Dark Days: The Forge #1
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper
Lettered by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Right from the jump, Dark Days: The Forge, the prelude to DC’s upcoming event Metal, is thrilling. Carter Hall’s narration describes the buzz you get at the start of a great adventure, on the cusp of discovery. This scene is brief, like most of Carter’s in the issue (good news for any Hawkman-haters), moving swiftly on to the Bermuda Triangle. There are tremors, a volcano, and as you might expect from Scott Snyder, Batman in a giant armored suit. It’s big and urgent in a blockbuster set-piece kind of way and while its “get the lead out” style pace doesn’t persist through the whole issue, it does serve to build early momentum.
Snyder and James Tynion IV’s script is based around the idea of a discovery long ago that’s been kept under wraps, and in that way Carter Hall’s narration feels ominous even as the momentum of the story slows. Having been a story that Snyder has been building to over the course of his Batman run, The Forge focuses primarily on Batman and Duke Thomas, and fans of Snyder’s previous work will notice props from previous arcs as well as the inclusion of a larger, A-list cast. For example, Aquaman is briefly involved while in the Bermuda Triangle, while others like Green Lantern get involved as other threads are established later in the story. Hal Jordan and Duke Thomas is an unusual pairing on paper and that persists on the page. The chemistry between them is less balanced, not-so much buddy cops, more good-cop, unaware-about-a-possible-crime neighbor, in part because there’s a sinister third voice that doesn’t leave them with a lot of time to talk to each other.
As a result, this is a bigger issue than normal and involves a larger art team who ensure that this kick-off for DC’s big event is in keeping with the house style. When it comes to Andy Kubert and Jim Lee, their clean linework ensures the story is presented without confusion. The layouts are designed to be straightforward rather than attempting ambitious panel structures which readers will need to interpret first. This same principle applies to John Romita Jr. as well, but the thicker inks of Danny Miki make his pages look more angular, when positioned next to the sleeker work of an artist like Lee, whose biggest fault is some unusual proportions in Duke’s first scene of the issue. Miki’s approach normally works with Greg Capullo, but Romita Jr.’s use of crosshatching creates a very different type of page which it doesn’t work with.
At first it appears that each of the artists will be handling a distinct section - Kubert starts the issue with Carter Hall, Romita Jr. with Batman, and Lee with Green Lantern, but around the halfway mark, this stops. The plotlines start to become more connected at this point, feeding into one another rather than standing completely separate, but it gives the second half of the issue more of a mix-and-match quality, the kind you might expect if an issue was running late and a fill-in artist was brought on board. Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper keep to a traditional color palette, much like the artists, the intention here is clarity and they pull it off.
If there’s one thing most can agree on when it comes to Snyder, it’ll likely be that the openings to his stories are the most intriguing parts and this is further evidence of that. We still haven’t gotten to the event proper yet, but the man knows how to make set-up gripping. It does still feel like he’s telling a Batman-centric story, again he has a clear handle on the character which he frequently demonstrates, but his incorporation of the wider DC universe gives this a more grandiose feel, even if Aquaman and Superman’s appearances are fleeting. There’s a gradual build, dealing with a lot of allusion, which builds tension, but also excitement.
Much of which stems from the fact that even though we’ve known this event exists for a few months prior, there’s still no indication of where it’ll end up once finished. That feels rare in this age of event comics where publishers sometimes let us know what happens before the event has even happened in its entirety. What Dark Days: The Forge and Metal have going for them above all else is that they’re about exploring something unknown to us, and so even though Snyder has peppered in hints to this story in his earlier work, we as an audience now stand on the edge of exploring a new world. That mere premise and its infinite possibilities is positively captivating.