Dark Nights: Death Metal - Infinite Hour Exxxtreme!
The multiverse may be goin' ta fraggin' hell on a hot plate, but the Main Man himself - LOBO - is on a mission from Lex Luthor to retrieve the one thing that can possibly save it - the all-powerful DEATH METAL! But he ain't alone... because hot on his trail is... THE BATMAN WHO FRAGS!
And even if Lobo manages ta survive a version of himself that's as cunning and smart as Batman, will his own worst instincts (read: all of them) stop him from fulfilling is quest... by cashing in on the prize himself?!
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to Dark Nights: Death Metal – Infinite Hour Exxxtreme #1. If the title weren’t a dead giveaway that this is a profoundly silly comic, the fact that it stars Lobo felt like reason enough to doubt its necessity to the greater Death Metal narrative. In other words, this comic had “crass commercial tie-in” written all over it. Conventional wisdom states that Lobo, for the most part, is a fun character who works best in very small doses; oversaturation in the ’90s led to his falling out of favor for a great while, languishing in occasional-appearance purgatory before being momentarily replaced by a lithe, would-be goth iteration of the character – before someone at DC realized the guy really is pretty fun when handled right.
The character who started as a forgettable bounty hunter in ’80s series The Omega Men was reimagined by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant as an over-the-top parody of muscle-bound antiheroes in the early ’90s, but then by virtue of overuse, became the thing he was supposed to be a parody of. Subsequent writers seemed to miss the joke, which is what led to fandom growing weary of him by the close of that decade. Fortunately, time heals all wounds, and the writing trio of Frank Tieri, Becky Cloonan, and Sam Humphries use Lobo appropriately to lampoon the arch-seriousness of Death Metal while still working Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! into the broader story.
Back at the beginning of Death Metal, Lex Luthor had Lobo searching for an object of great power that he felt could defeat Perpetua and the Batman Who Laughs (nee the Darkest Knight): the death metal, a heretofore unknown kin to the Nth metal, Batmanium, and any other cool-sounding metallic elements DC has floating around in their ether. Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! (an obvious but somehow also not obvious poke at the self-seriousness of Infinite Crisis) tells the story of Lobo’s hunt for the death metal, which naturally entails uber-violence, a Lobo-centric reordering of reality to hilarious effect, more uber-violence, and a Batman/Lobo hybrid from the Dark Multiverse called the Batman Who Frags.
This being a Lobo comic, things get over the top and out of hand pretty quick. Lobo is a character who should never be played straight, and should always be counted on to make the worst of any and all bad situations. (Lobo, unlike Deadpool or Harley Quinn, does not hide inner turmoil beneath a humorous facade.) Of the trio of writers credited to this issue, Frank Tieri seems to understand this the most, opening the book with a truly laugh-out-loud funny set-up scene before diving right into the musclebound ludicrousness. Lobo and the Batman Who Frags tear into each other with wholeheartedly apocalyptic abandon, and Tieri has zero qualms about playing it up for the chaotic fun it is. Coupled with Tyler Kirkham’s dynamic art, the first story in this trio of terror really does knock it out of the park for sheer fun.
The second arc, by Becky Cloonan and Rags Morales, is fun but a bit more subdued. It might be the brighter color palette brought to Morales’ pencils by Andrew Dalhouse, but the art in “What the Frag is Death Metal, Anyway?” just doesn’t quite seem to fit the tone of the rest of the issue. It’s good art, but would perhaps have been better suited to the world of Wonder Woman. And despite Cloonan’s best efforts, I’m not really sold on the melding of Batman and Solomon Grundy to form Black Monday, which is really just the latter with a Batwoman mask. Hawkman shows up for a bit to play straight man to Lobo’s unhinged lunatic, but he’s more of a surrogate for the readers asking, “Just what the heck does a death metal do, anyway?” Of the three stories within, this one is the weakest – not bad, but not quite up to par with the other two.
The third story may be the most pure fun, as Sam Humphries has a blast crafting one-page re-imaginings of the Trinity to more Lobo-centric origins, then showing the Main Man with the fate of literally everything in the palm of his hands – and having to prove whether or not he can rise above his own selfish ways… for once. The humor in the third story is more in line with the post-Giffen, Alan Grant-penned Lobo monthly comic of yore in that the gags are mostly visual in nature and extremely on-the-nose. That might have fallen flat on arrival, but the story is given more artistic gravitas than it possibly deserves by summoning industry legends Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz to the fore. This tag-team could draw Heckle and Jeckle and make it the best-looking comic on the stands, period. They’ve been honing their craft for nearly four decades (over four in Sienkiewicz’ case) and have nothing left to prove, so a silly romp like “Lobo Land!” is not merely a victory lap, but a well-deserved, low-stakes excuse to just have some fun.
Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! won’t be for everyone, particularly if they’re not a Lobo fan or perhaps are suffering from Death Metal fatigue. I get it. Lobo is an anachronism from another era, and can easily rub people the wrong way. There’s moments in here where he’s calling people “dweebs” with manic glee like it’s still 1992. But that stubborn refusal to change is part of Lobo’s charm. The Main Man will forever be associated with over-the-top mores of the ’90s. But when used properly, like he is here, he’s a fun, unnuanced character who exists to frag some bastiches, get paid, and drink some brews. He’s uncomplicated, and sometimes that’s exactly what readers need – especially in a twisty, complex yarn like Death Metal. He’s the breath of fresh air from Death Metal‘s ultra serious, leaden atmosphere we didn’t even know we needed. He’s the Main Man, and that’s pretty much all you need to know.
Dark Nights: Death Metal - Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! is the ridiculous romp starring Lobo we didn't even know we needed to break up the super-serious atmosphere of this tie-in's main miniseries. Come for the fraggin' good time, stay for the laughs.
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! #1: Nightmare Logic
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 7.5/107.5/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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