This review contains spoilers!
Another Dark Knight rises with the arrival of The Merciless!
As the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL rock the DC Universe, the creatures of the Dark Multiverse stand ready to invade our world! How can even the World’s Greatest Heroes stop a horde of deadly beings that appear to be powerful, nightmare versions of familiar figures? Find out in these special tie-in issues!
What’s the skinny?
As with the previous Dark Knights, this story will give you the a recounting of the tragic events that led to this Earth’s Bruce Wayne becoming a nightmare version of himself.
What’s the catch?
Whether or not DC intended it, they set a clear expectation with their audience for these tie-ins and The Merciless doesn’t meet it. The protagonist isn’t what I or probably anyone expected. I’m not sure how many fans will recognize A.R.G.U.S., let alone the slew of other characters present in the issue. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not inherently a bad thing. I always appreciate a writer who pulls in characters that could use a little time in the spotlight. But it doesn’t feel appropriate in the first issue with Wonder Woman nowhere to be seen.
Is it good?
What a beautiful comic book this is. You don’t often associate beauty with war but thanks to Francis Manapul I can say there’s at least one occasion where I did. There are so many powerful scenes, so much emotion from this Bruce Wayne and Manapul captures it masterfully. This story is truly a heartbreaking tragedy and words aren’t needed to convey that thanks to the artwork. The lines are very clean and the color choices are perfect for the theme of the issue. You’ll see modern military combat, an ancient greek battlefield and the destruction the events of Metal has wrought on our world. Manapul isn’t holding anything back.
Every Dark Knight issue thus far has established a loose pattern to its storytelling. We’re shown the events that led each otherworld Bruce Wayne away from the path of a hero to a tragic descent into rage, anger, hate and hopelessness. After, we observe their confrontation with the corresponding member of the Justice League. The Drowned was the first issue to break this format with a retelling of her tragedy, rather than us being shown what happens. The Merciless leaves both storytelling devices behind. We don’t see Bruce’s fall, we’re told about it. The expected confrontation isn’t with Wonder Woman, but instead with A.R.G.U.S. and several other government agencies.
This story is without a doubt the most tragic to come out of Metal thus far. The events that led to the creation of this Dark Knight are absolutely heart breaking which leads me to align and even empathize with Merciless. Out of all the Dark Knights thus far, The Merciless is the most unique. The circumstances around his arrival on the Justice League’s Earth and his pointed choice to avoid facing Diana lead me to believe he’s the weak link in the chain. If the Dark Knights are going to be broken it’s going to start with this man.
While building anticipation to the final confrontation is part of what makes stories like this so good, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the pile of minor protagonists present. I’m more than satisfied with the character we’re introduced to, but the choice of storytelling devices and absence of Wonder Woman left me wanting so much more from this issue.