Dark Nights: Death Metal #5 review

So far, Death Metal has been hit or miss for me. The artwork throughout has been outstanding: I love all the character designs and the overall death metal-inspired aesthetic. I also like that there is this looming threat against the multiverse and that Wonder Woman is leading the heroes in an effort to overcome this threat. But something that I have been struggling with is how chaotic and disorganized this whole event has been, at least in my perception. For example, when the Robin King tie-in first came out, it contradicted the character’s origin as shown in the core story. Another Robin King tie-in was released to explain this contradiction, but this only resulted in a contrived and convoluted reading experience that I, for one, could have done without. Speaking of tie-ins, there has been an overabundance of them, and most of them don’t seem necessary or enjoyable to me, to a point that they only distract from the main event—even though the central thesis of Death Metal has been that everything matters. To me, the main problem that this book has is that it tries to do too much at the same time, and we’re seeing the cracks.

However, having read this issue, I’m actually feeling kind of optimistic about the creative team being able to deliver a solid conclusion. To clarify, I’m not totally convinced yet, as it still remains to be seen if the team can indeed stick to the landing, what with the many missteps that DC, in my opinion, has taken so far with regards to Death Metal. Before I explain what I mean by “optimistic,” I will get some criticism out of the way.

This issue opens with another Robin King appearance, and those who have been following my Death Metal reviews probably know that I’m not a fan of the character. The reason for my dislike of Robin King isn’t strictly that he’s this edgy kid that’s all bark and no bite (I have yet to see him do something that will convince me that he’s a villain that we all should fear and take seriously), but it’s mostly the fact that every time he’s appeared, he gives us a massive exposition dump detailing events that we haven’t been privy to. The things that the character talks about mean nothing to me, because I haven’t seen those events play out myself, and for that reason all his threats so far have seemed hollow to me. And since this is all that we have seen from Robin King—at least in the core issues—his entire character is now based upon empty threats. Show us what makes this character terrifying. Don’t merely tell us. I need to see it, because I can’t just take a writer’s word for it, no matter who the writer is.

After the opening scene, our heroes have to fight Castle Bat. Now, the idea of a Dark Multiverse Bruce Wayne’s consciousness somehow merging with the city of Gotham is something that I find really cool, and I even like the idea of our heroes having to fight a titanic evil Batman made out of a city—or a castle, in this case. However, I don’t like how the creative team executed the fight scene. Capullo, who usually really impresses me with how he choreographs the coolest battles in superhero fiction, doesn’t quite deliver here: the fight is poorly organized as characters are just kind of messing around instead of taking interesting actions that take the fight to the next level.

For example, we see Batman and Harley holding onto a rope that they’ve tied around one of Castle Bat’s legs. But how they’ve managed to do this is unclear and, more importantly, what they are trying to accomplish is also unclear. Perhaps they are trying to tackle Castle Bat, but obviously it’s not working because Castle Bat doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. Batman and Harley seem desperately helpless and useless in this fight—they may well have just stood back and watched it all go down from a distance and it would not have made any difference. What’s more, it’s made clear early on in the fight that the heroes are no match for Castle Bat, as they cannot damage him in any way, and so this is a fight that they aren’t able to win on their own. How the creative team resolves this conflict is yet another example of a trend that we have been seeing throughout Death Metal: a conflict is created and, no matter how overwhelming it is, our heroes get the victory handed to them for free.

Our heroes don’t win because Wonder Woman comes up with the ultimate solution to defeat Castle Bat. None of the other heroes come up with anything that they can try—they only point out what they can’t do. In the end, it’s a character that we’ve barely seen in the story so far that comes swooping in with his space ship, zapping Castle Bat once, and that’s it. We end up with a series of panels that just amount to nothing, save for the introduction of said character as well as another joke that I personally don’t find very funny. This isn’t entertaining to me—it’s a lazy and cheap way to write oneself out of a difficult fight scene.

After the fight, we have to get through a lot of dialogue which, to me, feels overwritten. We see the character that saved our heroes from Castle Bat delivering a long monologue about his past, which is very out-of-place given the fact that there isn’t much time. Under the circumstances, it would’ve been much more appropriate if they were more to the point. We also see two different characters asking the question, “What are you talking about?”, phrased exactly the same way, and there is a lot of beating around the bush in general. This isn’t entertaining, either—it’s a chore to get through.

What would have benefited this book is much more concise dialogue that explains the new goal of our heroes quickly, and it also would have been great if the fight against Castle Bat would’ve been more riveting. Because, as it stands, up till this point the issue has been quite dull to me. So why do I say that this issue makes me a little bit more optimistic about the story’s outcome?

Once all the aforementioned stuff is out of the way, the creative team really kicks things into a higher gear. We see our heroes rallying together, and even though I’m not sure where this vast army of superheroes suddenly comes from, I love seeing them all on the page. I enjoy how everyone’s getting in position, and how the Darkest Knight and Perpetua come to realize that the tide may actually be turning against them. What I like most of all is the aesthetic. See, in music, many subgenres of metal use gimmicks, costumes, props, and they put together these crazy live shows. Spikes, horns, fire, ripping guitar solos and screamed vocals—I enjoy the metal spirit in music, and I enjoy how Snyder and Capullo channel this into their comic. With all the characters now in-place, and there finally being a clear focus on the story’s endgame, I think that if Snyder and Capullo continue to channel their enthusiasm and their love of metal music, this series’ ending might be just what I have been waiting for all this time. No more convoluted plot points; no more hollow monologues and empty threats from unconvincing villains; no more nonsense fights; no more pretentiousness—just an epic fight between good and evil. That’s all I’m asking for at this stage. And with the way everything’s set up, I think this is definitely possible, and I’m hoping for the best.

Recommended if…

  • You have been waiting for this series to pick up and start focusing on the endgame.
  • You are a fan of Capullo’s renditions of all the DC heroes.

Overall: The art is excellent throughout, save for the boring fight against Castle Bat, where nobody is really doing anything. The dialogue is overwritten, and there are too many words on the page. There are jokes that I don’t find that funny. But I really started to enjoy this issue once all of that was out of the way and our heroes began to execute their master plan. Hopefully the creative team can keep their focus and deliver a penultimate issue that leads into a solid conclusion to the story. It remains to be seen if they will be able to pull this off, but for now I’m being cautiously optimistic.

Score: 6.5/10

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