The first issue of Death Metal set quite a dark tone for the series. It promised a dark fantasy take on the DC Universe, and its aesthetic matched that tone well. This issue, however, breaks from the established tone and the story seems less focused because of it. Oh, and there is also that other thing that happens that we need to talk about, but I’ll put that in spoiler tags below. So, without further ado, let’s have a look!
The first issue had its silly moments, but on the whole I thought it set up an intriguing story with violent horror elements. The horror and jokes were balanced well and I knew that if the series would continue to be like that, I’d be in for a real treat. In the first issue, the jokes helped to inject some fun into an otherwise bleak narrative, but in this second issue there’s a lot of emphasis on jokes and gags, and, unfortunately, almost none of them really work for me. To me they come across as forced. For example, the issue opens with The Batom stalking through grass, only to get squashed by one of the giant tires of this truck called the Batmobeast. I get the feeling that this is meant to be funny, but I just think it’s weird. It also doesn’t really go anywhere and an entire page is devoted to it.
Then there is the scene where Swamp Thing makes a “dad joke,” and Wally literally calls him out on that. Four panels out of all six on that page are dedicated to this joke, and again I’m wondering what’s the point? There is so much emphasis on these gags that they pull me out of the story, and it feels like they diminish the stakes. I’m all for humorous storytelling, but in this case it goes against the dark tone that I felt in the first issue and so it creates inconsistency. It’s like this book is trying to decide if it wants to be more of a light-hearted comedy, or if it wants to be a poignant dark fantasy. Yes, these things can be balanced out against each other, but right now the book is leaning so heavily into that silliness that it’s getting in its own way, and as a result it’s harder for me to get immersed in this otherwise intriguing and awesome world that Snyder and Capullo are building.
The book also continues to be very wordy. The dialogue is often filled with exposition, which makes it too obvious that the writer is trying to get information across to the reader. It would be more immersive if there was more realistic dialogue between the characters that allows readers to arrive at certain conclusions along with those characters. Sometimes characters explain details to each other which they already know. Sometimes the obvious is stated.
Now, while I criticize this, I realize that writing a story like this is not easy. The book is ambitious in the sense that it tries to include many previous stories while at the same time remaining accessible to new readers. But it’s precisely because this book tries to include all that material that exposition becomes inescapable, which leads to walls of text to provide context for various scenes. At times it can feel like a bit of a chore to get through all of that text, especially when it’s mostly the dialogue that advances the story as opposed to characters’ actions.
Despite that, the best part in this book is the conversation between Batman and Wonder Woman. These two characters are so different from one another, but despite their clashing philosophies they’re still old friends who put their trust in each other. First they argue, but eventually Batman turns to Wonder Woman and asks her what her plan is, and they end up working together again. I want to bring this up because after criticizing a large portion of the dialogue, I want to highlight how good this conversation between these two characters actually is. It’s dynamic: though their personalities are so different, they still manage to work things out together. The discussion also gives us some more insight into where these two characters are at this point in the story. The tone of the conversation, as opposed to the aforementioned gags, is also very serious, and addresses some of the stakes. Going forward, I personally would like to see more of this and less of the gags.
As for the art, it continues to be great throughout! This art team—Capullo, Glapion and FCO—can create environments and atmospheres like no other. For example, the hidden tomb where Wonder Woman finds Batman is appropriately gloomy and eerie. The shadows, the blue lighting, and the emptiness of the place feels haunting, and reflects Batman’s situation as Batman seems to be desperately searching for a way to combat the Batman Who Laughs and Perpetua. The place also reflects Batman’s dark demeanor, and when Wonder Woman comes in, with her colorful outfit and dyed hair, she’s like a light to Batman’s darkness, as well as the voice of reason with the plan.
What’s more, even though most of the scenes mainly show characters in conversation, Capullo continues to draw dynamic and interesting page layouts. He switches up close-ups with medium and larger frames and almost never uses the same layout twice. And yet the visual side of the story is incredibly easy to follow and nothing feels out of place. Capullo is a master of sequential art, and it only gets better with Glapion’s solid inks and FCO’s beautiful palette.
Before I wrap this up, it’s time to address that one thing. I bet most of you have already read the issue and already know what I’m talking about, but for those who wish to remain spoiler-free, I’ve wrapped it up in spoiler tags.
Of course I’m talking about the Batman Who Laughs, who is not quite dead, as you can see in the image above. He is reborn in a new body and now has a new name: The Darkest Knight. See, while I can put up with all the exposition and the gags, this is where the creative team is starting to lose me a little bit. On the one hand, the idea of putting him in Manhattan’s body is a potentially interesting idea because it makes him so much more powerful. But, even though his new name is an improvement over the cumbersome name he used to have, I think that perhaps Snyder is taking this a step too far.
This character was scary in the Batman Who Laughs miniseries, and he was all right in the original Metal because he was new and I was willing to give this character a chance. But I honestly think that there’s nothing left to say about him. Boosting his power level, changing his appearance, and giving him a new name are superficial changes if this doesn’t add anything to his arc. The character has become so over-the-top by now that he’s hard to take seriously anymore and is no longer threatening, and as such has become a parody of himself…is that really what the creative team is after?
- You are a fan of the Batman Who Laughs.
- You want to see more of Batman and Wonder Woman’s great character dynamics.
- You don’t mind a wordy comic book.
Overall: This is a solid issue with excellent art, but because it’s very wordy and the plot is advanced mainly through dialogue, it feels like not a whole lot has happened. The issue is also leaning too much into the comedy, which takes me out of the story sometimes as it makes it less focused. Then there’s also that thing I brought up above, in the spoiler tags. Nevertheless, I still recommend this issue. The world, the characters and the story is still intriguing and fun, so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.