By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper
DC Comics is ramping up to its next big event, Metal, with its latest prologue comic. In Dark Days: The Casting #1, Batman continues his exhaustive journey to find the answers he seeks in the ‘darkness.’ As he travels the world, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Duke (the latest Bat sidekick) handle the newly found Joker within the walls of the Batcave. All this is framed with Carter Hall (Hawkman) explaining how the Nth metal and his history are connected and interpreted incorrectly. He too must find answers to his past with the ‘dark’.
Dark Days: The Forge was a bit of a letdown, but hopes were still high for this follow-up story and the event storyline overall. Unfortunately, the writing absolutely hurts the comic and the plot. This might as well have been titled “Dark Days: Deus Ex Machina” because writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV filled this book with this plot device. At one point, early in the story, Bruce is in Greece and given an item by Wonder Woman. This item apparently leads him to a secret base in Arizona and this is literally noted in the comic, as if that would make it easier for the audience to buy into that ridiculousness. Another ex machina moment happens with a certain character that is basically a linchpin not only for the future of that character, but the narrative of the ‘crisis’ and it, again, comes out of complete left field and the Joker has to spend pages explaining how/why this is coming to pass.
Okay, some say will say, “Well, it’s comics, what did you expect?” The creatives behind this event have been saying it’s going to be “wild” and “crazy,” but it’s at the expense of effective storytelling. True, crazy things can happen in comics, and that’s to be expected to a certain degree, but there has to be logic behind it and proper development/escalation. That just wasn’t present here. If a writer has to explain in-depth why something is taking place to rationalize a totally left field action or scene, then there’s problem. It breaks the flow and eventually the suspension of disbelief. That happens all too much in just this one issue. What’s frustrating is that it’s done to drive the plot forward and nonsensically get to the ‘good stuff’.
There are some interesting elements in the comic, but, sadly, they are damaged by the poor execution of the writers. Incorporating a certain group of DC characters and bringing them to the forefront is such a fascinating concept, but then it’s immediately sidelined by Batman and his search for the dark truths. By the way, ‘dark’ is used 32 times in the comic in its various permutations. Seriously? Everyone understands what connection they’re trying to make, but they don’t have to hit the audience over the head with it. It could equate to reading a kid’s book where certain lines are repeated every page. At least the kid’s books are typically lyrical when done this way, but that was not the case with The Casting.
The art is split between three top-notch pencilers; Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr, with each taking a particular unfolding storyline in the issue. Each artist is very distinct and it could have really harmed the attempted cohesiveness of the material, but they are able to flow together very well. That seems mostly due to the inkers and colorists, which consisted of Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair, and Jeremiah Skipper. The inkers were able to keep clean, thin outlines and definitions and lay down the heavy shadows. The colorists were then able to maintain a consistent cool, dark overlay that made the art transitions as smooth as possible. These talents are the unsung heroes of the book and deserve the majority of the credit for the beauty of the pages. That’s not to say the pencilers were slacking, they just didn’t really bring anything fresh to the table. Even Jim Lee makes an odd choice where the Joker says he’s not joking, but in the following panel he has his joking grin being totally incongruous with the dramatic caption. Kubert was the one who actually had some surprisingly potent images worth noting towards the close the book. In all, the artwork was solid, but for a storyline that’s supposed to have impressive magnitude, it just fails to measure up.
For the prologue to a ‘Crisis’ event in DC (yes, that carefully used word in the DCU that is used twice in this issue) this issue simply does not deliver the intended and expected sense of dread or awe – on any level. Sure, making nods to less popular characters in DC is great and one can write purple prose until they’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t make a strong, coherent comic. It slowly reads of pretension and misguided notions of what audiences want and deserve. Will some readers love this book? Yes, less discerning readers will and that’s fine, but for those of us who know and remember what truly memorable and iconic DC comics are, prepare to lower expectations. There is still potential for this to really be a unique storyline, but the creatives need to stop saying stock promotional phrases and deliver on what they’re promising.
This was poorly written, and using the Joker as an exposition dump was weird and out of character.
Also, DC editorial really needs to crack down when the script fails to use a contraction – it makes the dialogue really stilted.