Review – ‘Dark Nights Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights #1’ – Multiversal Horrors

Legends of the Dark Knights #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Dark Nights Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights #1 – Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Peter J. Tomasi, Marguerite Bennett, Frank Tieri, Daniel Warren Johnson, Garth Ennis, Writers; Tony S. Daniel, Riley Rossmo, Jamal Igle, Francesco Francavilla, Daniel Warren Johnson, Joelle Jones, Artists; Marcelo Maiolo, Ivan Plascencia, Chris Sotomayor, Nike Spicer, Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: One of the biggest attractions of the first Dark Nights event was the attack of the evil alternate Batmen—including, of course, The Batman Who Laughs. So it’s not a surprise that we’re getting a sequel, and in this oversized one-shot we’re introduced to a collection of new twisted Bats—each fused with another character or iconic object from the Bat-world. And we’ve got an all-star creative team bringing some truly absurd concepts to life. So how does this issue shake out?

We kick off with a story co-written by DC headliners Snyder, Tynion IV, and Williamson and drawn by Tony Daniel, focusing on our big bad—the Darkest Knight, formerly the Batman who Laughs and now wielding the power of Dr. Manhattan. Or is he? This story is partially a recap of the Batman Who Laughs’ journey to madness, but it also has a great twist about just how he got that power—with the introduction of another, unexpected Batman to the story. Mostly told in a series of stunning double-page spreads, it’s a great way to kick off the issue. It’s also a fantastic setup for one of the deadliest villains the DCU has ever seen.

Rise of a monster. Via DC Comics.

Next up is Tomasi and Rossmo’s tale of the Robin King, the most twisted protege of the Darkest Knight. At first I thought this might be an alternate Dick Grayson, but no—it’s another alternate Bruce Wayne, one whose corruption began at a much earlier age. This is as much Alfred’s story as it is Bruce’s, as we follow the loyal butler as he observes his charge becoming a sociopath and tries to stop it before it’s too late. But this is a story with an inevitable march towards tragedy, made all the more compelling by Riley Rossmo’s genuinely disturbing art. His Bruce Wayne looks like a character out of an Omen movie.

Marguerite Bennett and Jamal Igle replace another creator on the short, two-page story of the Batmanasaurus Rex, who is exactly what it sounds like—Batman’s mind inside a giant robot dinosaur. They don’t do much with it—it’s just a quick segment of the monster invading Arkham Asylum for a snack—but can you really blame them? It’s a ridiculous concept, and the narration is tense and suspenseful while the one visual we’re waiting for delivers in spades.

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Frank Tieri and Francisco Francavilla have the job of bringing Castle Bat to life, transforming an aged Batman into a living avatar of Gotham. This is an origin story more than the others, ending with the transformation, and the interplay between Bruce and Damian (leading to a bloody end) is intense if rather predictable. But while the story is just adequate, the art is easily the best in the entire book—a chilling, gothic visual feast of murder, sacrifice, and a transforming city becoming a living weapon against evil. Francavilla started the Snyder era in Black Mirror, and it’s fitting he has a role in the last act.

Writer/Artist Daniel Warren Johnson has one of the breakout stories of this issue spinning out of the bizarre concept “What if Batman became the Batmobile?” At only two pages, it packs a lot of story into its short length, telling us of a world where Batman uploaded his consciousness into all his technology, becoming a hive-mind of Bat-tech that policed the world. But a human rebellion confined him to a single vehicle, which he now uses to exact justice on a burned-out world. It’s a bizarre Mad Max pastiche that works because of the talent behind the art.

Finally, it’s a weird tale by Garth Ennis and Joelle Jones, where Batman reincarnates into a new body thanks to his technology and winds up—a newborn baby. There’s some dark humor to seeing Batman’s analytical mind trying to figure out a way out of his current predicament, but like some of the other shorts, it’s really just a one-gag story. Ennis has always embraced absurdity, and this is a little more subtle than most of his work, but it’s not quite up to par with the rest of the issue.

Overall, it’s a strong look into the darkest corners of the multiverse—and some bizarre ones that aren’t so much dark as just strange.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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This post was last modified on August 3, 2020 2:04 pm

Ray Goldfield

Ray Goldfield is a comics superfan going back almost thirty years. When he's not reading way too many comics a week, he is working on his own writing. The first installment in his young adult fantasy-adventure, "Alex Actonn, Son of Two Seas", is available in Amazon now.

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