Dark Nights: Metal 2 Learns to Stop Worrying and Love the Weird

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

Over the past 50 years, relaunches like The New 52 have favored comic book “realism” — whatever that may be. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve found that comic books are at their best when they embrace the silly, high-concept ideas that ran without question for the first 50 odd years of comic book history. Dark Nights: Metal 2 is the type of book that blends the modern “realism” with the whacky fearlessness of the books of old.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo open the book with one of their tried and true Bat-fam switcheroos.

This beginning sequence is the latest proof that Snyder would be an excellent writer for a Justice League book. There’s the right amount of quips, superpower display and love there that amounts to true League material.

The part that really tugged on my heartstrings was the way Superman spoke about his best pal Batman, and how worried he was for him.

What I really love about Dark Nights: Metal 2 is it’s lack of concern for easing readers into its craziness. Snyder combines the pseudoscience of his Batman run with the meta-fantasy of Grant Morrison’s to form a new Multiverse epic.

There’s plenty of great DCU moments here: Batman siccing Swamp Thing on the League, the swamp base of The Legion of Doom and my personal favorite: Baby Darkseid.

I’d like to think that at some point after he kidnapped him, Batman dressed Baby Darkseid in appropriate Apocalyptian clothing. Snyder gives a little bit of backdrop as Batman mentions the “Omega Sanction” and Grail but doesn’t dwell there too long, as to focus the story on those elements.

With less emphasis on laborious exposition and more on the high-octane action that has been hyped for this series, Dark Nights: Metal 2 is most definitely worth a read.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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3 comments on “Dark Nights: Metal 2 Learns to Stop Worrying and Love the Weird

  1. Were it not for the fact it has been obvious since day one, this and Action COmics really proves that the emperor has no clothes. I mean, that’s it for the most interesting new addition to Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery. The Court of Owls are going to need serious rehabilitation. Turn them back into something interesting and meaningful, instead of a stupid Doomsday Cult. That was not what made them interesting in the first place. Like, Metal seems to be Snyder butchering his old work in a desperate attempt to pretend this new work matters. What was once meaningful, symbollic or thematic is now turned to into garbage to thrown into the forges, acting as proof of the axiom Garbage In Garbage Out.

    And that’s ignoring the fact that it is entirely built on NOT READING MORRISON’S BATMAN! Barbatos was Darkseid’s Hyper Adaptor, with Barbatos, Hurt and everything just being part of the Omega Sanction. It is kind of key to the enitre thing. Morrison’s Batman doesn’t make sense without that fundamental point. If you are going to build your story around explicit references to the exact events of Morrison’s Batman, you cna’t fundamentally misunderstand literally every part of it.

    Hell, Bruce’s literal plan is to destroy the universe out of gross incompetence. Let’s imagine for a moment that Barbatos somehow isn’t the Hyper Adaptor. Bruce wants to wipe his own memory so that he can fight both Barbatos and another Hyper Adaptor, while having no plan to defeat the new Hyper Adaptor (because all the stuff he needed last time aren’t available) and therefore reempower Darkseid and end the universe.

    But even if you forget the continuity shit, it just takes the great meaning and mythmaking of Morrison’s run, and subjects it to the same butchering Snyder is doing to his own work. Just smothering it to death with incompetence.

    Every meaningful statement about Batman, every idea that resonated and meant something, and Metal exists to go ‘actually, it is meaningless garbage’. Urgh. Between this, and the total failure of Mr Oz (a crappily created mystery that could only resolve stupidly), Rebirth really needs to hurry up and die.

    I so wanted Metal to be the book that fixed Rebirth…

    • I think you’re pretty far off base Matt. Scott Snyder has admitted in the past that he is as big of a fan of Grant Morrison as you or me. He even asked Morrison for permission to use Barbatos in Dark Nights: Metal because he respected the work that Morrison did with Batman so much. Keep in mind, this is the very first time we’ve had an explicit reference to Batman’s Final Crisis/Return of Bruce Wayne Omega Sanction journey in New 52/Rebirth continuity. Snyder loves the epic-ness of that Bat-journey so much that he wants to make sure it stays in continuity in some form or another.

      And of course Snyder is going to tweak some things with the Omega Sanction a bit – this is comic books. If everything stayed wholly and totally faithful to original incarnations and ideas, then comic book superheroes would’ve died an early death decades ago. Snyder is utilizing the mechanics of Morrison’s work to serve his current story. And that story is not Final Crisis 2 or Bruce Wayne Returns Again, but Dark Nights: Metal. Barbatos and the Omega Sanction are a means to an end for the type of Batman story that Snyder wants to tell us.

