While DC's "Rebirth" initiative has re-established relationships and past continuity, nothing has added to "Rebirth" continuity quite like the current DC event Dark Nights: Metal.
A six-issue series by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, Dark Nights: Metal has covered a huge swath of time in its first five issues - from the creation of the universe to the dawn of mankind. And with that epic timeline, the story has added several new concepts to DC's continuity while straight-up altering some of the universe's past.
"We're pulling on things we loved as kids, and as adults, from continuity itself, but trying to do them our own way now," Snyder explained Newsarama about Metal's continuity alterations. "And ultimately, what this story is about for us is that very thing. It's resting on the foundations of the stuff, and the exploration and the daring, wild kinds of storytelling that came before on a meta level."
While Newsarama has already outlined the hugely altered timeline of the post-Metal DCU, as part of our ongoing "Metal 101" series, we're now outlining the five main ways that Dark Nights: Metal has altered or added to the continuity of the DCU since its publication:
The title of Dark Nights: Metal specifically refers to the addition of several significant metals to DC continuity - many of which are connected to immortality.
According to Metal, there are five "impossibly heavy metals": Electrum, Dionesium, Promethium, Nth Metal and Batmanium.
Snyder and Capullo previously introduced (in their Batman run) the metal Electrum, indicating that it allowed the Court of Owls to reanimate their Talons. Their Batman run also included Dionesium, which allowed the Joker to allegedly become immortal (and brought Batman himself back from death).
Metal connected these two metals and categorized them with the fictional DC metals Promethium and Nth Metal (which had been previously established in DC continuity).
Then the story added yet another of these mysterious heavy metals – one called "Batmanium."
Metal not only re-affirmed the power of immortality connected to several of these metals, but the story gave them added status, calling them "divine" metals with powers connected to several characters - and even linked them to the origin of the DCU.
Their influence reaches far into the DC cosmos and its history. For example, the Thanagarians have apparently long-suspected the cosmic mysteries behind these metals; the young character Signal has metal literally running in his veins (as do others); and Batman, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl have been manipulated because of their exposure to the metals.
The list doesn't end there - several other characters are connected to the metals now. While it's not exactly new to link characters like Doctor Fate and Steel to metal, Plastic Man's origin is now also connected to these heavy metals. The character's well-known origin story - as thief Eel O-Brien turned stretchy by chemicals - is still intact, but readers recently learned that those chemicals are tied to "cosmic metals" and Plastic Man is a "super-conductor for cosmic energies."
Metal has taken the ancient tribes introduced in various other series - most significantly, Grant Morrison's Batman run - and incorporated them into the DCU in a more connected way.
According to Metal, at the dawn of man in the DCU, several tribes arose - including the Bird Tribe, the Bear Tribe, the Wolf Clan, and the Bat Tribe.
The Bat Tribe was actually influenced by a time-traveling Bruce Wayne. The Bears and Wolves stem from stories about Vandal Savage and the Immortal Man, who's co-starring in DC's new series, The Immortal Men.
The Bird Tribe is new with Metal, now being connected to the history of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (more on that later).
And a segment of the Bird Tribe actually defected from the group, forming the evil Judas Tribe. This tribe eventually called itself the Court of Owls, a group that's connected to Bruce Wayne's ancestors - and one that has given Batman all kinds of trouble in the present day.
Basically, these tribes were previously just a footnote in some scattered DC stories, but they're being incorporated in a much more significant and connected way thanks to Metal.
The origin stories for Hawkman and Hawkgirl were streamlined a few years back to make the characters reincarnated Egyptians who had a connection to Nth Metal.
Despite some changes made during the "New 52," the two characters are back to that basic origin story - but with a twist.
Thanks to Metal, they're now much, much older characters.
Although the two characters believed their story began in Egypt - that Hath-Set cast them down the path of reincarnation one fateful day in the desert - their history stretches all the way back to the dawn of man. As outlined above, they were the leaders of the Bird Tribe. And Hath-Set was previously the leader of the Bat Tribe.
In this new continuity created by Metal, Hath-Set somehow took away the pre-Egyptian memories of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. "He had obscured the truth behind the metal we wore in our wings and belts in service of something darker than any mortal could comprehend," according to Hawkman's journal as published in The Casting. "That was the truth Hath-Set severed us from."
As James Tynion IV (co-author of Batman Lost) explained it: "Carter Hall realized that his story went even further back than he ever understood before. The cycle of life and death that we're familiar with, in DC history - that story has always started in ancient Egypt. But there were secret lifetimes even before then, and what happened in Egypt actually erased his connection to that early past, trying to hide what happened way back when."
Even beyond this new extended ancient history for the Hawks, Metal has has also added all sorts of new continuity for Hawkman and Hawkgirl during the mid-20th Century. For example, Hawkman knows the Waynes from the past; both Hawkman and Hawkgirl worked with characters like the Challengers of the Unknown; and Hawkgirl eventually became part of the Blackhawks, even calling herself Lady Blackhawk.
And with Metal, the two are also heavily influenced by the powers of Barbatos.
Snyder has promised that more adventures of Hawkman and Hawkgirl are following - possibly in something connected to the Hawkman Found one-shot by Jeff Lemire and Bryan Hitch that tied into Metal. Presumably, they'll incorporate this new continuity - and explain and expand upon it.
The very beginnings of the DCU are still connected to Krona and the "great hand" that created the Multiverse.
However, there's a new creation myth added by Metal.
According to this story, "first were matter and anti-matter," and with them were three creatures. Two were the brothers who monitored the matter and anti-matter (also known as the Monitor and Anti-Monitor).
A third being was tasked to watch over what was "yet to come," residing in the "World Forge" that existed deep in the "rolling cauldron of possibility" known as the Dark Multiverse.
The third being had a great dragon with him in the Forge. This dragon was tasked with destroying the unstable worlds. (Eventually, this dragon became known as Barbatos, and he killed his master, leading to the story of Metal.)
According to Snyder, this new creation mythology is not just a story that applies to Metal, but is going to be part of new stories coming in the future of the DCU.
"One of the fun things about Metal has been to actually touch on deep DC creation myths and be able to add to them, and explain some of the things behind the Monitor, the Anti-Monitor," Snyder told Newsarama. "We're really excited about the story we have for Metal and the repercussions for all of it later … We have stories planned for it - for these mythological figures - post-Metal too."
Nature of the Multiverse
Now that Metal has added the "World Forge" to DC's mythology, it's been established that new worlds in the DCU are created from the hopes and fears of living beings.
At first, those worlds exist in the Dark Multiverse.
"The Dark Multiverse is not just sort of a phantom zone - it's a nascent place where these things can be born," Snyder explained. "And when you're there, they're physically real. … So the worlds are actual material places."
If these worlds become stable, they "rise into the Orrery" and became part of the Multiverse.
"If enough people fear the same thing or hope for the same thing or believe in the same thing sometimes," Snyder said, "those worlds are the ones that form - or concretize enough - that they can be pulled up through the world orrery into the Multiverse itself."