Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last 52: War of the Multiverses #1 Review

They Couldn't Come Up With A Shorter Title?

Written By: Che GraysonScott SnyderJoshua Williamson, and many more
Art By: Dexter SoyAlitha MartinezAlex MaleevScott Koblish, and many more
Cover Price: $8.99
Release Date: December 29, 2020

Giant-sized Wonder Woman, decked out in golden armor from the World Forge, faces off against the Batman Who Laughs on the battle-ravaged ruins of Themyscira while all the surviving heroes and villains of Earth battle their evil, fear-inspired doppelgangers for the fate of the Multiverse. At 80 pages, this is not so much an anthology of stories as it is a series of vignettes from different locations on the battlefield, each from the perspective of a different set of characters. Some of the scenes are bizarre, some harrowing, and one, in particular, manages to find a little humor at the end of existence. The writing and art style varies in style from scene to scene but at the very least you wind up with a very thorough setup for the final battle.

Was It Good?

Mostly, yes. Each vignette is written and drawn by a separate team. The writing was consistently good and gave each main character some meat to work with. The art, on the other hand, was not consistently good. The strongest vignettes were the opening flashback on Themyscira by Dexter Soy and Scott Koblish and the Teen Titans scene featuring Raven by Pop Mhan. The weakest, the Atom scene by Scott Kolins.

Again, the writing was consistently good from scene to scene, but ironically, the toughest part to get through, because the dialog was a bit tedious, is the opening exchange between Wonder Woman and the Batman Who Laughs. There's only so much evil villain bloviating you can endure before it drags the story to a crawl.

Short Story Long

We start with a flashback to Diana as a little girl on Themyscira where she learns the legend of the greatest Amazon warrior, Aella. The Amazonian was the last survivor of a great war who regrets surviving because she believes it would have been better to die in battle, giving everything she had, than retreating to live for another day. This central theme plays out through the entire book where each character or team comes to grips with the concepts of giving everything to hold on to the last vestiges of hope to save all of existence.

As mentioned in the 'Was It Good?' section, Wonder Woman and the Batman Who Laughs engage in some witty back and forth about the value of hope and truth, which builds on the lesson Diana learned as a child. Unfortunately, the lengthy droning by the Batman Who Laughs gets very repetitive very quickly and drags the momentum of the scene down.

From there we switch to a Supermen family reunion where all the good and evil Supermen throughout canon pick sides in a battle for dominance. Here, Metal Superman tries to get through to the Last Sun to get through to whatever remnants of Truth and Justice remain in him. Good art, plenty of action, and an all-around fun scene when Luthor and Hank Henshaw show up to lend a hand.

Moving on, Batman leads his Bat-family and the Black Lantern ring resurrected Batman Who Laughs corpse against the Joker dragons. Batman comes to terms with his death and the pride he feels for his family for giving it their all, but the crux of the scene is the battle of wits he engages when the resurrected Batman Who Laughs decides it's more fun to try and re-kill Batman. The two engage in a debate about the nature of fear, ultimately deciding they need each other and joining forces to fight the advancing Joker dragons. This scene was an interesting exploration of the push/pull dynamic between the two characters, but the down was the BWL's word balloon lettering. It was very tough to read in some spots, and that detracted from the pace of the scene.

Next, we have the Ryan Choi Atom facing off against his unstable atom doppelganger, Ra. the two trade blasts of energy before Ryan goes giant-sized and literally stomps Ra into the ground. The art was rough in this scene and the outcome was less about the Atom and more about a setup that involves a plan to fuse the Metal Men with Mr. Terrific's T-balls to make them some type of superweapon in a future issue. Although this is the weakest scene, the Metal Men setup probably has the potential for the biggest payoff at some future point.

From there, we have a battle of wills instead of muscle between Lois Lane and Maxima against an alternate Lois who stole Superman's powers and then proceeds to kill every superhero on her Earth. This scene was, by far, the most emotionally impactful story of the bunch as it highlights a brilliant bit of self-awareness from Lois Lane. Namely, she knows her penchant for getting into trouble that requires Superman's saving has become a chronic problem that distracts Superman from doing what he must. She's his anchor that sometimes becomes a burden. In a brutal bit of violence, Maxima loses her head to heat vision and Lois makes the ultimate sacrifice to make sure Superman keeps his mind focused on the task at hand.

Raven's worst fears become reality in the next scene when the Teen titans meet versions of themselves that have fully given in to the rule of Trogon. There's not much meat to this scene as Raven leads the charge in rehashing her resistance to her father's call for obedience. It's neat to see Demonized versions of the Titans, but this story added very little forward progress to the battle other than re-establishing Raven as the powerhouse of the team.

In the most unexpected scene, Penguin (yes, Penguin from Batman) engages in a pitched battle against other versions of himself that are transformed by different facets of gluttony or lust for power and excess. The alt Penguins are bizarre, grotesque, and just plain gross, and what was more surprising was how our Penguin transformed into a giant, prehistoric bird of prey to kick flightless bird booty. It sounds weird, it looks weird, and I enjoyed it utterly.

Enter the comic relief. John Constantine is confronted with an evil version of himself but decides against direct assault in exchange for the last wish to have a drink before he gets killed. The evil Constantine agrees and the two share a drink (or several) talking over how different events in their respective lives diverged with different outcomes. This was the most amusing scene of the book as Constantine proves yet again that not all heroes use their fists. [SPOILER: Our Constantine wins the fight].

Lastly, we end the book with a monster mash lead by Swamp Thing against his evil counterpart. The avatar of the Green knows his team (Solomon Grundy, Frankenstein, Clayface, Brimstone, and Anton Arcane) will die but they fight anyway to buy Holland enough time to get to the soulless Swamp King. There's a bit of meta context exchanged between the two monsters as they wrestle with one, a monster in search of a soul, and the other a soul unwilling to let go of humanity. This is the most thought-provoking scene, and it once again establishes the importance of the Green in the fight for the multiverse.

Bits and Pieces

Generally, good art and good writing make for a huge prelude to the end (or beginning) of the DC Multiverse. Some vignettes were better than others, but all of them had some part to play in establishing the outcome of the big battle. If you're invested in the Death Metal event up to this point, this book feels more essential than a tangential tie-in.


1 comment:

  1. Your review is great. I like Multiverse-Wonder Woman character and she makes me impressed from the shell shockers 2 event.