Back in 1985, DC Comics shook up their universe by publishing Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the multiverse was literally destroyed and the universe rebooted to make it more modern and understandable to new readers. (Whether or not this worked is up for debate.) And, over the years, DC has dipped their feet back in the well of “Crisis” every time they wanted to increase sales or fix some continuity issue or had an anniversary. There was Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time!, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Flashpoint, Convergence, and Dark Nights: Metal. However, Dark Nights: Death Metal, a sequel crossover to the previous Dark Nights: Metal, takes all of these and not only adds a heavy metal flare, but a heavy dose of meta-fiction, too. All these crises? Turns out, there’s a good reason for them.
Dark Nights: Death Metal is written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo, the writer and artist of the previous Dark Nights: Metal crossover, as well as a pretty long (and good) run on the New 52 Batman book. However, Death Metal isn’t just a sequel to Metal, it’s also a sequel to Snyder’s Justice League run and the concepts he had been playing around with for years. And explaining everything might be a wee bit confusing.
[deep breath] Okay, here goes: Dark Nights: Metal was about an invasion of Evil Batmen from the Dark Multiverse led by the Batman Who Laughs (a combination of Batman and the Joker). It ended with the Justice League bringing the Earth back up from the Dark Multiverse and, in the process, accidentally shattering the Source Wall. In Snyder’s Justice League, it was revealed that doing this actually unleashed Perpetua, the creator of the DC Multiverse itself, mother of the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. Usually, Multiversal creators die giving birth to the Multiverse, but Perpetua didn’t and had created something different with the DC Multiverse, something for which she was ultimately imprisoned in the Source Wall.
So now Perpetua was unleashed and she wasn’t happy. Deciding that she wanted to reshape the Multiverse, she went around with Apex Lex (Lex Luthor reborn as a White Martian — just go with it) and the Anti-Monitor destroying worlds and corrupting Hypertime.
(Oh yeah, Hypertime is involved. It turns out that Perpetua corrupting Hypertime meant that time itself splintered, allowing various versions of characters to exist outside of their own timelines. Which, essentually, meant that this excused all continuity errors. Oh, the JSA has been restored, but nobody remembers them yet? Hypertime has been corrupted. The recently resurrected Ma and Pa Kent remember Connor, but Superman doesn’t? Hypertime has been corrupted.)
Snyder’s Justice League run ended with the Justice League finally confronting Perpetua and linking up every mind in the world to tip the balance from “doom” to “justice.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work and doom won. Seeing one last opportunity before them, the Justice League entered a portal to fight Perpetua again...and that’s how run ended. On a cliffhanger. (Yes, this was disappointing.)
Which brings us to Dark Nights: Death Metal.
Death Metal completely skips the battle between the Justice League and Perpetua and instead reveals that, well, Perpetua won. Still, she lost a lot of energy, so she can’t reshape the Multiverse completely, but she’s slowly building “crisis energy” back up and destroying alternate Earths. And the main DCU has been shattered, turned into a dystopian hellscape (literally — Themyscira is now Hell). And the members of the Justice League are still alive, but they are all trapped by evil Batmen and forced to work for the Batman Who Laughs.
Until a prisoner is brought to Hell that Wonder Woman recognizes and realizes she can use to stop all this: Wally West. (Yes, finally, four years after his return in Rebirth, Wally West is important again to comics.) Wally, um, hold on...wait...
[shuffles papers] Wally has absorbed the energy of Doctor Manhattan and...
...okay, hold on, this requires another explanation. So remember how in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, it was revealed it wasn’t Barry’s fault that Flashpoint made everything suck and, instead, Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen had been messing with the universe? Okay, so, in Doomsday Clock, Manhattan eventually realizes that he’s made a huge mistake and goes back in time to fix it, eventually restoring the DC Universe to a place where...uh...the JSA are alive and Ma and Pa Kent never died, I guess. And then Manhattan erased himself from existence. Yep, that was definitely a thing he did.
In any case, some of his energy was still left over and was a part of the Moebius Chair, which Wally West found while searching for his children in the Dark Multiverse in Flash Forward. Oh, right: Wally accidentally killed a bunch of people in Heroes in Crisis, decided to redeem himself by working for this Multiversal monitor guy called Tempus Fuginaut, found his children in the Dark Multiverse (finally), and then sat on the Moebius Chair, absorbing the remainder of Doctor Manhattan’s power in order to, um, [shuffles paper again] fix the universe by...making Wonder Woman the first superhero?
(This was all supposed to lead into 5G, starting with Generation Zero, but...none of that may be happening now. We’ll see.)
Anyway, where were we? Oh, right, Wally-Manhattan. Captured by the Batman Who Laughs and found by Wonder Woman in Hell. Where he explains just what the hell (pun intended) is up with all these crises.
Alright, so there are two types of multiversal energy — “connective energy” (which connects everything and is “epic, generational”) and “crisis energy” (which is “selfish, greedy”). Beings like Perpetua are supposed to create Multiverses with connective energy, but instead, for the DC Multiverse, she used crisis energy.
“Her goal was to create a Multiverse with no memory, one that would live forever in a self-renewing loop of its own importance. A Multiverse that would prey on others, absorb them, and forget them, vampiric and eternally devoted to her.”
Now if that isn’t the coolest metaphor for DC Comics — absorbing other comic book companies and incorporating them into their universe and then forgetting about them, trying to continually reboot itself in a selfish loop of its own important — then I don’t know what is.
In any case, I know this whole explanation may seem a bit too much for you and Dark Nights: Death Metal might seem like it’s a bit too continuity heavy, but it also features B-Rex (Batman as a T-Rex), Batman commanding an army of zombies (called “the Dead Bats,” of course), and Wonder Woman eviscerating the Batman Who Laughs with an invisible chainshaw. Oh fuck yeah.
Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 is on sale now.