[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Howard Porter
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
“BATS OUT OF HELL” part one! After the harrowing events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL #3, the JUSTICE LEAGUE has scattered around the world to find the only artifacts that can fight back against the invasion of the Dark Multiverse. The League thinks they know how to take back their world, but they are not prepared for who is standing in their way. The Seven Dark Knights of the Dark Multiverse. All the brilliance of Batman, but none of the morals. Barry Allen, The Fastest Man Alive, is the first to get a taste of their plan, as BATMAN: THE RED DEATH takes him on at the Fortress of Solitude.
This issue is a crossover issue for the Dark Nights: Metal event. These tie-ins usually have a number of benefits and problems associated with them.
On the positive side, they typically bring in a lot of guest characters, and that definitely is the case here. All of DC’s A-list heroes are present: Superman, Batman (sort of), Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal), plus appearances from other popular characters: Deathstroke, Steel, Dr. Fate, and others. Williamson deftly uses this to show Barry’s important place in the DC Universe. Even more than in his appearances in the Justice League, where he is treated as an equal. Here we see that the wider society of superheroes recognizes him as one of the foremost members.
Event crossover issues also can present a different viewpoint of the same events told in the main series. We get to see how Barry is reacting to the extreme rigors he is being put through. As usual, Barry responds to this as we would expect of the paragon he is. We see his determined perseverance in a prolonged fight against an overwhelming situation. He tells us, “I run…we lose. I keep going…it hurts.”
Also, we see his unshakeable optimistic trust in his friends. “Superman believes Batman is alive…that he’s the key to saving the world,” and Barry fully believes that helping Superman do so is the right way to go. As he says to Steel, “he will find Batman. I know it.”
There is also a name drop worthy of note in the issue. The Bruce Wayne doppelgänger known as the Murder Machine asks Barry which Flash he is, “Wally or Bart…?” He’s obviously referring to the Bart of his own universe, but is this a subtle hint that Bart might reappear in the main DCU soon?
Also, I don’t know what to make of the series of alternate timelines that Barry catches glimpses of, but there are some interesting scenarios depicted: Barry as the Reverse Flash, the deaths of both Wally’s, and especially Barry as the Anti-Monitor destroying a number of alternate Earths. Do these hint at possible future storylines for Barry?
One criticism of event crossover issues is that they pre-empt the story in progress, which interrupts the flow of the story. In some cases it might totally derail the title’s current storyline altogether. Sometimes a skillful writer can blend the event in seamlessly. In this case, it’s not entirely seamless. The shocking reveal about Meena Dhawan last issue is put on hold until next issue. But Williamson does manage to advance the subplot of Barry and Iris’ relationship. In the midst of all the turmoil, Barry and Iris finally face each other and re-establish their love for each other. That in itself makes any other problems with the issue worth it.
Also, Barry’s powers appear to be his classic Speed Force powers, not the Negative Speed Force powers he is sporting in the regular storyline. This story apparently takes place after the events of last issue, because Barry and Iris were still not reconciled, so this story must be set in Barry’s near future. I take this as confirmation that Barry will regain his original Speed Force powers soon.
The only complaints other than the interruption of the story about Meena’s return, is how these big events put important parts of the story into the tie-in issues, making the purchase of the issue mandatory, whether you follow that title or not.
There may be an element of that here, but I think you can follow the Metal storyline without having to buy this issue. However, it does make a meaningful addition to the overall event storyline, and is a pretty good read in its own right. And I reiterate – Barry and Iris’ reconciliation outweighs any deficiencies the issue might have.
Guest appearances from most of DC’s biggest stars, hints about Barry’s future, a possible hint about Bart Allen, a seemingly unbeatable threat, and most important of all, Barry and Iris have made up. What else could a Flash fan ask for? Once again Barry shows himself to be the heart of the DCU. When Barry asks, “How can you see Superman fly and not be inspired?”, I was thinking, “How can you see the Flash run and not be inspired?”