Review: Dark Days: The Road to Metal hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


Even despite Scott Snyder's continued testaments that the seeds of Dark Nights: Metal were always in his Batman run, it hits like a bolt of lightning re-reading Snyder's 2015 Batman #38 (collected among others in Dark Days: The Road to Metal) when "Crazy Quilt" Paul Dekker, paramount among the retrospective arbiters of Metal lore (and, perhaps, Snyder stand-in) looks straight at the reader and opines, "Heh, doesn't feel like a Batman story anymore, does it?" Say what you will, but that's a moment that had kick before and has even more kick now, specifically in the context of a patchwork book such as Road to Metal. It seemed at the time an acknowledgment of the misfit of the outsized lore central to "Endgame"; we can re-read it now as message-in-a-bottle proof from the past of Snyder's recognition that a series like Metal was going to be necessary to do this story justice.

[Review contains spoilers]

Though I thought the Dark Days: Forge and Dark Days: Casting specials collected here were two separate Dark Nights: Metal lead-in specials, they are actually one story, to the extent of a cliffhanger in one resolves in the next. They are the ultimate in hype comics, every page begetting another wonderful insinuation of something happening or something coming. This has been used for ill any number of times, including I'd say the DC Universe: Rebirth special, but knowing that Dark Nights: Metal follows right behind, there's a rare comics joy in this unadulterated stream of teases, akin to the best of them all, Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

Indeed, Forge and Casting have a lot in common with Geoff Johns' previous crossover or mega-event lead-in comics. Even if "Crisis" is not in the name, there's no question Metal is next in line, not in the least after what I thought was one of the books' greatest reveals, presented halfway through, that Batman possesses one of the Monitor's cosmic tuning forks, last seen either in Crisis on Infinite Earths or Infinite Crisis, depending on what's still canon. (This entire sequence, in which Superman's dutifully been keeping private Batman's secret room in the Fortress of Solitude, is the most wonderfully, absurdly Silver Age-y of all this book's Silver Age facets). Whereas I have heard a lot that the "New Age of Heroes" titles that purportedly spin off from Metal actually have few Metal ties at all, I spotted the majority of those characters within these pages, again reminiscent of Countdown and Rebirth (and even the new-series teases of Zero Hour).

I thought Snyder's most Johns-ian moment, however, was where he went so far as to "Johns" Johns' work itself. This is no suggestion of ill will, simply that I see Snyder stepping into a similar role as Johns at the point in which Snyder posits that Hawkman's (Johns-penned) history of having been murdered in Egypt, serially reincarnated, and put to battle with Hath-Set is itself a lie, set forward by Hath-Set to muddy Hawkman's true, pre-Egyptian origins. This is the very kind of "secret hiding in plain sight" kind of origin that Johns himself created for Hawkman, and also for Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Flash Barry Allen, and plenty of others. With Dark Days, we see that mantle passed (or at least shared). Of course Batman has the Joker locked in his basement, of course Batman has Plastic Man trapped as an egg, of course he's been working with the Outsiders, and of course the entirety of Batman's partnership with Duke Thomas has been a conspiracy. Snyder's got the Johns-ian aesthetic down pat.

Of the book's reprint issues, I found the older issues reprinted here less affecting than the issues in which Snyder had a direct hand. I'm a Final Crisis fanatic, and even I found getting dropped into the sixth and seventh issues of that series dizzying. There is a lot to navigate there -- three- or four-prong battles, a tiger Kalibak, the single-most time-distorted sequence of all of Final Crisis as the world collapses into a multiversal pit -- only for what I glean is just one or two important pages, an acknowledgment that the machine Batman uses in Casting is the Miracle Machine and a scant mention of Element X. It is interesting to see what spoke to Snyder, in dual role of reader and writer, from Grant Morrison's fever dream, but whether that required reprinting two issues I'm not sure. Equally, though the Miagani "bat-people" will most likely play a role in Metal, the first issue of Return of Bruce Wayne also seems thin in its relevance.

Really the only worthwhile reprint issues here are, again, the New 52 Batman #38 -- the star of the show -- and Batman #39, if for no other reason than "Endgame" was great and that issue makes me want to go read it again. Sure, the Nightwing and Detective Comics issues foreshadow Metal, but they are so on the nose and were printed so recently that their wonder came and went the first time I read them. More impressive might've been a deeper dive -- for instance, if DC had excerpted these with text accompaniments (like Prelude to Infinite Crisis) and included the "metal" mentions from Green Arrow #24 or Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #27. I don't mind another glance at the Multiversity map, but it's impossible to suspend belief enough to think clues to Metal are in there when we know the map predates this by a couple years.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Dark Days: The Road to Metal

So much in comics starts strong, when the best plains are laid, but go awry by the end due to the vagaries of publishing. I accept the complaints about Dark Days: The Road to Metal that the Dark Days: Forge and Dark Days: Casting stories might've been collected with other Metal-original material, but I'm also a sucker for a "previously on ..."-type book, even if some parts are stronger than others. Perhaps one might've had their cake and ate it too (Dark Days in a Metal volume and the throwback material in a Prelude to Dark Nights: Metal one-shot), but I'm fairly certain those who want all the Metal books together will eventually get it in the obligatory omnibus. Anyway, Scott Snyder has my admiration once again, and I'm enthused to start Metal and No Justice and all that's coming next.

[Includes original covers, Forge and Casting variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Dark Days: The Road to Metal
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 3 )

  1. AnonymousMay 24, 2018

    Is this a deluxe edition or standard hardcover?

  2. I think you'll appreciate Metal proper. It's definitely a case of the prelude matching the main event in tone. The only real problem I have w/the crossover writ large is that they introduce some cool concepts in the later issues that probably could have gotten one-shots to expand upon (much like the various Dark Knights one-shots)

    I think I'll be skipping both this collection and Metal and wait for an Absolute or Omnibus edition - I'd much rather have Dark Days, Metal, Batman Lost, and Wild Hunt all in one volume.


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