Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 review

Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 is a one-shot issue set between Metal #5 and #6. As such, it is safe to say that you would get the most out of this story if you are already invested in the Metal event, or at least have been following the core series. Additionally, it helps to have some prior knowledge about the DC Universe as a whole, because this issue is deeply rooted in DCU lore and features several somewhat obscure B and C-list characters. Furthermore, in my opinion, since the beginning of Metal all of it felt very Morrison-esque, especially because it is expanding—to a degree—on his Multiversity series. So it seemed odd that Morrison himself wasn’t contributing to the event. Until now. Grant Morrison is, arguably, the biggest draw on this issue, because if there’s anyone that can write some insane epicness, it’s him. And yet, even with Morrison on scripting duties, this issue still suffers from some problems that I will detail below.

First of, as you can see in the image above, Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson and are all listed under writing duties. While it’s easy to distinguish the artists—Howard Porter, Doug Mahnke and Jorge Jiminez—because all three have such unique styles, it is rather unclear who wrote which section of the book. I am under the impression that Snyder, Williamson and Tynion put together the plot and that Morrison wrote the script for the entire issue, but I can’t be 100% sure. I wonder why this isn’t specifically pointed out in the credits, because I would certainly like to know for sure, mostly because I’m always interested to see who is responsible for which part of the product. Having said that, there are many passages that just scream Morrison because of the way that he talks about the quantum mechanics and interdimensional structures of the DC Universe.

The issue opens with a recap of Detective Chimp’s origin story. The narration that runs through the pages is rather expositiony, but seeing as the comic has only a limited amount of pages and this is for the most part indeed a recap, I think that the narration is on point and manages to convey the most important parts effectively. By the end of the sequence, we’re all caught up as to who Detective Chimp is, what the fountain of youth is and how it factors into Chimp’s origin, and how Chimp gained enhanced intelligence. What I find interesting here is that the sequence seems to start out somewhat funny, even light-hearted, with Chimp playing the accordion, but the tone quickly transitions to rather dark and sad. However, some of these sad moments are lost on me because I never have the time to really get attached to certain characters or the relationship between these characters and Chimp, because almost no context is provided as to who the supporting characters are. Especially for new readers it would have been helpful to at least get some explanation. This makes me wonder if perhaps it would have been better if we had a book devoted to Chimp’s origin so it could be expanded and made to have more emotional impact, although, on the other hand, I’m not sure if that really would be a wise move to make. After all, it would mean yet another tie-in upon a mountain of tie-ins.

Besides lacking the emotional impact that I was looking for, I do see that the origin explains and sets up what happens to Chimp toward the end of the story, and therefore it does contribute to the overall plot. Moreover, I see several connections between Chimp and other aspects and characters in Metal. For instance, Hawkman is an immortal being, and so too is Chimp immortal. Additionally, the issue opens with Chimp trying to play the notes D and C on an accordion. Of course these are the initials of Detective Chimp, but this also speaks to a much older notion (developed by Julius Schwartz and John Broome) that the D and C chords actually create the DC Universe. This is all fascinating stuff, and I would have loved to see this further developed, but as with the entire Metal event there is barely any room for further exploration of the idea because we have to move on to the next plot point.

We cut to Blackhawk Island, where we find Chimp playing a very high-tech looking keyboard, and we see the Metal Men as well. First of all, this is one of those instances where prior knowledge of the DCU would help, because most if not all characters here are B and C-listers. Secondly, the way this is written feels very Morrison, especially lines such as “I’ve made contact through layers of multiversal feedback with the Flash and the others” and “the challengers of the unknown used Red Tornado’s wind harmonics as a guide to the House of Heroes.” This sequence establishes that several scientists have discovered that the laws of physics are “falling like dominoes,” and meanwhile Chimp attempts to contact Cyborg and the Flash. This scene mostly underscores that the entire universe is indeed at stake, and illustrates that the laws of physics are being altered because water starts boiling at 106 degrees now. However, as entertaining as I find the scene, especially the crafty dialogue, I can’t help but feel like this entire scene was just implemented for the sake of one joke that I did not find very funny. I wonder if perhaps there would be a better way to show the shifting of laws of physics, avoiding the silly joke and thereby making this look much more poignant, and thus more like an actual threat to all of existence. It’s no laughing matter, after all.

Next we find Flash, Cyborg and Raven aboard the Ultima Thule, a monitor shiftship, on their way to the House of Heroes as they travel through bleed space (a space between dimensions, basically). Here, the idea that the entire universe is living music is brought to the foreground. It perfectly aligns with the music themes of Metal. Flash even remarks that he would like to see if he could vibrate on a specific frequency to travel through this music, and, as a musician, I just get super excited about this idea. Once more I wish this was further expanded on, because I think it has great story potential.