      I’ve read your complaints about Rebirth but I really don’t understand them. I think that it is the best thing that has happened to DC Comics since they threw all of the excellent continuity in the toilet in 2011. By reincorporating one of Batman’s more psychedelic and outlandish adventures of recent history, Metal is just the latest example of DC creators trying to right certain wrongs that were made. It’s completely possible that Snyder and Capullo drop the ball and Metal turns out to be a mediocre event. With what we’ve been given thus far however, I think that it’s probably the best Batman book and best Scott Snyder book currently on the shelves.

      • I don’t police continuity a lot. Honestly, I think the focus on reboots and what is or isn’t continuity is wasted time. Dc’s pre Flashpoint continuity wasn’t great. It had great parts, and it had awful parts. And it had everything in between. Hell, some of those awful parts had such a large impact on the DC Universe that it was still stinking up the place (like Identity Crisis). Ultimately, any individual run didn’t come down to continuity. It came down to individual teams using the stuff they wanted to the best effect, and hopefully creating a product worth something. What is and isn’t continuity doesn’t really matter
        If DC want to spend a year producing garbage comics to bring back Morrison’s psychedallic adventures* and all their other favourite stories, then all they have done is created garbage. I love Morrison’s Batman, but I don’t care if it is canon. It should only be canon if and when it needs to be canon for the story I am reading. I care if Morrison’s run inspires a new generation of interesting Batman stories that push and evolve the things like he did. Ultimately, it comes down to caring more about Batman the idea, than Batman the history (hell, this was the point of Morrison’s run, and its ‘everything is canon’ idea. Everything contradicts and doesn’t make sense, but who cares. Grab what you love and make whatever you want out of those elements).

        But I do have one rule. Let’s call it Lemire’s rule, as he breaks it all the time. If your story is built heavily on the existence of another story, you should at least get the basics of that story correct. And Snyder has completely failed that test.

        I mean, if your case is that Snyder is reincorporating one of Batman’s more psychedelic and outlandish adventures in recent history, you can’t ignore the fact that everything is completely wrong. This isn’t a small adjustment. This is complete removal of the villain and primary instigator of the story. The very thing that makes it a functioning story. I mean, I reread the comics and looked up articles on Morrison’s run online, just to make sure I was right and not misinterpreting things.

        In Morrison’s comics, Bruce was blasted back in time by Darkseid, and sent rushing through history, chased by the Hunter Adaptor, as part of a plan to destroy creation and rempower Darkseid. The Hyper Adaptor took the form of, among other things, a demon given the name Barbatos. While it was in this form, it appeared to Bruce’s ancestor, Thomas Wayne, who was corrupted and became Doctor Hurt. Batman and the Justice League then defeated, sending it back in time where it was killed by Vandal Savage. This is the story of Return of Bruce Wayne.
        In fact, it is the story of the entire first two phases of Morrison’s Batman. Everything that happens in the first two phases is spawned from Darkseid blasting Batman with the Omega Sanction, leading to the Hyper Adaptor corrupting one of Bruce’s ancestors.

        If you are telling a story so reliant on Return of Bruce Wayne that it is all about what Bruce saw during that trip, and where Bruce wants to replicate the exact circumstances, then it can’t just ignore that the story, including Barbatos, was all about Darkseid’s Hyper Adaptor.

        You can do some retcons, as long as it acknowledges the original facts and what is changing. Maybe the Hyper Adaptor took the form of an existing entity? Maybe its appearance during a satanic ritual meant it accidentally leaked into the Dark Universe, leading to Metal. But whatever retcon you do, by sheer virtue of referencing the specific story so heavily, it must follow Lemire’s Rule. And according to Lemire’s Rule, you have to acknowledge the existence of the basics. Which includes the villain and instigator of the entire story. You can’t just pretend the villain of the story you are heavily referencing doesn’t exist so you can slot your new villain in. Whether you follow Lemire’s Rule or whether you believe that making Morrison’s work canon again is a good thing, neither work if you just get rid of the Hyper Adaptor.

