As an event, Death Metal has generally not been my cup of tea. I was pretty excited when it started, but all the added stories have done little to keep me feeling that way. In fact, a lot of what it’s been doing has pushed me away. So it’s safe to say I didn’t have high hopes for Rise of the New God. And while this is not my favorite book of all time, I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out.
I was surprised in more ways than one, specifically the fact that the Darkest Knight has very little to do with this book at all. It’s named after him, and has his picture on the cover. You can even say that the impetuous for everything that happens is because of him. But if you thought the book was about The Darkest Knight, you’d also be wrong. In fact, this is really the story of Chronicler. And while it does feature some planet tossing, the story isn’t as action packed as it would lead you to believe either.
Chronicler is exactly as his name indicates. He writes down the stories of doomed universes and moves on to record the next one and the next one. He is supposed to be an impartial observer. One who simply writes down the events and goes on. The story follows him as he visits characters like the Psycho Pirate, Virl Dox, and even Metron himself trying to gain knowledge and context for the universe and how it came to the point of such destruction. Each successive visit intrigues him more and more and makes him break rules to find out just what makes this universe of potential tick.
Much of his curiosity is centered around how much squandered potential there is in the universe. This is where the story falls into being very meta. A lot of his dialogue is focused on questioning where things went wrong, demanding context, and asking “how could this world have gotten so bad, when it is so full?” If that feels a little like every rant you’ve had about DC in the last year or so, then you’re getting the same feeling from it that I did. Chronicler reads very much as a mouthpiece for readers who feel like things have been in decline for a while. I actually enjoyed that aspect of this story. I’ve felt like Tynion has done this a few times in some of his other book, voicing his or readers frustrations with certain comics through characters. So in some senses I’ve seen this before, but it also plays into what I want to see, which is someone else as frustrated as I am. Does it deserve a whole book? I don’t really think so. But it is kind of cathartic to read.
This wouldn’t be a story without some kind of growth or change, so of course these questions and answers spurn some inspiration in Chronicler, and some hope. Despite the darker beginning to the tale, hope is the theme this book is really pushing, hope in a world so full of possibility it cannot die. After so many stories that leave me feeling sad or frustrated, it’s nice to see one actively pushing for a more hopeful outcome. I like this idea, and I’m always going to be someone who’s attracted to stories about hope. I also enjoy that it comes out of some frustration in just how things got to this point. Again, it’s very reflective of me as a reader, both irritated and hopeful for the future.
As hopeful as it is, I’m not sure that it really warrants an entire book. Especially not a jumbo sized spin off story. It has some nice sentiments, but there’s very little in this story that makes me feel like there is a reason we’re being told this. There are no stakes, not in a universe we’ve been told is dying and doomed. While hope keeping a universe alive is a good trope, the book never tells me just how it will do that. Am I to assume it is in the memory of Chronicler? His book? Or does this hope somehow work to physically change the fate of the universe? Perpetua and the Darkest Knight fill the backdrop of this story as they destroy world after world in their battle, and nothing that happens here does anything to stop that or even slow it down. So again, I cannot help but ask, why I’m reading this book? Why pick up a story that is both not about the titular character nor about one I really know at all? What are the stakes? And when I look over it, I find very few.
While I’m still torn on the story itself, I can confidently say I loved the art. Jesus Merino makes the book look gorgeous. There’s a lot of sweeping scenes of the universe and the fight going on between the two titans in it, and those are honestly just really pretty to look at. Arreola’s colors bring life to the pencils and really make this book look clean and lovely. Merino also does a great job with little details. Chronicler looks like a pain to draw through multiple pages, and yet his design never looks sloppy or unformed. He’s always detailed and even if he’s in the background key features are easy to pick out.
The Weight of Leadership
In addition to the main story, Rise of the New God includes a bonus tale. Written by Bryan Hill, and illustrated by Nic Virella it checks back in with the Green Lanterns after the events of Multiverse’s End.
The art here is much lighter than that of the main story, and it works well for the short it features. It feels very open, and with its clean lines and bright colors it matches the more hopeful tone of the story. It’s not lacking in detail or texture either, especially when the group comes upon The Darkest Knight. Where the Lanterns are bright and hopeful, he is inky darkness and static.
This short is really just a look at how the Green Lanterns and the people they rescued during Multiverse’s End get to Earth-0. It’s a bite sized tale of hope and leadership, and I think it’s a nice bit of fun. Unfortunately, it also really doesn’t carry many stakes since it’s sandwiched between stories, and some of its ending is spoiled in the main story of New God. Still, if you wanted to know how the Lantern’s escaped The Bleed, this story will give you that.
- Hope in all its forms can be a good thing
- Fiction that leans into more meta ideas is something you enjoy
- It’s certainly a form of catharsis to commiserate with a book
There are aspects of this book I enjoyed. It plays with some interesting ideas, and I do like how meta it feels at points. I even love the message of hope, how it strives to be a book about finding inspiration even in the darkest hours. But it never really pulls itself out of being a filler story to find real stakes in the greater narrative of Death Metal. That more than anything, leaves me wondering why we even have this book. It also makes it hard to recommend. If books that are all about inspiration and revitalizing love for something are your thing, then this is a good book to pick up. If you want something that pushes the greater story forward, there’s not much here for you.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.