In Review: Dark Nights: Metal #1

Enjoyable, but still nothing is revealed about this Metal story.

The covers: DC is not going low on the variants for this major crossover event: there are twenty-five different covers to seek out. Good luck, collectors! The Ashcan Variant cover is by Greg Capullo featuring the image that’s been used in several ads to promote this series, Batman in silhouette bearing a battleaxe in each hand as he emerges from an explosion. The smoke is disguising most of him. The Dark Knight looks ominous and the colors are bright, with the hero, naturally, dark. Three variant covers that form one image are by Michael Turner: Wonder Woman (A) is on the left, Batman (B) the center, and Superman (C) on the right. Turner’s artwork continues to impress after his far too soon passing., The characters are awesome and the colors bright on dark backgrounds. The Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair Variant features Wonder Woman felling a foe with a kick. She is posed in the air, her shield high with sword in her other hand. She looks amazing and the colors are fine, though one color doesn’t dominate, causing them to blend in too easily with others. The John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White Variant features Superman wielding a shield and mace to battle Mongul. The villain’s fist has just collided with the Man of Steel’s shield, while the Kryptonian has his weapon raised to brain the baddie. Great illustration and sensational coloring, with the sound wave coming off the fist and shield excellent. The Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson Variant is a lot of fun: Batman riding the head of rampaging Tyrannosaurus Rex. The dino’s mouth is open in rage as it bears down on the reader, its height shown by the trees it’s destroying at its neckline. On its head is the World’s Greatest Detective, looking as though he’s about to leap down. I love everything about this: if artists can combine superheroes and dinosaurs, I’m in! The Midnight Release Variant is also by Capullo and features the same Batman image as the Regular atop a hexagram on a black field. At each point of the geometric figure is the logo of each member of the Justice League. Nice. There’s a Black and White Variant of the Midnight Variant (1:100) by Capullo, with the same artwork, though it only has the title Metal at the bottom. Also nice. Capullo also has the Regular cover where all the Justice League members have been positioned into the “sign of the horns” used by headbangers. Fun choice and “Rock on, Capullo!” There are two Variants by Jock that are very difficult to make out online. The first (A) is colored in blues, grays, blacks, and whites. It features the JL, with Batman in the front, with mild costume alterations. Batman looks to holding two massive battle hammers, or he’s got enormous knees. He’s also got on a fur coat that gives him a very Jon Snow appearance. The second variant (B) by him is the same, just with different coloring: black and white with the logo and credits in red. Okay, but difficult to discern. The first Tyler Kirkham Variant (A) goes old school with Batman dressed like a knight battling a dragon that’s trying to roast him with its fiery breath. Very cool. The second variant by Kirkham (B) has Batman and the dragon again, though Bats is wearing a different cowl, and Wonder Woman can be seen in the background. The colors are also brighter. Again, it’s good, but another variant just to put WW on the cover? The variant from Gabriel Dell’otto is unbelievable: Batman in knight gear screaming as he wields two axes. He looks like he’s just come out of Hell. Powerful, menacing, and flat out awesomeness! Cliff Chiang’s variant has a definite Moebius flair as Wonder Woman rides a Pterodactyl over some desolate mountains. I really like this cover because I’m a huge fan of Arzach and Chiang has translated that look successfully to Diana. A dragon is in the foreground, it’s head on the ground and eyes open showing it’s dead. Standing behind it are the members of the Justice League against what remains of a castle wall. This is a variant by Dustin Nguyen and it looks like it’s unfinished; it’s too rough for me to enjoy. The first variant by Francesco Mattina features knight-Batman pulling back a fist to punch the Joker, who is also dressed as a knight and is riding a hyena. Both characters look great and the coloring adds to the tense mood. Mattina also has a Sketch Variant that’s in black and white to show what the original look was of the finished cover. This is worth picking up as the Joker and his mount look very different. Bill Sienkiewicz has a variant showcasing Wonder Woman holding her sword ready while Batman is behind her with a ginormous axe. I’m a huge fan of Sienkiewicz and I love this cover. The Neal Adams Variant has Batman about to bring a sword down upon the head of dragon being ridden by a creepy armor wearing creature. Two other humanoids are in the image and they are equally icky looking. It’s a Neal Adams’s cover — What other reason do you need to want it? The next variant is by Eric Basaldua and has Wonder Woman in the foreground using her lasso to hold a creature down while she slices another. In the background Superman is using his heat vision on one of the beasts and Batman has got that axe that the cover artists have flocked to. Good to see Wonder Woman and Superman battling with things they always have, rather than the swords they’ve been shown with. The creatures in this are a little too close to the xenomorphs from the Alien saga for me. Stop the presses! This is the one to find — the Joe Benitez Variant. Wow! Wonder Woman is sitting in a gold chair with violet cushions. Behind her is Power Girl to her left and Zatanna to her right. Kneeling next to the Amazon is Starfire. Each character is dressed in Steampunk-like clothing and they look incredible. This is the one to track down. The final two variants are by Tim Bradstreet. His first (A) features Batman holding a sword on a throne. The back of the chair is a full figured skeletal Batman sporting wings and its own weapon. Two dragon statues are on either side of the throne, while two black panthers lie at his feet. Seven cloaked figures have white masks to disguise them as they stand below the hero. The background is lit by two torches, whose flames are being blown by a strong wind. The colors are black and white and this, too, is awesome. The B by Bradstreet is the same illustration but a full figure of the Joker has been superimposed over the image. He’s dressed like a court jester, though his face resembles Marilyn Manson. Undeniably awesome! Overall grades: Ashcan A-, Turner Variant A A, Turner Variant B A, Turner Variant C A, Lee Variant A, Romita Jr. Variant A+, Kubert Variant A+, Midnight Release Variant A, Midnight Release Variant (1-100) C, Regular “Horns” A-, Jock Variant A C, Jock Variant B C, Kirkham Variant A A-, Kirkham Variant B A-, Dell’otto Variant A+, Chiang Variant A+, Nguyen Variant C-, Mattina Variant A, Mattina Sketch Variant A, Sienkiewicz Varaint A+, Adams Variant A, Basaldua Variant A-, Benitez Variant A+, Bradstreet A A, and Bradstreet B A 

