(You should definitely read Justice League #57 prior to reading this issue! You've been warned!)
WAR ENSEMBLE! The end is nigh, as the last remaining sparks of hope in the multiverse muster their forces against the Darkest Knight.
But can anything stop the inevitable? All hope seems lost. But Lex Luthor has a plan...
If it wasn’t obvious before now, Wonder Woman is the hero of Dark Nights: Death Metal. That becomes more than apparent throughout issue five, as Batman and Superman reveal some surprising shortcomings, and all hope rests in Diana. But as Lex Luthor puts it, Wonder Woman always seeks the truth, and that in and of itself elevates her above her heroic kin. For her, it isn’t about punishing the guilty or defending some abstract notion of justice – it’s about letting the light of day shine through, illuminating all, bringing hope to a world sorely in need of it.
And boy, does Earth need some hope right now. The Batman Who Laughs is ascendant as the Darkest Knight, hellbent on not only replacing Perpetua as the supreme force in the multiverse but also crafting his own Dark Multiverse to replace our own in the grand order of things.
Everything hinges on a plan that’s full of McGuffins culled straight from writer Scott Snyder’s endlessly inventive mind, as he’s worked pretty hard throughout this story and its predecessors to set up certain core elements (ahem, metals) that perform particular functions throughout the multiverse. If you can’t keep up with what they are and what their functions are (and to be fair, readers may need a chart for that at this point), a lot of the exposition in this issue may come across as vague gibberish. But even granted that – there’s enough “there” there for readers to get the basic idea of what’s involved. It’s one heckuva Hail Mary, one that no one – not even the supposedly-omniscient Darkest Knight – will see coming.
Serious props to Snyder for having the cajones to go there. Perhaps more inventively, there’s a major moment with Lobo that, while extremely awesome in a superficial sense, may actually turn the tide. But first, Snyder somehow manages to raise the stakes even further by the issue’s end.
But back to Wonder Woman – Snyder manages to avoid the pitfalls of having Diana give a stereotypical inspirational hero speech, while still acknowledging it in a way that’s pretty clever. Truly, though, even Lex Luthor is inspired by her, and cedes the upcoming winning moment to her. One of the best aspects of Death Metal has been the humanization of Lex Luthor; having been thoroughly laid low and cast aside by Perpetua, he’s now a man whose ego is at last set aside, and finally realizes the importance of fighting for the common good, not just himself. Hopefully, this version of Lex survives whatever the DCU looks like post-Death Metal. We’ve seen Luthor play at being the hero before, but always for selfish reasons. Here, he’s at last fulfilling the promise Superman has always seen in him and using his mind for the betterment of mankind.
And all of this is good – no, great – sequential art storytelling. Death Metal is big, loud, brash, and bursting with ideas. And that’s all well and good, but without Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia on art pulling it all together, it’s ultimately just so many words. There’s been so much talk about Capullo the Master Artist in recent years (all of which is earned), but here, he’s flexing his imagination like never before. He’s the one taking all of these batcrap insane, world-bending ideas Snyder is dreaming up and bringing them to life. You want a Batman made up of all of Gotham? Capullo’s got that, no sweat. How about the creepy child-horror of the Robin King? On it like a bonnet. There’s an argument I’ve made in past reviews that perhaps the Darkest Knight, being a giant silhouette with a Carnage mouth and bat ears, is a tad slipshod in design. But the more I think about it, the more I like it: this guy is so evil, so powerful, that nothing short of pure dark can visually capture him. It’s a visual addition by subtraction. Haters gonna hate, but Capullo clearly knows what he’s doing.
Death Metal has been a lot of things so far: dark, twisted, a bit knotty, just plain cool – pick your adjective. But we’ve finally crossed a new threshold into something new: hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but one last hell mile to cross to get there. The creative team is firing on all cylinders, finding new and fun and inventive ways to have a crisis in the DCU. If you’re suffering from a general event fatigue or even a sense of malaise toward event comics in general, have no fear – Death Metal is here to show all those wannabes exactly how it’s should be done.
Dark Nights: Death Metal #5 begins to turn a corner from unrelenting bleakness to, at last, hope. With Wonder Woman leading the way, the creative team is crushing all expectations and proving once and for all what an event comic SHOULD be!
Dark Nights: Death Metal #5: Versus the World
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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