Dark Days: The Forge is our first piece of the story towards DC's big major crossover event, Metal. It's also the first major crossover event that Scott Snyder has written that spans the whole DC universe, and not just the Bat-family. So how does it stack up?
In a word: Broadly.
This issue, co-written by James Tynion IV, sets up a lot of ideas that are going to be key to the Metal event, as well as the new books that will spin out of it all in Dark Matter. We're introduced to a number of concepts and ideas, and also a whole host of characters both known and unexpected, some of whom haven't been seen at DC in some time.
As a result, it makes the issue feel like a huge sweeping look at DC. This could derail easily, but thankfully it's pinned down around the core idea of the great mystery of the DC Universe that no one considered.
From early on, Snyder had teased that there were hints set up from his early Batman New 52 run, and this book reveals exactly what it is: the new elements and metals that keep popping up. We knew Nth metal played a role in this event, but it turns out so do all the weird, mystery elements introduced in Snyder's Batman run. From electrum to dionesium, all seem to be connected.
It's a remarkably smart little trick: when it was teased that there were hints that far back, fans may have gone back to try and find them. But many would easily have overlooked things like electrum with a simple answer of "it's comic books." After all, why should we question it past it's the element that resurrects Talons in Court of Owls?
With this connective tissue laid down in Dark Days: The Forge, it makes the reader feel part of the mystery itself.
Add into the mix a bombastic action set-piece that feels a teaser for the kind of action to expect in Metal, and a ton of reveals and new and reintroduced character moments, Dark Days: The Forge feels like a suitably set-up primer for an event.
And that's the thing: it's important to remember this is a primer issue — the equivalent to what Marvel would call a zero issue.
The story also dives even deeper into DC history than one might expect, with a key element in the story coming from well before the New 52…in fact, it comes from a previous DC event, Infinite Crisis. Funny that, as I'd not too long ago been suggesting that Infinite Crisis may be an important story to look back on recently.
The only element I'd say is a little not right is the art. Not that any of it is bad — the artwork is by some of the biggest artists in comics, and it is all very good stuff to look at, sure. The problem I'd say lies in that there's little rhyme or reason in how the artists have seen their duties split up.
The work from Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Klaus Janson and Scott Williams is all top notch, but instead of one art team tackling specific scenes, they seem to jump around. Scenes at the Fortress of Solitude start with Romita Jr. and then are suddenly by Lee. It's not enough to derail the comic or hinder enjoyment by any stretch of the imagination, it just feels a little unstructured artistically.
Overall, Dark Days: The Forge is a great issue setting up a big event. There's still enough mystery and intrigue to keep fans guessing, but gives plenty of clues to make it tantalising and reveals that will make long-term DC fans very excited.