Dark Days: The Forge – the first prelude to the upcoming Dark Knights: Metal event – could be said to be the summer’s most eagerly anticipated comic book with no sense of hyperbole. Reuniting writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo – the dream team behind the critically acclaimed and beloved by fans New 52 Batman title – would be reason enough for celebration and attention to be paid. Giving them a chance to play with the whole of the DC Comics Universe in the first inter-company event since DC Rebirth is another happy bonus, even ignoring all talk about this being the first part of “an epic that will span generations.”
Thick as the excitement around this series has been, most of the early press has focused on the artistic aesthetic and on Dark Nights being like “Frazetta and Jack Kirby had a baby to a heavy metal soundtrack“. Precious little has been said about the story itself. Even this issue’s solicitations were maddeningly vague.
All that is said going into this story is that Batman has uncovered some secret that he is hiding from even his closest allies and that this secret threatens the very multiverse itself! The whole affair is also said to tie into the origins of one of DC Comics oldest and most legendary heroes.
Even after having read the issue we know little more than this, save that the legendary hero in question is Hawkman. One of the issue’s subplots – illustrated by Andy Kubert – details the history of the man who was Carter Hall and Prince Khufu and his rebirth after exposure to the alien Nth Metal.
As indeterminate as the plotting is, the story is still a gripping one. Both Snyder and co-author James Tynion IV are renowned for their grasp of DC Comics history and their ability to handle diverse casts of characters. The exposition is handled smoothly and while there are numerous references to Snyder’s Batman run, everything is easily accessible to those who might not have read it, as is the history of Hawkman. No small feat, that!
Given the talent involved it will surprise no one that the artwork throughout this book is fantastic. It falters only in that there seems to be little rhyme or reason regarding which artists handled what pages, apart from Kubert’s handling the Hawkman sequences. A scene will start out with John Romita Jr. pencils only to suddenly shift into Jim Lee’s familiar style. It isn’t bad but it is somewhat jarring and the script would easily have allowed for the artists to focus on specific subplots.
This disunity between art and story is not enough to ruin the power of this comic. Dark Days: The Forge #1 proves a strong introduction to what promises to be an interesting mini-series. It may leave readers with more questions than answers but whatever else may be said about it, it isn’t dull.