Alright, full disclosure: I hate Dark Nights: Death Metal.

I hate Dark Nights: Death Metal.

I’m not blaming anyone in particular for why I hate it – I’ve heard enough about the industry by now to know that even finishing a comic book on time is something of a thermodynamic miracle. But whether I attribute it to the writers (the artists are doing great!), the editors, or the higher-ups in publishing, I can’t bring myself to be as invested in Death Metal, the same way I was invested in Snyder’s original crossover epic. His run on Justice League – co-written by James Tynion IV, with contributions from Joshua Williamson on No Justice and Batman/Superman – started off incredibly strong! However, the further I delved into its issues, the more disillusioned I became with the idea of where the story was headed. I didn’t like Perpetua at all: the image of a giant, skinny woman with space eyes is never going to be as powerful an image for the creation of the Multiverse than a mysterious, cosmic hand gripping a swirling galaxy. Year of the Villain was rather tiring on all counts, as I can’t particularly think of many benefits it made to the stories it forced itself into across the DC line – despite some enjoyable one-shots. And, because this asshole is on the cover and I’d be remiss not to mention him: I am exhausted with the Batman Who Laughs. Oh, sorry, the “Darkest Knight”, because they couldn’t even spare Watchmen from this convoluted mess of a story, dragging Doctor Manhattan into the picture just to literally give the Batman Who Laughs an incomprehensible power boost.

Death Metal is so entirely separate from anything else DC is doing that the creators of the story have to create their own stakes, and their own way of resolving them: making up random concepts to pull out of a hat as the story goes deeper up its own behind. It leaves the audience just tapping their feet; waiting for them to inevitably be five seconds away from losing before another deus ex machina bursts from the floor, saving the day for everyone at the last minute. Like every other story in this arc. When “everything matters”, all that does is give everything an incomprehensible level of weight that the storytellers can’t hope to match, and suddenly nothing matters all over again. It’s tiring, and I’m frustrated that there’s still so much more to go before this story ends, and we’re shoved into the next big event DC wants to cram down our throats.

…Oh, Justice League #53? Written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Xermanico? Yeah, I thought it was alright!

I know, I know: a lot of buildup for an underwhelming climax – wow, where have I seen that before? – but there honestly isn’t too much to say about part one of Doom Metal, other than it’s decent enough. It’s actually comprehensible, which is a big plus in my book. Williamson tones everything way down for a hot minute, which is a nice breather after having just cooled off from the last issue, Trinity Crisis. The issue centres around four characters: most notably Nightwing, who is as relieved to have his memories back as we are! It was a wise decision to make him the main character of this story; not only do I always enjoy a healthy helping of Dick (Grayson), but it’s nice to have a character who is a little separated from everything that’s happened. His dialogue grounds the reader a little, especially when everything else around him has gone to hell.

The other characters in the story (so far, at least) are Detective Chimp, Hawkgirl and Lex Luthor. These inclusions are good decisions all around – ESPECIALLY Hawkgirl, who has been confoundingly absent from the pages of Justice League in previous issues that I’ve reviewed. Her reaction to seeing Luthor is very understandable, and it felt like something that we should have seen much earlier by now: I hope it’s not the last of it, considering how much he put her through in Snyder and Tynion’s storyline. Luthor coming clean and admitting he was wrong isn’t exactly what I’d call the shock of the century, but it’s certainly better than nothing: not that I’m holding out any hope he’ll “redeem” himself and find his way into the side of good once again.

Aside from that, however, the content of the issue itself is rather forgettable. There’s a great scene at the beginning, involving a flashback where Dick is introduced to the Justice League for the first time: it’s a great moment that settles us in for a story that seems like it’ll be much more character-focused than some of the larger tales in the mainline issues, and I definitely want to draw attention to it! After that, though, the issue doesn’t cover much. There’s a relatively by-the-numbers fight scene involving Detective Chimp and a squadron of twisted Creepers and Solomon Grundys (at least it’s not more Batman), followed by a thoroughly expected monologue from Lex Luthor. It sets up where the rest of Doom Metal is going to go, and they have me on board – but there wasn’t anything that elicited a reaction from me aside from a short nod. Fortunately, the issue isn’t a chore to read: in large part thanks to Xermanico’s art!

I brought this up in my review of Cold War, but Xermanico does an excellent job of presenting the Justice League with a mythic weight to them: making the characters feel like titans walking the earth when they enter a scene! From the low angle we see them from, to the impact of their strikes against an enemy, these are characters who speak volumes with their presence alone. This, however, is not the typical Justice League – so it’s in equal parts great to see Xermanico able to extend his talents towards new characters, with the potential to actually develop outside the constraints of the main Death Metal story. I genuinely smile every time I see Xermanico on a book I get to review: and if this ominous page is any indication of the content we’ll get in future issues, I’m definitely ready for more.

Recommended If:

  • You’re reading Death Metal, and you need a story that’s a little less dense than the main plotline so far.
  • You feel so desperate for Nightwing content that you’ll read a tie-in to an event you’re not even reading.
  • …That’s it, really. It’s a tie-in, after all – but it’s not a bad one!

Overall

Doom Metal is ramping up to be my favourite Death Metal content I’ve read so far… not that the bar is particularly high. Whether I end up enjoying the final product or not, I’m just happy to be reading a comic that is trying to tell a smaller story with some of my favourite characters – even if they’re stuck in a cosmic epic that I have no real investment in.

Score: 6/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch