WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Dark Nights: METAL#2
The long awaited event known as DC's Dark Nights: METAL has begun with a shock, exposing a millennia-old mystery with Batman at the center. And just when the DC Universe may need Bruce Wayne's willpower and wisdom the most... he's been torn from reality. As if that weren't bad enough, he's been replaced by an evil god whose coming has been foretold for years - along with an army of nightmare Batmen from DC's Dark Multiverse.
The identity of that evil Bat-God, how Batman has been heading to this shocking twist since the very start of DC's New 52 reboot, and what comes next are all questions readers will be asking. So in an effort to make sure fans feel in the loop - or know what reading will enrich their experience to get them into it - we're explaining the METAL event, and Batman's role so far.
It's the story that Batman scribe Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have been plotting for years. And, as promised, it's one written in metal.
The True Meaning of 'Metal'
The name of the event was confirmed to carry several meanings. Not only would the "metal" tone of the event be as energetic and relentless as the music genre of the same name, but the story would be connected to, born from, and focused on literal metallic objects of the DC Universe. The first comics in the series - The Casting and The Forge - confirmed that the same strange metal that powered Hawkman and Hawkgirl's weapons, wings, and cycle of reincarnation was tied to Aquaman's trident, Wonder Woman's bracers, and the origin of metahumans as a whole. That mystery is sure to be explored and answered as the METAL story unfolds, but now, we know who the villain behind it all really is.
For those who read Grant Morrison's Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne the above exchange will make perfect sense, as the culmination of years of Batman mythology. For those who haven't, well... you're likely as confused as Superman. To make a long - and absolutely worthwhile - story short, Morrison's arc began when Bruce Wayne was "killed" by Darkseid's Omega Beams. We say "killed" because Bruce wasn't wounded, merely torn from space and time, sent back to the beginning of mankind.
There, he encountered the first tribes of humanity (including one led by Vandal Savage). The arrival of "The Bat" led to a sundering of the first tribes, setting in motion new rivalries and grudges that would spread to, apparently, the modern day and beyond. That story has already been teased in Carter Hall's journals into the same 'metal' mystery Bruce Wayne is after, but what fans really need to know is one simple name.
Batman Has Been Prepared For Barbatos For Years
As Bruce Wayne made his leap from one historic setting to another, before arriving back in the modern era, the repeated bat imagery spoke for itself. But eventually, the real mystery became that of "Barbatos" - a type of demonic, monstrous, Bat-God that seemed to be pursuing Bruce through time, permanently one step behind. It's this dark deity with a unique link to Bruce Wayne that Scott Snyder has used as his antagonist for METAL, and in Issue #2, he reveals how far back the villain goes in his New 52 Batman narrative. Neither the readers nor Bruce Wayne knew it, but the servants of Barbatos have been preparing Batman for his destiny since the very beginning.
That's the reveal delivered in METAL #2, with Bruce explaining to Superman and Wonder Woman all that he has learned of the Strigydae, servants of Barbatos, and their machinations in his life. The Court of Owls may be Snyder and Greg Capullo's most instantly-iconic addition to the Batman mythology, but as Bruce now explains, the Owls were merely the first servants of Barbatos to begin his transformation. The Mantling, as it's called, began with Electrum consumed by Batman from the Owls' fountain in their first arc of the New 52.
Next came the injection of Dionesium, the healing substance from "Death of the Family," followed soon after by Prometheum when Bruce was restored after vacating the cowl in "Superheavy." With three of the five heavy metals taken care of, Bruce infused himself with the Hawkman-branded Nth Metal in The Casting to try to see to the truth of the coming threat. Which only left one before Barbatos could finally achieve its goal: entering the DC Universe through Bruce Wayne's sacrifice.
Which is where METAL #2 comes in. And more specifically, where its final reveal of the event's antagonist will either make complete sense to readers... or none at all. Needless to say, if DC fans have been waiting to catch up on Snyder's entire Batman run from the launch of the New 52 onward, now is the time.
Barbatos Has Arrived, And He's Not Alone
Say goodbye to Batman, because it turns out playing the 'doorway' for Barbatos to spring forth into our reality means trading his place inside of it. Where that puts Batman has yet to be revealed, but there are far more... immediate concerns to deal with. For starters, the darkness that burst out of the final Mantling metal ("Batmanium") has claimed Superman and Wonder Woman as it has opened the doorway. It's safe to assume that the two will return to the fight before long, since they'll have to fight their own evil Batman reflections along with the rest of the Justice League. Because as terrifying as the massive Barbatos may be, it's the evil Batman army of the Dark Multiverse he brought with him that is going to be providing most of the spectacle and action.
So far DC has teased the Doomsday Batman, and the version of Batman who steals Flash's speed. On top of that, preview pages have shown the new origin story that turns Bruce Wayne into a killer Green Lantern instead of the Dark Knight. It seems that the League's heroes will be forced to deal with these alternate, nightmare Batmen on their own since their version has gone AWOL. But it seems Barbatos has entrusted this army to the most horrifying, disturbing, and grotesque doppelganger of all: the Batman who became The Joker.
Predicting the next twist is nearly impossible, given how long Snyder and Capullo have been planning this story. That being said, Issue #2 helps establish the foundation for the rest of the series. A foundation that, we hope, makes sense to fans of Snyder's run - AND those who have some catching up to do.