Dark Nights: Death Metal – The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1
Writers: Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Mariko Tamaki, Gail Simone, Christopher Sebela, Cecil Castellucci, and Mark Waid
Artists: Travis Moore, Rafael Albuquerque, Daniel Sampere, Meghan Hetrick, Christopher Mooneyham, Mirka Andolfo, and Francis Manapul
Death Metal has certainly been a hit and miss event, even for this died in the wool DC fan. When it has been good it’s been great (Multiverse’s End, Speed Metal, Trinity Crisis, Infinite Hour Exxxtreme) and there are tie-ins that have felt the very definition of filler (Multiverse Who Laughs, Rise of the New God). But The Last Stories of the DC Universe is an absolute triumph. It’s that book that every event title should aim to be – for the fans.
For anyone who is a fan of the Teen Titans, their illustrious history and their many incarnations, this is a love letter to you. For anyone who is a fan of Mark Waid’s take on Superman, all hope, country bumpkin and optimist for the future, this is a love letter to you. For everyone who wants to see resolution for Nightwing and Batgirl, this is a love letter to you. And that’s before we even get to Gail Simone’s Green Arrow/Black Canary Story….
Essentially, all of the stories contained within are set the day before the DC Universe as we know it could end. This is the last night these characters have before their world ends. There are no time for regrets, for things left unsaid, for missing the opportunity to forgive, for having those that mean the most to you in the world to be close to you. It’s last orders time, so best to bare your soul and leave it all on the line.
It is the calm before the inevitable storm.
The Teen Titans story which bookends the title (Snyder, Tynion IV and Williamson – Travis Moore on art) is one the best short stories of this or any other year. It takes the form of a Titans beach party, and if you’ve ever been a Titan, then you’re invited. If you’ve been a member of the Titans, it will have inevitably been from a young age, and then suddenly the weight of the world has been thrust upon your young shoulders. This is an opportunity to do what was taken away from them by that responsibility – to hang out with your friends and relax.
Everyone from every era is here, some of which are even represented in art inserts lifted straight from the Golden Age. The first part of the story ends with Wally showing up, and Donna Troy looks none too happy. Understandable given recent events in the DC Universe involving Wally.
We then have a great Hal Jordan story by Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque. As well as being absolutely gorgeous, it tells a great story and delves into Hal’s regrets, his father issues and even his relationship with Sinestro. The themes of forgiveness and broken bonds being reforged are explored here to great effect.
We then have a Wonder Woman tale, focusing on a dark night (see what I did there?) of the soul for Diana. She questions why The Batman Who Laughs still lives and has been able to evolve given she cut him in half? She questions herself and whether she’s truly ready to fight for a future that has very little chance of existing beyond the next day. But as always, with Diana, there is hope…
Another standout is Gail Simone and Meghan Hetrick’s ‘Dust of a Distant Storm’. Talk about encapsulating decades worth of thoughts and feelings between Green Arrow and Black Canary into ten pages! We are even introduced to a daughter of theirs from one of the destroyed earths, who wants to fight alongside her ‘parents’, a hopeful symbol of what the future could hold for the two of them should they survive this. There’s even time for a new, cool oath to be created for them to say before going into battle (Dinah has always been jealous of the Lantern’s oath…).
And then we come to Cecil Castelluci and Mirka Andolfo’s Bat Family tale. Get this creative team onto a Bat Book post Future State! Quite simply a beautiful looking tale as Bruce calls round the entire Bat Family for one last pep talk. He thinks about what they all mean to him and how they are the ones who saved him. And he returns part of that favour by marrying Batgirl and Nightwing even if ‘it doesn’t stand if we live’….This story really hit the emotional sweet spot and again provided hope before their darkest battle.
But then we have the absolutely triumphant return to Superman of Mark Waid. Arguably one of Supes best ever writers, it has really been too long. With Francis Manapul providing exquisite art, this is a story about what every single Superman story should be about – Hope. It is essentially a story of how Superman is able to overcome his one weakness, the ability to be everywhere he is needed at the same time. This entire story just had me smiling the whole way through it. The artwork, the message, the dialogue, everything about it was just perfect.
And then the best way to finish the entire book, Donna forgives Wally, and gives him the warmest of embraces. Forgiveness, togetherness, a united front to face evil. A perfect end to this book and it has me so hyped for Death Metal #6. And that last page of art….
All in, just an absolutely brilliant book and a timely reminder of how strong the DC Universe can be when creators are firing on all cylinders.