Dark Nights: Metal #2 officially introduced us to the Dark Knights of the Dark Multiverse. To help flesh out who each of these Dark Knights are each one is going to be getting their own dedicated one-shot issues. This Dark Nights tie-in have a lot of potential to add to the perception of these Dark Multiverse versions of Batman. The first one up with be the Dark Batman-Flash who is known as the Red Death. Will this new speedster turn up to be the most dangerous Speed Force user we have ever seen? Let’s find out with Batman: The Red Death #1.
Writer: Joshua Williams
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the Dark Multiverse we see all the Earth’s breaking apart.
On Earth-52, Flash is trying to save as many people as possible while trying to reason with Batman to stop before everyone gets hurt. Batman does not listen to Flash as he believes it is time Barry handed over the Speed Force to someone else.
Flash tells Batman that it is impossible for him to be everywhere at once. Batman says he has tried to be do that in the past but it cost him his family.
Batman then uses Mirror Master’s tech to get away from Flash. Flash says Mirror Master was never able to defeat him before and Batman won’t be able to either.
Batman suddenly smashes through a building with his new Batmobile and fires a barrage of batarangs at Flash. Flash takes apart the Batmobile’s weapons and forces Batman to jump out of it.
Believing that he won Flash tells Batman to give up. Batman suddenly uses Mr. Freeze’s tech to freeze one of Flash’s legs. With Flash unable to move Batman proceeds to beat him half to death.
Batman then chains Flash to his Batmobile and reveals that he repurposed the designs for the Cosmic Treadmill into his engine in order to claim the Speed Force for his own.
Batman forces himself and Flash to go into the Speed Force and become consumed by the power.
In Gotham City, Scarecrow and various gangs are wreaking havoc across the city. Suddenly Batman shows up, having absorbed the Speed Force, and uses his new power to kill Scarecrow. He then proclaims himself to be Batman: The Red Death. As The Red Death, Batman proceeds to kills all of his villains.
He suddenly notices that Wayne Tower is falling apart and rushes to the roof.
Even with the world breaking apart Bruce still believes he can save the world as the energy above Earth is speaking to him. Barry tries to speak to Bruce and says that Bruce should not listen to that voice. Batman Who Laughs reveals that he has an offer from Barbatos for Bruce to conquer a world that is destined to live on.
Over in Earth-0, Iris and Wally are having a day together when they suddenly see something falling from the sky. It turns out to be The Red Death, who proceeds to quickly age Wally in order to attract this world’s Flash’s attention.
Flash shows up and tries to stop the Red Death. The Red Death quickly uses his powers to cause Flash to start aging.
The Red Death tells Flash that there is no more running for him. Flash recognizes the voice as Bruce and wonders if it is his Bruce Wayne.
The Red Death does not care for Flash’s plea tries to kill Flash. Just before The Red Death can deliver the killing blow Doctor Fate intervenes and teleports Flash away.
The Red Death proceeds to level Central City and shines his own version of the Bat-Signal over the city. End of issue.
The Good: Batman: The Red Death #1 provides us with a story fleshed out the story being told in Dark Nights: Metal. At the same time it is able to stand on it’s own as a self-contained story that tells us a story of another universe on the brink of destruction and how that Batman deals with it. It’s only when that story merges with the main DC Earth that Batman: The Red Death #1 runs into a slight problem.
Before getting to that problem, I have to hand it to Joshua Williams for setting the tone for what these Dark Nights: Metal one-shots are going to be. Rather than try to retell the Batman origin, with a dark edge to it, Williams goes a completely different route with The Red Death. Instead we are presented with a Batman whose origin is largely unchanged. By establishing this Williams is able to explore how the burden of being Batman is what really made this version of the character different from the one on Earth-0.
The key in establishing this Batman is how much Williams emphasized that this Earth-52 character felt as though he has failed everyone as the Dark Knight. By not being able to be there for the BatFamily, Batman ended up losing everyone he loved while trying to create a legacy. Using that history Williams is able to make Batman’s drive to be everywhere at once something that is of the utmost importance to him.
That drive to be everywhere at once helped make Batman’s battle with Flash in order to obtain the Speed Force even more engaging. Williams did an excellent job showing how Batman’s drive became his obsession, making him an even more dangerous person. Adding The Rogues arsenal to Batman’s gear was also a nice touch to show that he was more than prepared to take down the Flash by any means necessary.
Having Flash as the foil, as he and Batman had a cat and mouse game going on, made the issue even better. Given his background with writing the character, it was good to see that this Flash wasn’t that different from Earth-0. Giving that heroic character made this version of Barry Allen’s words stand out more as he was clearly hurt emotionally by what his friend Batman was trying to do.
In establishing this battle as a fight between former friends Williams was able to give more weight to when Batman and Flash merged into one entity. Seeing as Batman and Flash merged to create the Red Death, with Batman being the dominate personality, Williams creates many possibilities for the character. In establishing that Barry is still in The Red Death’s head Williams is able to give the character a flaw that can be used to take him down in the future. In doing so we are given an intriguing sub-plot for a villain that isn’t just a Batman version of the Flash.
The ending also delivered some intrigue as we saw the Red Death take on our Earth-0 version of the Flash. Williams treated us to an instant set of consequences to the Dark Knights presence in Earth-0 by taking out the new Wally West and forcing Flash to abandon Central City. The visual of a Central City that was leveled by the Red Death made the anticipation for Flash, both versions, getting his revenge something to look forward to.
Carmine Di Giandomenico delivered a great sense of motion throughout Batman: The Red Death #1. With Williams story never giving us a chance to take a break Giandomenico made sure to match that speed. Seeing how he drew Flash in motion made the action even more exhilarating. The sequence in which Batman and Flash merge was strong as there was a quick progression to show off the fusion.
The Bad: The one concern I had with Batman: The Red Death #1 was with the ending. Though Williams did a lot of good character work for The Red Death it was disappointing to see him become a maniacal villain. The dialogue felt more like the character just devolved to what we would hear a generic villain say.
This is one thing Snyder and those writing Dark Nights: Metal tie-ins must avoid doing with the other Dark Knights of the Dark Multiverse. We need to see them not just be villainous versions of Batman fused with a member of the Justice League. And that will all fall on the dialogue not reading the same for each character.
Overall: Batman: The Red Death #1 is an excellent companion to the Dark Nights: Metal event. Joshua Williams and Carmine Di Giandomenico set the tone for all the rest of these Dark Nights: Metal one shots. They did a great job developing The Red Death’s origin through the battle between Batman and Flash from another Earth. That battle made The Red Death version of Batman a character I look forward to following in Dark Nights: Metal.