Here’s yet another Death Metal tie-in, and I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’m tired of this event. The core series is far from perfect but at least there are certain aspects to it that I can still enjoy. However, almost every single one of these tie-ins has been mediocre at best, and that’s also true for this one. So, let’s have a look.
The main problem with this issue is that it’s too repetitive and too long, and because almost none of these stories actually go anywhere, I end up feeling hollow after reading this. You’d think that a comic about one’s favorite heroes trying to save the world from evil versions of themselves would not be that hard to pull off, even though it’s not the most original idea. In the case of this anthology, however, I found myself struggling to get through it.
First, the dialogue across these stories ranges from outright bad to fairly decent, and there’s only one story that I thought was actually well-written. Most of the dialogue is wooden and dry. For example, in “Fight!”, the Wonder Woman story, we see Diana and BWL talking each others’ ears off while engaged in combat. Diana tells BWL that she “went to the forge of worlds on a mission to find a way to stop [BWL]. The fires were dim. But down in the dark [she] realized what [she] needed to take [BWL] down once and for all.” But why would she tell BWL this before attacking him? And why does BWL sound like a teenage edgelord rather than a true, scary nemesis? Furthermore, the rest of the dialogue in “Fight!” continues to be rather forced. Characters keep saying random, inconsequential things just for the sake of saying something. It gets to a point that I’d rather have these pages be silent than filled with pointless chatter.
The dialogue in “Fight!” isn’t as bad as it gets, though. In the next story, “First and Last Men,” it is almost painful to read. A good example would be when Superboy (Kon) fights an evil Superman, and for some reason he tells this evil Superman: “Sick jacket, dude!” The evil Superman responds with, “Thanks, dude! Also, prepare to die!” Another example from the same story would be: “Oh? Let’s see what hope means in the face of brutal, unthinking, unrelenting brutality. It should prove educational.” The first example is just silly and in my opinion an editor should have instructed the writer to remove that from the script, as it doesn’t add anything. The second example is just incredibly overcooked, to a point that it’s too purple to take seriously. Maybe that is the point, maybe we aren’t meant to take any of this stuff seriously, but I don’t think that that is the case. To me it seems that all of the stories in this anthology—save one—suffer from the fact that they all take themselves too seriously.
Take “The Batmen Who Laugh,” “No More Superheroes,” or “Falling Through The Cracks.” What these three have in common is that they all present scenarios that the respective creative teams tried to make poignant and scary. In the first, Bruce has to fight BWL’s old body, which got resurrected by a Black Lantern ring. The idea is really cool, but in the end it’s just a watered down rehash of what we’ve already seen a few times now: Batman versus BWL, and there just isn’t much to it. In “No More Superheroes” we see Lois encountering her Dark Multiverse counterpart, who killed the Dark Multiverse version of Jon and Clark, and the story tries to convince its readers that killing her son and husband is Lois’ worst nightmare. But the notion that Lois would even so much as consider killing her son and husband is ludicrous. “Falling Through The Cracks” is just more of the same, as this is about Raven facing her dark counterpart. Here, we’re meant to believe that the Dark Multiverse Teen Titans somehow managed to kill off the Justice League, but I’m not buying it. Not only does the story fail to explain how, the sheer idea of a bunch of teenagers taking down the League just seems silly to me, even if one of those teenagers is the daughter of Trigon. As a result, these stories are too gritty and too contrived.
Then there is also “Apicius,” a story about Penguin, and in this case I’m not even sure if this is meant to be taken seriously or not. Essentially, it’s the same deal as nearly every single other story: Penguin has to fight evil versions of himself. In order to defeat them, he somehow transforms into a giant bird creature. How, you ask? Beats me. He doesn’t even turn into a penguin. While I ended up feeling frustrated after most of these stories, this one just confuses me.
So far, I don’t feel like any of these stories are unique. From “Fight!” to the Swamp Thing story, “Reign of the Swamp King,” I keep seeing the same problems coming up. Backstories are never fully realized as we just get a quick rundown of what happened to the Dark Multiverse characters. It’s like the creative teams are under the impression that they don’t have to explain these dark characters in detail, because we are already familiar with the regular characters, but that’s not how it works if you ask me. See, I love the DC heroes, but I couldn’t care less about their dark counterparts. None of them are fleshed out well. None of them are scary. They just exist, and over the course of these stories, they are also easily defeated. As such, there is no tension throughout this book. There are no true stakes. And, more importantly, none of these stories go anywhere. They just end abruptly, and I’m left wondering what’s the point of all this?
The only two stories that are at least somewhat successful are “Unstable Atoms” and “Armageddon Blues.” The former is the only story that has some realistic characterization: when Choi, the Atom, sees all the destruction and the fighting, he gets overwhelmed and doesn’t think that the good guys can win this time. This is a perfectly reasonable and human reaction to the chaos, and it’s how I imagine most people would react when they find themselves in the middle of a war zone. Unfortunately, the story also wraps up too quickly, and we see Choi suddenly changing his mind and actually getting excited about the whole situation. This diminishes the good character work earlier in the story.
“Armageddon Blues,” on the other hand, is a lot of fun! Where every other story takes itself way too seriously and as such takes the fun out of it, this one reads like a parody of Death Metal. Constantine of course encounters his own dark counterpart, but instead of yet another boring slug fest that doesn’t go anywhere, they decide to move away from the battlefield to an old, abandoned bar and have a drink. They talk about their differences and what they have in common, and while this still isn’t a must-read story, at least I think there’s some good comedy here. In my opinion, this is the only story in this entire anthology that I genuinely think is entertaining.
The artwork in this issue is okay, with only a few standout moments here and there. One of those moments is Paul Pelletier’s rendition of Superman and Last Sun—one of the evil Supermen—clashing. It’s the only time that I truly feel like there is an actual powerhouse battle going down. But overall, just like almost all the writing suffers from the same type of writing problems, I think the art suffers from similar artistic problems, as well. While the character designs, the colors, and the page layouts are mostly fine, I don’t think any artist succeeds in making this look like a real war. If anything, it’s a collection of heroes striking cool poses in an empty, barren wasteland. Seeing this same content—albeit drawn by different people—over and over again just doesn’t make for a riveting visual spectacle.
The only story where I genuinely like the art is, once again, “Armageddon Blues.” The art has a kind of indie vibe to it, and this more lighthearted and frivolous approach to the visuals matches the tone of the script very well. While the rest of the art presents a generic superhero fight like any other, it’s Guillory’s work in “Armageddon Blues” that stands out.
- You are into fight comics.
- You are just getting this for “Armageddon Blues,” the only story worth reading in my opinion.
Overall: I recommend skipping this one. I had to struggle to get through this and was not entertained at any point, except while reading “Armageddon Blues.” This is just a boring collection of heroes fighting villains, without stakes, without fleshed-out character work, and without an actual plot.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.