Dark Nights: Metal #6 review

Here it is at last. The final installment in the long-running Metal event. Two months ago we saw an aged Bruce and Clark leaping across the Forge of Worlds, then sinking into the forge itself. We also saw Diana going toe to toe with Black Adam, and afterward, together with Kendra, leaping into battle. Most of the other heroes were defeated by the Dark Batmen, however, and so the question is, are they still able to save all of existence, so close to the end?

To be perfectly honest, this comic is a mixed bag. It gets many things right, but I also find myself asking lots of questions about the structure, certain character reveals, motivations, and pacing. Before I get into all of that, I’ll start by highlighting a positive point. This book is filled with bombastic action throughout, and most of the heroes get a chance to shine. In particular Wonder Woman is shown to be a powerhouse on the battlefield, who rushes through without ever being defeated or even slowed down. At no point is she scared of what’s ahead of her, and she is never suffering from self-doubt. Clearly Snyder went out of his way to emphasize what a powerful character Wonder Woman is, and so her scenes are a joy to read. It even makes me wish Snyder would work on a Wonder Woman book next.

Additionally, it’s awesome to see the Justice League working together as a team. They have each other’s back, even in the middle of a war zone. They never try to upstage each other, there is no sense of rivalry or anything like that—not even from Deathstroke. Here, before Barbatos, faced with the terrible threat of annihilation, we see them giving this everything they’ve got to achieve that final victory and thereby save all of existence. The sheer idea behind the comic is epic. It’s like watching a cosmic, out-of-proportions version of the knights of the round table fighting against the satanic Barbatos.

And yet, the narrative is not without its problems. For the most part, it’s due to deus ex machinas that are used to advance the plot. Certainly all of these developments are really cool, but the reasoning behind them is rather vague. I’ve tried to flick through the previous issues to see if there were any hints planted beforehand that should explain these deus ex machinas, but although there were some hints, they didn’t help much in terms of explaining things. In some cases it almost reads like certain plot points were implemented on the spot without thoroughly figuring out the logic behind them. So, here are some concrete examples of things that don’t work out so well (while staying away from major spoilers):

First of all, it’s very convenient that the Dark Batmen have dragged the unconscious heroes right to the battlefield where Diana and Kendra are fighting against the evil army. (These unconscious heroes are Aquaman, Deathstroke, Green Lantern, Mr. Terrific, and Plastic Man—Martian Manhunter is absent, without any explanation as to what’s happened to him.) Why the heroes have been taken here instead of locked up in a cage elsewhere—or even outright murdered—is not clear. The Dark Batmen, who’ve slaughtered entire worlds and various alternate versions of DC heroes, could just kill them to minimize the threat against Barbatos, and yet they don’t. (Of course they can’t because of marketing reasons outside of the story, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of logic. Also, no, I don’t want them to get killed—I’m just sayin’.)

What’s more is that, to wake the heroes up, Diana clangs Hawkman’s mace (which she picked up in #5) against her bracer. Through exposition we learn that they are made of Ninth and Eighth metal respectively. By clanging them together, Diana creates a note that, somehow, awakens the heroes and instantly has them leaping back into the fray, going toe to toe with the Dark Batmen. But why do the mace and bracers have the specific function of waking the others up? How exactly does this work? I’m not sure.

Another positive point is that Snyder definitely knows how to construct dialogue. Although he uses, in my opinion, too much exposition in places to explain things after the fact, he shows he’s actually quite talented at writing out characters’ speeches. For instance, there’s a moment in the book where Diana and Kendra are about to leap through a portal that leads to the forge. Diana thinks Kendra should go through. But Kendra disagrees and begins to tell Diana why she should go, and basically sums up the core of Diana’s character. They end up agreeing that Kendra will hold the lasso so she can pull Diana out if necessary, while Diana descends through the portal. It’s a powerful and heartfelt moment that really establishes a sense of trust between the characters, especially after Kendra turned to the dark side for a while in the previous chapter. But, though the dialogue is well-written, here’s why it doesn’t entirely work:

