Batman becomes the enemy.
Two issues in, Dark Nights: Metal is certainly living up to its name. This miniseries is louder and more boisterous than anything writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have tackled in the past. But it’s not all spectacle and zany superhero action with this book. Metal is also proving itself to be a story that builds on past Batman stories in meaningful ways while building a conflict that touches nearly every corner of the DCU.
Enjoyable though Metal #1 was, that issue did tend to get bogged down in exposition in its middle act. That problem doesn’t completely fade away in Metal #2, but the pacing is more consistent and rapid as Snyder and Capullo tear open the boundary between the DCU and the Dark Multiverse. The fact that much of this issue is presented as a true race against time, with nearly every active hero joining in the manhunt for Batman, helps give Metal all the urgency it needs. It does seem like Snyder’s script a little overly prone to explaining things rather than just asking readers to roll with the punches, but on the other hand, there’s a lot going on here. It’s commendable how accessible Snyder is able to make this story despite how heavily it draws from his own past work and that of Grant Morrison. Along with Peter Tomasi, Snyder seems to be the only writer interested in acknowledging stories like Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne, much less building on them.
Again, it’s really that balance between zany and grim that gives Metal its appeal. There’s plenty of memorable spectacle in these pages, whether it’s Batman riding a jet-ski through the swamp while pursed by Cyborg or a new take on a familiar DC team. But this also plays like a very dark and personal story about Batman’s quest to understand himself and the true nature of the Batman mantle. What does it mean when the ultimate self-actualized man turns out to be a pawn in a much larger cosmic game? What happens when Batman loses his usual confidence in his own actions? I do wish Metal read more like a true Justice League story rather than a Batman story with a larger scope. Of the other heroes in this issue, only Superman’s presence feels especially consequential. But given the way things play out in this issue, that may well change.
It’s easy to balance light and dark or campy and grotesque when you have an artist as versatile as Greg Capullo. Capullo delivers one densely packed page after another in this issue. He captures all the chaos and fury of the Justice League’s clash with the various impostor Batmen. Capullo feels equally at home rendering supernatural characters like Swamp Thing and Dream as he does traditional costumed heroes. Capullo also greatly enhances the sense of foreboding as Batman gets closer to the endpoint of his investigation. The heavy shadows create a very ominous feel in those pages, one that pays off nicely as Batman discovers just how badly he’s underestimated the threat at hand.
Inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist FCO Plascencia also shine throughout this issue. Glapion’s light, feathery lines really serve to bring out the fine details in Capullo’s work and give the issue a deeper sense of texture. Plascencia’s colors are varied and eye-popping, helping the story constantly shift in tone and setting and going a long way to strengthening the impact of the final sequence. In short, it’s great to have the whole gang back together.