "dark matter" holding the universe together: "[T]he vast majority of our universe is essentially made up of dark matter and dark energy; [which] we can't even perceive, except in their effects. I kept wondering, 'What if this great cosmology that everybody set up, from Grant [Morrison] to Geoff [Johns], had a similar formation?'"
Thus, in Metal the Dark Multiverse will be a "vast ocean of roiling possibility" which "invades" the main DC Universe. While it does so "in a way that's really, really dangerous and scary," Snyder emphasized that "[i]t's something a lot broader and different than that." Indeed, Metal is really "about the ways in which our heroes make us brave, to forge forward in the darkness and explore." Furthermore, Snyder reinforced that "none of it is, 'I need to kill someone! Someone needs to die in this event!' It's really about celebrating the joy and bonkers fun of DC Comics in two different ways."
Of course, the just-released Dark Days: The Forge special draws from decades worth of DC history besides Snyder and Capullo's Batman run. Snyder discussed Metal's Bat-roots back in March, and in April noted that he and Capullo "started dropping clues" back in their first arcs, with "the biggest hints" in their finale, Superheavy. Now, according to Snyder, Metal represents "a story that breaks everything apart."
Regardless, in December Snyder hesitated to put Metal in the same mold as previous DC events. While he noted that those epics were often "bonkers and wonderful," they tended either to "refer back to continuity" or were "all about where the [superhero comics] line [was] at that moment." In contrast, Snyder wanted Metal "built out of the stories happening now and creating new material." Ideally, it would give creative teams "a place to tell stories that fit what they're doing on their books," while feeling "really modern and different and above all fun."
Last month, Snyder listed the Monitor's "tuning fork filled with magic" as an example of Metal's "going crazy on the page, and honoring the kind of abandon that those events have, while also delivering great storytelling." With that in mind, Snyder thinks Metal "does something very different than what people have seen before" while "touch[ing] on a lot of my favorite cosmological elements." In particular, Metal will take readers "from the Source Wall to Atlantis [and] to brand-new locations" in order to "expand" DC's cosmology. Regardless, on June 14 Snyder stated that Metal wouldn't try to "reshuffle" continuity.
As for Metal's possible connections to Rebirth's cosmic mechanics, Snyder told CBR that he and Doomsday Clock writer Geoff Johns have been staying in their respective lanes. That said, Metal will refer to the "Button" crossover and other elements which "make sense happening together." Specifically, Snyder said recently that Metal ties into Tom King's and James Tynion IV's Bat-books as well as ongoing storylines in Green Lanterns and Superman.
SO WHAT'S IN IT?
We know from Dark Days: The Forge that the overall storyline centers around various DC Universe metals, with the most prominent being Hawkman's Nth Metal. Its "malleability and mysterious nature" fascinated Snyder, because it faciliated everything from reincarnation and other mystical powers to flight and super-strength. For him it "had more qualities than made any sense."
Additionally, the Forge special mentioned Electrum, which re-animated the Talons for the Court of Owls; and Dionesium, which infused the Joker's super-potent venom and healed Bruce Wayne's broken body during the Batman: Endgame arc. However, as Meg Downey's April post reminds us, Metal could also follow up more directly on Snyder and Capullo's final Batman arc. Superheavy presented the ultra-dense Batmanium as one of four new elements created by the Powers Corporation. Geri Powers also mentioned to Jim Gordon that all of the world's many supercolliders (including hers) created and destroyed "little universes ... moment by moment." In light of Metal's focus, that certainly takes on a new meaning.
Along similar lines, that April post cited the end of Superheavy, when Bruce Wayne resumed his Batman career amidst a flurry of imaginary (or potential?) alternate Bat-lives. This too is a thematic link to another recent Bat-run – namely that of writer Grant Morrison. Not only did Morrison tease a dystopian future where Damian Wayne protected/ruled an even more chaotic Gotham City, he sent Bruce Wayne on a trip through time (in the Return of Bruce Wayne miniseries) which stretched from caveman days through Gotham's colonial period and the early 20th Century before landing back in the present. When coupled with Hawkman's history of reincarnation, it suggests that some DC heroes are timeless in more ways than one.
How, then, might metal relate to the Multiverse, Dark or otherwise? It probably has a lot to do with the vibrational frequencies which separate the parallel universes. As revealed in September 1961's landmark "Flash of Two Worlds" (Flash #123), everything in a particular universe vibrates at the same unique frequency. If you can match your internal vibrations to that of another universe, you can travel to that universe, just like Barry "Flash" Allen on his first trip to Earth-Two. Barry later built a Cosmic Treadmill to make things easier on himself; and after he disappeared in Crisis On Infinite Earths, Wally West and Jay Garrick built a ginormous version so that an army of super-people could travel to the villain-controlled Earths. We've already seen the Flash in battle armor as part of Metal's preview art; and we suspect he'll be a big part of charting the Dark Multiverse.
