Bats Out of Hell, Part 1 (Flash #33 Review)

Following DARK NIGHTS: METAL #3, the Justice League seeks weapons that will stop the invaders from the Dark Multiverse as The Flash and Steel combine their powers to help Superman find Batman.  But The Dark Knights have arrived and are determined to stop their plan—and kill the League once and for all!

Writers:  Joshua Williamson
Artist:  Howard Porter
Colorist:  Hi-Fi
Cover Artist:  Ethan Van Sciver
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:

Thanks to the evil demon Barbatos, Batman has vanished and the Justice League are determined to find and rescue him.  Using the Anti-Monitor’s cosmic tuning fork tower at the Fortress of Solitude, Steel and Flash help launch Superman into the Phantom Zone to try and break into the Dark Multiverse and find their Bruce Wayne.  After they successfully propel Superman on his mission to find Bruce, the other members of the League are searching for any and all Nth Metal to defeat the Dark Knights invading our world from the Dark Multiverse.  Cyborg is on board the Watchtower coordinating their plan of attack and keeping them all in constant contact.  Wonder Woman and Dr. Fate are at the Rock of Eternity.  Green Lantern and Mr. Terrific are flying to Thanagar.  Aquaman and Deathstroke head to Atlantis.

What You’ll Find Out:

Superman is off in search of Batman and Flash and Steel are communicating via Cyborg with the rest of the League when Boom Tubes open in their every location.  Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and their partners are sucked in and disappear while Flash and Steel receive a visit from Dark Knights the Murder Machine and Devastator.  (Apparently, Cyborg wasn’t important enough to get attacked.)

Murder Machine easily subdues Steel, despite the fact his hammer is apparently made of Nth Metal which is the Dark Knights’ one weakness.  Devastator smashes the tuning fork tower which closes the doorway that Superman was going to use to bring back Batman.  The Murder Machine taunts Barry by saying that the greatest accomplishment his Earth’s Barry ever made was dying.  In a stunningly stupid move, Barry falls for it by charging at Murder Machine…who opens a Boom Tube flinging Barry to Central City.

Once there, Flash comes face-to-face with Iris and Wally West who have had most of their life force sucked out of them by The Dark Knight called Red Death.  Iris expresses guilt for killing Eobard Thawne to which Flash vows to get her and Wally out of Central City alive.  Before he can, a pit opens up underneath him with a cackle from the Batman Who Laughs screaming “All roads lead back to darkness!” (YAWN.)

Cyborg finally reappears after being forgotten for 10 pages (!) to deliver a bit of exposition about how Barbatos is taking Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Aquaman to Gotham before his message shorts out.  The Batman Who Laughs cuts in to tell the four of them that the Dark Knights developed separate Batcaves for each of them—and now they’re all going to die!

What Just Happened?

Allow me to preface this part by confessing I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Dark Knights: Metal.  I’m buying and reading it (and avoiding all of the one-shot books except Hawkman Found) solely to follow what happens to several of my favorite characters.

Metal can be fun at times, but overall I’ve found it to be a convoluted mess. For this reason and many others, I’ll note below, I’m not going to even bother scanning a page from this issue to refer back.  It’d be a waste of both your time and my effort.

When people who don’t read comic books talk about the stories being dumb action sequences with overly complicated plots drowning in tedious exposition and mindless minutiae, I’d have to put an issue like this at the top of the list.

In my humble opinion, Flash #33 epitomizes so much of what people mock comic books for.  This is a comic book that forces you to buy it if you want to know “everything” that happens in the crossover.  Were I not collecting The Flash, I would have skipped this issue.  It’s a crashing bore. Well, okay, except for the art.  I love Howard Porter’s work and he turns in another fine job here.

Unfortunately, the senselessness of the plot is exceeded only by the puerile approach to the characters.  Cyborg is reduced to being nothing but a glorified transistor radio as well as not being important enough for the villains to even bother attacking—whereas all the white, straight characters each get their own face-to-face battles with each of their counterparts from the Dark Knights.  Another one of DC’s greatest black heroes, Steel (who supposedly possesses a hammer made from the one thing that can kill the Dark Knights) gets beaten and captured in less than 6 panels.

The Dark Knights are so threatened by the Justice League that they build each one of them their very own Batcave—well, except for Cyborg because…lazy writing?  Unconscious racism?  I don’t know and I’m only speculating, but the lack of respect shown to Cyborg and Steel infuriated me.

The whole scene with Barry whining to Iris and Wally was a complete waste adding absolutely nothing of substance or value to the story.  It felt like 2 pages to kill time (and pad a 20-page book) before the Batman Who Laughs crumbled the ground under Flash’s feet to deposit him in the “Flash Batcave.”  Why couldn’t he send Flash directly there in the first place? Because this is a 20-page book and they have to fill all 20 pages.

This is not a fun review to write and those truly wretched codenames Snyder and Capullo have concocted do not help.  “The Batman Who Laughs?”  “The Murder Machine?”  And then there are all those pretentiously named metals that Snyder invented which I can’t even be bothered to type here because I’d have to look them up to spell them.  1992 called; it wants all those rejected Youngblood codenames back.

Rating:  5 / 10

Final Thought:  I’m normally a fan of Joshua Williamson’s Flash and I love Howard Porter’s art.  But this was your stereotypical dumb slugfest crossover comic with no depth of any kind.  Every page of this book felt like pointless filler for the inevitable collected trade paperback.  When people complain about superheroes engaging in mindless slugfests, Flash #33 is Exhibit A.  This story is nothing but punches, explosions and cardboard cut-out villains who recite every cliché short of “MWUH-HA-HA!”  Unless you’re a huge Metal fan or a Flash completist, please do yourself a favor and skip this.

But if you love brainless action without meaningful characterization?  This is the book for you.

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