Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook #1 – Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Chip Zdarsky, Becky Cloonan, Vita Ayala, Priest, Writers; Doug Mahnke/Jaime Mendoza, Becky Cloonan, Dan Panosian, Eduardo Risso, Artists; David Baron, Emilio Lopez, Tamra Bonvillain, Luis Guerrero, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Ray: The counterpart to the recent anthology featuring the various Dark Batmen, this one shows how the heroes of the DCU are fighting back against Perpetua and the Batman Who Laughs’ takeover, along with some intriguing backmatter and maps breaking down the new world. It starts with a longer story by the same writers in the other anthology, as Snyder, Tynion IV, and Williamson are joined by Doug Mahnke to cover the last few days of the Earth as we knew it. We see a whole host of new evil Batmen taking down the heroes, as a mysterious “watcher”-like figure presides. But it’s not Tempus Fuginaut—it’s a repentant Lex Luthor, trying to reassemble his Legion to turn the tide and cutting a deal with Lobo to accomplish his goal. It’s a great way to kick off this anthology with a tense story and great visuals.
Next up is a Harley Quinn story by new-to-DC writer Chip Zdarsky and Khary Randolph. Could this be a preview of the new Harley creative team? Harley is a tracker in this new world, and she’s on a mission in the wilderness to find the missing Suicide Squad—and her missing hyena pups. She’s soon fighting an army of mutants reminiscent of Frank Miller’s work—including one familiar face—and bantering as she deals out brutal violence. As an event tie-in, this probably can’t capture the full vibe of what Zdarsky’s Harley would be like, but he seems to have a good voice for the character and it’s a lot of fun.
Next up is a short four-page story written and drawn by Becky Cloonan and focusing on Aquaman, and it looks stunning. It puts Aquaman against Batphomet, the grotesque Lovecraftian Batman, as they battle over the fate of a last-of-her-kind supernatural creature of the seas. Cloonan is a master of the haunting and the supernatural, and she’s a perfect choice for this story. Plot-wise, it’s rather bleak and hopeless—but that’s probably the right tone for a doomed world like this.
Vita Ayala and Dan Panosian are the creative team behind a story focusing on Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy, and it answers some key questions—namely, why is Wonder Woman acting as the regime’s jailer? This story is a battle of wills between Diana and Ivy, who is determined to see the plants on the surface again. Ivy fans will be very glad to see this nuanced, compassionate take on their favorite antihero, and both the art and writing are strong and do both characters justice.
Finally, it’s a story by Priest and Eduardo Risso teaming Batman with Jonah Hex as they go up against the Joker-Dragon terrorizing Gotham. Not only does it look brilliant, but it has a great take on the unique ethical worldviews these two heroes bring to the table, and how those worldviews have changed as they confront this horrible new world. The dialogue is a bit odd at times, with a lot of old-fashioned lingo, but as the story moves on it’s easily the most compelling team-up of the issue. More Priest Batman, please.
There isn’t a weak story in this volume, making it another big winner for DC’s latest event.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.