THIS WEEK: The Dark Nights: Death Metal – Multiverse’s End #1 event tie-in is a fun romp through all of the crises that DC Comics is undergoing all the time. Plus, Three Jokers plays all the Batman trauma hits, for better or worse (mostly worse).
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Juan Gedeon
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Multiverse’s End #1 is the latest tie-in to DC Comics giant 2020 event, and you know what? It’s good. Now, I’m not so cynical as to think event tie-in comics are inherently bad. I am, however, realistic about the batting average of this kind of thing, and I think it’s fair to say that results are often mixed. What really endeared this one to me, however, was that the creative team managed to build a comic here that is two-faceted, offering a lot to like for both long-time DC Comics readers as well as newer folks, who maybe jumped on at the New 52 or later.
See, Multiverse’s End is essentially a state of the multiverse. There’s a coherent story about heroes battling bad guys within the framework of the larger ongoing event, and it takes us to conflicts within the rapidly-shrinking multiverse, focusing specifically on some great characters like Earth 3’s Owl Man, Guy Gardener, and an evil Baby Batman introduced in another event tie-in. Within that story, however, this book functions as more of a refresher, a fun way for long-time fans to revisit crises past while the newbies can learn a thing or two about this superhero universe’s convoluted continuity.
This is a book filled with oblique references to big moments from DC Comics history. There’s a Guy Gardner one punch joke, and there’s a bunch of evil Batmen who threaten Kyle Rayner with a refrigerator, and so on. The Easter Eggs are plentiful in this one, folks. As are the jokes, even if they don’t all land. Writer James Tynion functions best when his work cranks up the earnestness to 11, and he struggles a bit here to do self-aware and winking. For example, with the aforementioned Evil Baby Batman character, he can’t quite hit the great heights of ridicolousness Garth Ennis did in the short story that birthed the character, but Tynion and his collaborators do a fine job deploying him in the name of a larger entertaining plot, and the of Owlman in this comic is earnest and perfect, which is what really matters since his arc is at the center of the larger Dark Nights: Death Metal plot point we get in this story.
Artist Juan Gedeon, who is colored here by Mike Spicer, draws the hell out of all of this, knowing exactly when to emphasize the outrageousness of the visuals. His work here has a bit of frequent Spicer-collaborator Daniel Warren Johnson to it, managing to deliver bombast without sacrificing any clarity. That’s no easy feat in a book predicated on alternate earths and multiversal character duplicates.
In the end, I think what I appreciated most about this tie-in was that it went all in on my favorite aspects of the Dark Nights: Death Metal main story. It incorporated DC Comics continuity in a way that made sense. It gave us long-time characters like Owlman responding in interesting ways to this storyline, and it seemed to hint at a broader metafictional agenda for this story as a whole. So yes, in the wildly inconsistent arena of major event tie-ins, this one is in the upper echelon. If you’re digging Dark Nights: Death Metal as a whole, you don’t want to skip this comic.
Verdict: Buy It
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jason Fabok
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Have you ever imagined a take on the Batman mythos that asks, what if Batman but bigger and dumber? Well then, do I have a comic for you.
That’s maybe a bit snarky and a little unfair, but Three Jokers is definitely a comic that is happy to trade thoughtfulness whenever it can for a harder punch to the head or a bigger explosion. And it’s not all bad. Both of the book’s issues have actually been good-looking and compulsively readable, easy to turn through quickly without feeling like the content is too brief.
When you get to the heart of the thing though, this is a story that is just playing Batman’s greatest trauma hits. It could be called three bat-character have trauma, with the point seeming so far to be that Bruce Wayne, Barbara Gordon, and Jason Todd all still have significant baggage from horrific storylines of the past. In this context, that story for Bruce is the Batman origin. For Barbara it is The Killing Joke, and for Jason it’s Death in the Family. Most stories with these three characters revisit those traumas…constantly; this one just does it directly with the titular multi-Joker framing device.
What makes this a head-shakingly, Michael Bay-esque bit of flash over substance is the small things. At one point, Batman sits near his gigantic super computer and pulls out two folders. One has in giant bold letters MISSING CRIMINALS. The other has MISSING CLOWNS. They should both have: this is all for the readers benefit. Also, this plot is heavily predicated on a gigantic quantity of the neon green Ace Chemicals product that created The Joker(s). One has to wonder, why is Ace Chemicals still manufacturing the exact same product that created the city’s famous mass murderer? Are they being mandated by the Gotham City Department of Plot Devices?
All that said, if your take on this series from the start was “oh hell yes, Three Jokers”…I think you’d be more than satisfied with the series to date.
Verdict: Two of Three Jokers, I Guess
- Batman: Joker Warzone was an okay read. It really shined any time it seeded future storylines, especially the John Ridley-written bit about Luke Fox, which we’ve already been told will be explored next year in a miniseries with artwork by .
- Finally, I try not to use the word “fun” as a descriptor in reviews, but this week’s Batman Superman Annual #1 has forced my hand. It’s a great metafictional romp that takes aim at the tired Batman fights Superman debate, doing so with the help of imps from the Fifth Dimension. If you don’t think that’s fun, superhero comics might not be for you.
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