This article contains Justice League spoilers, in case you aren’t caught up through Justice League #39 and Hell Arisen.
Delayed by the comic shop and shipping shutdowns from COVID-19, DC announced that on June 16, we’ll finally get to see the first issue of Dark Nights: Death Metal, the massive event comic tying together 10 years of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glaipion, FCO Plascencia, and others’ mega-DC story. “The motto of the whole event is it all matters,” Snyder tells us in an interview about the new book. “It’s built on years and years of DC history in a way that we wanted to honor and touch upon so many classic stories that we love that we felt deserve to be celebrated at this moment. And ones from the present as well that we thought could use more impact on the main line, from Crisis on Infinite Earths all the way to Doomsday Clock. So it brings a lot of things together to try and show why these characters matter more than ever right now.”
When we last saw Snyder and James Tynion IV’s Justice League, they were walking through a door after being thoroughly defeated by Apex Lex and Perpetua, the dark goddess let loose from her prison beyond the Source Wall in Justice League: No Justice. Her plan is to sow chaos and evil throughout the universe, and harness that evil energy to destroy both the positive multiverse and its misshapen dark counterpart, and in Hell Arisen, Apex Lex was brought low by his own pride, and the Batman Who Laughs took his place as Perpetua’s general.
Death Metal picks up with the Batman Who Laughs running Earth with the heroes defeated, while Perpetua destroys the rest of the multiverse. “[In the first issue,] the world has literally been remade by the Batman Who Laughs,” Snyder says. “He uses Terra and the Red and the Green through Swamp Thing in his capturing of the Parliament [of trees], [and] physically remade the Earth to almost look like a deformed bat in its continents.” Joining the Batman Who Laughs are other Batmen from around the dark multiverse. “He has different territories that are ruled over by different Batmen and their wards, who are superheroes trying to find a way out of the situation and fight back,” Snyder says.
Snyder has been writing for DC for some time now, and he’s told his big Batman story (in Batman) and a big Superman story (in much of Justice League). The third member of the Trinity gets her chance to shine in Death Metal. “Death Metal is our Wonder Woman story,” Snyder says. “…it was built around this idea that Wonder Woman has been a voice on multiple fronts for the truth about the DCU, about the true nature of the quest that Justice League is on, all of it.”
Perpetua uses the knots and switchbacks and leaps in DC’s continuity as a weapon to draw the energy she needs to destroy the multiverse. “There are stories that are forgotten and there are moments that are self-important that don’t address the past,” Snyder says of Perpetua’s plan. “And then, there are also moments that are too slavishly indebted to the past in ways that leapfrog other eras and so on.” Wonder Woman sounds like her foil in this quest. “[Death Metal is] about Wonder Woman being the one to lead us forward in a way that’s bold but also built on a warrior and general’s understanding of those who came before and the stories that came before.”
The high concept doesn’t mean Death Metal will be without the absurd, ridiculous, joyful humor that we saw in the other parts of this story, though. As you can see from the preview art below, there’s a T-Rex Batman. He “is a version of Batman when the cave was collapsing on him at the end of his run as Batman on his world. He uploaded his consciousness to the robot dinosaur in the cave and something went wrong as he was doing that, so he’s this kind of angry, menacing B-Rex. And he’s got a cowl painted on and the whole thing,” says Snyder.
It’s hard not to see some influence from Capullo on Snyder’s work. The two have been working together for almost a decade now. “He’s family now,” Snyder tells us. “We have a shorthand that was completely unimaginable when we began 10 years ago.” In fact, the entire creative team – Capullo, Snyder, inker Jonathan Glapion, and colorist FCO Plascencia – have been together since the New 52 relaunch of Batman. “FCO [is] the unsung hero of the series and brings really stunning and unique color to stories, and brings them to life in a way that really pops in a completely singular and visionary way,” Snyder says. For evidence, take a look at the preview art in this article.
Naturally, a book whose start gets pushed back because of a pandemic-induced society wide shutdown is going to shift a little bit, but the pandemic isn’t the only thing that changed what Death Metal is. “DC changed first. Dan [DiDio, former co-publisher of DC] left, and on top of that, the line changed in terms of what we were planning after 2020. …Everything has been fluid, but [Death] Metal has stayed what it was,” Snyder says. “The only thing that changed is the context. And what changed when the landscape for DC changed on the other side of it, and when editorial changed with Dan exiting, was just that we no longer had to be constrained by any timeframe of what was going to happen on the other side at all, so we got to expand.
And for those of you who met him and fell in love in Justice League, fear not; the best character from that story has a huge part to play in Death Metal. Snyder tells us, “Jarro has one of my favorite moments…He’s in the prison of heroes, and he’s created a scene for himself in his mind where he’s in Cool Hand Luke. Where he’s busting rocks and he’s like, “Busting it up here, boss!” And he’s got stripes on his thing because he’s projected it for himself, and they have to go find him.”
Check out these preview pages…
June 16th can’t come fast enough.