The problem with secrets, of course, is they eventually get out. Batman should know this quite well over the years, with one of his biggest dropping on in Mark Waid’s excellent “JLA: Tower of Babel” storyline. In it, the Justice League discover Batman has concocted a way to defeat every single one of them. It broke their trust, though Batman didn’t see it that way. Another big Batman secret is being unfurled in DC Comics’ latest big crossover event that starts this week. Will it shake the heroes’ trust of Batman again?
For more info on this series, check out yesterday’s interview with Scott Snyder on this series and Metal.
Writer: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Artist: Jim Lee, Various, John Romita, Jr., Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
So what’s it about?
Read the preview to find out more.
Why does this book matter?
This is the big summer event for DC Comics, which aims to pull many heroes into a massive storyline that, judging by promotional material, involves bringing back long lost heroes. It’s a cool concept, that heroes always existed, and writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV are writing it. DC is pulling no punches with art either, as Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr. draw this series. If you’re interested at all in Dark Nights: Metal note that this leads into that and you’ll probably want to get the 411 before that starts.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
When it comes to a good secret it needs to be hidden well. Snyder and Tynion IV are certainly opening up a pandora’s box in this issue, and Batman’s secret is so huge it goes in all kinds of directions. I’m keeping this spoiler free, but if you ever wanted to see how far Batman has gone to be ready for anything this issue dials that up to 11. Because of how far reaching the secret goes there’s a version of Batman here that’s at the caliber of Superman or Green Lantern rather than the vigilante hero keeping the streets safe. His plans and preparation go on and on, and he’s tapping into some big science fiction concepts that a burglar-stopping hero shouldn’t even be thinking about. It’s a rather unique version of Batman we don’t see often in part because for him to play in this kind of sandbox it’s the level of preparation–and the whopper of a secret–that can get him there.
Uhhh, what the hell?
Speaking of Justice League characters, many of them pop up in this issue. Overall the comic reads like an event series because of their inclusion, but also because of the scope of what is going on. Opening in the past, John Romita Jr. draws what appears to be an ancient Egyptian locale with a giant spaceship of some sort flying overhead (see above). This scene from the past cuts in and out of the main story of the now and imparts an epic story that spans centuries. It adds a lot of weight to the scenes with Batman in the now, especially with Batman clearly aware of something big on the horizon and yet not informing his Justice League members of what that is. Green Lantern plays a big part in this issue which adds more weight to the papier-mâché ball of Batman’s secrets. When a Guardian of the Universe is worried you know something is up! Aquaman, Superman, and even Mister Terrific pop into the issue, all relaying concern and Batman taking it all on his shoulders.
With so many heroes popping in–and all of them very certain they can trust Batman–Snyder and Tynion IV have done a good job setting up a hero’s journey with incredibly tantalizing questions to be answered. As far as first issues in an event go, they’ve done a great job piquing your interest in a variety of ways, and that interest only builds to the very end. You’re never in doubt that Batman has a plan and his compatriots trusting him sets up the fact that we can trust Batman too.
One of the tricks of this issue is how Batman keeps everything to himself and yet by all indications the things he’s keeping a lid on are way too big for him to control. It adds an alluring quality to the story and to the Batman mythos in general as it suggests either our favorite hero is way over his head, or we barely understand his limitations. It’s also helpful there’s an underlying concept of metal and its properties–which gives an explanation to the Dark Nights: Metal name–which roots some of this big ideas into reality.
The art team of Jim Lee, John Romita Jr. and Andy Kubert (with inks by Danny Miki, Klaus Janson, and Scott Williams) feels relatively seamless. Maybe even surprisingly so. There isn’t a clean break between Jim Lee’s and Romita Jr.’s work–though Kubert appears to have drawn the opening and all the flashbacks to Egypt–but it’s never distracting. It’s certainly interesting to see Batman go from Romita Jr. to Jim Lee in the course of a page, but you’re never lost or disoriented. What can you say about the art quality when it comes to three masters like this? It’s gorgeous. It’s curious they needed all three artists (maybe it’s a marketing idea or just the fact that you can get the book in on time with all three?) but the quality is high on every page. Regardless of who is drawing, Batman always has a suredness that’s unmistakable and that gives the book a backbone from which to build off of.
How badass is this?
It can’t be perfect can it?
The impatient reader within me did scream here and there for answers, but heck, that’s part of the fun, right? I will say, when things get considerably confusing as to what we’re seeing, especially when it comes to the last page, I’m not sure Snyder and Tynion have given us enough answers to really understand or make sense of what we’re seeing. You’re left in complete confusion rather than ready to make some guesses as to what is going on.
It’s also somewhat unnatural the Justice League isn’t more concerned with what Batman is hiding. In particular, Superman should be very wary of what is going on given he lived through the “Tower of Babel” storyline. It does give the reader a sense of calm and the feeling that we can trust Batman, but it still serves the plot more than feeling natural.
Speaking of natural, there are concepts and ideas thrown about in this issue that many Batman fans are just not going to like. This is a version of Batman that proves he doesn’t have to just fight two-bit criminals but can take on inter-dimensional problems. There’s one scene in particular with a hero we haven’t seen in quite a while that made me tilt my head a bit as it propels Batman into something much bigger and less familiar. It’s a pandora’s box in a way because once the writers lift that lid they’ve introduced us to an epic storyline that doesn’t quite fit the usual Batman mold.
Is It Good?
Dark Days: The Forge is an excellent opening salvo to a story that’s incredibly epic and large, especially for Batman. This is very much an event series in scope and should have fans reeling with what comes next. It’s also a fantastic beginning to what could be another great story involving Batman and his incredible ability to plan for anything.