Review: Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

March 18, 2020

 ·  3 comments

I'm sometimes befuddled by the DC Comics franchise's obsession with multiple Earths, or the "Multiverse." When introduced, this was a clever concept that saw explanation for the existence of Golden and Silver Age heroes with duplicate names, and annual events that kept the Earth-2 characters in the mainstream and even sometimes characters migrated from Earth-2 to Earth-1. With Crisis on Infinite Earths, of course, these various Earths collapsed into one; then, some twenty years later, DC reintroduced the Multiverse with Infinite Crisis. And since that time, I feel they've talked about the Multiverse a lot but done just about nothing with it.

Across Infinite Crisis and into 52, one of the central revelations was that the Multiverse was back, but I'm pressed to think of more than one or two stories that used it to great effect — often, it seems, the revelation of the existence of the Multiverse was the greater story point than actually visiting it. With Final Crisis and, after a while, on through Dark Nights: Metal, we now have something of a context for the DC Multiverse with the Hall of Heroes that Barry Allen, et al., sometimes visit. But there's hardly been a storyline or continuing character to come out of the Multiverse short of the late New 52 Earth 2 series (which, majestically, set itself entirely on another Earth), and oftentimes the Multiverse just seems a way to assure fans that every Elseworlds book aging on the shelf "actually took place" than anything that really affects the DC Universe day to day.

The stories collected in Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse are somewhat strange beasts, coming as they do at a seemingly random interval between the Dark Nights: Metal and the at-that-point-unannounced Dark Nights: Death Metal events. It's not as though the Dark Multiverse was completely absent from the DCU, what with the Batman Who Laughs running around infecting people, but neither did it seem like we were in for more of these "tales" given that the alt-Batman from Metal mostly disappeared as quickly as they were introduced. So these seem like a odd product, a buoy or test balloon sent out to the ether with questionable chance at success.

Though not all of these specials knock it out of the park, a few are good, and I wouldn't mind seeing some of these characters again — perhaps in Death Metal — if all of these proceedings aren't wholly separate from Scott Snyder's main product. Otherwise these emerge as DC equivalents of Marvel's What If?, which is fine, though that's never quite been DC's bag. Equally, though we might just wave these off as DC's modern equivalent of Elseworlds, the fact that all of these are "dark" — they all inevitably end in horrific tragedy — suggests a weird dystopian fascination among the audience (note this review was written weeks ago); we don't want to see, say, what if Superman came out of retirement in the future and inspired a generation, but rather what if the bloody zombified Blackest Night was even worse than it was and Hal Jordan didn't win and even more people died than before?

Dark Multiverse in some ways is like DCeased writ large, taking what's good and pure and telling a story about corrupting it. Which is fine — horror is a genre and a good one at that, though that there doesn't seem much alternative, cheerful Elseworlds material right now makes one wonder what the public's taste in "what if" superhero fiction says about where our heads are at. Still, at least what we have here is more than just hand-waving that the Multiverse is back; at least what we have here finally is some storytelling within the (Dark) Multiverse itself.

[Review contains spoilers]

For me, Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse started to pick up with writer Jeff Loveness' take on "Death of Superman," the second story collected here. In respects this book is not unlike the Convergence specials; by and large creative teams who are not the original contributors to these old stories looking to pick up in the middle and reclaim some of the stories' old spirit. "Death of Superman," I felt, got that, from artist Brad Walker's very Superman #75 splash pages to a good eye for detail — Bloodwynd and Ice and most especially Lex Luthor II — to the way Loveness sets the story logically through to "Reign of the Supermen."

James Tynion and Aaron Lopresti's "Infinite Crisis" is another of these, perhaps the best of the group, where Tynion uses the whole of the story from Countdown to Infinite Crisis and the related miniseries through to Infinite Crisis itself, mapping to a number of those books' twists and turns. Tynion and Lopresti also impress in mimicking exactly some key layouts from Infinite Crisis with altered dialogue, a brilliant touch that really made me feel like I was back on those old stomping grounds. Lopresti has a modern-ish history with the Justice League International characters, drawing Generation Lost and the New 52 Justice League International, so his presence on this Blue Beetle-focused story seemed very natural.

On the other hand, the "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract" story felt a bit too loose, separate largely from the events of that story — and artist Tom Raney's figures are at times too distorted here — though I loved Terra's upgrade to "Gaia." If DC can ever decide whether "Judas Contract" happened or not in current continuity, I'd be happy to see Gaia come to our Earth to plague Gar Logan. But the "Knightfall" and "Blackest Night" stories I found much too disconnected — a story about Azrael some thirty years after "Knightfall" is hardly a "Knightfall" story any more, and ditto the off-planet "Blackest Night" story and the use of some phrasing not found in the original, like references to the "Color Corps." These reminded of the worse parts of Convergence, which resembled their originals in name only.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse

But overall I enjoyed Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse and found it a fun trip down memory lane, and also a good use of the Multiverse even if the multiverse with staying power now seems to be the dark one. In reading the selection of original issues included here, I was surprised to recall just how much connection there was between Infinite Crisis and Blackest Night (maybe not so surprising, given that both were written by Geoff Johns, but we're talking about a break of about three or four years between them). To that end, it's a little strange that this book puts Blackest Night #1 before Infinite Crisis #1; these would have read better the other way around.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketches, character designs, and preliminary artwork]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I decided I'm only going to pick this up if these are vaguely important characters to Death Metal. DC has yet to reward me for picking up tie-in material not written by an event's writer (Infinite Crisis being the last time it was worth reading everything IMO).

    Semi-related: How is there not going to be a Metal Omnibus on the shelves during Death Metal? Why does DC hate making money?

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps they'll collect BOTH Metal and Death Metal in the same omni?

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  2. I got the Knightfall book for funsies and it was fine up until the end when Bruce turned EEEEEEVIL. Even under his circumstances I still think he would have been all "Zur En Arrh" instead of taking that silly route. Could have been a new fave if it had a positive ending, ya know triumph in the sake of adversity as heroes are so wont to do etc, rather than nihilist shlock. Some of the characters involved, and their motiviations were a little iffy but it was a good read until the last few pages. Glad to hear it's not the best of the pack.

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