Scott Snyder has said that Dark Nights: Metal is giving him the chance to tell a story that traces itself all the way back to the beginning of the DCU. And at the center of that ancient mythology is the word featured in the title - "metal."
Somehow, the "metal" is connected to the Dark Multiverse Snyder first described to Newsarama a month ago.
Although fans were previously only given bits and pieces about the meaning of the word "metal" in Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's Batman run, Dark Days: The Forge spelled out its significance. And it's directly tied to the concept of immortality.
In The Forge, the Joker outlined the path that brought Batman toward his investigation of the metals in the story. "Our friend with the pointy ears has been following it for years now," the character tells Hal Jordan and Duke Thomas, specifically listing metals that are linked to immortality.
And although long-time Snyder/Capullo fans might be surprised by the creative team's focus on Hawkman's Nth Metal, two of the other metals mentioned in The Forge by Joker - electrum and dionesium - came straight out of their run on Batman.
So for anyone unfamiliar with these elements, Newsarama takes a look at the three "metals" that are linked to immortality and (if Joker is to be believed) provided Batman and Hawkman with the clues necessary to discover the Dark Multiverse:
During Snyder and Capullo's first story arc in Batman (at the beginning of the "New 52"), electrum debuted as an alloy of silver and gold with trace amounts of copper and other elements. The electrum was used to reanimate people - called "Talons" - to fight for the ancient organization in Gotham City known as the Court of Owls. Although the Talons were only resurrected when they were needed by the Court, the electrum effectively gave the Talons eternal life.
After examining the mouth of a dead "Talon" in the Batcave, Bruce discovered that a device was implanted by the Court into the Talon's tooth, allowing the electrum to bond with the person's cells.
At the time, Snyder told Newsarama, "The Court is using a special compound that these bodies have been treated with. It's this material that's been imbedded into their tooth and seeps into their bloodstream in life and allows them to be preserved in a particular way so that they could be brought back to life, through this compound that they've been struggling to make over the years."
In The Forge, readers are told that Batman "extracted" something from electrum - a "strange substance he had never seen before, a metal that science couldn't explain." This metal "shares an energy signature" with Doctor Fate's helmet, Aquaman's trident, and Wonder Woman's bracelet/armbands.
In Batman #38 (during the "Endgame" storyline), Batman learned about a chemical compound named dionesium that "existed in nature long ago," that could "activate just the right genes, the same ones we tinker with endlessly…the matrix that controls how our bodies repair themselves."
The dionesium was suspected to either be indigenous to Earth or to come from meteors.
The issue said that Vandal Savage encountered dionesium "in its rawest form," and that Ra's Al Ghul keeps pools of dionesium in secret pits around the world.
The key to the discovery of dionesium was the Joker, who claimed to be immortal because of his discovery of the compound "before Gotham rose."
But in Batman #39, Batman found out that the Court of Owls mined the earth beneath Gotham hundreds of years ago to find dionesium. They discovered a version of it and used it in their electrum.
Then, by the conclusion of "Endgame," both Joker and Batman died while in a cave that was rich with dionesium. The cave collapsed and their bodies were buried. Then, as Alfred explained later in Batman, "After his fight with the Joker, he was dead for hours. His heart stopped. His brain died. But then he was… healed" by dionesium. The Joker was also healed, but both he and Bruce Wayne had no memory of their former selves. In fact, Bruce's brain was somehow rebuilt without the scars and experiences of his past.
Bruce eventually found a way to get his memories back (through a machine that only Batman could - or even would - build). But the Batman who walks the street of Gotham today only does so because of dionesium.
Although dionesium and electrum have been connected in the past by Batman - holding the same element within them, according to Snyder and Capullo's run - The Forge has introduced the idea that Nth Metal might also be connected.
In fact, the metal that Batman found within electrum and dionesium may be, essentially, Nth Metal. And Snyder told Newsarama that the Nth Metal is connected to a mystery that can be traced to the dawn of DC's "cosmology."
In the past of the DCU, Nth Metal was connected to the mythology of Hawkman, whose history took center stage in Dark Days: The Forge. According to the history of Hawkman (confirmed in the story in The Forge), a spaceship made of Nth Metal crashed in ancient Egypt, discovered by Prince Khufu and others.
In the DCU, Nth Metal was allegedly native of Thanagar, the home planet of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman. When Hawkman and his betrothed, Chay-ara, were exposed to the spaceship of Nth Metal, they began experiencing reincarnation. They also wore various artifacts - in particular, belts - made of Nth Metal, and many other characters in the DCU have gotten powers by wearing artifacts made using Nth Metal, including Hector Hall (whose Silver Scarab armor was made of Nth Metal) and the Legion of Super-Heroes (whose flight rings were made from an alloy of Nth metal called 'valorium').
In The Forge, Hawkman says that Nth Metal is a "clue to the greatest mystery in the history of mankind." The issue hinted about the metal being part of an ongoing battle between clans who were around at the beginning of the Earth (including Vandal Savage and the Immortal Man).
But Hawkman has made it clear that investigating this mystery is not a good choice. In fact, his journal entries in The Forge make it clear that he hopes the investigation stops with him.
Of course, the investigation won't discontinue. In fact, Batman is taking rather drastic steps in The Forge. But an examination of the "metals" in Snyder and Capullo's Batman shows that the path he's taken so far has stretched back several years, and has been seeded throughout the creators' past issues of Batman.