Who, in your opinion, are the best adversaries in all of fiction?

The dynamic of the arch-enemy is one that has persisted for many a decade, and it’s created a sea of wonderful content. The creative potential of two individuals at diametrically opposed ends of morality… well, it’s a well that you can seemingly draw from endlessly. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Apparently, a torrential downpour of multi-million-dollar film franchises, among other things.

So, who are our candidates?

Batman and the Joker, of course. Holmes and Moriarty. Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, Hannibal and Will Graham, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, me and that one bastard who beat me at Quiz Night- needless to say, I could go on. But I would posit that none of them are true arch-enemies. None of these dynamics, compelling as they are, represent views so utterly antithetical to each other, so much so that conflict is the only inevitable conclusion.

Really, the best example of that is Doom Metal vs Robin King.

I’m not entirely joking, either. DC has released two different Death Metal stories this week, and I’ve been saddled with the… ahem. “Fortunate” task, of reviewing the both of them. Those who have read my reviews so far will know that I’m very much not a fan of Death Metal – but you’d also know that I’ve been having a surprising amount of fun with its Justice League tie-in! It’s this conflict of emotions that has made me turn these reviews into a two-parter: my Justice League review will present the good things about Death Metal, while my Robin King review will dive into the bad.

Written by Joshua Williamson and penciled by Robson Rocha, Doom Metal Part 3 begins to ramp up the stakes of this tie-in; which has, so far, been largely separate from the rest of Death Metal. With the exception of Lex Luthor, Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter, this comic is particularly interesting in who it chooses to focus on: namely, characters that have largely been kept to the sidelines of DC’s recent events. Nightwing has only recently recovered from the Ric Grayson debacle, Detective Chimp has been keeping busy in the pages of Justice League Dark, and Starfire and Cyborg have been MIA across the stars in Justice League Odyssey. It’s honestly a rewarding reading experience: for those who have read some or all of these comics, you get the sense like all of these threads across the three JL books are coming together, uniting for one final epic. For those who haven’t read each series, it’s a refreshing combination of characters in a unique situation – one that has emotional weight to its players.

And really, the characters are the strength of this book. I’ve talked before about this, and at length – mainly because it’s been very refreshing to see stories with Dick Grayson at the forefront of DC once again. Every member of the cast (except Cyborg, surprising no-one) has been getting this treatment too; one might not normally expect an impassioned monologue from Detective Chimp about the loss of his friend in the same story as one where Hawkgirl socks Lex Luthor in his stupid fucking face, but both hit their mark just so. The second one feels especially cathartic, because I’ve been begging for it to happen for over forty issues now.

The story wouldn’t keep you as invested if it didn’t have great art, though, which is why I was very happy to see Robson Rocha taking the reins for this issue. His artwork is most assuredly on par with Xermanico’s, at the very least; and seeing the both of them in this tie-in makes me feel like even the middling filler issues of Justice League before Death Metal serve this story, with both artists bringing similar tropes and storytelling styles from those comics into the fray. My favourite touch that Rocha added was the wonderful addition of the tiny Starros littering the negative space between panels, as the characters slowly begin to realize what is causing their hallucinations. It’s moments like this that make you stop for a moment and think, “hey, I’m having fun with this!”.

This, I believe, is when Death Metal is at its best. There’s a big push within the event itself to make things seem like everything matters, but you never get a better sense with that than you do in the quiet moments: moments where characters can reflect on themselves and consider what the stakes mean for them, beyond plot devices and increasingly ludicrous power scaling. There is a deep and rich history to these characters, and as a creator, I think you should do well to savour that.

Recommended If:

  • Death Metal’s promise of an interconnected story where every character comes into play is important to you, and you want to see it done right!
  • You’ve been missing out on some lovely interactions with Dick Grayson and Starfire, and have been waiting for Hawkgirl to step into centre stage once again.
  • You like giant Starros. There are a lot.

Overall

This is everything I like about Death Metal wrapped into an issue, and it’s been making for a very enjoyable bi-weekly read. There’s legitimate merit to wanting to make an event that tries to tackle all of continuity, ambitious as it may be: it shows a respect for the intelligence and commitment of the reader, and makes it feel like the time they invested was worthwhile. When you can do that while still making it accessible for those who haven’t read everything, then you have something special on your hands.

Score: 8/10

Now, Robin King on the other hand…

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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