After the events of Dark Nights: Metal #2, twisted versions of the Justice League from the Dark Multiverse have invaded our world. Each is an evil mash-up of Batman and a different hero. Batman: The Red Death takes a look at this alternate take on the Flash. Bruce Wayne has a ton of tricks up his sleeve, but what would he do with the Speed Force and nothing left to lose?
Batman: The Red Death begins with a Batman at the end of his rope. He’s lost everything and he’s desperate to put the pieces of his life back together. We don’t get the specifics as to how the tragedies unfolded, but it’s clear that he’s lost more than just his parents. Presumably, the extended Bat Family has perished. All that death has broken Bruce and he’s turned to the Flash and the Speed Force as a last ditch attempt to reverse it. If only he could go back in time and prevent it.
Although he’s human in a group full of gods, Batman has always been cast as the scariest member of the Justice League. He’s prepared for everything, like a super creepy boy scout, and that includes his teammates. The issue begins with Batman decked out in the weapons of the Rogues, including Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and Mirror Master. As Central City crumbles around him, the Flash tries to reason with his former friend. We see how Batman has prepared for every possible outcome in a chilling manner.
There is a bittersweet beauty to these images from artist Carmine Di Giandomenico and colorist Ivan Plascencia. Buildings are coming down left and right and the sky has turned a dark shade of red. Batman stands full of confidence and power, but there’s a tinge of desperation to him. This is a man that has been pushed too far. He’s broken and he’s going to take everyone else down around him.
His endgame is like something out of a Bond movie, featuring a large machine with poor Barry Allen literally caught in the middle of it. This is presented in an epic double-page spread showing the force of Batman’s madness and grief. He’s thought of this. He’s planned it out. That’s what makes this whole thing so disturbing.
These events lead towards a melding of sorts as Bruce pushes this device to its limits. Di Giandomenico illustrates this in a series of small panels, each fading away a bit more than the last. Flesh is torn from bone and bodies are ripped apart until there’s nothing but a white light, leaving The Red Death.
You might think that Batman empowered by the Speed Force could be a great thing. Imagine how many criminals he could stop if he could move at super speed. That may be the case for our Caped Crusader, but that is not so for this grief-stricken hero. Di Giandomenico delivers some gorgeous montage scenes with the Red Death flowing through the panels followed by a stream of bats replacing the Flash’s signature lightning. There’s one shot that looks like his body is composed of these bats, like he turns into them when he runs only to reassemble himself when he stops, like a speedster version of Dracula.
Batman: The Red Death provides some context to one of the twisted alternate versions of our heroes that have made their way to our world. More importantly, it serves as a chilling take on the Dark Knight that is made all the more terrifying by the fact that it’s something you could almost see happening in the future. It’s not like Bruce Wayne is known for handling grief well. His response to the death of his parents is to dress up like a bat and punch people in the face. Writer Joshua Williamson certainly knows a thing or two about horror comics and this definitely delivers on some horror through the guise of Batman.