Saturday, September 16, 2017

Metallurgy #2: Metal #2 and Gotham Resistance Part 1

Welcome to Metallurgy my reading guide through he DC event Dark Nights: Metal, a DC Event. In this entry we have the second issue of Metal as well as the beginning of tie-in crossover "Gotham Resistance" Note: If you are going to read "Gotham Resistance Part 1" in Teen Titans, read Metal #2 first

Metal #2 Written by Scott Snyder Illustrated by Geg Capullo Inked by Jonathan Glapion Colored by FCO Plascencia

First issues to big events like Metal are easy, like a loud opening power chord, it just has to set the tone and announce itself. With issue #2 Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and the rest of the art tea now have to begin telling a story. With such an outsized tone, it would be easy to see Metal as a camp exercise. One gigantic riff on the DC lore while telling a blockbuster adventure. Metal is a gigantic riff on DC lore, and a blockbuster, but it’s one with heart.

Leading into Metal, Scott Snyder talked about how the series revolved around a mystery Batman didn’t want to solve. A mystery the Detective didn’t want solved!? That goes against nearly 50 years of obsessive storytelling what could cause that? He’s scared, more scared than he’s ever been. Showing fear in the Dark Knight is tricky for Greg Capullo. His costume is supposed to create the feeling of unease, to mask his humanity and project something greater. With white pupiless eyes, you could make them grow large but that connotes shock not fear.

The creative team smartly represent Batman’s fear to the reader by externalizing it, instead of internalizing it. Batman’s fear is represented by the fear in the moral heart of the DCU, Superman.

“We’ve been friends a long time, I know your heartbeat nearly as well as Lois.” That is a profound statement on the intimacy of their relationship. As the scene progresses and Superman realizes the ruse there is still an emotional truth to both Clayface’s performance and Superman’s instincts. Batman has been transmitting his heartbeat, he really is frightened and that makes Superman scared for everybody.

As touching, and emotionally grounding, that sequence is, this is still Metal. One of the things that makes this series not feel like false drama is how playful it is with the iconography of DC comics and Metal #2 reintroduces an old friend. The council of immortals led by Vandal Savage, first introduced in Dark Days: The Forge, official clubhouse is the layer of the Legion of Doom from Super Friends! The council has come together to implement their own plan to combat Barbatos. They want Kendra Saunders to fire the astral brain of the Anti-Monitor (what?!?) into the heart of the multiverse from The Wizard’s Rock of Eternity. That plan sounds like a bad idea, as the ones cooked up by any group of immortals tend to be, but man that could be an awesome splash page from the art team.
It isn’t like Batman has a better plan either. His plan is another indication of just how scared he is. Using Baby Darkseid’s omega beams to send him back in time to kill Barbatos and possibly erase himself form existence, is a tad extreme and desperate. He questions the incorporeal Dream if he’s doing the right thing as he wanders through the Valley of Kings. Desperate, and frightened he maybe, that is still a very Batman plan. And no one, not even the other members of the Trinity can talk him out of it.

By riffing on the DCU lore and iconography there was already an element of light reflexivity to the series. It’s part of the charm of speaking in reference, if the audience understands it they feel better. If they don’t, well, hopefully you’re telling a good story by itself.  How Scott Snyder and the letter use full reflexivity, by crossing out the location annotation of “Valley of Kings” with “Tomb of Hath Set,” read like the equivalent of Quentin Tarantino blaring the “Iron Side Siren” in Kill Bill. You just know it’s about to go down and the drama just got turned up to 11. In both cases these are not cheap triggers, they are both moments grounded in earned drama.

Of course, it all goes wrong, Batman is finally anointed with the fifth metal “Batmanium.” And the portal is opened, with Barbatos and his Dark Knights waiting to waltz right in. Back at SDCC ’17 DC released a teaser image of some of these evil Batmen, but getting to see Greg Capullo and companies rendering of the characters made them more fearsome. They aren’t abstract representations but now fit within the aesthetic of the series.

With the conclusion of Metal #2, the event and series hit an act break. Now the crossovers (“Gotham Resistance” and “Bats Out of Hell”) and various one shots can begin. And surprisingly, I’m kind of interested in all of it.

Teen Titans #12 “Gotham Resistance Part 1 – The Riddler’s Labyrinth”
Written by Benjamin Percy, Illustrated by Mirka Andolfo, Colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr. Lettered by Corey Breen

With the release of Metal #2 the event begins a 4 issue crossover between Teen Titans, Nightwing, Suicide Squad, and Green Arrow known as “Gotham Resistance.” As with any crossover of this type, I don’t expect “Resistance” to bring about some sort of profound character statement for the cast. Green Arrow and Teen Titans writer Ben Percy is pretty much writing the standard interpretation of all oft these characters. It is, however, a nice excuse to play in this new sandbox Metal has plunked down in the middle of the DCU.

Despite getting a splash page and some follow up dialogue about being able to hear the screams, Metal moved on pretty fast from the whole Challengers Mountain suddenly appearing, and wreaking destruction, all over Gotham City. Dealing with this new environmental hazard is what the cast of “Resistance” is up to. As Gotham has been transformed not just into a wrecked city but one cut off from the outside world. Making this perhaps decent justification for the bog-standard spectacle of mass destruction these types of event series create.

For its part, Teen Titans and Ben Percy do a fine job setting up and justifying the cast of this crossover. Damian is searching for Bruce. Nightwing wouldn’t let anything like this go unchecked. Harley Quinn and Killer Croc are on unspecified Task Force X “business” and have a good amount of city pride. The only one who stands out, because of his lack of direct Gotham ties, is Green Arrow. Ollie’s around because: people need help and something something I lost my city something something, you’ve heard the speech before.

Trying to bring Gotham back isn’t the only point of Metal tie in. Since this takes place after the events of Metal #2 the Dark Knights of Barbatos have been unleashed. Their leader, The Batman who Laughs(aka Judge Death if he wanted to run around as a leather daddy), is running around Gotham City and dealing in the cities most well-known rogues for a game of their choosing. With special metal playing cards each rogue gains dominion over a section of Gotham City and can reshape reality as they see fit, further transforming Gotham City into the post-apocalyptic Ba Sing Se of the Avatar universe.

The first rogue the group runs into is a powered up Riddler, who looks like he just went to a KISS concert, and his M. C. Escher inspired labyrinth. Mirka Andolfo does a good job laying into the Escher style on a few pages, but everything still reads a bit to safe. There isn’t anything extra asked of the reader to make sense of these page layouts. Everything about Teen Titans #12 is just a little too compact for how expansive and experimental the setup is. Worse there aren’t any really good Labyrinth deep cuts.

Saying that this crossover feels inconsequential the Event overall seems like the wrong message to take. According to Snyder the main “story” of Metal will be contained to his core series. This crossover and “Bats out of Hell” (in the pages of The Flash, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, and Justice League) are supposed to be siloed away. Although the solicits for the “Bats out of Hell” books imply a closer connection. “Gotham Resistance” has thus far made a good accounting for itself, a fun little side adventure as part of the overall Metal tapestry. Seriously, some of the preview art looks pretty bonkers. It just doesn’t appear to be super important for putting together and understanding the finale in 4 months either.

Next Time in the pages of Metallurgy: Gotham Resistance Part 2 and Batman: The Red Death.

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