Dark Nights: Death Metal: Multiverses End. Damn… That’s a mouthful. With a title like that, it should be a fair warning to stay away. And honestly, you might want to stay away because this is not good.
James Tynion. I think, by now, it’s pretty clear that his writing style doesn’t jive with me. Generally speaking. Yes, there are some exceptions where I find his work to be quite good, but these moments are becoming fewer and further between. If there are three things that I’d call out as opportunities of Tynion’s, it would be too much exposition, an inability to capture the voice of characters, and overindulgence. This book suffers terribly from all three of these.
Before we get into the details though, let me give you a rundown of what happens in this book. If Legends of the Dark Knights was the Batman special, and Speed Metal was the Flash special, then this chapter is, to a degree, a Green Lantern special. To battle Perpetua, the Green Lanterns have traveled to multiple Earths and joined up with various heroes from the Multiverse. You’ve got everyone from Calvin Ellis to Captain Carrot. So, if you love visiting these obscure, often neglected heroes, then this book could be for you.
On each of these Earths, our heroes are fighting off hordes of villains sent by the Batman Who Laughs in an attempt to destroy towers that are serving as tuning forks for Perpetua. But this particular issue mainly features John Stewart on Earth 3… And guess who our heroes are fighting? The Crime Syndicate. Specifically, Ultraman, Superwoman, and Owlman.
Are you scratching your head as well? Are you trying to figure out how our heroes are fighting the Crime Syndicate? Are you trying to figure out how the Crime Syndicate is alive? Yeah… Me too. In fact, I went to the rest of the review team to debate how and if this is possible.
Now, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert of metaphysics and spacetime, but as far as I can tell, our heroes are still in the same multiverse. The main Earth is still the same Earth that all of our heroes are fighting for. Therefore, this is the same multiverse and same Earth 3 that had the Crime Syndicate who were featured in Forever Evil and Darkseid War. This is the same Crime Syndicate who all died, and the same Owlman that Dr. Manhattan obliterated. The book even directly references these events.
Now, some of the review team came back and said, “No, this is a completely different multiverse, and that’s what the Justice League went into at the end of Snyder’s Justice League run.” Which perhaps. But if that’s the case, then how many multiverses are there? How many Earth-0s are there? How many Earth-3s exist? No matter what the answer is, the one thing that can be said is that this is all extremely convoluted, contrived, and confusing. If a group of people is debating this subject for about an hour – especially when the intention of the book isn’t to strike up a conversation debating space-time – then, as the writer, you failed to do your job well.
As I predicted in Upcoming Comics, this issue features a lot of exposition. I’m talking walls and walls of exposition. There’s a whole lot of talking and grand-standing between John Stewart and Owlman, and it makes this story a bit of a chore to read. The sad part is that you have all of this exposition, and the book still fails to deliver a clear story. It doesn’t necessarily fail in terms of what’s going on, but how. Again, is this our multiverse, or some other multiverse? If it is another multiverse, why aren’t our heroes recruiting the Captain Carrot of our multiverse and the Captain Carrot of this multiverse? How exactly does saving this multiverse help our multiverse? It’s too convoluted, and the idea of telling stories within a multiverse is simple enough.
Now, earlier I said this book might be for you if you get excited about seeing a range of obscure characters, especially those that tend to only pop up during stories about the multiverse. The potential problem here is if you want these characters to be represented well. Unfortunately, much in the way that Tynion struggles with Batman, he fails to capture the voices of these characters. Instead, it is his, James Tynion’s, voice that comes through.
John Stewart was probably the most on-point of all of the characters featured here, but even he came off as a watered-down, lifeless version of himself. Then there is Owlman who, instead of feeling dangerous, comes off as a campy, over-the-top villain that feels like he would have existed in Powerpuff Girls or something. In fact, so much of this book screamed “late-90’s Cartoon Network.” From the script to the art, the tone and vibe just didn’t sit well with me.
And I would’ve been ok with this had the entire story taken place on Captain Carrot’s home Earth of Earth-26. Honestly, that could have been a blast. But, it doesn’t take place there. As stated, most of this story takes place on Earth 3. But whether it is Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Jessica Cruz, or Simon Baz, every Green Lantern reads as Generic Green Lantern #1. If you have distinctly different characters, then utilize what makes them unique. Otherwise, what’s the point?
But to make all of this even worse, the writing is so heavy-handed. There are multiple lines about punching Nazis – which, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for punching Nazis, but how many times do you have to write it within 40 pages? I often find there is no finesse to Tynion’s scripts, and Multiverses End is a perfect example of this. Everything is so on-the-nose that it is almost unbearable. And the refrigerator line in regards to Kyle Rayner… Ugh…
Then you have the entire subplot with Baby Batman and his corps or Rainbow Batmen. If you feel that Owlman’s representation is camp, then this blows them out of the water. It also feels like a wasted opportunity – a trend that seems to be ever-present in Death Metal in general. You’ve got all of these Batmen with the various colored Lantern rings, and then they’re just there to be cannon fodder. On top of it, Baby Batman isn’t handled nearly as well under Tynion’s pen as compared to what Ellis did with him. It’s just further proof that quality writers make a huge difference.
The real question is if this book is critical or important in the grand scheme of things. That remains to be seen. I mean, the Lanterns manage to turn the tides on Perpetua, so that is important, but does it matter enough to make Multiverses End required reading? I seriously hope not.
Juan Gedeon delivers the art for this issue, and I’m not a fan of his work. To be fair, it’s fine, but his aesthetic is a little too cartoony for me. As I said in reference to Tynion’s script, had most of the story occurred on Earth-26, this could have been a hell of a lot of fun and played to the strengths of both Tynion and Gedeon. But it doesn’t.
Trying to play this story as straight while the depictions look like caricatures makes everything feel as though it is clashing. Even the look of the characters is highly inconsistent. There are panels where characters look muscular but proportioned. Then there are panels where they look like Hulked-out versions of themselves. If I were DC, I’d keep Gedeon off of in-continuity titles, and throw him on something like Teen Titans Go! His art seems more tailored to that type of storytelling.
- You’re a Captain Carrot stan.
- I mean, if you’re a completionist, then you might as well.
Death Metal his been missing the mark for me in general, but Multiverses End really missed the mark for me. This is the first story in the series that I truly failed to have any positive takeaways from, and the surge of tie-ins and specials is making the overarching story a bit of a chore. Tynion fails to deliver a compelling script that could have been epic or completely campy in a good way. Instead, the story is all over the place, and serves as a reminder that sometimes writers need to be edited or guided. You can read this if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it.