Dark Nights: Metal #4 from DC Comics by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia, and Steve Wands brings the DC event back to its core story after a short break and a number of diverting tales expanding on the monsters now invading the DC Universe and the torture of Batman in the heart of the Dark Multiverse.
When last we left out heroes, Batman and Superman were being drained and tortured by the minions of Barbatos in the Dark Multiverse; various other heroes had split into teams to hunt down Nth Metal, the only material they know of so far that harms Barbatos and his creatures; and the Dark Knights had almost wiped out the Justice League and have taken Gotham.
Things certainly look bleak, and in a way, this is exactly why Metal works so well.
Yes, it's bleak and dark, and there have been plenty of dark titles this year that have faced negative response for being so grim in a time when the real world feels pretty dark and hopeless. However, Metal shows this while still managing to maintain the spark of hope throughout, painting it all in a badass heavy-metal-album-gone-wild manner.
I mean, seriously — there were times characters said things about how dark it was or how long everything felt and I was like, "Yaaaaaas, exactly!" I had to remind myself they weren't talking about the world around me… or are they?
Because what Snyder and team show through the heroes' strength, or momentary weakness, but perpetual resolve through these times of bleakness is the exact thing heroes are meant to bring for us all, especially the fans of the genre: the hope that they can inspire.
It's about facing down the adversity in the world, even if it has made you feel so tired or so used up, and saying you're going to stop it anyway. And that is badass, and THAT is Metal.
Capullo, Glapion, and Plascencia's art continues to be a joy to behold, taking every opportunity to evoke the hard rock visual language of the heavy metal album. It's like the side of a van filled with all your favourite DC ephemera, no matter how minute it seemed.
Many of the unsolved mysteries from where we left are still there, but they are still fun and interesting, so we can't begrudge them being held onto a little longer. But the issue does give us a wider view of how Metal fits in with wider DC mythology and multiversal structure, and it works really well. Wands's lettering helps to create a very storybook element when these ideas are broken down for the reader.
The one tiny gripe, and I have to admit it's being nitpicky here: with the heroes all splitting up, it does leave some of them feeling like they aren't getting much focus. However, that is often a side-effect in a story that is quite so sprawling, and also told in the nature of a periodically released medium like comics. I do at least have faith that these story points will be picked up, and in the main book, rather than in some events.
Dark Nights: Metal #4 moves the goal posts of playing field to take in a full scope of the DC Universe, and while it does loose track of some elements for now, it does show its true heart in the process. From here, the series can only get stronger as the heroes make their final plays to saving the day.