Dark Days: The Casting #1, is the second prelude to Dark Nights: Metal, the six issue series scheduled to start on August 8th. I am starting to wonder if Scott Snyder has a bit of an obsession with birds. The plot in the preludes seems to be setting Batman up against birds again. Although this time it is hawks instead of owls. The plot does pick up some and leaves the reader more curious about what will happen in Dark Nights: Metal. There is an HP Lovecraft feel to the story. There are ancient cults unknown to most people, stretching across continent after continent. Nightmares are used to manipulate people. There are investigators and those who get too close suffer the consequences. It is not-so-obvious a connection that one expects Cthulhu to appear. It just has the feel of that genre. For me, that is a positive. If you dislike an investigative plot you may want to give this one a pass.
This issue sees the Joker make a very welcome appearance and of course he steals the show. The character is most authentically himself in Dark Days: The Casting, with all of his raw, poetic insanity. He gets the best lines and even the best art in the book. He looks slick, modern, and hip in a black suit complete with a tie. He appears in the best looking panel in the book. It is meant to be in the dark, the Joker stands threateningly behind Duke Thomas and you can see that smile, that crazy Joker smile, perfectly in silhouette. Both are black, just shadows really and it stands in stark contrast to the bright colors of the rest of the book.
I did not like the art in this book. It was rough. Admittedly, I love Capullo’s Batman so I have some bias. Nonetheless, the art in Dark Days: The Casting seemed a little flat, as did the writing of most of the characters other than the Joker and the Narrator. Those are the only two characters that really interested me or felt developed. The panels were not well executed. In one, a hippogriff type creature is behind Batman during a fight and it looks like it is smiling and saying “Sup?” instead of threatening him. There is another that is supposed to draw the eye to this fancy fire sword Batman just received. But the panel is drawn in a way that one’s eye is actually drawn directly to Batman’s butt. That’s right. We didn’t get enough Bat Butt in Batman Forever, we needed to take another really good, detailed look at it.
The worst thing about Dark Days: The Casting #1 is a fairly common problem in comics nowadays. I cannot stand the full page ads in the middle of an issue. Is that really necessary? Hey DC, how exactly am I supposed to enjoy your comics, or have any sense of immersion in the world your artists and writers create, if I am staring at some random ad? Here are two examples – First, there was a two page ad for Snickers in the middle. It featured Superman and Gorilla Grodd. I did not realize it wasn’t part of the comic until the Snickers showed up at the end! I like to think it’s not that I am stupid. Superman is in The Forge #1, so it was natural to assume he might make another appearance. Maybe I am just that stupid. Another example; I am reading this page of a dark and brooding Batman but my eyes are drawn over and over again to the full page ad for Adam Ruins Everything. Adam is just staring at me with his smug self-satisfied smile. Adam really does ruin everything, so do too many ads.
The theme of introducing multiple characters to advance the plot, when less would suffice, was established in Dark Days: The Forge #1, and continues in this book. There are actually appearances by at least 12 well known heroes and villains, other than Batman, in just these two issues. At least two others are mentioned. The books are not particularly long so another character is showing up every few pages. It makes it difficult to keep track of each one’s role in the story. I enjoyed both issues, even with their flaws, and will read Dark Nights: Metal. That series will be drawn by Greg Capullo, so the artwork will be better. As most, I enjoyed the Snyder/Capullo run of Batman. I like the way they work together. Neither prelude is necessary to read before Dark Nights: Metal, but they did add a little bit of background and intrigue, so if you want the whole story, they are great for that.
Dark Days: The Casting #1 is available now where DC comics are sold. This review is based on a copy purchased from my local comic book store. Support your local shop!