It started with such far-reaching possibilities and promises…
The sequel to writer Scott Synder and artist Greg Capullo’s 2020 Dark Nights: Metal event, Dark Nights: Death Metal was a massive, bombastic, limited tour de force series that began with the DC completely transformed the universe into an unrecognizable funhouse mirror version of itself.
And we mean that in a good way.
But even when Snyder and artist Yanick Paquette turned the DC Earth and all of its heroes back into their more recognizable forms in a sort of epilogue-like sequence in their final installment, the author left a trail of breadcrumbs…well, a well-lit train of breadcrumbs along plenty of signage…for subsequent creators to follow for future DC stories.
The exposure-heavy sequence introduced a massive space station on the dark side of the moon called Totality. “A shield protecting the DCU worlds from future threats, manned by his greatest minds,” explains Barry Allen to Wally West… “Villains and heroes together… the next level of the Halls of Justice and Doom.”
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Wally is then shocked when the current members of the Justice League, Batman and Superman (Wonder Woman was evolving into a higher plane of existence at the time) introduces the members of the new super team of the same name, The Totality – Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, Mr. Terrific, along with Vandal Savage, Talia al Ghul, and Lex Luthor.
In a subsequent special, it was revealed that Alan Scott/Green Lantern would serve as the Sentinel – sort of head of security for Totality – and Barry would join the Justice League Incarnate to help explore the Omniverse.
What was that you ask? This was the DCU’s new status quo, an “omniverse” that grew exponentially into an “infinite web” of multiverses.
Other big ideas included that the events of death metal brought back dead DC characters, even some who died prior to and unrelated to the events of the series; that Hypertime was repaired and characters experienced flashes of their past lives “in quite an epic way”; and that two new sources of energy were found at the center of the multiverse. One turned out to be some sort of prison planet that literally held Darkseid for a minute, the other was an Earth described as an “alpha world” called Elseworld.
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The sequence was conceived as an introduction to DC’s new editorial era called “Infinite Frontier”.
Elseworld should be picked up in a Surprising new title 2021 of some sort that was never released or acknowledged by DC again, and in particular the entirety seemed poised to be a big thing in the DCU.
But something funny happened on the way to Infinite Frontier…
…many of the concepts introduced in Death Metal #7 were never there Yes, really heard again.
Well to be fair some were taken up to a small extent by author Joshua Williamson, particularly in his three-part trilogy Infinite Frontier, Justice-League Incarnate, and now Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, but mostly to a very small extent.
The Darkseid prison planet played some role in his stories, but there were few characters who came back from the dead due to dark metal, the “epic flashes of past lives” wasn’t really a thing, the alpha earth “Elseworld” was never seen again, and despite the reality-threatening events of Dark Crisis, Williamson (or anyone else) never figured out (or wanted) what to do with the entirety.
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In case you didn’t get it by now, that’s my long-winded way of saying that the transition from death metal to Infinite Frontier should serve as a lesson of sorts as Infinite Frontier (via Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths) transitions to Dawn of the DCU next year.
In the past 20 months since Death Metal #7, there has arguably been more explanatory explanations of the nature of the contemporary DCU (see especially Flashpoint Beyond) than actual exploration of the expanded DCU.
And now, on the second anniversary of death metal, Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths promises to change the nature of the DCU omni-multiverse once more, which will surely also require some talking superhero heads to try to explain everything to the readers.
As we often mention in rooms like these, DC has spent almost four decades developing narratives in the story to make linear sense of its long and complicated timeline.
As the new problems these solutions created multiply, they’ve spent the last few years simply acknowledging everything DC has ever published, while characters attempt to explain to readers the metatextual juxtaposition of multiverses and timelines. The DCU has become something of a freshman philosophical exercise in college, allowing the publisher to have its continuity pie and eat it too, at least in theory.
It arrives to say Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Justice League are “in” and part of a “continuity” (which still appeals to many readers and comic book retailers) without anything actually having to be continuous.
All of these series, for example, have more or less ignored the events of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, out of free will or commercial necessity, leaving readers to decide how or if Batman’s current “failsafe” story is related to, say, the Justice League dead /MIA since April and Superman in space at the same time on another, different mission.
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Now, that’s not to say that I’m against the newer, inclusive, “everything matters” nature of the DCU. But on the other hand, you want to see some continuity, albeit in a more literal sense and less in the colloquial comic sense.
December’s Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 will surely feature a concluding chapter or epilogue filled with great ideas about where the DCU is going next to keep readers curious about what’s next. And considering DC is calling it a “dawn,” those ideas are likely appear significant.
But it’s up to the creators of DC titles, and their editorial teams in particular, to follow up and reflect these changes in the monthly titles from 2023 onward, so that this is the actual start of something and not just a press release-friendly marketing label.
I’m going with an open mind, but at the same time I have to rhetorically ask what the hell ever happened to Elseworld and The Totality?
And hope that a lesson has been learned.
Who will be the new Justice League writer for Dawn of the DCU??