For months now, we’ve been hearing that Dark Nights: Metal will be the biggest, most bombastic Batman story in years — and now that we’ve gotten a closer look at the crossover event at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s hard to argue the contrary.
Writer Scott Snyder, who has served as the architect of the Batman corner of the DC Universe since its 2011 New 52 reboot (and wrote the main Batman title for much of that time), told Polygon that the series is about one simple idea: This is the story of the first detective case that Batman doesn’t want to solve, because the answer is too frightening for even the Dark Knight to want to uncover it.
And that’s where the rest of the DC Universe comes into the equation. Who would be able to help Batman solve that case when he was the one who shut the door on it? Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League, of course. Snyder said that it’ll be up to those other superheroes to remind Batman of his mission.
“He’s the one that tells us ‘No matter how awful the outcome seems like it’s going to be, you have to get through it to the other side.’” Snyder said. “It’s the human spirit and that’s what he’s the great hero of.”
The Dark Nights Themselves
With a couple of prequel comics already on the stands, Dark Nights: Metal will kick off proper when the Justice League discovers that there is a dark multiverse — a concept inspired by dark matter, a mysterious, as-yet un-observable kind of matter theorized to make up the majority of our universe. The Dark Multiverse itself is a “roiling, volatile, oceanic subconscious realm to the DCU that we don’t know, and is completely unexplored,” according to Snyder.
That Dark Multiverse is going to invade our universe, and the only way to stop it is by using Nth metal, one of the rarest and most mysterious substances in the DCU — but that is present in trace amounts in the origins of dozens and dozens of supernatural occurrences and superhero origin stories throughout the DC Universe.
And the first wave of that attack will be a set of heavy-hitting emissaries, each of them one of Batman’s worst nightmares about himself made flesh. Every one represents a time in his career that he could have gone wrong or too far and become villainous himself. Six of the character designs were revealed this morning at the con:
What if Bruce Wayne took a wrong turn as a kid and decided to try to bring his parents back to life by any means? What if after Superman died, he had gone too far experimenting with Doomsday’s DNA to prevent such a tragedy from happening again? What if he declared war on Ares? Or tried to harness the Speed Force?
The Nightmare Batmen, as Snyder put it, are lead by the Batman Who Laughs — the only one who remains to be revealed — a true worst nightmare inspired by Batman’s eternal rivalry with his greatest foe, the Joker.
Unleash your ‘inner rock god’
It’s rare that a crossover event big enough to involve the Justice League and a clash of multiverses would start with Batman, but DC is embracing the idea that Dark Nights: Metal is a part of the ongoing legacy of its traditional Crisis events, that have so shaped the nature of the DC Universe. But while prequel comics like Dark Days: The Forge have featured such DC deep cuts as the multiversal tuning fork and references to Cain and Abel, Snyder stressed that Dark Nights is a story that anyone can pick up and dig into.
“The connectivity and that richness [of superhero universes] rewards fans that have been reading a long time,” he told Polygon, “The trick is to do a story that you don’t need to know any of that stuff to enjoy. ... If you know no DCU mythology or history you’ll still be completely fine when you read Metal.”
Snyder also didn’t want the story to “overwhelm readers with a bajillion crossovers,” or interrupt the storylines of other characters books for months on end, something all too common in modern superhero comic publishing. The main storyline can be followed through the six issues of Dark Nights: Metal, with one issue in the middle “Batman Lost,” a one-issue story about Batman becoming lost in the Dark Multiverse. The Justice League’s epic battle against the Nightmare Batmen, as Snyder calls them, will play out in a four-issue crossover between Justice League, The Flash and Green Lantern.
The origins of the Nightmare Batmen will be explored in seven one-shot comics, and, once the whole story is complete, new characters and settings will be spun out into a series of books under the umbrella of Dark Matter, including The Terrifics, Immortal Men, and New Challengers.
For his part, Snyder told Polygon that he’s most looking forward to working with some characters outside of the core Batman mythos for the first time, like Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Hawkman, who he has cast as “a detective that uncovers the great answers in our history.”
“We’ve had so much fun planning the Dark Night stuff,” Synder said at DC’s Friday morning press event, mentioning evil batcaves and batmobiles that had been designed for each evil Batman. And if that sounds wild and over the top and bizarre, that’s clearly what he had in mind.
The series is “immersive and crazy and reminds you of all the things you love about our characters,” Synder said, “why they’re aspirational, and also introduces you to brand new concepts, brand new territories, brand new characters, all of that stuff, that was the goal. So I want you to pick it up and be like ‘I am unleashing my inner rock god and having fun this summer and just going to the best rock out concert I have ever done with the characters I love the most.’”