Despite being somewhat critical of Death Metal, I was enjoying the series. However, in my opinion the overall quality of the series has been going down. The fact that DC has announced an overabundance of tie-in issues doesn’t help, especially not when the tie-ins that are already out haven’t been great. This event is unfocused, with inconsistencies in tone and narrative between issues. So far, I’ve been optimistic that the creative teams can course correct, but I’m not so sure anymore after reading Trinity Crisis #1. Let’s have a look.
Right off the bat, I don’t like this issue. I’ve always found the overuse of exposition in Death Metal to be quite cumbersome, but while I’ve been able to put up with it before, I think this issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Now, to be fair, I don’t mind that Wonder Woman explains the team’s mission in the early pages: in this case, I think it’s a good reminder of what the team is setting out to do. It helps to create a kind of focus, and it kicks off the story. But as soon as Wonder Woman has finished the mission briefing, the book becomes overwritten very fast, and whatever focus the briefing initially may have created is pretty much gone now.
In this book, characters spend so much time explaining concepts to each other that readers will be able to understand on their own, that it gets a little annoying. As a result, some of these bits of dialogue don’t actually contribute anything to the overall narrative. For example, at some point Swamp Thing decides to merge into the Green, and he explains exactly what he intends to do. Right after he has done so, Batman, for some reason, spells it out for everyone. Another example is when Wonder Woman explains once again that the Batman Who Laughs shouldn’t be allowed to catch Wally, because then he will become even stronger than Perpetua, etc. But this book will most likely not be of interest to those who haven’t already been following the main Death Metal series, so most people who pick up this book will know exactly what’s going on. Why is there such a need to overexplain these concepts and events? I wish comic book writers who do this would trust their audience a little more. There’s only so much repetition that readers can take. In fact, it can become a little offensive after a while, because it boils down to insulting a reader’s intelligence when it happens too often.
Furthermore, this book feels very rushed. There are scenes in this book that just seem superficial and pointless. A quick example would be the interaction between Jonah Hex and Jarro. Perhaps Snyder intends for this to be a friendly rivalry, but to me it just looks like Jonah is picking on Jarro—it feels mean-spirited. Another example is the interaction between Jonah and Harley. Jonah gives Harley a pep talk of sorts and Harley kisses Jonah’s cheek. I suppose that this is meant to show to the audience that these characters are having a bonding experience, but since it’s not reincorporated in a meaningful way later on, and only lasts four small panels on a single page, it feels more like a distracting interruption of the narrative than a good character moment. A third example would be the use of the Dark Batmen: they really just exist in the background, aren’t fleshed out at all, and don’t do anything. There might be the illusion that they do something, but these characters never stick around long and don’t contribute anything to the story. I’ll explain this in more detail.
At a certain point the heroes are attacked by Dark Batmen. One of these Dark Batmen is actually a version of Martha Wayne, and another is Diana and Bruce’s daughter from another universe. But these characters appear so briefly that we don’t learn anything about them, and so I wonder what’s the point of including them at all? To make it even worse, none of these Dark Batmen pose much of a threat and as a result end up looking silly. What happens is actually rather unclear. Jarro attempts to use his mindpowers on them but discovers that BWL has shielded them all from such mental attacks. Superman then suggests that Jarro should try to mind control Castle Bat itself, because this castle is alive with the mind of a Bruce Wayne. Somehow Jarro can control the castle, and somehow the Dark Batmen that our heroes had been fighting just kind of vanish, and somehow our heroes escape.
Why would Jarro’s mind powers work on Castle Bat and not the other Dark Batmen? The idea that BWL would not shield Castle Bat from mental attacks doesn’t make any sense. Moreover, I’ve been noticing a trend as of late in many superhero comics, including the Death Metal issues. Writers seem to have a habit of introducing trouble, enemies and obstacles for our heroes, and then have our heroes instantly overcome those with ease, or even just avoid them altogether. I don’t like saying this, but it’s lazy writing.
Perhaps this issue’s biggest offense is that I don’t see any reason why this should be a separate tie-in. What happens here is part of the main story. This stuff should happen in the core Death Metal issues. Of course I don’t exactly know how Death Metal #4 will pick up the story, but I imagine that it could be confusing for those readers who have only been reading the core issues. Will those readers find our heroes in completely different places from where they saw them last time without any explanation, essentially skipping a chapter? Will there be even more clunky exposition to explain what’s happened in between issues #3 and #4? How will this be collected in trade? I feel like DC is just forcing readers to buy more content to get the full story, even though readers were promised that if they just stuck to the core issues, they would be fine. Now, I would love to be wrong here, but I have a bad feeling about this.
In my notes, I have more points that I would like to raise, but at that point I will end up just writing a long, negative rant. That takes a lot of energy, and I’m not willing to spend that much energy on a comic that I don’t like. I’m sure that additional points will be raised in the comments section, anyway. For now, I’ll wrap up this review with some commentary on the art.
While I dislike the writing, I do enjoy Manapul and Herring’s work. It’s fun to see so many different heroes on the page, and the compositions of splash pages are great. For example, page one delivers immediate eye candy. Spectre is a giant figure in the foreground, who comes flying down toward the Anti-Monitor in the center of the image. They’re surrounded by many different heroes, from Superman to Captain Marvel, from Adam Strange to Green Lantern, from Wonder Woman to Peacemaker. It’s a nice homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths that is sure to hook readers and get them to read on.
Furthermore, even though there are quite a few scenes where people just stand around talking, it’s the character designs, poses and the colors that make every page vibrant and beautiful. In fact, the colors are by far my favorite in the entire book, because there are so many different hues, tones, layers, and variations in styles that come together in an incredible visual spectacle. Good coloring can really lift artwork to another level, and that’s exactly what Herring’s work accomplishes. With such a solid foundation by Manapul, you can’t really go wrong with art like this.
- You have been reading Death Metal. This issue is really a chapter of the main story and should’ve been a core issue.
- You don’t mind lazy writing as long as the art is stellar.
Overall: The problem is that this should have been a chapter in the core Death Metal series, not a separate tie-in, but I really can’t recommend this book. The rest of the story now becomes problematic because without this chapter, readers will miss some information that they need to understand where our heroes will be in Death Metal #4. Furthermore, this issue isn’t well-written—the encounters between the heroes and villains are lazy and too convenient, and there are too many inconsistencies and illogical narrative choices here. The art is good, though, so if you do end up buying the comic, at least you can marvel at Manapul and Herring’s work.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.