Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe

 A brief respite before the start of the end of the world.

Cover by Tula Lotay with Dee Cunniffe, edited by Katie Kubert & Liz Erickson.

Once in while you just come across a comic that you just have to read even if you passed on it originally. For me, that's Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe. The sheer amount of event comics the big two put out these days is tiring to me. I've thus hit on the principle that I don't read event comics when the event is still going on and decide after it has wrapped up if I'm going to read it or not. This is why I initially skipped this comic, as it's just a tie-in to DC latest event, Dark Nights: Death Metal. What convinced me to break my 'event rule' and pick this issue up was that when I was on Twitter, I saw that writer Gail Simone had contributed to this issue. Gail is one of the few comic book writers (alongside Brian Michael Bendis and Tom King) that I 'know'. One of the few I try to keep up with. Reading that she wrote one of the stories interested me enough to pick the book up.

And I'm glad I did! The Last Stories of the DC Universe is an anthology of seven different stories focusing on different characters during the calm before the storm before the events big end fight. Each story is written and illustrated by different people from across DC comics, giving the entire thing a very diverse and 'overarching feel to it. So, what I'm going to do with this issue because it's an anthology, is take a look at each story separately. Give my (non-spoiler) thoughts on them in one paragraph or so before capping it off with my final verdict on the entire book. 

Now, with that out of the way, let's dive in!

The Titans in Together
Written by Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, art by Travis Moore, colours by Tamra Bonvillain and lettering by Deron Bennett.

The book is started and capped off by a story about my favourite group of DC characters, the Titans. The story centres around Donna Troy AKA Troia, the first Wonder Girl and founding member of the Teen Titans. After thinking about her youth sitting on the beach of Themyscira, she's interrupted by Beast Boys. He leads her to a large gathering of nearly every hero who has ever been a (Teen) Titan. The atmosphere becomes tense, however, when an unwanted guest arrives: Wally West.

Together is the perfect story to tie this anthology together. As a Titans fan, it's just a blast seeing all of these different characters together. To go with Donna alongside this trip down memory lane. It also is another stop in the 'Wally West improvement train' after everything DC did to the character, so that's another plus in my book. Besides that, it's just a good story that summarizes the entire them of the book beautifully. It shows that even in the darkest of times there's still hope on the horizon. Mix that with great writing and good art and you got yourself a winner!


Green Lantern in Last Knights
Written by Jeff Lemire, art by Rafael Albuquerque, colours by Ivan Plascencia and lettering Steve wands.

The second story is focused on the most famous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. Spending his day flying through the sky after visiting his father's grave he ends up in the valley of the rainbow rings. A place where all different kinds of Lantern are just lying about. Jordan is not the only one in the valley as Sinestro, his onetime teacher and now his greatest enemy, is there as well.

Last Knights are one of the shorter stories, if not in page length then in the story's pacing. There's not that much of it, but that doesn't mean it's a bad story. It's very much an introspective character piece like most of the stories are. People who know a lot more about the Green Lantern lore will get more out of the stories specifics (like I did with the Titans) but even those who don't can follow and enjoy this story.

It's once again a well written and illustrated story that shows the good that's in everybody even those who have lost their way.

Wonder Woman in The Question
Written by Mariko Tamaki, art by Daniel Sampere, colours by Adriano Lucas and lettering Saida Temofonte.

In the Question, Wonder Woman thinks back at events that happened during the main Death Metal series. She wonders if the decisions she made were right if the plan she and the rest of the heroes plan will work and, more importantly, if she herself has lost her way.

The Wonder Woman story, The Question, is one of the lesser stories in the book I feel. It’s not that it’s a bad story, it’s actually the one that ties into the events of the main event the most but I feel it’s very by the numbers. She talks with others about her problems, some of who offer some helpful advice, others do not but eventually, she finds what she’s looking for.

I do like what the story is trying to accomplish, I like the art direction of the story (the design of the alternate Donna Troy especially) and some of its intrigue, but that was about it.

Not a bad story, but one that’s too by the numbers and also too similar to other stories in the anthology.

Can I just say that I really, really like this Donna Troy design? The braids in her hair, the scars the assymmetrical suit. It all works together so well!
 

