Comic Review – Dark Days: The Forge #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I checked out the ludicrously titled Dark Days: The Forge, the one-shot prelude to the upcoming equally ludicrously titled Dark Nights: Metal series from DC Comics. It has been oddly under-marketed it seems, and I was only made aware that it was coming and that it was being released this week because I follow Scott Snyder on Twitter. Dark Days: The Forge was written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the art by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita, Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, and Steve Wands.

Cover by Lee, DC Comics

Dark Days jumps between three main narratives. First is Carter Hall, or Hawkman, almost as a journal entry as he recaps his life (or lives) and his curse, the Nth metal that grants him rebirth and how he is tied to his love Shiera and the villainous Hath-Set. But there he also has impossible memories shimmering in the background, memories that look like a dystopic future in the grip of one he would call an ally.

The other two narratives, taking place in the current day, tie in a little more closely (for now). Batman rescues a scientist from a Wayne blacksite as a volcano erupts. He has been investigating metals, and something is wrong with the metal of the Earth. Batman’s investigation seems to not only go beneath the Earth’s crust, but to the surface of the Moon (well, a Batcave on the Moon), to another universe, and to a secret vault in the Fortress of Solitude as well. Meanwhile, the Guardians send Green Lantern Hal Jordan back to Earth, to investigate the Batcave itself. There, with current Bat-sidekick Duke Thomas, he finds a secret Batcave within the Batcave, indicating that Batman has been investigating something for a long time with a secret team, without letting the Justice League or the Bat-family know about it. Whether he can be trusted remains to be seen, but Hal doesn’t seem to be the only one troubled by all of this.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong opening to Metal, and with Scott Snyder re-teaming with his Batman collaborator Greg Capullo (oddly absent on this issue) for it, it is sure to be a blockbuster event. Snyder and Tynion IV have both written Batman in one form or another for a while now, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have a firm handle on his character and dialogue. Its nice to see a similar care and approach taken to some of the other cast members here, including those seen less often such as Mister Terrific and Mister Miracle. At its core, this series appears to be shaping up as a Batman-centric Justice League event, rather than just a Batman story. And that is important, as there is a worry and a tendency to remove some of the appeal of Batman by making him almost godlike, or making his origins stretch back to the dawn of time (looking at you Morrison). I hope this series doesn’t dip too far towards that, but for this issue it doesn’t rear its head too much. The ongoing mystery of the metals takes cues and threads from throughout Snyder’s run on Batman in such an impressive fashion too, that I can’t help but be drawn in by what it all might mean.

Interior art by Romita Jr, Lee & Kubert

Considering the talent from the art team, the only real negative point I can make is that with Kubert, Lee and Romita Jr all putting in an appreciable number of pages into the book, the art does come off as inconsistent from a stylistic perspective. It is however, consistently very good. Hawkman’s memories by Kubert retain a classic feeling with clear, bold line work, while the lunar character interactions and the volcano escape from Romita Jr feel a little more loose, and the epic scale visions and dark cave scenes show off what makes Lee’s style so iconic for superhero work.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong prelude to an event that I know very little about, but the creative team behind it guarantees I’ll be checking it out. This taste has only made me all the more excited about it, especially with the return of Snyder and Capullo for the first time since the end of their run on Batman. Check it out at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 8 METALS out of 10

 

Comic Review – All-Star Batman #1 (DC Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: Minor Spoilers

“I just wanted to say… I’m so sorry I had to do it.” – *******

Another new DC Rebirth Comic this week! It’s another Batman run DC are kicking off with All-Star Batman #1, written by Scott Snyder, with art by John Romita Jr., Danny Miki and Dean White for the main story, and Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire on the backup story, with Steve Wands lettering both parts. I wasn’t sure what to expect with All-Star Batman as opposed to more traditional Batman comics. The only version of this to come out before was All Star Batman and Robin in 2005-2008, and all I know about that is Dick Grayson gets abandoned in the Bat Cave and has to eat rats to stay alive. What I got here was a comic where Scott Snyder, who lead the outstanding New 52 Batman run, really strutting his stuff.

All star batman cover

Cover art by Romita Jr., Miki & White

Snyder has been let loose to do what he does best: character interaction. The plot of issue #1 focuses on the relationship between Batman and Two Face, interestingly quite a line is drawn between Two Face and Harvey Dent in this case. The two are off to ‘burn out’ Two Face once and for all. Two Face of course isn’t too keen of the idea and has put a huge bounty on the both of them. It isn’t all talking though, we get a wonderfully over-the-top fight scene as mercenaries try to bring the Bat down. Batman manages to switch things up and the whole thing takes on a cheesy horror movie-esque feel to it while Bats takes on his attackers.

There’s more to the relationships than only Batman and Two Face though, we get an additional story attached to the main one, from Duke Thomas’s perspective where he and Batman try to save victims of Zsasz. There’s again a focus on their relationship, emphasising that this is not Duke as Robin, it is not Batman and Robin (Damian still holds that title) but something ‘new’. It feels like the pair of them are finding their feet a little with this relationship. While I always like the idea of Batman having a side-kick or similar I’m not sure DC know quite where this one is going. I hope they do and it’s only the character’s uncertainty but I can’t quite tell what it’s meant to be yet.

All star interiors

Art by Romita Jr., Miki, White & Wands

As for the art, overall it was solid. Romita Jr. and Miki team up to create stunning moments, particularly in the fight scenes and a certain silhouette of Batman with a chainsaw looks awesome, though if I’m honest while the over the top imagery suits the big panel images it sometimes looked off in some of the smaller interactions. White’s colours for the main story are somewhat subdued and more of a desaturated palette, which works well to show the passing of the time of day throughout the start of the road trip, and makes the field scenes look particularly impressive. In the back up story, Shalvey’s art is a nice contrast to the brighter outdoor aesthetic in the main arc, with a more ominous feel that is simultaneously highly detailed, particularly with the contrast of the geometric shapes forming ‘The Cursed Wheel’ and the crime scene. Bellaire’s vibrant colours help to further distinguish the back up not only from the main story but from different scenes in the same short tale, with dim Batcave clashing nicely with the bright colours on the Batcomputer.

Speaking of smaller interactions, can Romita Jr. draw hands? There were less examples of actual hands than I was expecting as so many of them are covered by chunky gloves or armour. While gloved or armoured they do look good, though naturally a lot of the detail in the fingers and joints is simplified somewhat. There is one trucker with very stubby fingers, but they are used well in gesture when they are in panel, covered or not. Romita can, though didn’t get to show off properly in this issue, which is why they’ll get a 7.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I like how different this feels to the main Batman run. I am a huge fan of Snyder’s past work on Batman so I have high hopes for this. It looses a point for some of the art and the uncertainty over Batman and Duke, but those are issues I’m sure many will disagree on. If you like them this would be a 9.5, though in my opinion it drops to:

Score: 8.5 Stilling Cuts out of 10