By Justin McCarty
The premise for this comic is pretty simple: Earth-52 Batman (Dark Knight Returns Batman) is fed up with his lack of progress with his war on crime. He has lost everyone he’s loved, and he’s had no success. He literally believes if he had the speed force he’d be able to do better. Batman spends the first half of the book fighting Flash for it. He rigs the cosmic treadmill to the Batmobile; his plan is to drive so fast he catches up to the speed force? It’s a superhero comic; I’ll let it go. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying he sort of gets what he wants. He and Flash merge, and Batman Red Death is born. This is an exceptionally dark take on Batman. He kills all the bad guys in his universe, then, after getting a little motivation from the Batman Who Laughs, he decides to take on Earth-0, where he goes full on evil.
I am still having a hard time getting Batman’s motivations for his actions in this series. Would a version of Batman essentially give up on all his values? He clearly didn’t care if he killed the Flash. He kills every villain with his new super speed. Tonally the Metal series is not consistent, we have big, epic, old school sixties space action out of the gate, only to turn dark in the second issue of Metal. This issue goes even darker. It never had a light moment. Snyder has stated this series is supposed to be crazy and fun - that’s not coming through for me.
The story does hold you to the end. We are given an ominous introduction to the evil that is seeping out of the dark multiverse, then we are dropped right into the Flash battling Batman for the speed force. It takes a long time to get to the first beat of the story when Batman catches Flash, but from there, the story’s pacing holds you to the end. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t do its job in the first act. Batman is a fierce figure. Flash is clearly good. The dynamic comes through on the page. Reds and purples, always clashing, as the two heroes struggle. Large panels and splash pages keep the story moving. Whole panel sections turn into perspective on a grid giving the feel of events happening so fast they could all be happening at once.
Snyder has stated that this version of Batman asks the question: what if Batman decided he just wasn’t fast enough to get the job done? What would he do? Batman walks a fine line between good and evil. This story blurs that line then falls on the side of evil. Exploration of these concepts has value.
The tone is dark. The plot takes a little while to get where it is going. Still, a pretty fun read.
Batman The Red Death
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Tome Napolitano