A moment later the Wild Hunt zaps into the bleed space and comes after the heroes aboard the Ultima Thule. Then, for perhaps the first time, we actually see the Dark Batmen interacting with each other, and their banter is intriguing because essentially this is Bruce Wayne talking to himself. It’s good stuff, because in a couple word balloons more personality is added to the Dark Batmen, something that I felt was missing from these characters up until now. For instance, the Devastator calls out Ms. Wayne (the Drowned) for potential mutiny, which speaks to the paranoid aspect of Bruce Wayne’s psyche. This is immediately followed up by Ms. Wayne replying to Devastator that he knows exactly how she would kill him, just as she knows how each of the others would kill her. This then speaks to Batman’s endless planning and knowing exactly how to combat his foes. It could be argued that this planning aspect comes from the paranoia, and in that sense we literally see different parts (albeit dark and twisted versions) of Bruce Wayne’s mind interacting. Additionally, I’ve always found it interesting how Morrison is able to use exposition in a very entertaining way. His exposition always hints at things occurring off-panel, or outside of the story altogether, but instantly speak to the imagination and contribute to world-building. I am not entirely sure if this sequence is indeed written by Morrison, but it does seem to be his style.

Yet, there is something that strikes me as very odd in the following pages, and it is something that could potentially cause a very serious continuity error that may be difficult to fix. I will put this in spoiler tags, though, so only have a look if you have either already read the issue or you don’t mind having this spoiled.

In Metal #5 Deathstroke and Aquaman are being attacked by Black Manta and several Dark Batmen, including Red Death. However, in Wild Hunt we see Red Death attacking Flash. Red Death and Flash are then both knocked to the ground, and Red Death is asking what happened to them. Flash explains to Red Death that he was hit by pure positive energy of creation, shifting his polarity, reversing him. What this means is that the Bruce Wayne side of Red Death is now gone, and that only Barry Allen is left, and he decides to help Flash defeat Devastator. A few pages later he is ripped apart because he is a being of darkness now charged with positive energy, and so Red Death dies. The question now is obvious: how is Red Death coming up against Deathstroke and Aquaman if he actually dies in Wild Hunt? Beyond his death, he also can’t be in two places at once. It makes no sense. I’m honestly very confused at this point and have no idea how the writers are going to resolve this problem. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Looking at the writing as a whole, I have to say that by the end of the issue I feel exhausted. The narrative seems straight forward enough: the protagonists have to reach the House of Heroes but are being chased after by the Dark Batmen. And yet so much happens within the pages of this book that at times it can be hard to keep track of everything. Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome, but this is by no means light reading and there are times where the issue crumbles under its own weight, trying to accomplish too much at the same time. I admire the skill that went into writing something as dense as this while keeping it entertaining, but if the issue wasn’t so crammed with story and plot developments, it would have had more room to breathe and it would have been an easier read. Right now, it’s rather convoluted, and I wouldn’t blame anyone if they ended up confused at the end of the issue. This story certainly isn’t for everyone, especially not for those who prefer their stories to stay grounded. This issue is anything but grounded: it is a wild ride across the cosmos, and it embraces its insanity on every front.

Part of the insanity, on a meta level, comes from the rotating artists. Howard Porter draws the Detective Chimp parts and Jorge Jiminez and Doug Manhke each draw portions of the Flash/Cyborg/Raven sequences. While each of these artists are absolutely amazing at what they do, the truth is that they each have completely different styles that don’t compare well at all. On top of that, they are joined by different colorists as well. While the artwork never dips in quality, the distinctly different styles do make for a very unfocused and disjointed aesthetic. This doesn’t help if the writing in the issue already goes into multiple directions at once. I’m convinced that visual consistency would have, in my opinion, made the overall product much better and the story, most likely, much easier to follow. We must not underestimate the degree to which artists contribute to the storytelling.

Recommended if…

  • You are a fan of Grant Morrison!

  • You have been collecting all the Metal comics
  • Stories just can’t get cosmic, interdimensional and crazy enough

  • You don’t mind visual inconsistency, as long as every individual artist does a stellar job

Overall: I like this comic. However, I feel that the comic is trying to do too much within the limited amount of pages. As such, it is all very compressed and convoluted, and may cause confusion here and there. Add onto this the serious continuity error that I pointed out in the spoiler section, and I’m really unsure about Metal’s conclusion. Moreover, new readers will likely not know who some of the more obscure B and C-list characters are, and without further explanation the issue not exactly new reader friendly. Having said that, this comic really is a wild ride and has lots of fun moments that spark the imagination. As for a recommendation, I think this comic speaks to such a specific audience that I can’t exactly recommend it to everyone out there. You really have to be into psychedelic, interdimensional stories that are in no way grounded. But if you really love this sort of thing, and are able to embrace the craziness, then you are likely to have a good time.

Score: 7/10