Spoilers ahead for this week's Dark Nights: Metal #2.
In Dark Nights: Metal #2, the second chapter of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's blockbuster event, the evil Barbatos is already at the door of the DCU.
And by the end of the story, the origins of Metal are traced all the way back to the beginning of Snyder and Capullo's run on Batman at the onset of the "New 52" back in 2011.
There's a lot in this issue, so without further ado, let's dive into what all of these things mean...
The story kicks off with some further narration from Hawkman's journal about the creation of the Multiverse. It reinforces previous DC continuity about the character Krona going back to the beginning of time to witness the creation of the DCU by a great hand.
The journal says Krona peered into "the very core of the universe" - a wording that we'll hear again later in the story.
Meanwhile, the Justice League is looking for Batman, who ran off by himself at the end of Metal #1, escaping from the Blackhawks and stealing a piece of Nth Metal.
Batman has left transmitters to mislead the Justice League members (which include Superman, Green Arrow, Zatanna, Constantine, Cyborg, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes).
In the meantime, Batman has enlisted the Bat-family to dress as decoy Batmen, misleading the Justice League. (Included in the "Bat-family" scene are Nightwing, Batwoman, Batgirl, Red Hood, Batwing, Clayface. and Damian.)
When the Justice League captures the Bat-family decoys, Nightwing reveals that they've released a destructive plant into the area - one that summons Swamp Thing, which further delays the search for Batman.
It's all great fun, but there's some key information revealed during one particular scene amidst it all..
At one point, when Superman believes Clayface's decoy version of Batman is the real one, readers learn more about the "five metals" first mentioned in Metal #1.
Remember? In Metal #1, Kendra Saunders shared a legend about how Barbatos will come through a "human doorway" to the DCU, and the doorway will be a hero treated with "five divine metals" by the followers of Barbatos.
And the Blackhawks believed Bruce Wayne was that doorway.
Now, in Metal #2, readers are reminded of that legend again - with Batman adding that when the followers of Barbatos "treat its prey with five impossibly heavy metals, it's called mantling."
After the "prey is prepared, Barbatos' high priests, the Strigydae, read the ancient rites and the prey becomes the doorway."
And Batman thinks he is, indeed, that doorway.
So…what are the five metals? And how was Batman "treated" with them?
Readers should be able to guess a few of them (particularly if they've been reading Newsarama lately), but we learn that they are:
1) Electrum, the alloy used by the Court of Owls to reanimate their Talons. Batman reveals that he was exposed to electrum when he was "lost in the Owls' labyrinth" (during the 2011-2012 "Court of Owls" storyline that began Snyder and Capullo's Batman run).
2) Dionesium, a chemical compound Batman discovered when investigating whether the Joker was immortal. Batman was actually brought back to life by dionesium (after his death in Snyder and Capullo's 2014 "Endgame" storyline in Batman).
3) Promethium, which Batman reveals that he used in the "final machine" that gave him back his memories in Batman #49 (again by Snyder and Capullo).
4) Nth Metal, the powerful material that's previously been associated with other heroes, particularly Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Batman exposed himself to Nth Metal when he tried to harness dark energy with a dagger of Nth Metal in Dark Days: The Casting (one of the prequels to Metal).
5) A mystery metal that Batman hasn't discovered … yet.
So…Batman realizes that he's been exposed to four of the five metals.
Meanwhile in Finnesterre, or "the ends of the earth" at the Antarctic lava pits (quick, find it on a map!), Kendra is visiting a group of immortals. They've gathered to discuss current events.
Side note: These pages probably tease some of the content coming in DC's The Immortal Men, one of their "Dark Matter" titles that spin out of Metal.
Kendra starts whining to Vandal Savage about how things are really, really bad. She cites a few things readers have already seen in the story – like the visions seen by Doctor Fate and Steel, and the implication that Plastic Man's unstable cells are somehow linked to all this (although Kendra says they don't know where Plastic Man is).
Morgaine le Fey says the immortals all voted. They came up with a plan.
And then Morgaine says what is probably the craziest line of comic book dialogue in the series so far:
"You will take the Anti-Monitor's astral brain and you will fire it through the core of the Multiverse, at the Rock of Eternity, and destroy the Dark Multiverse once and for all."
And sure enough, the Anti-Monitor's astral brain is floating in the middle of the room, ready to be utilized for this mind-blowing scheme. (And yes, this is echoing the "core of the universe" mentioned at the beginning of the issue.)
Kendra doesn't like that idea. She says Hawkman warned about the dangers of mixing anti-matter and dark matter. ("Don't cross the streams!")
Instead, Kendra wants to just look for Batman and prevent him from serving as a doorway.
Ra's Al Ghul speaks up. "I do know the detective well. And what he would be doing right now is finding a way to fight this. He'd be trying to take Barbatos on himself. Is there anywhere that impulse might lead him?"
And with that, Kendra realizes where Batman is...
Talk About Crazy
Batman is in the Valley of the Kings - in Egypt, intending to find the tomb of Prince Khufu.
