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

darknightsmetal

(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.

Advertisements

Justice League, or, Has Anyone Made a “League of Their Own” Joke Yet? There’s No Crime in Bat’s Hall? Something Like That? I Don’t Know.

justiceleague

Batman v. All Kinds of Folks: Noon of Justice

“You’re not brave. Men are brave,” Batfleck told the Man of Steel in director Zack Snyder’s cumbersome Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I hated that line. To me it had seemed the epitome of the over-the-top, macho bullshit Batman is always in danger of succumbing to in the wrong hands.

“You’re not brave. You’re a little boy. I’m a big strong man, because I’m tough and grim and that’s what a man is, and by the way I just discovered the work of Frank Miller.”
I walked out of Batman v. Superman angry. Not disappointed. Angry. But it stuck with me. It stuck with me and despite myself my mind would return time and time again to various moments throughout the film. I found myself considering it. Digesting it.

“You’re not brave. Men are brave.”

Macho bullshit, or theological outrage?

“You’re not brave. You’re a god. You don’t know fear and you don’t know bravery because you don’t know what it is to be human. You don’t know what it is to be fragile living in a world that can kill you by accident. You cannot save us from ourselves because you will never know what it is to be us. You’re doomed to frustration and failure. And what then?”

Zack Snyder’s superhero films have no interest in being the Marvelous “world outside your window.” They’re more attempts at reflecting Joseph Campbell’s monomyth against a battle of minds and souls and ideologies. Hefty stuff. A reach that neither Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice were able to close fingers around. But they were each a helluva reach.
Justice League doesn’t feel that way. Very much an empty bath tub, Justice League feels like a panicked response to the backlash against Dawn of Justice in which all of the tropes of a Snyder film were numbed, rather than just the problematic ones.

I often found myself frustrated with Snyder’s previous films because of the contrast between their best and worst moments, between their potential and their actuality, between the leap taken and the distance traveled. But Justice League feels like less of a leap than a hop, like Zack Snyder’s ambitions have finally started to bear the weight of critical reception.

A lot has been made of the possibility that Justice League would feel like a battle between two voices, Snyder’s and Joss Whedon’s, who was brought in to complete the film when Snyder dropped out for personal reasons. But the only tug of war I felt in the film was between the lofty, operatic vision of Snyder and a very corporate, frugal sense of uncertainty holding that vision back.

There’s the slimmest thread of Snyder’s ambitious storytelling here, a messianic thread that casts the five marketed Justice Leaguers as sort of apostles, with Ben Affleck’s Batman playing the role of a repentant betrayer trying to make good. At times the film very much feels like Man of Steel 3, a third act following that familiar but fascinating template of life, death and rebirth. But the scope of that narrative, which reigned unshackled in the two previous acts, is downplayed in Justice League.

There are also hints of Snyder’s more problematic tendencies. The film opens with a laughably bleak montage of a world without Superman, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that Snyder’s camera has less respect for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman than Patty Jenkins’ did. But even these more irritating quirks are toned down. Peaks and valleys alike are buffered and filled in so that unchecked ambition is replaced by a sense of noncommittal, corporate safety.

Writing about Justice League I feel myself warming up to it, coming to terms with what it is rather than mourning what is isn’t. But I can’t shake the feeling (and it is just that, a feeling) that Snyder was reined in on this film because of the lackluster response to Dawn of Justice, and because of that it’s follow-up is, if not outright worse, at least exponentially less interesting.

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 52, or, The Cult Classic Finale

I did it, gang! 52 weeks and 52 episodes (plus four bonus episodes, just saying) and the Pony Tricks Comic Cast has come to an end. It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun, but now I need to go a week without talking to myself out load about comic books. Don’t worry though, a new podcast will be coming to Pony Tricks soon enough.

This week: Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers v. X-Men: Axis, Batman and Robin, Black Widow, Daredevil, Justice League, Multiversity

Lastly, now that the Pony Tricks Comic Cast is over I’m going to explore new options for hosting my podcasts on the web, which means that as of a month from now I’ll no longer being paying for hosting on SoundCloud, which means all 50+ episodes the Comic Cast won’t be available here in a month. But I’ll do my damnedest to make sure they’re available somewhere else. Stay tuned to ponytricks.net for more information about where these episodes will ultimately end up, as well as whatever podcast I waste my time on next.

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 47, or, Channing! Oh Channing!

Do you remember the Pony Tricks’ 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative? Because I sure wish I didn’t. Join me as I lament my lot in life and complain about having to eventually see the new movie Book of Life or risk blogging shame. I think I might talk about some comics too.

This week: Avengers + X-Men: Axis, Batman and Robin, Daredevil, Death of Wolverine, Justice League, Ms. Marvel

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 45, or, Exercise Balls Are the New Cuban Cigars

If my lecture on sitting, and its being the new smoking, blew your mind back in Episode 31 then boy do I have a revelation for you! Also, there were a lot of comic books out this week. So there’s that.

This week: Action Comics, American Vampire, Detective Comics, Black Widow, Death of Wolverine, Edge of Spider-Verse, Justice League, Silver Surfer, Swamp Thing, Thor, The Walking Dead, Wonder Woman

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 43, or, A History of AMCs The Walking Dead as it Pertains Specifically to Myself

Join me this week as I spend more time talking about my turbulent relationship with the Walking Dead television show and less time talking about last week’s comic books than ever before. Seriously, there’s only one way to find out just how successful my attempted speed-run through nine books is, because I haven’t posted the results on the Wikipedia yet.

This week: Batman and Robin: Futures End, Daredevil, Edge of Spider-Verse, Justice League: Futures End, Multiversity, Superior Spider-Man, Superman/Wonder Woman: Future’s End, Thor: God of Thunder and Wonder Woman: Futures End

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 41, or, Lordy Lordy the One After 40

Join me whilst I pick a bone or two with shoe sizes and the U.N. on the first proper episode of the Pony Tricks Comic Cast since getting my terrible ASUS laptop back. Not that I’m bitter about the whole thing or whatever.

This week: Action Comics – Future’s End, Black Widow, The Death of Wolverine, Detective Comics – Future’s End, Justice League, Original Sin, Swamp Thing – Future’s End