More to the point, COIE introduced the Multiversal Tuning Forks (a/k/a "what's in Batman's Fortress of Solitude guest room") as one way to rescue the last surviving parallel universes. Remember, a regular tuning fork is designed to emit a particular musical note, which an instrument or voice will then try to match in order to be in tune. Naturally, tuning forks are made of metal; and the note is the result of the fork's molecules vibrating at a particular frequency.
Therefore, when the Monitor's tuning forks activated in COIE, they were acting as a guide for the remaining Earths, getting them "in tune" so that they would be drawn to the Monitor's safe-haven dimension. In the same way, Batman's tuning-fork experiments may inadvertently guide the Dark Multiverse's invaders (whoever or whatever they may be) to the main DC-Earth. As for said invasion, Snyder observed that "[s]o often in these sort of stories that deal with multiverse dimensions… the heroes go in to find something. But this one's about this one attacking us. So it's very different, in all kinds of ways."
Batman also becomes aware of Hawkman's latest death (as depicted, not surprisingly, in the Death of Hawkman miniseries), because his investigation kickstarts "an entire Justice League extravaganza, where everybody sort of goes and finds out that the DC cosmos is a lot larger and scarier and wondrous than everyone thought." Accordingly, Metal "really is a Justice League story [and] much more in the spirit of other big DC events." The aforementioned preview art has teased the Leaguers in armor, preparing for what Snyder called "rocking out" in a "crazy gladiator death pit" run presumably by Mongul. At the risk of creating some negative corporate synergy, it reminds us of the Thor: Ragnarok trailer; and we think Led Zeppelin's classic "Immigrant Song" would probably fit well on Snyder and Capullo's Spotify playlist.
We do know one subplot which won't be in Metal. Snyder revealed in a June 14 interview that while the Clown Prince of Crime plays a significant part in Metal, it wouldn't solve the "Three Jokers" mystery. According to Snyder, Geoff Johns "has a big story planned for that," leaving the Joker to comment on Metal's action in the mode of a Greek chorus.
However Metal unfolds, it will have spinoffs in the form of the September and October-debuting "Dark Matter" titles. They are Dan Abnett and John Romita Jr.'s The Silencer; Dan DiDio, Justin Jordan and Kenneth Rocafort's Sideways; James Tynion IV and Jim Lee's Immortal Men; Robert Venditti and Tony S. Daniel's Damage; and Snyder and Andy Kubert's New Challengers. The Forge special already introduced the Immortal Men, while New Challengers updates the Challengers of the Unknown and Damage shares at least a name with a teen hero introduced in the 1990s. At first glance, the Dark Matter books most likely to tie into Dark Nights seem to be Immortal Men (for obvious reasons) and Sideways (since it concerns a teenager who "gains the power to teleport through the Dark Dimension").
Snyder characterized the Dark Matter titles as trying to "do stuff that's risky and different ... as a thank you to the fans, because when things go well, I feel like it's the time when you want to ... take a risk." Accordingly, Snyder called Metal "almost like the strange twin to Rebirth." Where Rebirth is about "bringing back connective tissue" and "legacy," Metal is "the time for us to experiment with new directions, with new characters and to keep that spirit to make sure that we are true to core, making sure that we are not bending the characters, sometimes, like they got bent in The New 52."
On its most basic level, this is nothing new for DC events. As Snyder has noted, events like Crisis On Infinite Earths, Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis were designed to reorient the entire superhero line. However, others had narrower goals. 1987's Millennium spun out of Steve Englehart and Joe Staton's Green Lantern run, and helped launch the short-lived New Guardians series. 1992's Bloodlines ran through that summer's Annuals and led to a handful of new series, most famously Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Hitman. 1998's DC One Million came out of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's JLA and (among other things) served as a vehicle for Tom Peyer and Rags Morales' Hourman.
Where Metal and the Dark Matter books need to distinguish themselves is in the execution. Those earlier examples depended to a certain extent on the popularity of the event and/or its lingering effects in the larger DC Universe. That may be the case here. However, we note that the Dark Matter creative teams are getting a good bit of attention well before the event itself has started, in large part because DC wants readers to know about its high-profile creative teams. Snyder clearly intends Metal to stand on its own as a kick-out-the-jams superhero story, but just as clearly he wants its spirit to inform the Dark Matter books. After all, the Dark Matter books are what Metal will leave behind, and DC no doubt hopes they'll be around for a long time to come.
What do you think is lurking in the Dark Multiverse? Let us know in the comments!