Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment
Back in late 2017, DC Comics set out to shake up the world of Batman and the entire DC universe with Dark Nights: Metal. For almost the entire run of New 52 Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were building a long form narrative that was too big for 52 issues. Dark Nights: Metal finally brings that epic run to its explosive conclusion.
It all started with the dark multiverse, a dark reflection of the DC universe where nightmare versions of the characters we know and love. In this dark universe worlds are born into existence only to wither and die. In these worlds Batman is pushed to extremes by circumstances beyond his control. What if Batman had the powers of the Flash, joined with a cybernetic AI, was given a Green Lantern ring, stole the helmet of Ares, had surgically implanted gills, became a Doomsday monster or even worse, the Joker? The dark universe was a place where the impossible came true, a universe where Batman turned on his allies. Many stories over the years have shown us that if Batman ever became evil no one would be able to stop him. Enter the dark Batmen, the Red Death, the Murder Machine, the Dawnbreaker, the Merciless, the Drowned, the Devastator and the Batman Who Laughs.
A series of one-shots, starting with the Red Death, showed us how these twisted evil Batmen came into being. Driven to madness by his inability to be everywhere at once, Batman decides to take the speed force from the Flash by force. After this union of Bruce and Barry, the Red Death’s world begins to come apart. He is snatched from oblivion by a mysterious Joker Batman hybrid who tells him of a universe of light and weak people they can rule. All the Red Death must do is submit to the will of Barbatos, a dark bat god.
On a world where the villains of batman’s rogues gallery captured and murdered Alfred Pennyworth, Batman is driven mad with grief and asks Cyborg for help crafting an AI with Alfred’s mind. The directive to serve and protect Bruce causes the AI to malfunction and take a physical form. It then proceeds to murder all of Batman’s villains and merge with Bruce’s consciousness in an effort to keep him safe. The Murder machine is born. The hybrid form then turns its attention to the Justice League and kills them all. With his world crumbling around him, the Murder Machine is also pulled from oblivion by the Batman who laughs.
Even in the dark multiverse some moments of Batman’s life will always happen. On the night of his parents murder, a version of Bruce loses all emotion. Abin Sur’s ring mistakes this emotionless shell as a man who can overcome great fear. The willpower that young Bruce possesses overrides the rings power and allows him to murder Joe Chill and reanimate the corpse of his parents. Dealing with the scum of Gotham by murdering them attracts the attention of the Green Lantern Corps. Constructs created by the black hole in Bruce’s heart destroy the entire corps and thus the Dawnbreaker is born. The recruitment continues as the Batman who laughs brings the Dawnbreaker into Barbatos’ army.
The series of one-shots go on to introduce us to The Drowned, a woman named Bryce Wayne whose love is tragically taken from her by the invading Atlanteans. Bryce, like other versions of the character, decides to resort to drastic measures and surgically implant gills to fight the enemy on their own turf. She kills Aquawoman and claims her trident, subsequently destroying all of Atlantis in the process. Like the others, her victory is short lived, as her world crumbles around her.
Like the Atlanteans, the Greek gods of the Amazons pose a great threat to the world of man. Wonder Woman and Batman manage to defeat Ares god of war however Diana is fatally wounded in the battle. This drives Bruce mad, as he loved her, and he claims the helmet of Ares. The madness of the god of war and the determination of Bruce leads to a world where mankind is extinguished and Batman the Merciless rules. The world is left in ruin as it starts to fall like all worlds in the dark multiverse.
The next one-shot answered a question that is always on the minds of DC fans. What would Batman do if Superman turned on mankind and his fellow heroes. This version of Batman makes a terrible choice, he injects himself with a mutated strain of the doomsday virus and becomes the Devastator. He surmises that the only way to protect humanity is to turn them as well so they can defend themselves. He brings this same madness to the people of the DC universe. One of his first victims is Lois Lane, wife of Superman. All roads lead back to Barbatos.
Finally, one of the biggest mysteries of the dark multiverse was answered with the final one-shot. Who is the Batman who laughs, and how did he come to be in the service of Barbatos? A world where the Joker destroyed Gotham and subjected many children to the same fate as young Bruce Wayne is a dark place indeed. The rage that builds inside Bruce as he witnesses this finally drives him to kill the Joker. This turned out to be part of the plan as a rare strain of the joker toxin is released upon his death. Bruce starts to show signs that he is infected and kills his entire family. He then proceeds to destroy the Justice League. Superman gets the worst of this as Batman exposes him to black kryptonite which drives Clark to murder his wife and son before taking his own life. Flanked by an army of joker infected Robins, the Batman who laughs rules his world. He is approached, like all the others, by Barbatos and told of another set of heroes to subjugate. The union of the two sets in motion a plan to rise and rule. Others are recruited and the plan is set in motion.
This series of one-shots turned out to be some of the best Batman stories ever written. When unchained from continuity the writers were able to do what had never been done, push Batman over the edge. Each dark Batman is put into a position where the limits of their heroism are put to the test. Any one of these situations could have possessed the DC universe Batman to make the same choices. These different versions of Bruce are sympathetic because the choices they make are for the greater good. They become enraged as they are told by Barbatos of a universe that gets to exist free of the suffering and the darkness they know. This set the stage for the dark Batmen to reveal themselves to the universe above. This led into several tie in books that showed us how the heroes of the DC universe dealt with these nightmare Batmen. We will cover these tie ins in part 2 of this review. Stay tuned to Entertain the Geeky for more.
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