After six core issues and a ton of tie-ins, we arrive at #7, the conclusion to the Death Metal event. Though I’ve praised and enjoyed parts of the story, I’ve also been critical of it. I think that many of the tie-ins were quite bad, slowing the core story down and sometimes outright contradicting it. Despite my criticism and dislike of most tie-ins, I’ve been hoping that the series’ finale would still be amazing. While that wouldn’t redeem the missteps, it would at least provide a sense of closure after all is said and done. So, has the creative team managed to pull this off? Let’s have a look. THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS AHEAD.
Death Metal is a story that I want to like. I’ve been a fan of Snyder and Capullo since Court of Owls and I’ve been enjoying their work all the way through the original Metal and Last Knight on Earth. But Death Metal just isn’t cutting it for me. Throughout this whole event I’ve never really felt like there was anything at stake. I love big and cosmic stories where we deal with multiverses and alternate dimensions, but when the stakes are almost entirely centered around the potential destruction of a multiverse, I find it hard to connect with that, as this is something that’s too far removed from my everyday human experience. What I think stories like these need in order to achieve emotional resonance are personal stakes. After all, a multiverse, though grand and mindboggling and awesome, is merely a backdrop, a stage, a frame for a story. It should not be confused with the story itself. In order to get me to care about what’s going on, the stakes should not revolve around the destruction of a multiverse, but rather around the characters, and the more personal it gets, the better.
In Death Metal #7 we see Diana battling BWL, and she thinks about her friends. The notion that she cares about the likes of Batman and Superman and the others is a good start, but it doesn’t quite work out because I never feel like Batman, Superman, or anyone else, is truly in danger. Sure, they are close to dying or are already (un)dead, but it’s so obvious that these characters are going to revert back to their good old selves that none of this stuff matters in the end. Furthermore, our heroes’ challenges don’t feel like challenges. Not a single one of them has paid a hefty price along the way, and there have been no lasting consequences to their actions. All of this results in a lackluster, straightforward and predictable narrative that just kind of peters out on the final pages. The argument that Diana pays a price in the end when she mysteriously vanishes doesn’t quite work, either, because what happens to her is framed as a good, positive outcome.
Those aren’t the only problems, though. The issue is narrated by Sergeant Rock, and while I appreciate that Rock at least has a somewhat distinct tone of voice, I wonder how Rock knows of all the things that he’s talking about. He’s barely in the story; to say that he’s a full-fledged character is to oversell his involvement. He’s also not present during Diana and BWL’s final battle across space and time and yet he even narrates their dialogue! This takes me out of the story every time, and it makes me wonder why the creative team didn’t just have Diana be the narrator. She’s the central character here. She’s present in almost every scene. She gets all the cool action scenes and overshadows most of the other characters. The entire problem that I have with Rock being the narrator would not have come up if it was Diana instead. It really is a strange writing choice.
Speaking of which, I can’t say that I’m a fan of the dialogue, either. In previous core issues, there are some examples of decent dialogue, and one of the reasons why I’ve been following Snyder’s work is because I’ve always enjoyed reading what his characters have to say. But here, most of the lines are awkward and conversations are wooden and dry. For example, the evil Superman known as Last Son says, “I am the Last Son. Just as the universe was born with an explosion, I was born after my home planet blew up. Now, I exist to reclaim all matter. I am the final star. Come into me!” But why would this character, who we have barely seen throughout this whole event, suddenly start yelling about this stuff out of nowhere? Who cares about this guy? Perhaps the reason that this stuff is in the script is to attempt to set up a punchline, which comes in the form of Superboy responding with, “Uh, gross?” But it’s just not funny. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this has no place in the story at all.
Here’s another example of forced dialogue. We see the Bat Family fighting off BWL’s demonic Robins, but rather than emphasizing how dire the situation is and thereby attempting to create some kind of stakes, we get silly jokes that diminish the quality of the narrative. Red Hood says: “Tell me our shorts were not this short!” Batgirl replies: “No, they were much shorter!” Nightwing concludes: “I will not die by pixie boots, I will not die by…”
Look, if this is your kind of humor, that’s totally cool. To each their own! But when dialogue like this keeps appearing throughout the conclusion of what’s supposed to be an epic story, I get a little bit frustrated. It sends a message to me that I shouldn’t care about this stuff because now it looks like the creative team doesn’t really care, either. And of course the creative team cares, that’s not the point. The point is that all these jokes and silly moments are more often than not ill-timed and inappropriate in the context of the respective scenes. When the fate of the world hangs in the balance and you are literally fighting for your life against a horde of grotesque, evil versions of yourself and your friends, the last thing that I imagine these characters doing is cracking silly jokes. It boils down to this idea of stakes yet again. This type of stuff works against that, and so it only seems counter-intuitive to insert these forced jokes. They make the story seem disingenuous rather than meaningful.
Moving on, we see Diana and one of the Hands (the beings that create and destroy multiverses) in the form of the Golden Age Wonder Woman. They talk about how worlds will end and start over and how all history will be remembered. I don’t see an earnest conversation between these two characters; I see a pitch for different, upcoming stories: Future State and Infinite Frontier. It’s fine to have characters talk about this as long as it’s well-integrated into the story and not blatantly obvious. But in this case it’s too on-the-nose and, as such, it takes me out of the story yet again. Then there is an epilogue that basically promotes the aforementioned upcoming stories as well, and as much as I enjoy seeing our heroes party after a long and difficult fight, when it reads like a sales pitch I’m just not interested.
So what about the artwork? I’ll be honest: I don’t think this is Capullo’s best work. The backgrounds mostly consist of empty, barren landscapes which are quite boring to look at. I also think that there isn’t the typical kinetic energy that I’ve come to associate with Capullo’s fight scenes. These heroes and villains in various poses look a little stiff, and so it just doesn’t work for me. Fortunately, there are also scenes that are nicely detailed, such as the prehistoric world that Diana finds herself in, or the incredibly dynamic illustration of Nightwing rushing over to Batgirl, while evil Robins are attacking him and are all over Bane, who’s desperately trying to hold them off. In short, the art is hit or miss to me. But at the end of the day I still love the character designs, the clear and functional layouts and the expressions on the characters’ faces. Even though I’m not as much of a fan of the art this time, it’s still clear that Capullo put a lot of time and effort into coming up with the best way to visualize this story, and I always appreciate that.
- You’ve come all this way, why not pick up this issue to get a full set?
- You are determined to follow Capullo every step of the way.
- You just need to see how this story comes out.
Overall: A couple reviews ago I said that I just wanted a cool battle between good and evil, as long as it doesn’t seem pretentious and as long as it has serious stakes. Unfortunately, I think that this issue fails to deliver a proper conclusion to Death Metal, as it does come off as pretentious when the comic wants you to believe that everything that’s happened in this story matters, but at the same time we get ill-timed jokes and no stakes which makes it seem like nothing matters after all. It also turns out that, like the original Metal, the ending is mainly a sales pitch for upcoming stories. The art is definitely on a professional standard, but at times it can be a bit bland when it just depicts stiff hero poses and empty backgrounds. Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed in this story. I really wanted it to be good, but I’m afraid that, for me, it just doesn’t work.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.