The Casting is the final introductory piece in Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV’s prelude to the huge Batman centric event, Metal and boy does it ever set the bar in the stratosphere. Snyder and Tynion seem to have sat at the knee of continuity master, Grant Morrison and took notes. These two gifted writers have worked seamlessly together to give us an original concept, one that we truly have not seen before, hence the two volume prelude is more than justified, it is necessary. These are heavy concepts we are dealing with as we have seen in Dark Days: The Forge, they require dense, exposition heavy narratives with an usually high word counts, particularly for comic books. I know that may turn some readers off, but believe me there are plenty of eye popping visuals in this issue as well.
Judging by the scope of the prelude issues, Metal could end up being DC’s most ambitious event in quite some time. It already has the feel of an epic that could deliver on the status quo shattering promises in much the same way as Rebirth did only a short time ago. That is due in no small part to the mind blowing depth of Snyder and Tynion’s story. Snyder is more like Grant Morrison than perhaps any other writer in the industry. Like the Scottish genius, Snyder is a student of comic book history and obsessive about continuity and that shows more here in Dark Days: The Casting than in any of his other work for DC. He has the ability to take an obscure moment in a seemingly random story and build an intriguing, intricately woven plot upon that foundation. This time around he has chosen the Nth metal from DC lore and although the connections he makes to these characters are new he presents them in a way that feels like they have always been there we just couldn’t see them until now. So in a sense we are on this journey of discovery with the characters.
In my opinion James Tynion IV’s ability to write believable dialogue is among the best in the business, particularly on the Bat books. He gets to the heart of these characters in a way that works flawlessly with Snyder’s darker tone and deeply emotionally complex characterizations. Unlike in The Forge where we are introduced to the terrifying evil that is about to be unleashed on the DC Universe, this issue deals with Batman, Hal Jordan and Duke Thomas confronting evil on a more personal level and as they do each character learns something that could serve them later in the story. Snyder and Tynion are careful not to let the narrative become too bleak, its dark as hell in places but, it never snuffs out the spark of hope that has defined the DCU and sustained it through every imaginable threat. The use of Carter Hall as a narrator helps to accomplish this by allowing us to see that this is something that has existed for millennia and the juxtaposition of his words with the events taking place as we read them allows us to see that hope is a strong motivating force in the face of evil.
With the creative team working on this book it could easily be called “All-Star” Dark Days. I mean beyond the duo of amazing writers, we have a trio of the best artists ever to put pencil to paper. To say the work of Jim Lee, John Romita Jr and Andy Kubert has inspired a generation of young artists would be a pretty accurate statement but, far from resting on their collective laurels, these guys continue to inspire and innovate with pages like the ones in this issue. Jim Lee has lost nothing of his exquisitely detailed style, his Batman is chiseled from marble and brought to life, his Joker is evil incarnate when he assails Hal and Duke, JR Jr never disappoints his pages are solid, full of kinetic energy and am armored Dark Knight complete with a sword of flame and Andy Kubert turns in some eye popping panels as he visually tells the tale of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The only problem I have with this is that three so distinct styles give the book the feel of an anthology. The transitions are stark and because of that the flow of the narrative is just a bit bumpy, but this is kind of an embarrassment of riches. Metal will see the reunion of Snyder with his long time Batman collaborator, Greg Capullo, so the visuals will not suffer at all.
All in all this issue does a superb job of continuing the thread started in The Forge and building the anticipation for Metal, what could be the most innovative Batman event we have seen. The creative team on this book made very few missteps, the only extremely minute complaint I have is the abrupt changes in visual style and feel due to such drastically diverse artists. However, when the rest of the book is this good I can overlook a bumpy transition. 5/5
Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Pencils by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr
Inks by Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki
Color by Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper