Cue up the shredding guitars, the double-kick drums, and the poorly-mixed bass: we’ve got us a Metal crossover.
Those Dark Knights of the Dark Multiverse have come and set their sights on the Justice League, and the only way they can be stopped is a Smackdown.
So yes, this issue of The Flash kicks off a crossover that is equal parts rock and roll and Wrestlemania. It sets up an event that, if all goes as promised, will be ludicrously entertaining, and while it’s mostly just the undercard to the Main Event, there’s a surprising amount of depth in the script.
One of the faults I find in Josh Williamson’s writing is that he’s too wordy. If he had a poetic lilt it might work better in his favor, but more often than not it just comes off as clumsy. While there are a few clunky spots here, Williamson actually manages to nail some character traits and gets in a funny line or two.
That Superman line up there is right near the beginning of the issue, and when you can start off on the right foot like that you’re in my good graces. It follows a brief recap of Metal #3’s ending, shedding a bit more light on the somewhat confusing events that took place. To sum up: Superman and Flash raced around one of the Anti-Monitor’s towers that Steel strapped himself into so the Nth metal in his hammer could conduct the Speed Force lightning into Superman which would allow him to fly into the Phantom Zone and puncture its membrane so he could go to the Dark Multiverse and find Batman only to discover it was a trap laid by Barbatos and the Dark Knights to lure Superman to his friend so he could be ambushed and be used as some sort of battery to conduct the energies necessary to let Barbatos break free from the Dark Multiverse and take over our universe through the power of the Batman ’66 theme song*. Pretty simple.
So Flash, rightly inspired by his friends’ heroism, tries to encourage Steel in one of the wordier sections of the issue. It’s not too bad, as Barry and John Henry have some good chemistry, and Williamson keeps things moving along at a pretty good clip. While the duo are in the Fortress, three other groups of heroes have made their separate ways across the universe to find stray traces of Nth metal: Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate and Kendra Saunders went to the Rock of Eternity; Aquaman and Deathstroke headed under Atlantis; and Hal Jordan, Mr. Terrific, and Plastic
Man Egg search for Thanagar.
It’s then that they receive a strange message from Cyborg, who has been all but decommissioned in the Watchtower, warning the heroes of the coming of the Dark Knights.
And that’s when John Henry Irons drops a bombshell.
Slow your roll, man. Though given all that’s gone down lately, can you really blame him?
From there, the Dark Knights effectively sift the non-Leaguers out so Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Aquaman are left in specially designed Batcaves.
As a side note, I have a story from SDCC: Scott Snyder spoke about this crossover a bit at a panel there. He said that the title he wanted was “Steel Cave Match,” which was awesome and perfect. “Bats Out of Hell” is what was settled on, but man, evoking a wrestling match is pretty much perfect.
Because that’s exactly how this plays out.
Colorful costumes, bombastic announcements, heels and faces, it’s all right there. Oh well, I’m sure it will end up being a blast anyway.
Not to say that it’s all zaniness. Besides some truth about the inspiration of Superman, there’s a low blow from the Murder Machine that honestly isn’t wrong.
Yeah… that’s harsh, but kind of true. Barry had about the biggest hero’s death you could ask for in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and like Jason Todd his passing made way for better stories with more interesting characters. Bringing him back wasn’t necessary for anybody.
But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s talk about Howard Porter.
It’s good to see him on pencils. His style is a good fit for the material, and having read his and Morrison’s JLA back in the day I’ve long been a fan. He manages to balance the busyness of his environments with a clean focus that keeps everything clear, and the ever reliable Hi-Fi has the appropriate coloring style for the manic and detailed visuals. I love the lightning effects and other types of energy crackles and auras in particular, especially the oily black tendrils of the Dark Multiverse energy. When you have a cover from Ethan Van Sciver, your interiors had best deliver, and they found the perfect team to do so.
I won’t say that this issue will draw people who have dropped the title back to The Flash, but it’s a fun enough installment that’s enjoyable on the event’s terms. It doesn’t stand on its own, but if you’re following Metal already you won’t be disappointed.
- You’ve been reading Metal.
- You’re ok with a bit of the ridiculous.
- You want some surprisingly solid character beats among the mayhem.
Overall: For an issue that’s simultaneously recap and setup, I still had some good fun here. There are some great little character moments that ring true, and the idea of a huge “steel cage match” is as crazy as it is entertaining. I do wish Williamson had let things get crazier and looser, just letting the fun concept roll and seeing where it goes. Still, it’s a decent enough introduction to what could be the most bonkers part of Metal yet. And that Howard Porter, guys. I’m so glad he’s back.
*That last part may not be true.