        And this is important, because regardless of which version of canon you use, my loose ‘Lemire’s Rule’ or your ‘hey, I want that story I loved to be canon’, you have to accept that knowing Return of Bruce Wayne will inform how the actions are interpreted. Because there are two ways to interpret that scene
        – I didn’t read Morrison’s Batman. That makes sense
        – I read Morrison’s Batman. Didn’t Bruce already defeat Barbatos? Wasn’t Barbatos the Hyper Adaptor that Darkseid created as part of the Omega Sanction? And wouldn’t using the Omega Sanction create a new Hyper Adaptor, one that Bruce doesn’t have a plan for? Wouldn’t this just double the problem? Isn’t Bruce placing the universe at a very real risk of annihilation AND threatening to reincarnate Darkseid at full power to fight a villain already defeated and rendered harmless? How do I reconcile the Hyper Adaptor with Barbatos? How does this make sense?
        And that’s the problem. If you want to acknowledge Morrison’s Batman, you have to properly acknowledge Morrison’s Batman. Get the very basic story beats right. Because if your acknowledgement of Morrison’s work means nothing makes sense, you haven’t done a good job. If Snyder didn’t want to have the deal with the Hyper Adaptor/Return of Bruce Wayne’s story, he could have just done anything else… Maybe he found Barbatos independently of any previous story? Maybe… Metal could make sense?

        But that isn’t what DC are about these days. They would much rather get the cheap dopamine hit ‘you referenced that thing I know’ than put the effort into crafting stories with meaning. Stories that created experiences that actually stuck with you. Where instead of consistently compromising the hero’s values to appeal to ‘core fans’ who see more value in edginess than sincere following of those values.

        There was a period, late era New 52 and DC YOU, where DC was at its best in recent history. It combined creativity with respect for characters. Pushed characters forward in new directions, added to them, while remaining true to those core values. Many characters were being written better than they had been in recent memory (hell Genevieve Valentine created a Catwoman book so good that it competed with Brubaker’s Catwoman, which is among the best books DC ever did). DC was creating masterpieces like Batman 44 and Omega Men. It was at its most inventive and original, so even books that didn’t come together felt worth it. There was a diverse array of books, from the lightest and most enjoyable to the darkest books around. In every genre you can imagine. And they were in front of the cultural conversation, stealing Marvel’s thunder with Spider-Gwen with Batgirl of Burnside. The way she single handedly reshaped the cultural conversation is incredible.

        There is none of this with Rebirth. Instead, Rebirth has placed DC in one of its worst places in recent history. Financially, it is struggling to do as well as the early New 52. Ultimately, like the New 52, it is proving that a big sales stunt like this only produces short term success, and burnout is higher than expected. And creatively, it throws away everything that made DC great. The direction is backwards, throwing out any interesting recent development to appeal to turn the clock backwards. They then compromise those very values to appeal to the worst parts of their fanbases. Characters are written in the most banal and generic ways, and nothing comes close to the success of Batman 44 or Omega Men. And the lack of any creativity makes the consistent failure in storytelling never feel worth the try. Diversity is down, with every book that was too light cancelled and replaced with a specific brand of darkness that we are supposed to uncritically accept as ‘optimistic’. Batgirl of Burnside has been backstabbed, while DC’s place in the cultural conversation was fallen. With the lustre of newness gone, the greater cultural conversation, the one outside the hardcore audience like us, has shifted to ‘Mr Oz’s true identity was stupider than we thought, and it was stupid to begin with’ and ‘DC is still committed to its awful Watchmen plans’ (I will happily admit that the greater cultural dialogue has turned against Marvel in response to Secret Empire’s controversy, but at least Marvel don’t have white supremacists as its primary defenders in that conversation. Because the one thing Rebirth has done well is preach a vision of both DC and the comics community built on racism, sexism and homophobia, empowering the worst elements. Meanwhile, books like Squirrel Girl consistently work well as a counterpoint in that greater cultural dialogue).

        But that is what Rebirth has been from day one. Preaching the worst version of the DC Universe. One lacking in imagination, in the values in its heroes, in any sense of tomorrow and just wants to be a nostalgic circlejerk around an imagined past (it can’t even getting referencing the past right). It is a DC that has given up. A DC defeated.

        Maybe Metal is the best Batman book currently on the stands. It is four bad issues in, but you are probably right. But a Batman book written with some competence, creativity and care would be so much better. It would be literally better than DC’s entire line bar Deathstroke. I just want DC to care again.

        Instead, it is crap after crap after crap, doing nothing better than reminding you of all the better books DC used to write. If Rebirth has reconnected us to its past, it is threw the reminded of a collection of books much better to read. And I’ve been crawling through DC’s back catalogue

        Let’s just all go off and reread Morrison. It will be a better use of our time than letting Rebirth disappoint us again

        ______________________________________________________

        *Ignoring the fact that I don’t think Morrison was ever out of canon. The New 52 begun with explicit references to Morrison’s run happening, like the fact that Dick had only just become Nightwing again

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