Fleshing Out The DC Rebirth Universe In Dark Nights: Metal #4

by Oliver MacNamee

A belated review, I’ll admit, but over here in the UK we get Christmas Day AND Boxing Day, meaning two days to party and/or get into arguments with family. But then I thought, maybe some people didn’t get to their local comic book store last week? Maybe they’ll be wanting to pick up some of last week’s drop today? And, if so, you may be looking out for the belated return of DC Comics’ Dark Nights: Metal #4 from Scott Synder and Greg Capullo. A comic book crossover that will be acting as a springboard for the new titles DC will be launching in 2017 under their New Age of Heroes banner.

Firstly, I love Synder and Capullo’s legendary run on Batman and I loved (and still do) American Vampire, but when Snynder ventures out from the gothic I’m not too sure he works all that well. See Superman Unchained for evidence of that.

The problem is, I haven’t picked up the additional one shots and tie-ins that have accompanied this series and so, as with the last issue, I feel a great chunk of this story has been told elsewhere, and not in the main book. As such, this issue feels like a time out more than anything else, in which to add some exposition and background detail and flesh out this growing Rebirth universe. However, there are still many saving graces to this story, including the continued attempts to bring order into this new universe. Before Dr. Manhattan gets his hands on it anyway.

Structurally, it hearkens back to the good old days of the Justice League when the gang would split up, team-up and go seek out the diverse bad guys. So too here as we once again observe the likes of Aquaman and Deathstroke team-up (surely the makings of an odd-couple-like bromance?) for the last pieces of Nth metal out there. And, in following these different pairings, we get to look into the familiar now unfamiliar as we touchdown on Thangar Prime to meet the despotic Onimar Synn and his new, very familiar, partner.

Snynder certainly knows his DC lore and the remixing this series allows him to do is what I enjoyed the most about the first issue. And, in Thanagar Prime you have a perfect example of that as it mixes in the classic look of Thangar from the Silver Age Hawkman as penned by Joe Kubert, with the more gritty costumes of Tim Truman’s Hawkworld series. All this, and a nod to the work of Grant Morrison and his Orrery. This really is a series fueled by the recent past and the classicism that DC has to offer from over 80 years of publishing history. As much a salute to DC as a means of clearing house and spring cleaning.

We have the return of the Sandman as well, and the secret origin of Barbatos–a story within a story–which fits in nicely with what has come to pass and gives this relatively new meanie context in the wider DC Universe. Add to this the dynamic, never dull layouts of Capullo’s, who really knows how to tackle ‘epic’ in his stride, and you have a comic that’s pretty good. Just not the best this series has had to offer.

Dark Night: Metal #4 is out now from DC Comics.