Review – Dark Nights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1 – Coda

Comic Books DC This Week
Last Stories of the DC Universe #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Dark Knights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1 – Joshua Williamson/James Tynion IV/Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Mariko Tamaki, Gail Simone, Christopher Sebela, Cecil Castellucci, Mark Waid, Writers; Travis Moore, Rafael Albuquerque, Daniel Sampere, Meghan Hetrick, Christopher Mooneyham, Mirka Andolfo, Francis Manapul, Artists; Tamra Bonvillain, Ivan Plascencia, Adriano Lucas, Marissa Louise, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Andrew Dalhouse, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: The latest oversized Dark Knights: Death Metal anthology has an ominous title—and one of the most impressive arrays of talent ever put into an event tie-in. So what does this giant-sized comic (almost the size of a seasonal anthology like this week’s holiday special) foretell for the future of the DCU—if there is one?

First up is a story co-written by the three architects of this huge event and drawn by upcoming Wonder Woman artist Travis Moore. Focusing on the Titans, “Together” focuses on Donna Troy and Beast Boy as they reflect on how far they’ve come right before heading off to battle in what could be the final war. Beast Boy, naturally, thinks the best way to handle this is to gather everyone who’s ever been a Titan for one last party. Even some villains come back for a trip down memory lane, with a surprise guest at the end that sets up something huge. But this is only the first half of this story, which will be finished at the end.

Reflections. Via DC Comics.

Next up is Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque on “Last Knights,” a Green Lantern story that finds Hal returning to the ruins of Coast City in the hellscape to catch up on some business. Visiting his father’s grave and the ruined Ferris Air, it’s mostly a character-driven story as Jordan reflects on what drives him—until Sinestro shows up. What could have turned into a nasty battle turns into something very different, as the two old friends share a flight during what could be the end. This has a great take on both leads, and reminds me a lot of the work Cullen Bunn did with Sinestro in his solo series.

Current series writer Mariko Tamaki teams up with Daniel Sampere on “The Question,” a Wonder Woman story that follows up on Diana’s killing of the Batman Who Laughs in the first issue of the main event. This is a deeply introspective story, as Diana wonders what’s happened to her that killing the villain had so little impact. Encounters with her mother, with Riddler, and with a multiversal Donna Troy only add to her confusion. Tamaki didn’t have much time with Diana as her run was very focused on the villains, but this is a great take on what drives Diana as both a warrior and as a hero.

It’s been a while since we had much done with either Green Arrow or Black Canary, both of whom saw their series cancelled a while ago. So Gail Simone and Meghan Hetrick teaming up on “Dust of a Distant Storm” is a breath of fresh air. This is probably the best story either character has had in years, a deeply romantic take on how they spend possibly their last night together. A surprise appearance from another masked archer from a different world adds some real emotional punch to the last pages, as we get yet another tease of a world that’s going to be very significant soon. Man, I miss Gail’s Black Canary.

Chris Sebela and Chris Mooneyham are an unexpected choice for the Aquaman story, “Whalefall,” as neither have really worked with the character much before. They put together a compelling story, although probably the wordiest of the volume. Aquaman, perceived as a traitor by the rest of the heroes for the deal he made with Batphomet to protect the seas, is alone on the eve of the final war. That solitude takes him down to the deep as he reflects on the choices he made the legacy he’s leaving for his daughter over the body of a massive whale. It’s a haunting, introspective story with some great visuals.

The Batfamily takes center stage next in Cecil Castellucci and Mirka Andolfo’s “The Fight For Love,” which in many ways is an epilogue to Castellucci’s Batgirl run. This is where we finally get the fallout between Babs and Dick that didn’t play out there, with Dick desperately trying to connect with Barbara again before the end. Batman’s attempt to rally his family for one last gathering has some good moments, but Tim is minimized, Cass, Steph, and Duke are entirely absent, and Damian is trouble as always. The chaotic nature of Dick and Babs overwhelms everything and leads to a rather bizarre conclusion, making this really the only story that didn’t work for me.

Next up is the story most people have been waiting for—Mark Waid’s decades-in-the-waiting return to Superman with art by the fantastic Francis Manapul. And in just over ten pages, this creative team proves exactly what we’ve been missing. As Superman struggles to determine how to spend what could be his last night, he comes up with a solution only he could—using a time-travel device to spend it over, and over, and over again trying to bring hope to a world facing doom. Even with Superman at his weakest, dying from Apokaliptan corruption, he proves why he’s the greatest hero to ever live. Let’s hope this is only the first of many Superman stories by Waid.

Finally, it’s back to the Titans for an epilogue, as the return of Wally West throws the gathering of heroes for a loop after the events of Heroes in Crisis. With another unexpected return courtesy of a surprising source, and an inspiring speech from Donna Troy, the Titans of multiple generations get ready for battle. It’s probably the story that captures the spirit of the Titans better than any comic in years, and it makes me think the franchise could recover from years of trouble if it’s given an A-list creative team. Overall, a mostly brilliant anthology that delivers the quiet moments and emotional punch that are often missing from big events.

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

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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