The Death Metal side stories have been a mix of issues that feel critical to the larger story, and those that could be considered fluff or window dressing on the whole event. The Multiverse Who Laughs falls squarely into that second category. It is another anthology, and packed with 5 different stories of “worlds gone wrong”. Each one was done by a different creative team, and features an eclectic variety of characters. As is usual with anthologies I’ll give a brief overview of each story, rate it, and then give you my overall feelings and final score at the end.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Multiverse
Snyder, Tynion, and Williamson team up to write this short tale, and out of all of the stories presented here I felt it was probably the weakest. It really acts more as an introduction than a real story. It opens with the feeling that this is a spooky story Robin King is telling the other twisted Robins around the fire. It’s very meta throughout, going so far as to directly address the reader at the end. I suspect your mileage may vary on meta narratives, but for me I’m growing a bit tired of seeing them used so frequently lately.
Robin King’s main thing here is that he wants to tell a new terrifying tale that isn’t the same old same old we’ve seen a hundred times. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really tell a single scary story. Instead, he spends a few pages giving a number of brief summaries of different tales of Earths where horrible things happened. All of these are used as an example of better stories than the good ones we’ve been told for years –the traditional ones– and as supposed foundation for why the Darkest Knight will eventually win. The argument, like the summaries just doesn’t land with me, and instead of feeling like an exciting start off to this analogy I find myself quickly moving on to the next.
Juan Gedeon’s art here is really cool and he does a good job of highlighting each twisted character in the stories. Since the stories are usually only a panel, he focuses on showcasing a variety of twisted heroes and horrifying scenes. He also does a great job showcasing Robin King, especially in how his face transforms as he’s telling his story, from having just a bit of blood around the lips to them totally caked in it after eating a bat.
Feeding the Beast
Directly following the weakest story, is what I found to be the strongest. Patton Oswalt writes this short featuring Zsasz as he purposefully gets himself committed to his world’s Arkham, intent on becoming ‘changed’.
This one is weird and strange and unsettling in how it constantly subverts expectations, both ours and Zsasz’s. Arkham is bright where Gotham is dark, and on the outside the asylum actually seems to be functioning as it should. But we the reader know this is supposed to be a dark story, and so the question is if the darkness is focused on Zsasz’s insanity or if it’s lurking in the halls. It’s unsettling because until the end, you’re not really sure what’s real. It’s hard to go into details here, but suffice to say this was my favorite of the bunch and I keep going back to it and finding new details that make everything fit together really well.
Sanford Greene and David Baron come together to create a great visual contrast of elements, which makes the story work so well. The brief view we get of Gotham is a city of death, which makes the vibrant, bright, tropical outside of Arkham such a shocking sight. Zsasz himself is continually at odds with the clean interiors, his scarred body, and exhausted eyes battling against the more put together inmates and yellow walls.
What’s the best way to make something happy tragic? Use pets of course! And that’s just what Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti do here. We’re introduced to the story with the horrifying visual of Krypto flying back to an Earth that now has a ring made up of what has to be just about every human who’d populated the planet previously. From there, the story tackles just how things got to be this way, and what the Super Pets had to do with it all. It’s a bit ridiculous, a bit horrifying, and surprisingly funny at times.
If I had to fault it for anything, it’s that the whole premise feels a little rushed. There’s not a ton of explanation behind the virus, and I have to question where the heroes were in the midst of all this, we only get one hint of what might have happened to them, which leaves me with quite a few questions after reading.
My favorite aspect of this story has got to be the unique word bubbles for each character. Each of the animals bubble is drawn in the shape of an iconic item connected to that type of animal. So Krypto has bone shaped bubbles, while Streaky has balls of yarn. It’s cute and fitting for the animals. Beyond that, Chad Hardin does an excellent job drawing each animal and laying out the terrifying scenes of the Earth’s demise in this particular world.
Hard-Traveled is one of the shorter tales in this anthology being only four pages long. Written by Saladin Ahmed and drawn by Scot Eaton it focuses on a universe taken over by the Guardians, with Hal Jordan controlling Earth. Things are strictly policed, and even children are killed for breaking rules like curfew. Though there are still those who’re trying to resist, such as Green Arrow. This one is less scary in the blood and gore way, and more in the ideas it presents, I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t like to live in a world controlled by an off his rocker Hal Jordan.
The art is clean, and the colors look really good here. My favorite aspect has to be the aged and updated character designs. Ollie has the look of an old man who’s been fighting this fight for a long time and is still kicking. Hal’s upgraded uniform is cool, and not too extreme he’s not familiar.
This one, feels almost like it doesn’t quite fit into the narrative of world gone wrong. Yes, horrifying and terrible things are happening, but there’s a narrative of hope in it that just doesn’t match what the rest of the anthology is trying to do, which is tell these stories of worlds twisted by the Darkest Knight, who’s taken over and supposedly winning because things are terrible. The outlook is bleak here, but this reads like a story where good might ultimately prevail.
Similar to the last story, this one also features characters pushing against the chosen “bad ending” for this world. Brandon Thomas presents a world engulfed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, where everyone must wear masks all the time when outside in order not to get engulfed by fear.
John Henry Irons is the hero of this story, rescuing a young man from a crew of thugs. While this isn’t the shortest of the stories, the narrative feels a bit rushed. It’s unclear why the kid was being attacked about his mask since it seems little different than the others, and unclear just how the entire Earth got wrapped in a permanent cloud of fear toxin. Additionally, the young man is surprised that John could be out without protection, but his helmet seems to have a mask of his own. Everything just feels a bit too compressed, and I feel like this story could have benefited from a couple extra pages. That said, it’s an interesting take on dealing with fear, fear toxin, and another Earth that’s gone wrong.
Tom Mandrake’s art fits the tone of the story well. There’s a few moments I’ve pointed out where the art doesn’t quite match the story, but I love the twisted crazy visions we get to see, when one character has to deal with the effects of fear toxin. Especially since they play well with who the young man is eventually revealed to be. The visions are a cool call back to past Batman events, and represent the disorientation caused by the toxin well.
- Anthologies are your thing
- You’re not done with spooky stories, even at the end of November
- You can’t get enough of the various worlds surrounding Death Metal
This is another one of those books that’s hard to recommend, not because it’s bad, but more because it doesn’t do anything to really push the Death Metal narrative forward. Out of all the books I’ve read in this event this is one of the few I’ve genuinely liked. Many of the shorts here are solid stories, and even when some are weak the art has been phenomenal throughout. If you like horror, can’t get enough of this universe, or just like some stories that don’t always have a happy ending, there’s some goodness in here for you.
Overall Score: 7/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.