After existing for nearly eight decades on the fringes of the DC Universe, Nth Metal has emerged as perhaps this reality's most important substance. The rolling revelation, unfolding in the pages of Dark Days: The Casting, Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Nights: Metal, not only rewrites DC history, it opens the door to a multiverse of storytelling possibilities.
Introduced, alongside Hawkman himself, in 1940's Flash Comics #1, Nth Metal is as integral to the hero's convoluted mythos as, say, Gotham City is to Batman's. Long depicted as native to Thanagar, home planet of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman, the remarkable substance can negate gravity, permitting someone wearing an object made of Nth Metal to fly. It also enhances the strength of the wearer, and protects him or her from the elements and extremes in temperature.
A quintessential comic-book material, mysterious enough and malleable enough to be bent to the needs of most any story, Nth Metal is most closely associated with Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman, from the Golden Age to the present. However, it's also been utilized by other characters -- most notably, the Legion of Super-Heroes, whose signature flight rings are composed of Valorium, an Nth Metal derivativel. Yet the wondrous substance, which actually predates kryptonite, has never played a central part in DC Comics lore.
But writer Scott Snyder & Co. are redefining the role, and origins, of Nth Metal. No longer native to Thanagar, the unusual material now appears to originate in a dark, and potentially evil, realm on the flip-side of the Multiverse (think of it as the DCU's Upside Down). As spelled out by Kendra Saunders in Dark Nights: Metal #1, Nth Metal "gives vastly different powers to those who possess it. Eternal life. Flight. Mystical vision. ... It defies all rules of science and magic." It's connected to Doctor Fate's helmet, Psycho Pirate's mask and even to the wizard Shazam. It began the cycle of reincarnation experienced by Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and leached into the blood of some Earthlings, creating generations of metahumans, including Batman's new partner Duke Thomas, The Signal.
We don't yet fully know what Nth Metal is -- that mystery will help to fuel Dark Nights: Metal and beyond -- but it's undoubtedly the key to the future of the DC Universe.