I inadvertently saw the promo poster for Metal while I was browsing at my local comic shop. The owner and an employee were discussing the upcoming series. The employee grabbed the poster and unfurled it to show the owner. I stared in shock. The poster was jarring in it strangeness. Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, other familiar and beloved figures, twisted and misshapen, almost beyond recognition except for their suits. They had pointy bits where there should be the smooth line of muscle, like the blades of daggers, so many daggers, sticking out from their backs. My glimpse was brief and hurried so I wasn’t able to determine if the sharp looking objects were a part of the heroes themselves, bones sticking out? Or a part of their new suits, made in the fashion of porcupine quills maybe? Needless to say I was intrigued and picked up the two prelude issues, Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting. Both issues are labeled Issue #1. You are going to want to read them in the correct order. Seriously. I did not the first time and it was very confusing. So The Forge is first then The Casting. Let my pain be your gain.
The text of the first page of The Forge is a journal written by Carter Hall (Hawkman in case you didn’t know). Immediately I am reminded of The Court of Owls and I wonder if Scott Snyder just really likes or really hates birds. It seems like there is a theme here. I love a good narrator so it is an auspicious beginning. The narrator describes the feeling at the beginning of an adventure and it beckons one to turn the page and keep reading. Unfortunately, when I turn the page it is not as interesting as I had hoped. But they do manage to work the word “metal” in several times which is good because I might have forgotten the actual run was going to be called Metal if they hadn’t reminded me.
Almost immediately I was dizzied by the appearance of multiple recognizable characters in a seemingly random fashion. By page five, we have encountered Hawkman as the narrator, Batman and Aquaman, who makes an appearance to help Batman. And oh look, there’s Green Lantern! Luckily he sticks around throughout the book so it feels less like a guest appearance. There is trouble brewing on Earth and Batman is somehow involved. This doesn’t seem original but also isn’t offensive. It’s fairly neutral. There are some references to earlier comics and then more mention of metal. The comic begins to lose me at certain points. The narrator is interesting as is the interaction between Green Lantern and one of the Robins. By the time Mr. Terrific shows up, I am barely paying attention to anything that happens with these characters who feel forced into the book. I can’t say there won’t be some reason in Metal that all of them made appearances but in The Forge, it feels like the desperate bid of a late season in a once loved TV series.
There is some important dialog between these characters but it isn’t always gripping. Just about the time I start to think about giving up, the narrator appears again and throws out clues to the mystery the books will center around and it draws me back in again. I would prefer to be interested at least a little bit in more pages than not but will take the renewal that comes with the narrator. Batman is warned away from this mystery. He persists in pursuing it as Batman usually does. It isn’t that it is predictable although it is. But it is also just part of the character and I would be more disturbed if he walked away after the warning. That would also make for a lousy comic (Bruce Wayne goes home, has some wine, watches reruns and goes to bed. Buy the next issue to see how Bruce likes his pancakes!) I don’t begrudge the predictability. The last couple panels and the last page are a bit of a surprise so I won’t go into detail but they would have been enough to make me buy the next book if I hadn’t already.
As an introduction issue I would give it a B-. It had enough points of intrigue that I would buy the next issue but not enough that I was breathlessly waiting. Introductions can often feel a little forced and uncomfortable, in comics, in gaming, in real life, sort of like blind dates. So I am optimistic that it will become more interesting once the foundation is laid. However, if you aren’t a Batman and/or Scott Snyder fan you may want to pass on this one or at least see read the review of the second prelude to see if it improves.
This review is based on a copy purchased from the writers local comic book shop. Support your local shop!