The Batman is no stranger to the shaded realms of terror. His legacy is forged upon the anvil of horror archetypes. But this year in Dark Nights Metal, a new kind of horror story consumes Gotham as Batman contends with his worst nightmares. Prepare yourselves for a very dark adventure into fresh terror.
Something very sinister looms in the soft afterglow of DC’s Rebirth lineup. Something that will test the merit of the Dark Knight of Gotham more than any other challenge he’s faced in his lifetime – and for those familiar with the Batman’s legend, that’s saying a lot.
This year Scott Snyder is revealing a universe behind the multiverse, one from the blackest recesses of perpetual nightmares, an undiscovered dimension of insidious possibilities and a brand new doorway into nothing short of the truest kind of despair. In the infinite span of the anti-multiverse there are the negative planets, each one brought under the most dire of fates. All of them doomed to die. Each negative planet homes of Bruce Wayne desperately fighting to save a world that cannot be spared it’s failed destiny.
On one negative planet Batman’s rogues have gathered to beat Alfred Pennyworth to death. It’s truly a shocking moment and it took me – a long-time fan – a moment to realize who it was that they were killing. I had to go out to dinner for a charity event after reading this portion of the story, and I gotta admit – I was deeply shaken. We all know Alfred. We love him. Without him, Bruce would have been left to battle insurmountable tribulations all alone; tribulations that doubtlessly would have consumed him. But in a despairing echo to Knightfall, Bane lifts Alfred into the air before cracking him open across his knee while the other rogues laugh. Batman watches the footage over, and over and over. Obsessionally, consumed by desperation. The only man who stood as a stable patriarch to the Bat was murdered needlessly at the hands of Batman’s most fearsome villains. Batman feels helpless… and willing to do anything to correct it.
On another negative planet in the cold of the multi-verse, we see another Bruce who is aged and slower. The world is falling under the crumbling effects of a neon-red Armageddon. The Barman knows he can save Gotham if only he was faster! This Batman is alone. His Family is dead – the Robins, Oracle, Batwoman, and (worst of all) his son, Damian Wayne. Batman knows he’s gotten older and slower, and he knows he could have made a difference had he been faster; had he control over the Speed Force. And once again, in the blazing light of the apocalypse, Bruce is willing to do anything to make a difference.
In every case, upon every negative planet, the Batman is pushed beyond the edge of his limitations. He must watch his world die, but being the hero we all love him to be, he’s not going down without a fight! But he’s been pushed too far, and his actions have hideous consequences.
This is Dark Nights Metal.
The Batman has had a very dark and grueling legacy, one fraught with peril and the cruelest challenges. The Bat was born the very moment gun fire thundered in the back alleyways of Gotham City, leaving a scared child kneeling numbly in the warm crimson mirror spreading from Thomas and Martha Wayne – his parents. Turning that tragedy – his tragedy – into a vow to protect the innocent, he wrapped himself in darkness and became the face of terror to those who would use fear against the fearful.
The pale man who laughs has always been by his side, pursing him like a laughing plague, relentlessly wanting to push him over the edge. The Bat has so far proven resilient to all of Joker’s evil schemes. Even Scarecrow has tried to use Batman’s own fears against him to shatter the stability lingering in the hero’s mind. And yet, not even when confronted with his own fears has the Bat buckled.
The Bat represents triumph over tragedies. From his earliest appearance he has been a banner for justice to those who have been wronged. In many ways he is the most human of all the superheroes of any comic studio. His ability to rise out of the ashes, to take wing and fly against the storm, or to forge a path against the odds are all what define his legend. He inspires us to never give up, to not give in to the horrors at hand. To not cave in to the circumstances, even if they are beyond our ability to cope with. He has always faced his fears, he even wears them as his armor, and made them his symbol of justice. The Bat mastered fear, making it his greatest weapon against the forces of evil threatening to tear his city apart.
Well, for the first time – in Dark Nights Metal – this is the one case Batman dreads. That’s right, after all he’s been through with Joker, Scarecrow and every other rogue he’s encountered, the Bat is finally scared. And it’s questionable if even the combined support of the Justice League – his closest friends – can save him or themselves from the blackening fate at hand.
