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From Dark Nights: Metal #6, DC Comics (2018). Scott Snyder, Mikel Janin/DC Comics

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Every way Dark Nights: Metal sets up the future of the DC Universe

An epic epilogue

It’s been seven months since Dark Nights: Metal kicked off — nine, if you count its prelude issues — and it has left the DC Universe in a very different shape. The heroes of the Justice League and their allies may have saved the world from the dangers of the multiverse, but they also know that the multiverse is a lot bigger now than it used to be.

The final issue of the crossover, Dark Nights: Metal #6, has a handy epilogue that shows the Justice League holding a much-needed celebration of their triumph over the dark forces of creation, but also sums up the radical changes that have been wrought on their world.

Those changes and threats all tie in to imminent event books or new series kicking off soon from DC Comics, so to make it even more handy, here’s a rundown of how Metal sets up for the future of the DC Universe. Starting with ...

From Dark Nights: Metal #6, DC Comics (2018). Scott Snyder, Alvaro Martinez/DC Comics

‘A New Age of DC Heroes’

That’s the tagline DC has for a wave of eight new titles, most of which are directly spinning out of the events of Dark Nights: Metal.

Between the Nightmare Batmen and the Justice League and the discovery of the Dark Multiverse, the barriers between individual parallel universes have taken a heavy beating. That has released a lot of that old comic book standby, “new energies,” and those energies have awakened or awarded superpowers to a new generation of heroes.

Sideways, The Unexpected and The Immortal Men are all about those new heroes and their adventures. Sometimes on their own, as with Sideways’ titular teleporting teen; sometimes with a little help, as with the Immortal Men rescuing the young metahuman Caden Park from evil forces; and sometimes in a team of untested superheroes, in The Unexpected.

Then there are two new team books from DC — New Challengers and The Terrifics — that are following teams of adventurers investigating the newly discovered corners of the DC Universe. The Terrifics is a new team led by DC hero Mr. Terrific, who played a strong supporting role in Dark Nights: Metal; New Challengers is a revival of Challengers of the Unknown, an old Jack Kirby standby combining pulp adventure stories à la King Solomon’s Mines or John Carter of Mars with midcentury space race sensibilities. The real action of Metal kicked off when dark forces teleported the Challengers’ mountain base into the middle of Gotham City. The epilogue in Dark Nights: Metal #6 helpfully lets us know that it has been restored to its proper place in the Rocky Mountains.

From Dark Nights: Metal #6, DC Comics (2018). Scott Snyder, Alvaro Martinez/DC Comics

Hints at the Sandman Universe

One of Dark Nights: Metal’s biggest surprises was its use of characters from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Sure, Sandman is definitely a part of the DC Universe, but it has traditionally defied or evaded efforts to tie it more closely to the main superhero setting, by sheer force of being self-contained.

But Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo found a way, casting Dream of the Endless, Sandman’s protagonist, as a sort of guide for Superman and Batman in Metal. At roughly the same time, DC Comics has announced The Sandman Universe, a new Gaiman-overseen imprint of four books continuing the story of, well, the Sandman setting. One of those books, The Dreaming, will follow Lucien, Dream’s librarian (seen above), as he searches for the missing Dreamlord through his unstable realm, as well as for a missing book.

In Dark Nights: Metal’s epilogue, we see the moment in which that story begins.

From Dark Nights: Metal #6, DC Comics (2018). Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

The Justice League broke the Source Wall

In the process of gathering the power to raise Earth from the Dark Multiverse below creation, the Justice League did something pretty radical to DC Comics canon. It broke through the Source Wall, the ultimate barrier at the end of the universe, and found that there was more universe on the other side.

The Source Wall was always thought of as the ultimate stopping point. Heroes have ventured beyond it, sometimes returning with fabulous powers, or with no memory of what lay beyond. It has functioned as a final, unknowable mystery: impossible to solve even in a universe where anything can happen. “God,” for a universe full of people with godlike powers.

Dark Nights: Metal changes that. The Source Wall has turned out to be a protective barrier hiding our universe from what lies beyond it. As Aquaman puts it: “Our universe, the whole thing ... is like a tiny fishbowl. That just got poured into the damn ocean.”

In response to the possibility of new, unknown threats, the Justice League is expanding, by adding Hawkgirl and the Martian Manhunter to its roster — setting up for Scott Snyder’s imminent run on Justice League, including a four-part miniseries, Justice League: No Justice.

From Dark Nights: Metal #6, DC Comics (2018). Scott Snyder, Alvaro Martinez/DC Comics

The Justice League may have accidentally merged its dark desires into the universe

When the Justice League’s heroes used the 10th Metal of pure creation to restore the DC Universe to its proper state in Dark Nights: Metal #6, they were rebuilding, not rewinding. And in that process, they may have unconsciously baked some of their darkest desires into the multiverse cake — in the same way that the Nightmare Batmen represented Batman’s darkest impulses.

The League only has a few hints to go on — flashes of a recovering Hawkman’s visions from the Dark Multiverse — but those hints include the return of the Green Lantern villains the Darkstars, a Dark Pantheon surfacing to combat Wonder Woman, Aquaman’s Atlantis rising from the ocean, and a rift between Flashes Barry Allen and Wally West. The latter is a clear reference to “Flash War,” an upcoming storyline in The Flash that pits the mentor and protégé speedsters against each other.

That the Justice League made changes to the universe might not sit well with everyone. As Batman helpfully says, name-dropping the next Justice League event, Justice League: No Justice: “What happens when they come for us? If they decide there’s been no justice for our actions?”

And if you know Batman, you know he’s never met a hypothetical scenario he couldn’t plan for.

From Dark Nights: Metal #6, DC Comics (2018). Scott Snyder, Mikel Janin/DC Comics

Batman is preparing the Justice League for a final unknown threat

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are hiding one final thing from the rest of the Justice League. They don’t say much about it, other than that the Fates (presumably the Greek ones) delivered a warning about it to Wonder Woman. But in response, Batman already has a plan. And that plan involves building the Justice League a brand-new headquarters — or an old classic one, depending on how you look at it.

The Justice League’s space station, the Watchtower, has been the team’s traditional comics headquarters for a while now. But blueprints on Batman’s desk reveal that it’s going to be replaced by a more terrestrial home: the Hall of Justice, a building introduced in the Super Friends animated series.

This, too, sets the stage for Scott Snyder’s Justice League run, and potentially two of the new books spinning off of it, Justice League Dark and Justice League Odyssey. Dark will follow Wonder Woman as she assembles a team of the DC Universe’s top magic users, while Odyssey will take to the cosmos to explore the Source Wall and “whole new areas that have opened up in space.” The Teen Titans and Titans teams will be getting some shake-ups as the Justice League more formally takes its protégés in hand, and the Hall of Justice will serve as a hub for all these interconnected squads, according to Snyder.

It’s a brand-new day for the DC Universe — but at least with Batman around, there will always be a plan.