Immortality lies at the center of Dark Nights: Metal. Not only is immortality the driving force behind the investigations being conducted by both Hawkman and Batman, but the event will feature a set of immortal characters in its cast - including one aptly named “The Immortal Man.”
In Dark Days: The Forge #1, readers discovered that Hawkman has been investigating Nth Metal for years, trying to unlock its abilities. During his studies, he comes to understand that it’s conducting “powerful energy from somewhere beyond” his understanding.
That powerful energy is also being investigated by Batman, and the story of its discovery - and the Dark Multiverse it reveals - is at the center of DC’s summer event series Dark Nights: Metal, which launches in August and reunites writer Scott Snyder and his Batman co-creator Greg Capullo.
The Forge and its this week's upcoming counterpart Dark Days: The Casting are written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, serving as prequels to Metal and introducing concepts that will form the backbone of the event’s story.
The Forge’s Clues
Hawkman’s investigation not only leads him to an understanding of energy, but it reveals a link to the Earth’s past. Hawkman says he got a “glimpse” of a historic clue - and by “glimpse,” he was probably referring to one of the visions that he says occur in his reincarnation process, like dreams during his time between lives.
He describes the glimpse as “a story that began with the first men to walk the Earth - three tribes.” He’s shown to also have some type of artifacts that represent what he discovered about these tribes, as readers are shown what appear to be the sign of a hawk, a bear, and a wolf.
In the same issue, readers were also introduced to the Immortal Man, a modern version of the character from DC Comics history. The character was first introduced in 1965 in Strange Adventures #177, in a story titled “I Lived a Hundred Lives.”
In various stories in Strange Adventures, the character's portrayed ase a modern man who has strange powers he doesn’t understand. Raised as an orphan, his only clue to his past lies in an amulet he finds that was left with him when he was a baby. When he looks into the amulet, he remembers that he has lived hundreds of lives, from his time as a caveman until present day, and his body and mind have retained the knowledge they gained during those lives.
“There it was before me in the amulet reflection,” the character said in his debut. “The explanation to all the mystery that plagued my present life! For then and there I realized I had lived not one life, but a multitude of lives.”
Originally, the character was only shown to be from a race of powerful cavemen, but in later stories, the Immortal Man was given a more DC-centric origin.
He was Klarn Arg, the caveman leader of the Bear Tribe and archenemy of Vandar Arg of the Wolf Clan (better known as Vandal Savage).
In this origin story, Vandal and the Immortal Man’s pre-historic origins were linked - they were battling each other when a meteorite hit the Earth 50,000 years ago.
The meteorite made Vandal immortal, but the Immortal Man’s powers lie in an amulet he fashioned from the meteorite. Each time he is resurrected - sometimes as a baby and sometimes as an adult - he is an enemy of Vandal Savage.
Because of this connection between the two characters, and the use of the “Bear Tribe” and “Wolf Clan” in their past stories, it’s likely that the Dark Days: The Forge reference to tribes with the signs of a bear and a wolf refers to these two characters. The hawk that represents the third “tribe” is probably a sign of Hawkman himself, although it’s possible it could relate to other DC characters, including the Blackhawks, who are also in The Forge.
In post-Crisis continuity, the Immortal Man worked with a team of heroes to stop the evil machinations of Vandal Savage. His team was called the Forgotten Heroes. Although none of those heroes seem to be involved in the current story of The Forge and Metal, a similar idea might be behind the formation of the “Immortal Men." This team, also mentioned in The Forge, has been given their own DC title beginning in the fall. Among the team members announced by DC is Immortal Man.
The description of Immortal Men indicates that five siblings have eternal life, fighting foes in an eternal war. It’s not clear whether the Immortal Man is one of these five siblings or not. But in The Forge, as he’s discussing the Immortal Men, there are two people talking and four other individuals shown - a total of six. So Immortal Man, who’s described in the issue as “the great and powerful Immortal Man,” may be more of a leader of the five siblings.
In this incarnation, Immortal Man is an older man, with a streak of white in his hair. He works in secret in a lair located a mile beneath Philadelphia. He reveals that he offered Elaine Thomas (mother of Bat-family teen hero Duke Thomas) the opportunity to become immortal somehow. Whether Elaine is one of the Immortal Men, reincarnated without realizing it, or whether the offer was a new one, is not clear.
One of the heroes shown in the Immortal Men scene in The Forge appears to be Native American, and her origin might be tied to the DC hero of the past known as Super Chief. This character, in his original incarnation, was also part of the Wolf Clan and was imbued with powers by a meteorite.
Another Bear Tribe member was Anthro, the “first boy on Earth” who played a key role in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis. Morrison also included the Immortal Man in his Mutiversity mini-series, although the hero was part of a group on Earth-20 and was there revealed to be Anthro, a hero imbued with powers from a meteorite.
It’s possible all these meteorites and the energy within them can now be linked to Nth Metal and to the dark energy that will lead Batman to the Dark Multiverse.
It’s also obvious, reading through Immortal Man’s history, that his powers of reincarnation and flight can be easily connected to Hawkman and Hawkgirl, which seems to be the direction Snyder is heading with Metal.
In the “three tribes” scene in The Forge, Hawkman adds a fourth tribe - one with the symbol of a bat. This symbol can also be connected to Anthro and Final Crisis, as Batman was tossed back in time by the events in that story and its Morrison-penned follow-up, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne.
Struck by the space-bending Omega Beams of Darkseid, Bruce Wayne becomes stranded in time, jumping into different eras - beginning with the paleolithic era. During his time as a caveman, he fights against the tribe led by Vandal Savage.
The word “Crisis” is also used by Immortal Man himself in the issue, although it refers to future possibilities. He says the "world of public heroes is careening toward a crisis unlike anything they've seen before."
Looking at Immortal Man’s history and the Metal possibilities for his “Immortal Men” and Hawkman’s “tribes,” it’s pretty clear that Snyder is connecting many different dots in the history of the DCU. And although the entire picture won’t become clear until readers get their hands on August’s first issue of Metal, there are definitely some obvious lines being drawn related to immortality in the DCU.