(Prince Khufu is, basically, Hawkman — it was his identity before he gained his powers of reincarnation.)
As Batman is lowering himself into the tomb, he's visited again by Dream of the Endless - the character from The Sandman who showed up at the end of Metal #1.
Unfortunately, Dream says he can't tell Batman if he's on the right track. Instead, Dream says, "I've done what I can for you in this realm." (We didn't see what he told Batman after Metal #1's cliffhanger, but this indicates that the two talked.)
One more word of advice though: "If the nightmare army succeeds, if the world goes dark," Dream says, "call to me in the place of the black sun."
And he's gone.
(So…maybe the Dark Multiverse has a black sun?)
Batman calls out to Dream, but instead he gets an answer from Wonder Woman and Superman. They're down in the tomb, waiting for him.
Clark and Diana want Batman to return what's in his bag. They assume it's the Nth Metal he stole at the end of Metal #1.
But the bag doesn't have Nth Metal in it.
The bag is holding baby Darkseid.
No, dude, really, it's crackling-skin, gray-colored, little baby Darkseid, wearing "Godwave Goggles" over his Omega Beam eyes. And Batman literally just pulls him out of the bag.
(OK, a little bit of history, for those just catching up. Darkseid recently died in the "New 52" Justice League's "Darkseid War" arc. His daughter, Grail, resurrected Darkseid through the baby of Superwoman and Mazahs. Long story short: Darkseid is a baby now.)
Why does Batman have baby Darkseid?
It's because he's trying to recreate the situation in which Barbatos first noticed Batman. It happened when, in Final Crisis, Darkseid's Omega Beams "unhinged" Batman from time itself.
"Barbatos saw me then," Batman explains to Superman and Wonder Woman. "He set all of this in motion…
"I have Hawkman's mace now," Batman says. "Barbatos was beaten with it once before, the only time he walked the Earth. I'm going to use the Omega Sanction to go back and do it again."
When Wonder Woman points out that Batman will "erase himself" from the world, Batman says he knows.
And then he gets super personal by saying, "Watch over my family, all of them … and Damian … help him become a better man than I ever was."
Things Turn Bad
But there's a problem with Bruce's plan. Kendra communicates with Wonder Woman and Superman that they are not in Khufu's tomb.
They're actually in the tomb of Hath Set.
Batman has walked into a trap.
The Strigydae show up - they're the nasty-looking, skull-bone-headed, hooded figures from the end of Dark Days: The Casting. As the issue mentioned previously, they're the "high priests" to Barbatos.
The Strigydae appear to have powers, as they somehow cause Batman to be thrust against the wall, making him drop Hawkman's mace. Both Superman and Wonder Woman are somehow thrown to the floor.
Who brought the Strigydae here?
Who set the trap?
The Court of Owls.
A few masked members of the Court of Owls walk into the tomb, talking about how they've completed their task of waking the ancient Strigydae and preparing Batman to be the doorway for Barbatos.
How did Batman get to the wrong tomb? The Court of Owls knew where Hawkman's journal was, and they led Batman to the tomb by changing the coordinates.
Now, the Court of Owls are ready to finish the "mantling."
The Court of Owls says that the final metal "didn't exist in our world." So they funded the science to create it, through the Powers Collider (another item from the Snyder/Capullo Batman run).
The fifth metal is called 'Batmanium.'
The Strigydae pour the red liquid Batmanium over Batman. Some type of language thunders from below. The Court is excited that the 'Bat God' is coming.
"Hail Barbatos!" they say. "We shall rule with him!"
From a portal in the floor comes nightmarish Robins, all wearing creepy smiles on their faces, and they sink their pointed teeth into the Court of Owls members.
The nightmare Batmen have arrived. There's no sign of Batman.
Superman and Wonder Woman are still there. They ask: Where is Bruce?
"You want Bruce Wayne? I'm right here," all of the Batmen say, as they're revealed in a two-page spread.
The smiling Batman Who Laughs has the Robins on chains, their mouths covered with blood. He's standing next to other dark figures - they are the characters readers have seen teased for DC's upcoming 'Dark Knights of the Multiverse' one-shots: The Red Death, the Murder Machine, the Dawnbreaker, the Drowned, the Merciless, and the Devastator.
Behind them looms Barbatos.
The narration from Hawkman's journal returns, talking again about Krona's exploration of the universe. His story, Hawkman says, is a cautionary tale, because he was reviled for his hubris.
"Explore too far and you may just become the villain of your own story."
Superman and Wonder Woman, still on the ground, yell to Barbatos that they're going to beat him.
And…that doesn't go well.
With some sort of powers, the life is apparently drained from Superman and Wonder Woman as they scream in pain.
The last panel shows a close-up of the smile on the face of the Batman Who Laughs as he says, "This is gonna be fun."
Dark Nights: Metal #3 is scheduled to be released October 11, and a full list of ancilliary tie-ins (and their release dates) can be found here.