The story: This twenty-eight paged book opens 50,00 years in the past with a lizard running across the hot sand. As it speeds along it passes three images drawn beneath him. A narrator states, “Lost to history is a story. A story about how, in these lands, during the Age of Stone, there were three great tribes of man. Tribe of the Wolf, of the Bear, and of the Bird. All were nomadic, and shared a grand dream — a dream of discovery. But soon, a fourth tribe rose. A dark tribe, unlike the others…one of twisted dreams — dreams turned inside out. And with its terrible rise, so began The Age of Metal.” A familiar shadow falls over these symbols, which is soon splattered with blood. Scott Snyder’s story then moves to the present where the Justice League is being forced to combat opponents of Mongul’s choosing in an arena of a newly constructed Warworld. Also imprisoned by the despot is the Toyman, who has constructed the Fulcum Abominus to fight the heroes. Seven mechanical creatures enter and focus on the character they were created to fight. The character who gets the team to the solution makes sense, though what the team becomes to win did not win me over. All I could think of was a Saban owned team. This opening sequence of nine pages shows each member’s abilities to the reader and how they function as a team, but I would have rather things begin after the credits’ page. A giant mountain has appeared on Earth after an energy storm. This leads to the team finding a door, five individuals contained in a pod, and a run in with a character last seen in All-Star Batman #6 – 9. I liked this character and the information she gives them, as well as the teases of several other superheroes on Page 18. The character that awakens was fantastic and the action and escape that follows good. The other heroes that appear on 24 had me happy. The final page had me very surprised, as normally this individual is off limits in the hero books at DC. I didn’t care for the opening, but once the story truly began I was intrigued. Overall grade: C+

The art: The first page where the narrator gives the opening to this saga looks good from artist Greg Capullo and inker Jonathan Glapion. The fourth panel is a good tease, though the last panel had me wondering where the blood came from: the lizard or elsewhere? One can’t tell from the splatter. The Mongul battle scenes look good, Capullo and Glapion know how to make these heroes shine. Seven heroes is a lot for any page, let alone panel, yet they’re able to work everyone in without it seeming forced. 9 is strong page showing how each contributes to their solution. I didn’t like the first panel on Page 10: it’s just cheesy, even for a comic book. Granted, this is what the story demanded and I know of no other way how these artists could have pulled it off better. Though shown briefly, the laboratory they enter is well defined, with just enough to make it look high tech, but believable to the reader. The entrance of the group on 15 is good, and two heroes’ reactions to them fantastic, and the reveal of their leader on 16 solid. The next page features a gorgeous piece of statuary that foreshadows much. The emphasis placed on the last panel on this page is perfect. The heroes on 18 had me cheering for their return, especially the person in the upper right corner. The action on 22 is terrific, with the character’s abilities matching those he’s been shown to have in the past. The escape that follows this page is sensational: again, you put superheroes with dinosaurs and I’m won over. I’m concerned about the splash on 24 that shows the villains in silhouette: all I can think of are the minions from the iconic The Great Darkness Saga. I’m hoping that visually, and story-wise, these characters are a little more unique. the final page’s entrance did make me gasp, because of who it was. This character is more muscular than I’m used to seeing him interpreted, but I’m on fire to see more of him. Overall grade: A-

The colors: FCO Plascencia does an outstanding job on the book’s colors. Reading a team book of heroes, I want their outfits to be bright and stand out on every panel they’re in. They certainly do so in this book, and without looking ridiculous. The book opens warmly with the yellow sand and ends covered in shadow and crimson — a good, ominous pairing. The heroes’ first appearance has them in their expected togs, though with some shiny metal armor so they may battle. Mongul stands out with his yellow skin and deep purple clothes. Sounds are exceptionally well colored on this book, providing a good punch up to any panel, yet not stealing focus from the art’s action. On 9 unique colors are used for each character’s background and they reinforce each one. I’ve stated I’m not a fan of Page 10 and the colors aren’t helping. The heroes’ return to Earth is beautiful in emerald and the energy that streaks off the Flash as he runs is stunning in yellow. Yellows also play a strong part in the location where the heroes end up, on the statue and the eyes of an awakened character. Reds are awesome in the action sequence there and the pinks on the conveyance used for the escape good. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, sounds, narration, Mongul’s speech, dialogue, chants, yells, screams, transmissions, and the final character’s unique speech are brought to life by Steve Wands. He impressively inserts his work into the panels without overwhelming or covering the visuals. With a team this strong, there’s got to be a lot of screaming and yelling as a villain tries to put them down, and Wands makes each bellow great. The sounds are incredibly fun throughout the book, each looking different to fit the situation. I’m also happy when inhuman characters have their own unique speech font and Mongul and the last page’s character have words that visually match their personalities. An excellent job. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Nine pages were not needed, so the extra two dollars seems unnecessary. When the story begins on 11 things improve considerably, though they’re still only setup for what’s to be revealed later. Thankfully, the visuals are strong and that makes the extra two bucks seem less painful. Enjoyable, but still nothing is revealed about this Metal story. Overall grade: B

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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