Best Shots Review: DARK NIGHTS - METAL #3

"Dark Nights: Metal #3" excerpt
Credit: Greg Capullo/Jonathan Glapion/FCO (DC Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Dark Nights: Metal #3
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

“...and now, the world will sink... into darkness...”?

Metal continues to come at readers like a “Bat Out of Hell.” Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have put the Justice League on a crash course with Barbatos’s “Appetite for Destruction,” as his Dark Knights are determined to “Kill ‘Em All.” The narrative slows a bit here and allows Snyder to drop in some character details in the midst of a big event but at the same time, doesn’t let him riff on them fully. The Dark Knights’ words read almost like the “Diary of a Madman” in their quest to “Destroy Erase Improve” on what came before. But the narrative and the art just aren’t in sync this issue. Snyder needs a lot of room to do some expository work and it doesn’t always jibe with Greg Capullo’s layouts, so readers have to slog through a lot of extremely crowded-out panels.

Credit: DC Comics

On one hand, that claustrophobic feel does lend itself to the narrative at certain points. The Justice League are back on their heels, pulled at the brink of defeat to the otherworldly Oblivion Bar. The Dark Knights have pushed them back at almost every turn, in Gotham, in Central City, in Coast City, and the Watchtower. Some of the heroes haven’t been heard from, or worse, confirmed dead. The stakes are high, and those crowded panels make the danger feel a little harder to pin down. But they do affect the flow of the issue negatively as blocks of text slow down the reader and Capullo gets locked into a couple of recurring panel layouts. We either see headshots surrounding by text, mid-range to long shots that don’t give us much information on the art side because they need space for text, or odd shot choices that feel like Capullo not being able to deliver exactly what Snyder needs. The third one in particular comes at odd points like a panel that features Superman and Wonder Woman’s hands and some Doomsday creatures below them. By not putting the characters actually in the panels, Capullo forces letterer Steve Wands to point the tails of his word balloons at their hands and the effect is just odd.

Capullo’s characters are well-rendered for the most part even if he does fall back into the habit of drawing extremely similar faces for just about all of his characters. But some of these panels are just too busy as Capullo is forced to use some of the Dark Knights simply as window dressing because they’re around but don’t actually do all that much. However, at the narrative begins to open up toward the end it’s easy to see the influence that classic metal album art plays in the art. Some of Capullo’s best bits look right in line with Slayer’s “South of Heaven” or Diamond Head’s “Lightning to the Nations,” thanks in part to FCO Plascencia’s coloring.

Credit: DC Comics

And Snyder’s opening scene is really clever, showing the Kents and Waynes watching their sons playing the ‘60s Batman theme song on guitars. It’s a fun nod and Snyder weaves the idea that sound is how you communicate through the multiverse back to the narrative for those unfamiliar with Grant Morrison’s work. But that’s what also what trips Snyder up a bit here. The ideas that Metal somewhat requires an understanding of can be very dense. There’s not a quick and dirty explanation for most of it. So the book battles against itself to move the story forward while trying to make sure that readers aren’t totally lost. Snyder drops in characters like Nightmaster and Detective Chimp, which are fun cameos for familiar fans but further crowd a fairly large cast. Snyder does touch on the idea that the Dark Knights are not Bruce Wayne’s worst fears but rather his deepest desires. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a lot of room to explore that here.

Metal is still a fun read, but it feels like it needs to start kicking out the jams soon. It feels like we might finally be getting past all the setup we need to let the fun concept at the center of Snyder and Capullo’s story loose. Capullo, in particular, doesn’t work as well when his already thin linework is overwhelmed by text. Hopefully, Snyder can ease back a little and let him do his thing. All the pieces are in place - the Dark Knights all look really cool, the idea of a Dark Multiverse is the kind of “pop” premise that we’ve come to expect from Snyder and the stakes seem to be very high. Now we just need to get to the chorus.

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