SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Dark Nights: Metal #5 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, on sale now.
The series is called Dark Nights: Metal. The storyline centers around the significance of various cosmic metals in the DC Comics Universe. It even has its own unofficial heavy metal soundtrack. So why is Plastic Man, of all heroes, such a key player in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's multiverse-shaking series?
Metal #5 finally provided that explanation.
The issue gives Plas' origin some new relevance that brings the character's beginnings a closer tie to the DC Universe. While Eel O'Brian's elasticity landed him his polymer-based moniker, his powers are rooted in the mysterious properties of one or more of DC's cosmic metals. At least, that's how Mr. Terrific understands it.
He Is The Egg Man
Plastic Man made his Rebirth debut in Dark Days: The Forge, when his egg-shaped form was first seen hidden in Batman's lunar Batcave. In that issue, Batman referenced to Mr. Terrific a state of instability in Plas that required him to be sequestered, hinting that this was the reason for his dormant form. In Metal #5, Terrific reveals to Green Lantern -- and thus, the reader -- the source of that instability.
The course is none other than the rising of the Dark Multiverse itself, and the infinite number of dark nightmares that have stemmed from it. Those countless nightmares were drawn to the unfortunate Plastic Man, who ultimately had to shut down his mind in order to escape all of the dark impulses, cocooning himself in a sheltered form. With the impending breach of the Dark Multiverse, the dormant Plas has since remained silent and unreachable.
But what makes Plastic Man so important that the heroes of the DCU must tote him around like a surrogate baby in a high school child development project? Mr. Terrific goes on to explain a further consequence of Eel's chemical bath that gave him his powers. The chemicals the former petty criminal had fallen into weren't just the components of your everyday vat of sludge -- they were an attempt to replicate one of the cosmic metals. Following his exposure to the metallic substance, Eel O'Brian didn't just become Plastic Man, he also became, as Terrific puts it, "a super-conductor for cosmic energies."
The Most Important Character in Metal?
What exactly does that mean, to all parties involved? It means nothing less than Plastic Man is one of the most important, and potentially the most powerful characters in Metal. As a conductor of the cosmic metal's energies, Plas is critical to the function of the Phoenix Cannon, a Thanagarian weapon that can either save the multiverse, or push it into the abyss of its dark twin.
Metal #5 reveals that Onimar Synn, ruler of Thanagar Prime, has secretly allied himself with Barbatos and his Dark Knights, the evil Batmen of the Dark Multiverse. Wanting to use the cannon to darken the cosmic metals at Earth's core and draw it into the Dark Multiverse, Synn kidnaps the catatonic Plastic Man to fuel the cannon and give Barbatos his ultimate victory.
The glib, comical and once seemingly mundane Plastic Man, therefore, stands to either serve as the savior of the DC Universe, or the mechanism for its destruction. It's a safe bet that few would've seen that coming. With the world on the brink of consumption by darkness, now would certainly be a good time for Plas to come out of his shell.
That's an almost certain possibility, as Plastic Man has a pending future with The Terrifics, and Metal #6 wraps up the series. But first, the story continues in Dark Nights Rising: The Wild Hunt, on sale February 14. Dark Nights: Metal #6 follows on March 14.