DARK NIGHTS: DEATH METAL TRINITY CRISIS #1/ Script by SCOTT SNYDER/ Art by FRANCIS MANAPUL/ Colors by IAN HERRING/ Letters by TOM NAPOLILTANO/ Published by DC COMICS
I find myself conflicted regarding Dark Nights: Death Metal Trinity Crisis #1. There’s a lot to admire about this book, which was made by creators I generally like at the top of their game. Yet this book is also entirely inaccessible to anyone who is not already neck-deep in the glory that is the Dark Nights saga. As a part of that saga, it is brilliant.
However, from the perspective of someone coming into this comic with no other knowledge, it’s a bit of a mess. The fact that such a person is unlikely to pick this comic up does not negate the point that it violates the old Stan Lee dictum that “Every comic book is someone’s first issue,” and should be written as such. This thinking is virtually impossible in the sort of multi-miniseries event favored by The Big Two these days. To the credit of writer Scott Snyder, he does try to bring new readers up to speed with this issue’s introduction, but Dark Nights has always been about concepts rather than characters.
Here’s the short, short version: every Crisis in DC Comics history was secretly the working of a Lovecraftian goddess called Perpetua. She was left weakened after a battle with the Justice League but was re-empowered thanks to the efforts of The Batman Who Laughs – an evil version of Batman twisted to be as insane as The Joker but no less brilliant. Somehow, the Batman Who Laughs has assembled a new army of darkness made up of evil Batmen and evil Batman allies from every world in the Dark Multiverse, in order to pull a Number Six on reality. The linchpin to this is three worlds where the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis are playing out over and over without resolution, generating crisis energy to feed Perpetua. As this issue opens, Wonder Woman has gathered what few heroes remain and is detailing her plan to take Superman and Batman to these Earths and end the Crises, so they can stop Perpetua once and for all.
Snyder’s script is lively and the action never lets up. Yet the reader will be quickly lost if they aren’t already familiar with certain things, such as why the Justice League now includes a psychic starfish named Jarro who views Batman as his father. There’s not a lot of room for character building or introspection when we’re rolling out high concepts like the Alfredbox (presumably like a Motherbox, but with a butler’s mind behind it) or the alternate universe daughter of Batman and Wonder Woman. If you’ve been reading the story so far, this will all seem awesome. If you haven’t, well, the story won’t hold your hand to get you caught up.
It’s a shame the story is so muddy because the artwork is amazing. Francis Manapul is rightly regarded as one of the best artists in the business and his work here is fantastic, with clear line-work and memorable character designs. The irony is I’m not entirely certain he’s the right artist for this project, which seems to demand the rough edges of a Simon Bisley or Riley Rossmo. The bright palette utilized by Ian Herring doesn’t help matters, yet that may be the intent. The focus here, after all, is on the heroes trying to resist being corrupted by dark influences, not those who have given into it.
In either case, I enjoyed reading Dark Nights: Death Metal Trinity Crisis #1. As a fan of these creators, I am satisfied and think other readers of the Dark Nights series to date will enjoy it. Newcomers would do well to go pick up the original Dark Nights: Metal and try to catch up.