Cover Rank: 9/10. Of all of the evil Batmen we have been introduced to through the course of this series, the Batman Who Laughs has stood head and shoulders above the rest. The Batman/Joker combination is placed front and center on this cover in a pose reminiscent of the Joker himself. Swapping out the traditional playing card for a stylized version of a tarot card alluding to the death of the Justice League works both as a reference to the dire straits in which they find themselves as well as the dark magic that has been in play throughout this run. Greg Capullo at his finest ladies and gentlemen.
Best Variant Issue: There are a few different options as far as variant covers go for this issue , while I liked Tony Daniel’s of the Batman Who Laughs leading a twisted version of the League, I have to give the nod to Jim Lee’s as the one that best reflects this issue. Depicting Wonder Woman who, in many respects, is the focus of this chapter, surrounded by darkness wielding Hawkman’s staggeringly powerful mace captures the feel for this tale. She’s clearly wounded, as the blood attests to, but the look on her face is one of grim determination to keep up the struggle despite just the small rays of light breaking through the darkness.
What I Like: Man there’s a lot I like about this issue. Probably the thing that most leaped out at me, was the journey Batman and Superman are on, and the almost reversal of roles these two find themselves in. Following their capture in the Dark universe, we get an old Bruce carrying the torch of hope that all is not lost in their quest to reignite the World forge. Clark on the other hand is the one pleading for a retreat in order to plan their next move in the face of a forge gone dark, protected by a corrupted Carter Hall (Hawkman). It’s such an inversion of the normal dynamic between these two icons and yet, it seems so natural on the page.
As I mentioned above Wonder Woman is the rock that this issue is largely built around. Just as Bruce begins to get through to the buried Carter, a less symbolic crack appears before Diana, leading her to Hall’s Nth metal mace, allowing her to turn the tables on Black Adam. Defeat, however, gets snatched from the jaws of victory, as the Batman Who Laughs downs Diana claiming the mace and revealing their plan. Showing the calculating mind Bruce Wayne is known for, the Dark Knights allow the League to claim the Nth metal artifacts only to steal them away for their own ends.
Diana and the remaining members of the League struggle onward, refusing to give in, but this is what the Knights needed to see their plan come to fruition. At the call of Barbatos, the legions of the Dark Multiverse come forth to besiege our reality and claim it for their own. This leaves us in a very dark place, which is how it should be in the penultimate chapter of Metal.
What I Didn’t Like: There’s not a lot that I don’t like about this issue. One thing that sticks out however is that, due to there being so much ground to cover, there are some panels that definitely could have used a bigger area of real estate. To be fair this is not unique to this particular issue, and in truth, sums up much of my problem in the preceding parts. There’s just so much stuff going on that, even with the one-shots and tie-in arcs, I honestly wish they had a few more issues to play with in telling a story of such massive scope. I fully appreciate the desire to avoid the extremes other publishers are known for with trying to shoehorn everything into their big events, but I think this series could have benefited from a couple of more issues in which to breathe.
Best Moment: This was a hard one to pin down for me. As I said, I really liked this a lot, but in the end, the reintroduction of the Manhunter from Mars, J’onn J’onzz, was the stand out part. The “New 52” changed a lot of things in DC’s continuity, including his founders status in the JLA, and while much of it has been tweaked since the advent of the “Rebirth” era, J’onn has been conspicuously absent aside from an occasional mention. The fact that he was gone because he had decided to investigate the mysteries of this new status quo, gives us a strong explanation while staying true to the detective heart of the character. This is one of the bigger questions that have plagued readers for years, and we finally have a satisfying answer. Unfortunately, at this point, his reappearance hasn’t been a game changer.
Ending: 10/10. If you’re looking for triumphant heroes pulling off gigantic feats, this is not the comic for you. Instead we’re given a parting shot of Diana, alongside a Hawkgirl recently broken free from Barbatos’ influence, hurling themselves into the jaws of Barbatos’ twisted legion of Dark Multiverse counterparts to kick off the epic conclusion. At the same time we see that both Superman and Batman have been engulfed in the fires of the forge. Where do we go from here?
What I’m Looking Forward to: Even at this stage, we are left with so many questions that there’s so much to look forward to. Plastic Man being the main character on my mind. Throughout Metal, we’ve seen Plas solely in the form of an egg. With the retcon to his origin we’re given in this issue, we now know he’s put himself into this situation to keep from being influenced by the Dark Multiverse, thereby becoming a threat to his own reality. With merely one issue to go, it’s going to be time for him to make a choice, which I’m sure will prove to be a decisive moment of the series. He’s long been acknowledged as one of the most powerful individuals in the world, and this may be the time he fulfills his potential. Aside from that, we’re still left to wonder: how Bruce and Clark are going to survive the forge, can Hawkman find redemption, and how are they going to get the Dark Multiverse back out of ours? Oh, we haven’t heard from the Joker since the prelude issues, and given his supposed understanding of what was then about to take place, I fully believe he has a part to play as well. The Batman Who Laughs has been so front and center of this whole thing, he’s got the intelligence of Bruce and the deranged brilliance of the Joker, I can’t envision him as an underling to anyone. Do the opening moments of the issue give us clues that mean he has his own plans and he’s going to be the final villain in this multiversal drama? That’s a lot of answers we need to come from a solitary comic, but I can’t wait to see how they’re going to wrap this all up.
Overall Score: 9.5/10
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