Dark Nights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe is a lovely farewell story to the DC Rebirth initiative. For a while now, it’s seemed like the rebirth concept had been fading, but with Dark Nights: Death Metal coming to a close ( and DC Future State on the rise) it’s been made clear that the overall themes from DC Rebirth are ending. All roads lead to darkness, or at least that’s the impression readers were having until the plans for DC Future State and 2021 started to be talked about. It seems like a new, more solidified age of storytelling is coming, and it all starts with the ending for Death Metal. Writers Jeff Lemire, Mark Waid, Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Christopher Sebela, Mariko Tamaki, Gail Simone, Cecil Castellucci worked with artists Mirka Andolfo, Rafael Albuquerque, Francis Manapul, Meghan Hetrick, Daniel Sampere, Travis Moore, Christopher Mooneyham to wrap up every major loose end from the current DC Universe in an 80-page special.
The Titans reunite in Together in an opening story (and closing story) by Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder with art by Travis Moore. With the end of the world coming it seems like there’s no better time than the present for a Titans party. It’s a very nostalgic story from the point of view of Donna Troy. Titans from all generations have gathered together for one last push for justice. This is the first time in a long time that DC has acknowledged almost every iteration of the Teen Titans. More importantly, this is the first time in a long time Donna Troy led a story with such power and grace that could only be compared to a goddess. There are irreplaceable moments of pure love that the writers put into every character and it’s clear that Tynion, Williamson, and Snyder have an immense understanding of the characters. Williamson has the passion and excitement to write the Titans, something we’ve seen in Justice League lately, and also has a strong depth of knowledge for the speedsters. Tynion, as usual, showcases his ability to write young heroes, such as the Young Justice/Teen Titans members of the group. Meanwhile, Scott Snyder seemingly continues to put his love for older heroes such as Nightwing, Garth, Donna Troy, and a few special guest stars. Now, it isn’t determined who wrote which characters, but when writers such as these work together, it’s obvious where their strengths came into play. All of the beauty of this story couldn’t be done without the wonderful Travis Moore. Moore’s art is inexplicably perfect throughout every single moment of the issue. Overall, Together is one of the most wonderful stories in years for Titans fans.
Meanwhile, Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque do a wonderful job with Green Lantern in Last Nights, pairing together two unexpected allies. With the end of the world just around the corner, Hal Jordan decides to do the most in-character thing he could do, fly and think about his dad. Things get more complicated when Sinestro decides to rear his head. This time though, Hal’s in no mood to fight. I’ll be honest, Jeff Lemire did a better job selling me on Hal Jordan in one issue than Grant Morrison has in four volumes. His ability to get down to the core of the character and what he holds closest in his heart is a refreshing scene compared to what we’ve had recently. Additionally, Albuquerque does a wonderful job drawing Hal and Sinestro. The facial expression and emotions expressed through this art is a great mix of soft and descriptive. Overall, this is a strong heartwarming issue that leaves hope for the future for Green Lantern fans.
Mariko Tamaki and Daniel Sampere deliver a powerful Wonder Woman story in The Question. Death Metal has been a Wonder Woman story from the beginning, but given all the other plot points it’s been hard to add real depth to the character. However, Tamaki hits home with its call to action. Although a little too wordy in some points, the overall idea of uniting one last time and recognizing the stakes while remaining hopeful is a nice story.
The most emotional story in this issue is the Green Arrow and Black Canary story Dust of a Distant Storm. While Gail Simone does a great job with two of the most important characters she’s ever written, Meghan Hetrick’s art is a little too soft for me. The story itself is a true example of what happens when a writer loves characters so much and understands their power together. However, Hetrick’s faces are a little weird, with big eyes and overly defined lips. Nonetheless, the art conveys a loving warm tone that compliments the writing. Overall though, the story leaves more questions for the future for the happy couple and is a perfect example of what a writer means to make a love letter to characters.
As much as I’ve enjoyed Aquaman’s series lately, Christopher Sebela and Christopher Mooneyham miss the mark for me in Whale Fall. Mooneyham’s art is extraordinarily descriptive and emotive, which makes this even more frustrating. However, Sebela’s storytelling was far too wordy and a good amount of the issue could be spent trying to determine who this letter Arthur wrote is directed towards.
Unfortunately, the next story is only worse. Cecil Castellucci is arguably the worst thing to ever happen to Batgirl. Through and through, her fondness for ableism continues to show its ugly head with the continuous mistreatment of Barbara’s previous physical disability. In addition to this, she completely misinterprets the relationship between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. What’s even more frustrating is the nonchalant nature of her understanding of the overall relationships in the Batfamily. Although claiming the “family’s all here,” many notable characters are missing. Not to mention the blatant confusion between Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. This is an almost ironic example of how little DC cares to differentiate and represent the two characters. This story was nothing but a failure.
On a far brighter note, Mark Waid’s grand return to DC Comics was more than a grand slam, it was the holy grail. Partnered with hidden gem Frances Manpaul. Man of Tomorrow sees Superman attempt to beat his greatest enemy: the clock. There are dozens of stories that show Superman save the world, stop a crisis, or be grounded on earth, but he’s never been able to do it all. Well, now, at least for a little, he does. Mark Waid has a knack for being one of the best writers in all of comics, and that’s because he gets it. Mark Waid gets the characters he writes, he understands their core themes and motives. And with what one can only hope to be the first of many, Mark Waid writes Superman perfectly. Partnered with Manpaul, and we get one of the most powerful stories in the issue. Manpaul’s great at drawing characters and blending them with the background, and because he also colors the issue, he also adds life and warmth to the story that no other colorist could envision. Overall, this story is nothing short of perfect.
Looking at the issue as a whole, and one can see it’s a mixed bag of talent. Although certain stories drag and are a blatant misrepresentation of the characters, there are far more stories that succeed where they fail.