Communication Skills for Multiversal Salvation, or, Dark Nights: Metal

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(C) The Devil

Dark Nights: Metal is at once a Batman story and a Justice League story, a mystery and an adventure, a fragile, intimate drama and a sprawling, cosmic epic, and the mission of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s latest collaboration (with Jonathan Glapion on inks and FCO Plascencia on colors) seems to be bridging those very sorts of fictional polarities. Metal is a story that posits that perhaps detectives and swashbucklers are one and the same, that perhaps the barrier distinguishing cosmic infinity from the sprawling expanses of any single individual’s imagination is far thinner than we might think.

Metal concerns the invasion of the DC Universe by the Dark Multiverse, a realm of raw imagination, comprised of the dreams and nightmares that on the rarest of occasions are forged into existence within the living, breathing DCU proper. Essentially, the world of Batman and the Justice League is an ark of existence, of reality, adrift on an unimaginably vast sea of could-have-been and should-never-be. Someone or something has breached the hull of that ark, which is now taking on sick water in the form of nightmare Batmen conjured from Bruce Wayne’s worst fears and insecurities. What follows is a desperate attempt to plug the leak in the DCU before the entire existing multiverse sinks into the Dark Multiverse.

It’s a mystery and an adventure, at once terrifying and exciting, a sentiment captured in the narrative’s dual focus on Batman the Detective and Carter Hall, the missing adventurer Hawkman.

Questions and clues abound: why is a covert ops team surveilling Batman? Why are strange metal artifacts around the globe reacting strangely to some unknown force? What secretes lie within the secret journal of Carter Hall?

Spectacle and bombast abound: the Justice League battles interlocking mechs in an alien gladiatorial arena. A demonic Bat-God clings to the apex of a dizzying spire that punctures a stormy sky, flanked by dual Joker-dragons.

And yet, whether it’s an army of villainous Justice League doppelgangers or a furrow in Wonder Woman’s brow as she prepares for battle, Capullo, Glapion and Plascencia never miss a beat, the attention afforded both to the smallest detail and the loudest spectacle alike indicative of Metal’s continued interplay between the intimate and the immense, the mysterious and the adventurous.

But the disparity between those two seeming opposites never feels jarring or disorienting, as Metal is, at its heart, largely concerned with that which unites them: communication.

Sound is a fascinating and prominent motif throughout DN:M, be it battle cries, devilish bellows, power chords, or good old-fashioned banging two pieces of metal together. Again and again importance is placed on sound, the difference between the life and death of all existence hanging on one character’s willingness or ability to create it and another’s ability to hear and comprehend it. It’s telling then that just before it hits the fan in the story’s opening issues, Batman refuses to communicate with his peers. His failure to communicate, his decision to withhold information, reaps dire consequences and the rest of this epic is largely concerned with not only discovery in the face of the unknown malevolence brought forth, but the communication of those discoveries with others.

Across the galaxy, in the depths of the sea and deep within the distorted bowels of the Dark Multiverse itself, the Justice League find themselves investigating any thread that might lead them to a plug for that leak in the ol’ aforementioned reality ark that is their entire known multiverse, but separated as they are those answers mean nothing without the willingness and ability to communicate that information, to share it, to come to a common understanding through detection and adventure.

For all its mystery and all its spectacle, Dark Nights: Metal ultimately revolves around communication, that which links the dreams and nightmares of our minds with the vastness of the universe. It’s a story about coming together, about living and experiencing and sharing those experiences to the betterment of all involved.

It is one hell of a comic book.

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Goobers of Today, or, Legends of Tomorrow

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PEW PEW PEW!!!

Legends of Tomorrow is goofy as hell.

CW’s newest foray into televising the DC Comics universe, which follows a potpourri of B-list DC characters on a time-traveling adventure, is a serialized Hanna-Barbera soap opera. The action and the drama are in constant competition with one another to get both feet over the top first and as a spectator that competition is an absolute delight.

I enjoy watching Legends of Tomorrow as a grown ass man, but boy oh boy what I wouldn’t give to watch Legends of Tomorrow as a ten-year-old. I imagine it would occupy the same space that Dragonball Z did in my actual youth: that first exposure to serialized storytelling, where characters are still big and bombastic and cartoonish, but suddenly their actions carry reverberating consequences.

Legends of Tomorrow is this perfect little stepping stone somewhere between Adventure Time and Game of Thrones. Sometimes it puts in a bit too much of one and not enough of the other with silly or melodramatic results, but more often than not, particularly in the back half of its first season, Legends of Tomorrow perfectly blends cartoonish fun with, you know, grown up stuff like talking and kissing.

One particularly well done episode set in 1958 features both werebird monsters from a spooky mental asylum and the directly stated sentiment that the 50’s were only really Happy Days if you were a straight, white man.

If you haven’t seen Legends of Tomorrow its greatest weakness is its premise, because on paper it sounds so, so dumb. But Legends doesn’t try to dodge its own inherent ridiculousness, it leans so far into it that it might as well be laying down on top of it. Legends of Tomorrow is so very genuine. It knows exactly what it is. It never tries to be Adventure Time and it never tries to be Game of Thrones, it just sets out to be the best time-traveling Avengers soap opera it can be. And it can be a pretty damn good one.