Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses trade paperback (DC Comics)

 ·  1 comment

With Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses, we’re coming down now to the end of the Death Metal saga, and as I’ve suggested in previous reviews, things seem to be coming apart a bit. There’s some lofty goals here — short stories about your favorite DC superheroes on the eve of war (and, perhaps, certain death) and then in the thick of the fight, and then also a spotlight on newer (or newer to DC) creators and/or creators from diverse backgrounds. In this, both the “War of the Multiverses” and “Last Stories of the DC Universe” books read a bit like the New Talent Showcase books from a couple years back.

But at the same time, New Talent Showcase was devoutly out of continuity, and this book is devoutly in, and at a pretty high stakes moment, too. There’s no wind in the sails of these being the “last stories” of the DCU given that the DCU comes roaring back right after, and if anything with more character relationships restored, not forgotten (this is hardly the kind of “eve of the New 52” moment that the book tries to pretend it is). To come close to selling that kind of thing, the writers must be pretty on point, and due to inexperience or unfamiliarity, they’re not. This is not to say there aren’t some winners, but a lot of these stories distract from the moment rather than adding to it.

[Review contains spoilers]

It remains in the final total to see how well Death Metal reads on its own page to page without the tie-ins. The original Dark Nights: Metal did ultimately read well enough without the tie-ins, give or take a Wild Hunt, and on second read those tie-ins turned out to be nicely additive without being essential. Death Metal seems to have gone the other direction, tie-ins where major story beats happen, but then the longer we’ve gone on the less essential the tie-ins seem to be, or the tie-ins profess to major events that don’t actually affect the story (looking at you, Chronicler). And then we come to War of the Multiverses, where connection between main series and tie-ins, or even within the tie-ins themselves, seems to have broken down completely.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Take, for example, the Superman family story “First and Last Men” by Magdalene Visaggio (speaking of New Talent Showcase creators) and Paul Pelletier, versus the Lois Lane story “No More Superheroes” not far away by Regine Sawyer and Alitha Martinez. I’m pleased again to see diverse creators here, but there’s no reconciling the Jimmy Olsen hanging out with the heroes in Visaggio’s on one page with the Jimmy who’s confused about where he is and how he got there in Sawyer’s; it’s just a gaffe. That’s true too of Pelletier’s off-model Kon-El Superboy and of Sawyer’s Maxima, where the story can’t seem to decide if she’s friend or foe, our continuity’s Maxima or another. Sawyer’s Lois is melodramatic and ineffectual, off-character in a story that never quite establishes its reason for being.

There’s a lot of stories like that. Kyle Higgins and Scott Kolin’s tale of Atom Ryan Choi is awfully boilerplate, requiring Ryan to be uncharacteristically timid and “small” so as to find his strength later. Cecil Castellucci and Mirka Andolfo’s Bat-family tale (in “Last Stories”) mixes up Damian Wayne and Tim Drake (again, too high stakes of a place for editor Katie Kubert and the rest of the team to be making those kinds of mistakes) and weirdly seems to involve Nightwing proposing to Batgirl (repeatedly) just so she’ll acquiesce to having sex before the battle. Mark Waid and Francis Manapul get in a Superman story — a headline in and of itself — but here too Waid’s got Lois falling to pieces instead of reporting from the front lines.

Among stories that work, maybe not surprisingly, is Gail Simone writing the last night of Black Canary and Green Arrow. Meghan Hetrick’s art is perhaps too manga-inspired for my tastes, with Oliver’s face both flat and shiny, but one has to love the banter between Dinah and Ollie, and especially the emotion when they come face-to-face with their alt-continuity daughter. I’ll be darned if Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque didn’t get me with Sinestro’s last request to Hal Jordan, affecting no matter how many times that 'ship has sailed. The Aquaman thread in Death Metal is problematic, seemingly important but at the same time mostly ignored, but Christopher Sebela and Christopher Mooneyham do a nice job in a narration-heavy story grounded by lush illustrations.

And then it gets weird, too. On the wonderfully quirky side is a John Constantine story by Matthew Rosenberg and Rob Guillory (Chew), in which Constantine matches wits with his own Multiversal self (perhaps what Death Metal needed was a Vertigo-focused tie-in; my rather biggest complaint about Death Metal is that it lacks for a moment to equal Metal’s Sandman cameo). I cannot imagine where Marguerite Bennett and Inaki Miranda’s Penguin story came from, in which Oswald Cobblepot faces a garrison of grotesque alt-Penguins until himself being eaten, transformed into a bird, clawing his way out of a monster’s stomach, and then wreaking bloody havoc. It’s a story no one asked for and it’s glorious in its gory absurdity.



Topping off my misgivings about Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses, my (digital) copy, at least, had the “Last Stories” cover on the “Multiverses” chapter and vice versa, and set “Multiverses” first and “Last Stories” second when it should be the other way around; all of that makes an already uneven reading experience befuddling. “Multiverses” and “Last Stories” have a Wonder Woman and Titans framing story respectively, but the editors put the part that originally came at the end with the first part at the beginning. This makes for some weird conversational jumps and melodrama that probably wouldn’t have been present had the stories been printed as they were originally.

So the last stories are not the best stories, unfortunately, and perhaps this reflects Death Metal overstaying it’s welcome. We’ll see now whether Scott Snyder can stick the landing.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs and cover sketches]

Comments ( 1 )

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post