It’s the penultimate issue of Death Metal, in which the creative team has to get everything and everyone in place for the grand finale. There can be no more detours. The key word is “focus!” Last time I said that I didn’t enjoy the issue until the final pages, when the heroes were rallying and preparing to fight off BWL’s forces. I said that if the comic would focus on an epic battle between Good and Evil, without any pretentiousness or random silliness, the ending might be successful. And the ending starts here. So is the beginning of the end a success? Let’s have a look!
This issue offers a very fast read, which is a nice change of pace seeing as I think previous chapters were on the verge of being overwritten—there were too many words and too little was said. Still, even in this episode we have to get through an extended monologue delivered by Sergeant Rock. The monologue is dry and doesn’t quite manage to enhance the main narrative. On the contrary, it makes some of the glaring flaws of this comic more obvious. Sergeant Rock says, “I pray for the fight to mean something. Even if we lose. Even if we don’t get to see it.” And herein lies the main complaint that I have about issue #6.
There are many characters on these pages, and they are all engaged in combat, and there really isn’t much more to it than that. If I’m being honest, visually this isn’t even that interesting. We have all these superpowered warriors, but instead of having the majority use their unique powers, they just kick and punch. At least Capullo, Glapion and FCO still draw their stuff with lots of energy and enthusiasm, drawing the reader’s eye and not letting go. The writing, on the other hand, lacks these qualities. Not in the sense that Snyder isn’t giving this book his all, but in the sense that there are no real stakes here, and so the fights seem meaningless.
There are basically two rounds. Our heroes easily win Round One. The majority of the fight happens off-panel, and there are absolutely no obstacles or challenges along the way. Round Two will take place in the final issue, later this month. Now, my point is this: Even though we get a few splash pages of heroes and villains brawling in a wasteland, none of this matters in the least if we don’t get to see any details, and even then these need to be the right details. See, the multiverse could be involved; all the evil aliens and warlords and cosmic monstrosities from every corner of existence could come out to party; hell, freaking Cthulhu could make an appearance and wreak havoc! But the fact of the matter is that none of these things will create high stakes. BWL being this powerful doesn’t create stakes. Perpetua’s underwhelming death doesn’t create stakes. None of this matters, it’s all just fluff. Physical violence is merely an aesthetic style, but a fight or war can only truly be interesting when there is an emotional and/or personal angle to it.
We need to see which heroes are struggling and why. We need to see what challenges they need to overcome and how. And, more importantly, we need to be present when they have to pay a price. This price shouldn’t be the destruction of an entire universe because that’s such a far-out concept that it’s hard to relate to. It should be something personal, something emotional, something that, ideally, has been driving our heroes from the beginning. Then, when they finally win, they will realize what they have gained and what they have lost, and it is the combination of these two things that will create emotional resonance, and it is emotional resonance that will make a story “matter.”
Death Metal has some great material that can be used to create this emotional resonance. For example, Batman is (un)dead and a Black Lantern, and Superman’s body is slowly changing. These are prices that the characters have to pay, but they don’t carry much weight because they are underdeveloped in both the core story and tie-ins.
I’ve talked about this before in my reviews, but to those who came in late: I think that our heroes have had their victories handed to them for free throughout Death Metal, and it holds true here once again. Because of that all suspense is lost and I’m now very skeptical about whether the final issue will manage to give us an awesome conclusion that is going to really pay off. Despite all the action on display, somehow I just don’t feel like this really is a war for all of existence. It’s just a brawl, nothing more, nothing less, and that’s fine as long as the book doesn’t pretend to be more than that.
I could also comment on other, smaller points. For example, I don’t like the dialogue that much, because everyone sounds the same—even Lobo, aside from the fact that he says “frag” and “bastich.” It’s also quite random who gets lines and who doesn’t, as heroes never actually contribute dialogue to the narrative, they simply shout things. I also don’t buy that the minions that BWL summons for Round Two are really the “darkest nightmares” of our heroes. I just see cool-looking characters all in the same panel ready to fight, but not once has Death Metal managed to convince me why our heroes should fear these creatures beyond them being quite powerful. I could comment on the jokes, which I feel are all out of place and ill-timed. I could point out how inconsistent these creative teams have been with naming the main villain: call him either the Darkest Knight or the Batman Who Laughs, but you have to choose! But I have written about each of these points at length, and in the end these are all just nitpicks that pale in the face of the larger problem, anyway.
- You like fight comics!
- You’ve come this far, why stop now?
- You are just here for the dream team of Capullo, Glapion and FCO.
Overall: I’m being critical because I’ve been wanting this book to be successful. I still do. I love seeing Capullo, Glapion and FCO drawing all these cool characters; I love their layouts; I love the colors, it’s really fun stuff! But as much as I want a straight-up battle between Good and Evil at this point, I just don’t care about any of it if there aren’t any stakes. Death Metal has been entertaining up until this point. Hopefully the final issue will still blow me away, but I’m not holding my breath.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.