DC's Dark Matter banner was announced on Thursday, and the information and images released since have provded some clues about the broader themes and deeper connections to classic continuity.
The five Dark Matter ongoings hints at an art-driven approach to DC's comic books, the first of several possible given the publisher's framing these books as the "first wave."
Although its just been four days since the announcements, Newsarama has pulled together some first-look reactions to what DC released to publicize its Dark Matter line-up which begins in august with the event miniseries Dark Nights: Metal.
Age of Artists
DC has been billing this as a "new age of heroes," but it also looks like it's attempting to usher in a new age of artists. Although "Rebirth" was launched by writer/executive Geoff Johns, this group of titles is specifically "under the guidance of iconic artists" Greg Capullo, Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, and John Romita Jr. During DC's retailer-only press conference at Diamond's Summit, the artists spoke about the need for writers to allow artists to improvise and exercise creativity, and these titles look like the first step in that direction.
In recent DC history, artists haven't been at the forefront of DCpublicity, particularly with many titles at the publisher shipping twice mostly with rotating creative teams.
But Dark Matter is framed as putting artists back at the forefront. In DC's official press release, the artists get top billing, and the titles are said to be focusing on "graphic storytelling." DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio specifically says Capullo, Kubert, Lee, and Romita will be "taking the lead." Co-Publisher Jim Lee says the comics bring "both the writer and artist to the fore," and that the "visual narrative" will be "driven by the artist" on the books.
Comic Book Chemistry
There's a definite Dark Nights: Metal tie-in from the description of the Immortal Men , as a chunk of Nth metal causes the title characters to become immortal. The element of Nth Metal is going to be playing a central role in Dark Nights: Metal, with the recently deceased Hawkman playing a key role in the August-launching event.
But there's a chance that other chemistry could be involved. During the announcement of Dark Nights: Metal at Fan Expo Dallas, Scott Snyder talked about the connection between final story arc in the Capullo-Snyder run, titled "Superheavy," and the Dark Nights: Metal story.
Specifically, the writer pointed toward the periodic table that readers saw referenced during "Superheavy," when Geri Powers talked about how her company was creating new elements. Geri said the collider "strips atoms of their electrons and hurls them at each other at light speed and then the hope is that something new will be made … new elements."
Lee stated at the Dallas announcement of Metal that there's a "new element on the periodic table," and if this new element exists, "this is what it would look like."
During the course of "Superheavy," the collider became unstable and was juxtaposed with Gordon's unstable status as Batman. At the time, Snyder described the collider's presence in the story as symbolic of Jim Gordon's ability to "create something new."
"It goes back to the idea of the collider, and the idea of creating new elements, and trying to add too much to the nucleus of something, so that it becomes unstable," Snyder said. "Trying to mess with the kind of core element - the core material of something to see if you can make something new that works and is different."
Of course, colliders in the real world have also been theorized to be making new universes, creating black holes and all other sorts of scary scientific phenomena.
The new elements that Geri Powers mentioned in "Superheavy" and Lee teased for Metal - or the side effects of colliders in general - could be connected to the title of DC's new books, Dark Matter.
The title is also echoed in the copy for Sideways, which says the main character comes "into contact with Dark Matter" and gains powers. Artwork by Kenneth Rocafort even shows a monster with the note, "blob of Dark Matter."
Of course, actual "dark matter" isn't necessarily an element, but is a mysterious type of matter that is theorized to hold the universe together. But in the psudeo-science of comic books, the "Dark Matter" and "Metal" and "forging" that's being teased - along with the hints about the periodic table at Geri Powers' collider - certainly sound like Snyder is cooking up some sci-fi soup that changes the world.
In his new All-Star Batman series, Snyder has been exploring what he's called "current-day anxieties," particularly those things that seem scary to him. It's perhaps timely that astronomers have captured the first "image" of dark matter, and it's spooky as all get-out.
Monsters and Dimensions
Speaking of spooky, interviews with those involved in Dark Nights: Metal have also mentioned the involvement of DC's multiverse, and there's plenty of references to monsters and nightmares in the Dark Matter announcement. Snyder had already described Metal as a a series that is filled with "out-of-control dinosaurs and lasers," and these spin-off titles certainly sound like they're in the same vein.
Now that DC has released new images and titles for the Dark Matter titles, the use of multiverse language continues. The description of Sideways mentions a "Dark Dimension." The artwork for Sideways specifically uses the phrase "powers from the Dark Multiverse." And artwork for Immortal Men has a note that talks about "new dimensions."
The idea of alternate universes also goes well with the official description of Dark Nights: Metal, as the series is described as "a story that will examine every choice a hero doesn’t take and every path they don’t walk, opening up worlds that are forged by nightmares." The idea of alternate universes is often based on the theory that there are worlds existing for all the various choices a person could have made.
Monsters are also central to the Dark Matter descriptions. Not only is there the aforementioned Dark Matter monster teased for Sideways, but Damage also features a character who can unleash an "unstoppable monster." And Snyder and Kubert's New Challengers title will explore the "greatest mysteries, wonders and terrors of the universe."
Echoes of the Past
Fans of the Jack Kirby-created DC series Challengers of the Unknown will also recognize that the New Challengers book, which is said to be in "conversation" with the old concepts, should be filled with all sorts of monstrous sci-fi phenomenon. The team of reluctant heroes banded together to become a team famous for fighting "unknown challenges."
The team changed during different eras, but it usually included four men and a woman. This new team looks is being billed by DC as a brand new set of characters, with initial sketches appearing to feature three men, a woman and a child. (Then again, the crew cut hair on one of them harkens back to original team member Kyle "Ace" Morgan, and that's not Vibe standing there with them, is it?).
The name Damage also isn't new to the DCU, and DiDio confirmed at the press conference that the title star will draw on the themes of the previous hero of that name.
The former Damage was teenager Grant Emerson, who wore the title in the post-Crisis universe. The young hero was most recently seen as part of the Justice Society of America because of his legacy-type ties to previous heroes. Although Grant never had the same monstrous look (nor the origin) as the Damage being previewed for Dark Matter, he did have superhuman strength, speed and durabilities that might be comparable.
The themes explored during the former Damage's career at DC were many, from the revelation that he'd been abused as a child, his criminal past, and his stint as a literally "damaged" hero who wore a mask because his face had been damaged. From the description of the new Damage title, it seems likely that a "monster inside" approach might be the key to the theme of the new series.
This announcement and its links to the multiverse also beg the question, how does this tie into the mysteries behind "Rebirth"?
We've already seen in "The Button" that alternate timelines - namely, the Flashpoint universe - appear to be related to the Watchmen button and the mysteries being explored since the "Rebirth" launch last year.
And if Dr. Manhattan (and maybe Mr. Oz) are somehow related to the time discrepancies in the DCU, then wouldn't a major event such as the opening of other dimensions or the creation of new elements be noticed by the Watchmen characters?
Yet there's another distinct possibility: Without the involvement of DC Chief Creative Officer/co-President Geoff Johns, whose name hasn't even come up in all the "Dark" announcements, there's a good chance that Scott Snyder's DC-wide event and spin-offs have nothing at all to do with the ongoing "Rebirth" mysteries, or at least very little. After all, the "Rebirth" mysteries are part of a two-year story, DC has said, which indicates the climax comes next summer. Maybe this summer is less about resolving "Rebirth" questions and is more about taking advantage of the creative talent DC has to create something brand new within the world of "Rebirth."