The Last Stories of the DC Universe
The remaining Earths and various survivors of realities destroyed by the Darkest Knight have one final battle left before them. It's the calm before the storm, which brings about a quietly stirring sense of finality and closure for everyone involved...
Dark Nights – Death Metal: The Last Tales of the DC Universe #1 is most certainly not the last tales of the DC Universe, but damned if it doesn’t go all-out to make you feel like it absolutely could be. Death Metal #5 set up one final, epic battle between the survivors of the multiverse and the Darkest Knight’s Dark Multiversal hordes, whose numbers are incalculable. Last Tales is set in the middle of that issue, the calm inhalation before the storm, where all parties involved know they’re about to go on a suicide run and do their best to close the books on their lives as best they can.
Clocking in at eighty pages, Last Tales is closer to a slender trade paperback than an individual comic in terms of page count, but the creators involved bring their absolute A-game. There’s no filler here. No story doesn’t have an emotional impact in some way, whether it’s the Bat-Family’s final night together, one last Titans family reunion, or Superman using a makeshift short-range time travel device to continually blip back in time one hour at a time to help as many people as he can around the world – everything rings true. Every panel counts. If ever there were a comic that carries a sense that our heroes are about to head out into a truly final crisis, this is it.
Honestly, though, of all the stories within, Gail Simone’s tale of Green Arrow and Black Canary enjoying one final day together is probably the most touching. This a couple that has really been through the wringer over the years, and is still standing – and although they could probably find things to bicker about, they instead take comfort together and hints of a future they’ll probably never have when they meet multiversal refugee claiming to be their daughter, Laurel. (Bonus points if you can spot Gail’s tip of the hat to her legendary Birds of Prey run.) In a comic chock-full of startlingly strong emotional beats, Ollie and Dinah’s is the strongest.
Storywise, if anyone gets the short end of the stick, it’s Aquaman. Christopher Sebela’s script is a ponderous thing, and while it’s not bad, it’s dense with metaphor and deeper-meaning prose. This is not a bad thing, and in fact turns into a poignant farewell to Aquaman’s daughter, Andy – but it feels a bit out of place compared to the group- or couple-dynamics of the other stories. Chris Mooneyham’s art suits the story quite well, though, detailed and mature in a way that speaks to the somber tones of the story. It further stands up when contrasted against Meghan Hetrick’s art in the aforementioned GA/BC story, which has a lighter, fluffier feel to it that stands at odds with the heaviness of the comic as a whole. Not bad art, but not quite right for this story. (For reference, if Gotham Academy were to ever return, Hetrick would fit that comic like a glove!)
The remaining writers – the Death Metal trio of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson; Jeff Lemire writing Green Lantern and Sinestro (DC: I know you have other plans for GL post-Future State, but get Lemire on a monthly Hal Jordan book NOW); Mariko Tamaki supplementing her current Wonder Woman run; Cecil Castellucci knocking it out of the park with the Bat-Family (and giving Dick/Babs stans something to swoon about); and Mark Waid quietly returning to DC after a decade-long absence for a wonderfully clever Superman yarn – all do their jobs and then some. This is what you want from a jam comic.
The art throughout, too, is rock-solid (with the aforementioned Hetrick being the exception, except it’s not a problem with her art rather than her being miscast for this assignment). Travis Moore, Rafael Albuquerque, Daniel Sampere (who draws an amazing Wonder Woman), Mirka Andolfo, and Frances Manapul knock their respective stories out of the park, period. DC clearly didn’t want this to feel like a filler comic or some cheap excuse to soak fans for their money, but rather, a character-driven anthology about people we’ve known for years facing down what will probably be the last night of their lives. And they do it with heart, passion, devotion, friendship, and love.
Because that’s what heroes do.
Dark Knights: Death Metal - The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1 pulls off a pretty impressive hat trick of compelling story, art, and characterization to give beloved heroes (and villains!) one last night before war. Jam comics like this aren't supposed to work this well, but the assorted creators involved clearly put their all into it. Definitely worth the price of admission.
Dark Nights: Death Metal – The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1: Since the Day It All Came Down
Writing - 9.5/10
Storyline - 9/10
Art - 9.5/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 8.5/10
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