Let’s appreciate the weightiness of that. Batman has gone up against some insane challenges. The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family, Death of the Family, Endgame, Court of Owls, Emperor Joker, Red Hood, Knightfall, The Long Halloween – these are some classic examples of what he’s had to face. He’s watched friends and loved ones maimed or killed because of their association with him. He’s outwitted countless snares, he’s even fought Superman and won. He brazenly walked into the heart of Apokolips to kick Darkseid’s ass! And Apokolips might as well be Hell, but he went in with a smirk, because of course he did. He’s the goddam Batman!
He’s stared death and destruction in the face multiple times, even witnessed his own death on occasion, and seems overall indomitable to fear. So what can actually scare the Dark Knight?
Himself. Only the darkness in his own heart can scare the Dark Knight. He is scared of losing control of himself.
In all of those occasions – in some fashion or another – Bruce was in control. Or he knew he could work his way out of whatever tragedy befell him or his loved ones.
But what happens if the Batman had lost control? What if Batman went too far? What if he couldn’t let go of Alfred and insisted on Cyborg’s assistance to bring the last father-figure he had left back to cybernetic life?
What if he wanted to rule Atlantis once his (her) negative world was flooded? What if he needed to fight the god of war? What if he needed the Speed Force to reverse the errors of his old age? What if he was willing to lose his soul to do what was necessary in a desperate situation?
What if (in doing so) he broke every bond of friendship and crushed the Justice League for daring to stand in his way?
That’s what Dark Nights Metal explores with insidious flare. You see, this is a new Crisis story – Eeeeeeee! I love Crisis stories! – and this time around we’re not having a clash within the familiar multiverse. We’re being introduced to something far older, larger, and much more lethal – the dimension of Dark Matter, the dark-multiverse and the negative planets that dwell below us all.
Snyder has described it as an ocean of nightmares and evil. And out there in that obsidian chaos are the Nightmare Batmen – the Dark Knights. They exist, they’re very real; they are the manifestation of all the times Batman could have gone terribly wrong. But in these instances, Bruce did go wrong. So very, terribly wrong!
In a universe built out of Dark Matter, each Batman is represented as a ghoulish version of the Justice League. And a door to that chaos has been opened to bring them here.
The Nightmare Batmen are led by Batman’s worst nightmare of all; one come to hideous life – the hellish Batman Who Laughs. A twisted manifestation inspired by the Bat’s immortal enemy – the Joker.
This is a thing that walks straight out of nightmares. It is the atrocious combination of the Bat and Joker, united by a cowl and a smile that never fades. So far the Batman Who Laughs has broken into Arkham Asylum and gifted a few of Batman’s classic baddies with unspeakable powers – powers that enhance their natural abilities to insidious heights. For example: Mr. Freeze was locked one section of Gotham in a stygian world of frozen doom. Poison Ivy has turned another section of the city into a humid paradise of growing death.
Gotham has been overrun and turned into a thing straight out of Dante’s Inferno. So far the combined forces of the Teen Titans and Suicide Squad have tried to save Gotham, but (as of right now) to no avail. Their story is told in the 4-part Gotham Resistance run, one that is taking place right alongside the main story line of Metal, and equally amazing as well as moving. Meanwhile – at the same time – each member of the Justice League is faced with each emerging member of the Knightmare Batmen. It’s a powerful and gripping story that has me hooked!
The Batman Who Laughs is an abomination seemingly more befitting to Clive Barker’s imagination, and naturally I love it already.
So, horror fans, Batman fans, fellow comic geeks – the story of Metal is happening right now. I have to insist on picking up this story and getting involved. This is a Crisis story you won’t want to miss, friends. For your convenience I’ve provided a time table of future releases.
If you’ve never really read DC comics and you’re looking for a new horror fix, this is one I do highly recommend. With subterranean cults, mysterious metals with occult powers linking back to the ancient days of Egypt, and plenty of demons, this story-line is truly METAL and lives up to its name.
For more information on Dark Nights Metal be sure to check out DC’s website.
This has been Manic Exorcism.
“Some mysteries are best unsolved. Some doors best left unopened because through them, all you find is horror.” – Dark Days Forge Prelude to Metal