When it comes to comic events, it’s easy to feel cynical about them because of how often they happen. Marvel and DC have got into a habit of altering their universes on a yearly basis, to the point it’s felt as if storytelling has become a money grab, rather than a way of building compelling characters. I’ve felt comic event fatigue before, but there’s something exceptional about the writing of Scott Snyder that keeps me coming back to his stories. Snyder has become the definitive Batman writer, which is why I was eager to pick up Dark Nights: Metal. Here are my thoughts on a graphic novel that nails all the things that makes a comic event worth investing in.
Dark Nights: Metal focuses on the mystery of Nth metal and how it’s played a part in shaping the DC multiverse. After defeating a robot sent by Mongul, the Justice League are confronted by Hawkgirl, who informs them Batman has become a danger to the world because of what he could unleash. Snyder builds on the continuity of his previous stories by showing how Batman has been exposed to mystical metals that have brought him closer to becoming a doorway to the nightmarish Dark Multiverse.
Snyder presents the idea of a great hero being the key to unlocking the ultimate evil. Through a process called Mantling, Batman frees a demonic god called Barbatos and evil versions of himself. The twisted Dark Knights were created by his greatest fears, each having the power of a different Justice League member. The worst of them all is the Batman Who Laughs, a sick amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and The Joker. Although Barbatos was the main villain, I found myself being far more creeped out by The Batman Who Laughs.
With the DC Universe in turmoil, Superman ventures into the Dark Multiverse to try and bring Batman back. Eventually, the two of them reach The Forge, guarded by a mutated Hawkman. Carter Hall is treated as a major character in the story, with his journal unlocking the mysteries of Nth metal. It was good to see Hawkman and Hawkgirl being featured prominently, as I feel they haven’t been used to their full potential in the past.
Dark Nights: Metal offers up plenty of other surprises, such as the inclusion of Dream, from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Dream acts as a guide to Batman, telling him that a story is the most powerful weapon in the world. Another great interaction was Batman teaming up with Joker to take down The Batman Who Laughs. It’s the kind of batshit crazy sequence that only happens in an event, and it was so fun to read.
“In the end, METAL is a lot of things – it’s about the moments when you find yourself face-to-face with the worst versions of yourself, moments when all looks like doom – but at its heart it’s a love letter to comic book storytelling at its most lunatic, and a tribute to the kinds of stories, events, that got me through hard times as a kid and as an adult. It’s about friendship as a foundation to go further than you thought you could go, and that means it’s about me and Greg, but you as well. Because we tried something different with it, something ours, hoping you’d show up, and you did.” – Scott Snyder
Snyder’s writing is tightly paced through the graphic novel, juggling multiple characters and giving all of them a moment to shine. Like all major events, there are a lot of references to comics that tied in to Dark Nights: Metal. Sometimes, I found myself wondering who a certain character was and what made them so important to the story. However, this didn’t impact the overall narrative.
The graphic novel was elevated by Greg Capullo’s fantastic art. Every page is a treat for the eyes, from the grotesque landscapes of the Dark Multiverse, to the hope that shines on Batman’s face when Superman reminds him he still has so much left to fight for.
Dark Nights: Metal is a riveting graphic novel that brings continuity and creativity together. It has the kind of emotional weight that will hook you from the beginning. Snyder has truly put on a comic event writing masterclass.