In many ways, DC’s METAL books have felt like an inverted version of Grant Morrison’s “Tower of Babel” arc, which was possibly his most famous tale during his JLA run in the 90’s. That story saw a near-invulnerable villain called Prometheus using Batman’s dossier on his fellow Justice League members to learn and expose their weaknesses. A standout moment from the story was how Prometheus took down Green Lantern: needing to keep control of his emotions in order to use his ring, Prometheus manipulated Kyle Rayner so that he was stricken with panic and anxiety, unable to move let alone fight. Like Babel, METAL puts all the power in Batman’s hands, and shows potential in the character that couldn’t be realized in a canon Bat story.
Morrison always led the charge in regards to what was next for the publisher, and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are doing the opposite in the best way. METAL recalls the gore and occult themes that dominated 90’s comics. It’s a darker tone that both know well. Capullo worked on dozens of issues of Spawn in the early-2000’s and Snyder has been flexing his horror chops on AMERICAN VAMPIRE since 2010.
Capullo crafts images that you wouldn’t come across in a modern DC book. When Barbatos, the demonic Batman that has been haunting the dark multiverse for weeks, leaps from the chest of Bruce Wayne, it’s a far cry from the more benign tone comics have established in recent years. We can’t forget that Capullo’s credentials stem back to that era. This is more than just a recreation or homage to the 90’s, it’s a genuine 90’s comic. Sure, that may alienate some younger fans, or it could be a chance for them to taste the roots of a visual style that still persists in independent stories like the long-running GRIMM FAIRY TALES.
As is common with a crossover event of this kind, Snyder’s approach to story doesn’t rely as much on narrative as it does utilizing the concepts, in this case– parallel Batmans, introduced in the tie-in books. If you haven’t been following those books, it’s easy enough to piece everything together. Barbatos’ Batminions enter like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and we see Superman struggle to accept this dark reality. The heart of this issue is Clark’s belief that the real Batman is still out there calling for help. As this is only the third issue, and nothing has gone right for the Multiverse thus far, this turns out to not be the case, at least not to Clark’s benefit.
While Snyder is a unique voice in comics, it’s tough to bring your all as a scribe to an event this far-reaching. Instead, DARK NIGHTS METAL #3 continues a narrative that is compelling if you already dig the formula. Capullo’s signature visual style, which bridges the gap between retro and contemporary vibes, is the real draw here. The story doesn’t break any barriers or cross any lines that weren’t already crossed 20-some-odd years ago, but it definitely isn’t one you should sleep on either.
Written by; Scott Snyder
Art by; Greg Capullo with Jonathan Glapion
Colors by; FCB Plascencia
Letters by; Steve Wands
Published by; DC Comics