Firstly, there’s chaos everywhere and time is of the essence. Logically, Kendra shouldn’t have that much time to talk; instead, I think the heroes should just take swift action. But more importantly, immediately after Diana goes through the portal and is then encountering Hawkman, Kendra actually follows her through as well. I understand that it’s because of Carter, but if the scene leads to both Diana and Kendra being on the other side of the portal, then why did we spend so much time on that speech? It seems redundant to me. And herein lies the problem with pacing. Throughout the book, there are panels and dialogue that feel out of place and end up not contributing much to the story, but instead seem to distract from it. These things, though small details individually, add up quite a bit when put together. At times these little moments even take up space that could’ve been devoted to a stronger build-up toward certain reveals. To further illustrate this, I will talk about two of those reveals, but I’ll hide them in a spoiler tag.

The first one has to do with the return of Batman and Superman. What happens can be summed up in one sentence: Diana dives into the forge and two pages later she leaps out with both Batman and Superman, all three decked out in shining Tenth metal armor. The problem that I have with this is that we never actually get to see what’s down there, under the forge. We never find out why Bruce and Clark are suddenly young again. There is no explanation how exactly they acquired the Tenth metal (could they just pick it up? Was it stuck somewhere and did they have to pull it out like Excalibur? Are there any dangers down there at all? Just how easy is it?). We do get an explanation through exposition that it’s the metal of the forge itself, and also the metal of pure possibility, but that’s about it. Because I had no prior knowledge about this Tenth metal, and there has been no focus on finding this metal in order to defeat Barbatos and save existence, the reveal falls flat. If I did have all this prior knowledge and was therefore able to recognize the Tenth metal immediately, this could’ve been a true moment of triumph. What also makes it less strong than it could’ve been is that all the other heroes are given the Tenth metal as well, and now they are unstoppable warriors that simply can’t be defeated. From a writer’s perspective, simply giving this material to the characters is easy. But, unfortunately, I don’t feel like they’ve earned it because there’s no build-up toward it. Sure, it’s cool, but I need a little more than that to get excited about it.

As for the second point:

We find the Batman Who Laughs inside a cave where he has the Over-Monitor strapped to a wheelchair. Batman then walks in, and because of the combination of positive energy, negative energy and dark energy inside the cave, Batman’s Tenth metal armor doesn’t work here. But, although it’s also unexplained why the energy cancels out the Tenth metal, I’d say this is in fact a good thing. It allows for an actual fight between Batman and Laughs where Batman has to rely on his own skills. In a universe where Batman’s relying too much on magical artifacts and gadgets as it is, it’s good to separate him from these items every once in a while. But here’s where things get questionable again. First, Laughs actually shoots Batman in the gut, and the bullet comes out of Batman’s back. I’m willing to overlook the fact that Laughs seemingly pulls the gun out of nowhere, but Batman then standing up to fight just as hard as before is, well, laughable. Batman’s not a god, he’s a human being. If you fire a bullet straight through a human being, it doesn’t matter in what sort of peak condition they are. They will be incapacitated. So, if a writer doesn’t want Batman to be incapacitated in the final battle—simply don’t shoot him in the gut! Secondly, none other than the Joker shows up. It’s cool to see Batman and Joker fighting against Laughs because it works thematically: Laughs looks like a combination of Batman and Joker (even though he claims he’s not). What doesn’t work, though, is the way this is set up. There’s no build-up toward Joker’s appearance; there’s no answer as to how he got there; and in the end he’s simply left behind as the cave’s ceiling collapses on top of him and Laughs. I’m left wondering what Joker added to the scene, other than some genuinely awesome artwork and entertaining lines. I think a straight-up duel between Batman and Laughs would’ve been just as awesome, and it would’ve made much more sense. Joker coming in out of nowhere just seems weird and unnecessary to me.

Finally, what I didn’t realize on first opening this issue is that there’s an epilogue at the end. Guest artists Mikel Janin and Alvaro Martinez are both featured, taking over from Capullo & co. In this epilogue we see Bruce Wayne inviting the other heroes to Wayne Manor for a dinner party, and it’s nice to see Bruce opening up and embracing that they’re a team. He even thanks his friends multiple times for their help, and we see him smiling throughout. The entire epilogue has an optimistic, hopeful feeling to it, and so it’s fun to read. However, it can’t be denied that, ultimately, this entire epilogue is an extended, 12-page advertisement for Justice League: No Justice as well as the other upcoming Justice League titles. Add onto this the fact that the main story’s conclusion was brought to us through exposition, and I’m afraid that Metal proper just doesn’t feel like it stands on its own. First we gloss over the ending, then we jump right into the teaser for the next event series. Now, don’t get me wrong, the exposition in Metal’s conclusion is by no means badly written and quite lyrical, and it has some major implications that are sure to spark discussions among fans. But I do think it’s a shame because those 12 epilogue pages could’ve been used to transform this exposition into an actual story, showing to us the ending of the story instead of simply giving us a description of what happens. Especially since what happens has such major implications, I don’t think that it’s being done justice. If that’s taken care of first and if there’s any room left, then there could’ve been an epilogue to set up the next event. But right now the epilogue is here at the cost of what could’ve been an amazing ending to Metal proper, and I’m feeling disappointed.

As for art, Greg Capullo once more brings his A game to the series. I feel like I’ve been repeating myself in these reviews, but it has to be said. As always, the quality of his work comes from detailed backgrounds, awesome and consistent character designs, dynamic fight scenes that put you in the moment, and interesting panel layouts that give the book a cinematic aesthetic throughout. It’s as if I’m watching a movie rather than reading a comic, especially because there’s movement in every single panel, and smaller panels build toward splash pages for maximum effect.

Glapion is back on ink duties, and enhances Capullo’s pencils with even more detail. He highlights facial expressions, and even the rubble in the background. He also works with shadows really well, for instance by rendering characters in some panels as silhouettes, which adds to the cinematic feeling because it creates more contrast between light and dark. He manages to find just the right balance between using shadows and leaving enough room for the coloring.

Plascencia’s palette is once again incredibly varied. There are so many different colors on these pages, some of which shouldn’t match, and yet he manages to make it all look like it belongs together. For example, in one panel we see a dark battleground. Red spheres float in a purple sky, and most tones and hues are muted to induce a gritty feeling while examining the image. But straight through it all busts a glowing green truck, one of Green Lantern’s light constructs. It clearly doesn’t belong in the image, but the fact that it’s there anyway contributes to the notion that this is Green Lantern, a warrior of light, combating opponents of darkness, who are inherently different from him. It goes to show that stories can also be told through colors, and Plascencia’s doing a stellar job of it.

Recommended if…

  • You have been invested in Metal and want to see how it ends

  • You just want the story to show you cool moments, even at the expense of logic

  • You want to behold glorious artwork that screams metal! \m/

  • You are a fan of Wonder Woman

Overall: It’s not a bad comic. It’s actually very entertaining if you’re looking for a straight-up fight comic and if you won’t ask too many questions. However, as I tried to analyze this issue, I ended up questioning too many moments, which ultimately took away from the cool-factor and just confused me. Reveals that should have been epic turn out awkward because they lack a clear build-up. And many other moments, intended to progress the plot, are left unexplained and turn into deus ex machinas. So, all things considered, it’s an entertaining read with awesome artwork, but structurally it doesn’t always make sense, and unfortunately the ending is rushed in favor of an extended advertisement for upcoming series disguised as an epilogue. But if you’re looking to complete your Metal collection, I’d say just pick this up.

Score: 5.5/10