Dark Nights: Metal Finds Its Thematic Core in Issue 4

by Spencer Irwin

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

So far, Dark Knights: Metal has been best known for its reverence for DC’s history and its dedication to ideas and concepts as convoluted and zany as they are grand and cosmic (i.e., the instantly iconic Baby Darkseid). This focus has made the event a breathless thrill-ride, but in issue 4 Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo finally start to dig into the thematic and character-driven cores of their story, instantly making it a far more memorable and satisfying experience.

First of all, Snyder and Capullo establish a choice all their characters must make, giving them tools and motivation beyond the sheer will to survive that’s been driving them thus far. Dark Knights: Metal 4 finds its cast presented with the choice between the light and the dark, between embracing hope or giving into oblivion. Kendra Saunders chooses the latter when she gives up all hope on Carter Hall, attempting to destroy the Dark Multiverse entirely because she believes that Carter’s already lost to it, beyond all hope. Because of this, she’s possessed by the darkness and transformed into Lady Blackhawk.

When faced with the same choice, Batman too seems on the precipice of giving up, but thanks to Superman, he finds a way to embrace the light even when all seems lost.

God, I love this beat. It’s a chance for Superman to do what he does best: inspire. It’s a chance for Batman to fully embrace his family (and admit it out loud!) in a way he so rarely can. Most importantly, it’s a reminder that, despite all their differences, both these characters — and superheroes in general — are about finding hope, staying determined, never giving up, and showing readers how to do the same. Doing so allows Batman to move forward when nothing else can.

Snyder also gets meta, presenting the Multiverse and the Dark Multiverse as analogues to storytelling. As the issue opens, Dream explains how the nightmare scenarios of the Dark Multiverse are “impossible” stories, destined to only happen in dreams, or nightmares. If any of them are spoken, or actually occur, the whole library full of stories would burn down. Later in the issue, Dream explains how the World Forge created the Multiverse.

The Forge hammered out universes from the hopes and dreams of all living things, but only the most stable became a permanent part of the Multiverse. With the metaphor of worlds-as-stories already established, this becomes an insightful look into how stories are created, the way storytellers must tap into their own hopes and dreams (and the hopes and dreams of others) to create worlds in their stories, but how countless worlds are discarded before creators can find stories that are worth telling, or that sell, or that catch on with readers.

I’ll admit that the metaphor loses me when it comes to the idea of impossible, forbidden stories and their ability to destroy all stories altogether, but I appreciate Snyder giving me a question to consider at all, an idea that’s lingered with me far after I’ve finished reading the issue. I hope he continues to do so as the series moves forward, and I hope to see these themes and metaphors further explored and expanded upon as well.

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