Dark Nights: Death Metal - Legends of the Dark Knights #1
Hold onto your Satanic verses, folks, because it’s tie-in time for Dark Nights: Death Metal! All modern event comics from the Big 2 must have obligatory tie-ins, whether it’s tangential miniseries, issues of regular comics usurped to fit the event comic’s narrative (read: the publisher’s bottom line), or like Legends of the Dark Knights, one-shots that aim to fill in the cracks of the main story with ancillary information, additional background, et cetera (read: hype readers into buying more than just the main series because if you miss this stand-alone one-shot, you won’t be getting the whole story!). This is the law.
These tie-ins are sometimes worth the time, effort, and expenditure to buy, sometimes not. Legends of the Dark Knights #1 proves to be more the latter than the former, unfortunately. Six stories long at a hefty $5.99 price tag (a buck more than issues of the regular series, but with a few more pages), this comic can, generously, be stated as to exist for hardcore Death Metal enthusiasts only. The first tale, bafflingly cowritten by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Josh Williamson despite being only sixteen pages, is half recap of the Batman Who Laugh’s origins and story so far, and half his discovery of Batmanhattan and his plan to usurp the ersatz, Watchmen-esque Bruce Wayne’s omnipotence and power. It’s sort of interesting in that regard, but is more than like just going to throw fuel on the fire for irate fans who can’t believe that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic is being repurposed to fit the DCU. Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey get a few decent double-splashes, and some fun hellscapes to play with, but that’s about it.
The second tale, by Peter Tomasi, Riley Rossmo, and Ivan Plascencia, is a riff on The Omen, with a young, eeeeeeevil Bruce Wayne playing the role of Damian (not that Damian). It’s actually a pretty fun little twist on Batman’s origin, galloping along at a brisk pace to show the rise of the Robin King (as introduced in Death Metal #2). Rossmo, however, continues to turn ever-more cringe-worthy in his animal-balloon-esque art style, leaning even more heavily on cartooniness and garish exaggeration than he ever has before. His style used to have a gothic, dark edge to it; now it more looks like warped children’s drawings.. which, could be a complement, I suppose…
From there, the stories get shorter and shorter, and less and less essential. Marguerite Bennett (called in to pinch-hit at the last minute after the original author for this tale was yanked from the project) gets to relish in the utterly insane origin of Batmanosaurus Rex, but instead of being given much room to really let loose, she’s muzzled to a mere two pages. Jamal Igle makes it look pretty, at least. Frank Tieri turns in one of the more solid works of his recent career with gorgeous Francisco Francavilla art to boot about an older Bruce Wayne who spiritually inhabits the whole of Gotham; this might actually be the best story out of the whole bunch but the fact that it’s sandwiched into the middle of the issue makes it easy to bypass. Daniel Warren Johnson gets to briefly cut loose for a few pages to write and draw the silly yet somehow endearing origin of the Batmobeast; Garth Ennis writes a quickie about Batman reincarnating himself as a baby on accident that’s more joke than anything else.
Mixed bags like this, that are presented as essential yet are anything but, do real harm to the industry. They oversaturate the racks, forcing retailers to order them because they’ll more than likely sell (but maybe they won’t, leaving them stuck with the excess stock). They perpetuate event fatigue, and detract attention away from far more deserving indie fare that winds up flying under the radar because they can’t compete with the attention these completely disposable sugar rush comics garner. And in this age of pandemic, is it even responsible for DC – or Marvel, or anyone – to be oversaturating the market with stuff like this, that many readers simply don’t have the income to afford? It’s corporate bottom-line think at its worst. Dollars first, readers last.
Please do not buy Dark Nights: Death Metal - Legends of the Dark Knights unless you have the disposable income to do so. It isn't worth your time or hard-earned money, unless you're a hardcore completist. There are moments of fun, but they're lost in the deluge.
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Legends of the Dark Knights #1: Scream Bloody Gore
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 3/103/10
Art - 7/107/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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