Green Arrow and Black Canary in Dust of a Distant Storm
Written by Gail Simone, illustrated by Meghan Hetrick, coloured by Marissa Louise and lettering by Travis Lanham. 

Dust of a Distant Storm focusses on how Green Arrow and Black Canary spent their last night together before the big battle. After talking about their regrets, Oliver decides to take Dinah on a proper date. While walking through what’s left of the earth, the two run into someone very unexpected.

This is the story that I was waiting for, the one written by Gail Simone, and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint! The setup for this one is pretty simple, yet manages to do so much with it. The story is, just to come out with it, adorable. The two stumble from one weird situation into the next, which is a storytelling ‘engine’ that I personally rather enjoy and is well implemented here. Lot’s well-written dialogue and beautiful art that shows the love between Green Arrow and Black Canary that’s packed with a ton of nods, winks and references.

Lastly, if you’re an Arrow fan like me, there’s also a little surprise here for you that’ll make definitely make you smile! Yeah, Dust of a Distant Storm is definitely my favourite story of the entire anthology.

Aquaman in Whale Fall
Written by Cristopher Sebela, illustrated by Christopher Mooneyham, colours Enrica Eren Angiolini and lettering by Dave Sharpe.

From my favourite story in the book to my least favourite. Whale Fall focuses on Aquaman as he swims through the see one more time. If that sounds like a very, very brief summary of the plot then that’s because there really isn’t much more to say about the story then that.

To be completely honest, I didn’t really understand most of it nor did I feel that much of a need to continue reading. I’m certain that Sebela did his best in writing the story and that it will have a bigger impact on people who have read the Aquaman series before its cancellation but to me it did nothing. The art is good, but it's rather ‘sketchy’ and the colours are very dark/muted. This didn’t make it very compelling to me.

Whale Fall is a well written, well-illustrated story that sadly didn’t manage to grab and hold my interest. Not bad, but definitely my least liked story in the book.

The Bat-Family in We Fight for Love
Written by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Mirka Andolfo, Colours by Andrew Dalhouse and lettering by Josh Reed.

If there’s one story of this book that has found itself in the spotlight if there’s any story that people will still be talking about for months to come it’s this one. In We Fight for Love, Batman tasks Batgirl with gathering the rest of the primary members of the Bat-Family, Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin and Damian. While Barbara mind is more occupied with the battle ahead, Dick’s drifts more towards the past and the things left unsaid and the paths not taken by him and Barbara.

Why is this the story that will probably be so well remembered? Well, because it marks a major (if probably temporary) development between Nightwing and Batgirl that has made shippers gone wild. I myself have never really been that much of a fan of the relationship between the two (I always preferred Nightwing and Starfire as a couple).

Even with that aspect of the story falling flat for me, I still enjoyed it. I always felt that Batgirl deserved more attention, more interaction with Batman and the Robins. Even if this story only gives us these moments very briefly it was still a treat to watch. Bruce’s own inner dialogue, on how much he loves and cares for his family, was a well written moment as well.

A good story that even if you don’t really like the ‘big moment’ in it is still a good and enjoyable story.

 

Superman in Man of Tomorrow
Written by Mark Waid, illustrated & coloured by Francis Manapul and lettering by Josh Reed.

The last story in the book focusses on the final member of the DC Trinity, the Man of Steel himself. Superman once again ponders the age-old question of what he should do: be there for his family and the rest of the world. While under normal circumstance it’s impossible for him to be everywhere at once thanks to pieces of his son broken time machine he can. Building a watch, he can do the last hour of the day over and over again helping people far and wide.

What I like so much about this story is the humanity at its core. While Superman is, well, a Super-man he’s still human (I know he’s technically an alien but you know what I mean). He, like everybody else, struggles with the end and while he wants to be with his family he fears it well. He fears saying goodbye because that would make it all the more real. It’s not a long or surprising story but it is one that really hit home for me. What more can I say?

Conclusion

Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe is a very good book, one that you don’t need to have read the Death Metal event to understand. The seven stories all focus on different sets of characters, really showing off the wider scope of the DC Universe. Yeah, some stories are stronger than others but they all have their own worth and place within the book and none of them is actively bad. Depending on how well you know the characters, some stories will just hit home more than others.

Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe is definitely a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend to every DC fan.

Comments