God of Comics – Dark Nights: Metal #4
Dark Nights: Metal #4 (DC Comics)
I have got some opinions on Scott Snyder.
Most of them are based on a fallacy. For years, I thought he wrote Hush, a comic that was better in theory than execution. It was an okay story that got more credit than it deserved due to some snazzy Jim Lee art and a brilliant idea. I’m not sure how I got it in my head that he wrote that comic, but it made me leery of his work.
When he started work on Batman and Detective Comics and eventually Batman Eternal, I was impressed. The latter, I thought, was another good idea that didn’t quite live up to the hype, but the thing is that his writing gets better with every comic. Going from American Vampire to Talon to Gates of Gotham, you could see the glimmerings of a masterpiece coming together and a merely good writer becoming great. It’s gotten to the point where I prefer what he’s done with that Bat-comics to what Grant Morrison ended up doing with them, and now I actively seek his work and projects. I think of the character that he and James Tynion IV and Tom King write as Batman proper, the definitive iteration of the character.
I want to know what he’s up to because the ideas he has are brilliant and the writing now matches that lofty ideal.
Case in point – Dark Nights: Metal. It feels like Scott has been planning this for a decade, taking small details from stories told over the past ten years and making them part of a larger and scarier whole. This is a tale rooted in the weird pseudo-science of comics, taking real theory and twisting it into narrative gold and doing something new with Crisis on Infinite Earths.
I was sick of the various Crisis comics because all of them felt like a dull echo of the original concept, but this? This expands on that story and raises the stakes.
Crisis was a big massive event comic that wasn’t dumb: it was designed to simplify the DCU and did a pretty good job, with an epic story that set the stage for the next thirty years of DC comics. The idea in it was that there was an anti-universe made of anti-matter and it was devouring the multiverse. It gave us a deity-like villain called the Anti-monitor who remains one of the most terrifying cosmic forces in genre, but he came, did his thing, and died.
Scientific theory has evolved since those days, though, and with it comes new insights and new potential for story: first and foremost, we have the idea of dark matter now. It’s where Mass Effect was going before the rEApers changed the course of that tale, and, well, yes. Scott isn’t vying away from dark matter, though – he’s embraced it and made it the core of his tale, going so far as to tie it to the Bat-mythos and Batman himself.
In the Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller introduced a subtle supernatural element to Batman, the idea that there was something not quite of this world driving Bruce forward and pushing him beyond the bounds of sanity. Fans dubbed this the Bat God, and it’s been a thing people have joked about forever, the idea that Batman can’t be beaten because there’s this shadowy-deity lurking around in Batman’s mind.
Scott embraced this and took it to its logical conclusion. Batman is dark, so the Bat God has roots in dark matter. If anti-matter had a multiverse, then dark matter should have one, too. If anti-matter was dominated by a Superman-analogue, dark matter should be ruled by a Batman analog – and the Batman analog is the scariest thing you’ve ever seen, a creature of menace and malice that dripped bleeding off a death metal album cover to drown you and everything else.
The heroes sort of had an idea that this was coming; Batman had an idea that this was coming. They prepared and did what they could and they still lost; the DCU is in shambles, the gods that have protected the DCU shattered and broken and running for their lives. Even Superman and Wonder Woman are finding themselves powerless in the face of this new nightmare, as the Justice League is destroyed and cast aside like children’s crippled playthings.
Dark Knights: Metal is everything that the nu52 wanted to be: dripping with malice and grit, forcing heroes into impossible circumstances and cutting to the core of them to see what makes them heroes, raising the stakes and showing us the consequences of over-confidence and hubris and blind faith. It’s a brilliant idea with brilliant writing, and Scott’s got the team of Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion doing art on this and their work highlights a nightmare world from which there is no waking.
If you don’t mind losing sleep and you want to see one of the big two do an event comic right, read this.