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The Justice League finally takes down a Nightmare Batman

But wind up in an even worse place than when they started

Textless cover of Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt Doug Mahnke, Wil Quintana/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

In this week’s installment of DC’s Metal, the comic book event that occurs when you unleash horror-master and Batman veteran Scott Snyder onto the whole weird, multiverse-laden history of the DC Universe, the forces of good finally score a hard-won victory.

Like an asymptotic curve — perhaps in the waveform of some cosmic guitar solo — the pace of DC Comics’ Metal event has become ever slower as it reaches its conclusion. It was supposed to wrap up this month, but its absolute finale, Dark Nights: Metal #6, was delayed until March.

So instead, we’ve got what is technically a filler issue — if you can call four different writers (including Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison) collaborating with four different artists (including Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke) on a wild romp through the multiverse “filler.” And Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt absolutely delivers on a wild, multiversal romp, resurrecting many a concept from Grant Morrison’s blockbuster Final Crisis event.

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt. Duh.]

The dimension-traveling ship the Ultima Thule, in Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt, DC Comics, 2018.
“The Ultima Thule. The Multiversal Bleed. Then. Now. Tomorrow?”
DC Comics

In this week’s issue, we see the fall of the first of the Nightmare Batmen, the strikeforce of corrupted Batmen inspired by Batman’s deepest insecurities and themed on each member of the Justice League. Cyborg, Flash and Raven bring about the demise of the Red Death, the Flash-themed Nightmare Batman.

Here’s how it happens. But first, you might want to sit down, take a few breaths, and open yourself to the possibilities of the universe — because this comic used quite a few of them.

Following the events of November’s “Bats out of Hell” crossover, the Flash, Cyborg and Raven are traveling through the space between universes, known as the Bleed, on the music-powered dimension hopping ship, the Ultima Thule. Their goal: make it to the center of existence and save everyone by “hacking the multiverse.”

The pirate Justice League of Earth-31 in Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt.
The pirate Justice League of Earth-31.
DC Comics

Unfortunately, they’re being pursued by the Nightmare Batmen, who have a shift-ship of their own, the massive Carrier (which, yes, looks like a dog’s nose). The Carrier runs the Ultima Thule “aground,” smashing it out of the Bleed. While our heroes defend themselves, they also blip through several versions of DC’s reality, including worlds of pirates, vampires and robots.

Secretly, the Flash sneaks aboard the Carrier, intending to unchain its fuel source: a caged baby universe. If unleashed, the universe will grow until it can no longer be contained, destroying the Nightmare Batmen’s ship.

The Merciless, an alternate universe Batman who took up the helm of Hades and destroyed the Justice League (and then became the god of war), and the Red Death, an alternate universe Batman who sought to cage the Speed Force by merging his consciousness with his version of the Flash, attempt to stop the Flash. In their attempt, the Red Death is exposed to an intense blast of the positive energy of creation from the baby universe, reversing him.

This creates a Reverse Flash (just like the Flash’s nemesis in the main DC Universe) out of the Red Death — turning him into a good guy.

The reversed Red Death in Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt.
“Bruce is insane. All of them. Insane. How do I fix this?”
DC Comics

Let’s take a break. Do you need a glass of water? It’s important to stay hydrated.

After defeating the Merciless together, the Flash and the Reverse Red Death realize that somebody’s got to stay behind and make sure the baby universe actually gets off to a good growing start, and Red Death volunteers himself as a sacrifice. Ultimately, he was still born in a dark universe from the Dark Multiverse — and the pure positive universe energy from the Carrier’s baby universe engine obliterates him utterly.

But, like every other situation in Metal so far, the Batman Who Laughs has anticipated the Justice League’s every move. While they were busy fighting and sneaking on board the Carrier, the Nightmare Batmen were launching missiles armed with baby universes at the Ultima Thule — baby universes from the Dark Multiverse, full of dark creative energy. It doesn’t matter that the Carrier is falling apart; with its guidance systems disabled, the Justice League’s ship is a poison dart headed straight for the heart of the multiverse.

The issue does end on a hopeful note, however: the arrival of the heretofore-unknown heroes of the 53rd universe in the multiverse. I won’t spoil what they’re like for you, but they’re exactly what you can expect to get when Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison put their heads together for a Batman: Metal tie-in issue.

The next level of puzzles.

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