Unpacking the big reveals of DC Comics' Dark Nights Metal #1

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Aug 17, 2017

If you can, go into DC’s Dark Nights: Metal blind. All I knew was Scott Snyder was writing and Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion were drawing, with FCO Placencia doing the colors, and that was enough to get me started.

If you want to do the same, go read it first, then come back, because I'm going to attempt to unpack every major thing that went down in the first issue.

So be warned, spoilers are ahead.

Dark Nights: Metal #1 is actually the third piece of a story that began in Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting, where Batman is following an energy signature that is present in too many places to be a coincidence. The six-issue Dark Nights: Metal miniseries would also extend through eight other Rebirth titles and nine more one-shots. That's 25 comics total from the middle of this past June through Valentine's Day of 2018. Branching out of Metal will also be DC Dark Matter this fall and winter, where five new titles will be launched. We got a taste at San Diego Comic-Con when we talked to Tony Daniel.

Now, I didn't know what to expect with DC Metal, but I can tell you that it sure wasn't the extension of the Multiverse, a mountain in the middle of Gotham City, Nth Metal, Kendra Saunders, or certainly not the appearance of someone from a character typically found in the pages of a Vertigo book. Dark Nights: Metal, at its simplest, is a Justice League story that unfolds a lot of new and familiar elements but re-establishes them into the Rebirth universe.

1. Did someone park a mountain here?

Having defeated Mongol on another planet, Batman gets a distress call from Alfred, who is frantic to share the news that a giant mountain has appeared in the middle of Gotham. The stone is not volcanic, meaning it did not originate from below Gotham's soil. As Aquaman puts it, "that mountain came from somewhere else." Flash does reconnaissance inside the mountain, which is exhibiting that energy signature that Batman was detecting in The Forge and Dark Days, and discovers that it is hollowed out, containing a compound inside with a symbol that looks like an hourglass within a circle on the door.

Besides what this mountain really is, what else could just appear out of nowhere? With Batman hot on the track of something emitting this energy, is Gotham a magnet for more things to appear, or will more be popping up out of nowhere?

2. The return of the Blackhawks and Kendra Saunders

Upon entering, the Blackhawks arrive, and allow me to divulge into some back history. We know them from their presence during DC's Silver Age fighting in the skies of World War II, but they were actually introduced in the anthology Military Comics #1 for Quality Comics back in 1941, created by Chuck Cuidera, Will Eisner, and Bob Powell. Quality Comics was later purchased by DC Comics in the late 1950s, but Blackhawk was one of the few titles left uninterrupted. More recently, fans may have recognized them as hotshot air pilots from the Darwyn Cooke story, DC: The New Frontier graphic novel and animated movie. They were also a part of the Flashpoint and New 52 initiative.

In 1959, one of the early DC Blackhawk stories introduced Zinda Blake as Lady Blackhawk, the first female member of the team. She has evolved over the years and different women have taken the mantle, including Natalie Reed. In Dark Nights: Metal #1 it's Kendra Saunders, who we last saw briefly as Hawkgirl in Earth 2 of the New 52, and prior to that lived out a very convoluted history in the DCU, as is anything related to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Given her new role and goals, it's actually a cool play on her name being Lady Blackhawk, and how they repurposed the Blackhawks.

Hawkgirl has been absent from Rebirth, but she made her debut in The Forge ... as Shiera Hall, the original Hawkgirl and princess to Carter Hall, aka the original Hawkman. Going back to Kendra, she's now the leader of this incarnation of the Blackhawks, an anti-apocalyptic task force whose lone mission is stopping the Dark Multiverse from emerging.

What's the Dark Multiverse, you say? More on that in a bit.

3. Nth Metal and the Rebirth of the Red Tornado and The Challengers of the Unknown

Before we jump into the Dark Multiverse, let's try to sort out this business with Hawkman. Lady Blackhawk brings the Justice League to Blackhawk Island, where she says it used to be the base for the great detective Carter Hall. Kendra claims that she fought beside Hawkman as Hawkgirl and that she and Carter were stabbed by a mysterious substance and entered a cycle of reincarnation, which is why she says that she knows who the Justice League is. This substance was called Nth Metal.

In The Forge, Shiera and Carter witness a Thanagarian spaceship falling in Egypt, filled with Nth Metal, which gave them their powers of flight. The Nth Metal is said to defy all science and magic rules and gives different people different powers, such as eternal life, mystical vision, heat generation, power augmentation, and flight. Kendra shares with the Justice League that Carter searched for the origin of the Nth Metal with the Challengers of the Unknown and the wind-creating android Red Tornado (another DCU mainstay who became a post-New 52 absentee). The shard is one of the last pure pieces left in the universe. It is also the source of Batman's energy signature.

While we didn't expect the Challengers of the Unknown to show up in this series, fans have long waited for the return of Red Tornado -- and boy, does he go bananas here. But if an android can react that way to the prophesied harbinger of doom, then who are we to doubt him? Both Hawkman and Hawkgirl have been pulled away from the Rebirth universe outside of the Death of Hawkman miniseries that came out in 2016. I just got this feeling with Nth Metal being such a crucial part that both characters are going to play big parts in this event.

4. The Dark Multiverse and a Premonition

Now, this is where the Multiverse comes in and your brains might get scrambled. Lady Blackhawk pulls out the map of the Multiverse (literally from Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes' Multiversity series), which Flash confirms for accuracy, but flips it over to where she believes the origin of Nth Metal resides. The back of the map is just black. As scientists, they believed that reality was made up of matter and anti-matter, but astronomers discovered that dark matter and dark energy make up the majority of the universe even though we can't physically see or touch it. According to Kendra Saunders, Nth Metal is from a realm that is older and even bigger than we can imagine – "a dark subconscious realm that the known multiverse of 52 worlds sits on top of."

Just imagine that as big as the DC Multiverse is, the Dark Multiverse is much, much bigger. Kendra has a bad feeling about the dark universe and the energy that's being emitted from the shard. These are signs proving they are ripe for a dark invasion. She argued with Carter about Nth Metal and his obsession with its origins. It's why she destroyed her wings and made an oath to destroy all Nth Metal.

If that wasn't enough, she found through Carter's journal that he stumbled on a prophecy laid out in ancient scrolls. Two names showed up repeatedly in the scrolls: "Barbatos" and "Wayne," which means that someone in the Dark Multiverse is hunting for Batman, who will one day open the door -- or is the door -- to the Dark Multiverse bringing the end of the world.

5. Nightmares and Dreams

Batman rides a dinosaur to escape Blackhawk Island and makes it back to the Batcave, where he analyzes the shard of Nth Metal. Inside his mansion, Carter Hall's journal calls to Batman under a Bat-shaped hole in his floorboards. Upon reading the journal, Batman confirms the prophecy to be true, and standing behind him is Dream of the Endless, the lord and personification of all dreams and stories. He's also the star of Neil Gaiman's comic series The Sandman. Yeah, we're talking one of the greatest comic book characters ever created joining the DCU ... in a very strange way.

Now Dream is paired with Batman to help him navigate this prophecy, evil Batmen and Barbatos. How much crazier is the story going to get with Dream's abilities unleashed? Will Dream be the only member of the Endless to make his return to comics? If the first issue is any indication of what's to come, and a look at that Metal lithograph image at the top of this article, this is going to be one crazy ride.