With the release of Batman: The Red Death, we have our first of the Dark Batmen origin stories. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out our recaps of Metal #1 and Metal #2. Otherwise, this story may not make a whole lot of sense.
The Batmen of the Dark Multiverse seem to make up their own Justice League, or sorts, each with the power or a normal Justice League member. So it seems. This all may have been explained better elsewhere, I don’t really read news articles on upcoming stories. First, I don’t like to be spoiled on any details. Second, I shouldn’t need to have an explanation going in for the story to make sense.
Anyways, The Red Death has the power of The Flash, and this is the story of how he got that power.
So, Batman’s Earth is being destroyed, like Earths within the DC Multiverse do, with the red sky and everything. Batman is chasing The Flash, wanting The Flash to hand over the power of the Speed Force. Batman thinks he can harness its power better than The Flash and save the world. Since The Flash thinks that that is an absolutely terrible idea, Batman is using the Flash’s Rogues’ weapons against him. In the end, Batman uses a cryostasis formula from Mr. Fries to slow The Flash down, and knocks him out.
The Flash wakes up strapped to the front of the Batmobile that Batman has modified to copy the effects of the Cosmic Treadmill. They’re flying along, Flash pleading with Batman that this won’t fix things, until they drive into a flash of light. They come out with Batman wearing red armor, and with the power of the Flash. However, Flash’s consciousness is still in there. As Batman takes out all of his enemies, Flash is begging him to stop. Eventually, Batman realizes that even with the Speed Force, he can’t stop the end of the world from coming. That’s when the Batman Who Laughs recruits him, telling him that he can save his world by destroying another.
The Red Death comes into Earth-0’s Central City (Earth-0 is the main Earth), and is confronted first by Wally West, and then by The Flash. Both of them realize that being near him slows them down. The Flash is saved by Dr. Fate, while The Red Death promises to change Central City into the home he lost. And you also get some message from The Batman Who Laughs about a bad week destroying a Multiverse.
I really liked this issue. The point of this one-shot is to establish who The Red Death is. Maybe set up what we’ll specifically be seeing him doing in future issues. With something like this, there is always the temptation to over-complicate things. Try to cram in too many details. Try to be clever. Joshua Williamson does none of that here. There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel. You have Batman, he’s lost everyone, and is determined to change it by any means necessary. The how he got to this point isn’t important. Just that this is where he is. The details of he formulated this plan to take the Speed Force is not important. Anyone that has read any Batman story can easily assume that Batman has crafted a plan that should work. You have where you start, where you’re going, and where you end up. There’s no need to muddle that journey.
Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is fine. As I’ve stated before, I’m not an art person. I’m not really comfortable critiquing art. Either I like it, or I don’t. Here, I like it. There are a couple panels that I do want to highlight. There are a couple calls to The Dark Knight Returns scattered within. If I can spot them, then I assume it’s intentional. The first one works well, as it’s a panel in which Batman is talking about how he is getting older and slower, which is very much a theme throughout The Dark Knight Returns. It reminded me of The Dark Knight Returns because of the pose. Batman is hunched over, rather than standing tall. Just look at the shoulders in relation to Batman’s head. The second panel just features the visors found on the mutants.
I suggest that if you’re already reading Metal, you should definitely check out this issue. If you’re not reading Metal, then you really should be. Up next with these tie-in issues will be Batman: The Murder Machine. Sounds like fun.