I don't have much to add to the reviews of Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting discussed HERE. I pretty much agree with them, but also it's early in this story, so there's still lots of time for the stuff we like to go sour and the stuff we hate to get better. I'm going to reserve judgment for now.
DC's latest Crisis -- and, yes, they are even using the "C" word, after an absence of many years -- is a deep dive into DC continuity. That shouts out for annotation, at least for the two set-up issues. So here we go:
DARK DAYS: THE FORGE
The A cover is Batman and Aquaman in a volcano, suggesting a scene inside. The C cover is Superman and Batman at the Fortress of Solitude, also referencing a scene inside.
But the B cover shows a statue of an evil-looking Batman with what appears to be naked people tied to the legs (and presumably dead or dying). Deadly-looking flying Bat-machines are in the air with searchlights. A more familiar-looking Batman is in the foreground reacting (negatively, one assumes). The scene refers to a nightmare Carter Hall has in the book.
The scene is reminiscent of Kingdom Come, where Batman polices Gotham City with flying robots. The flying machines also call to mind the GCPD blimps in Batman: The Animated Series. Neither of those scenarios are as evil or fascist is this one, but it's a matter of degrees -- this sort of thing is likely how Batman would do things, were he to become a dictator without conscience.
The three covers are by Andy Kubert (A), Jim Lee (B) and John Romita Jr. (C). Those are also the three artists who share the interior art duties on the two issues.
"My name is Carter Hall, and this is my final journal."
Carter Hall was the Golden Age Hawkman. He was replaced in 1961 by Katar Hol of the planet Thanagar as the Silver Age Hawkman. After Crisis on Infinite Earths placed both men in the same history, it was established that Carter Hall's story in the Golden Age -- that he was reincarnated from Prince Khufu of ancient Egypt, as was Hawkgirl and their enemy Hath-Set -- is true, and that the three have had many lives. How Katar Hol and Shayera of an alien planet became part of this is really complicated and contradictory, retconned numerous times, and not important here. If you want to see the best version, check out "Return of Hawkman" in JSA.
The first two pages show Khufu, Chay-Ara and Hath-Set investigating an alien ship as it arrives in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramesses II, although they are not named. This is consistent with post-Crisis Hawk-history. (There was no spaceship in the Golden Age version.)
In the post-Crisis version, Hath-Set fashioned three things from the Nth metal: A flying harness, the "Claw of Horus" gauntlet, and a dagger. In the Golden Age version, Hath-Set kills Khufu and Chay-Ara with a glass knife. Post-crisis, the murder weapon is made of Nth metal. Whether any of that still holds true is not discussed here.
The alien ship strongly resembles the spaceship used by Hawkman and Hawkgirl in the Silver Age. It is Thanagarian, which is still consistent with post-Crisis continuity.
Given the V/O, Carter Hall is obviously still alive in the present and is recording his many lives in journals.
However, the current Hawkman is Katar Hol, who was recently killed by Despero in the aptly-named Death of Hawkman. It was Katar Hol who starred in the New 52 Hawkman series, using Carter Hall as a pseudonym.Yet, here we have Carter Hall, alive on Earth, with Katar Hol dying off in space.
I'm not sure how to explain this. It's possible that the re-introduction of pre-New 52 concepts as shown in recent issues of Superman may be happening here as well. Perhaps Dark Days will explain.
Hath-Set is presumably still dead (re: Brightest Day), but last we saw of Shayera (also Brightest Day), she had become an air elemental. She is absent in these pages and New 52 Hawkman, so perhaps she still is.
Despero absorbed huge amounts of Nth metal in Death of Hawkman, including that which was in the Winged Wonder. That is undoubtedly going to come into play.
A scientist studying a volcano is in danger when the volcano erupts, but is saved by Batman in a specially-made pressure suit.The scientist is identified as Dr. Madison, so he may be related to one of Batman's earliest girlfriends, socialite Julie Madison.Or perhaps he's related to Christie Madison, who was one of Cave Carson's associates prior to the latest series.
The scientist says something is wrong with the metal in the Earth's core. "Metal" is a word we're going to hear a lot.
Aquaman arrives to help, and we discover that this is a Wayne Industries "black site" that even the Sea King didn't know about. He demands to know what Batman is hiding.
Batman responds with an implication that Aquaman has or knows of something terrible under Atlantis, and shouldn't be poking into other people's secrets. This could be a reference to some of the mutants and monsters in the lower "trides" as seen in recent issues of Aquaman. But I suspect it's new.
The secret base does fall in line with Batman preparing for a mysterious war in Batman, Justice League of America and Detective.
The pair are being observed by Lady Blackhawk from the New 52 Blackhawks series, which had no obvious connection to any previous Blackhawk series or characters, outside of the logo and airplane motif.
OTOH, Zinda Blake, the original Lady Blackhawk, has appeared in various iterations in the present prior to Flashpoint. This probably isn't her, but I'd love to see that version of the character return.
Batman appears to be aware that the Blackhawks are watching.
Ganthet sends Green Lantern Hal Jordan to investigate an ancient darkness coming to light that has been whispered about around the universe. The source of the problem is The Batcave, where Jordan meets and briefly battles Duke Thomas. Jordan finds a hidden cave within the cave.
A secret cave in the secret cave. That is SO Batman.
The Immortal Man (the one who continually re-incarnates, first appearing in Strange Adventures #177) is speaking to an unidentified man in a hood, who is presumably another immortal. They are occupying something called "The Campus" under Philadelphia, which I think is new.
We learn there is something special about Elaine Thomas, and by extension, her son, Duke Thomas, the latest Batman protege, who so far lacks a code name. Both characters were created by Scott Snyder, who is writing this series.
The Immortal Man doesn't want Batman finding anything out about the upcoming crisis, and is confident he will get nothing from Elaine Thomas, who has been driven mad by The Joker's Endgame virus.
The Immortal Man actually ses the word "crisis." As everyone knows, "crisis" has special meaning in the DCU.
We see an image of four characters I don't recognize. One is "Ghost Fist," who will appear in a post-Dark Days title, The Immortal Men.
The Immortal Men references a group called The Immortal Men, whom we will meet later.
We take a trip through DC Hawk-history, courtesy of Carter Hall's journal voiceover.
We see Katar Hol and Shayera battling Byth from Brave and Bold #34. We see a group of reincarnated Hawks, who are (from left) a caveman or Native American I don't recognize, Silent Knight, a Medieval (French?) couple I don't recognize, Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, Nighthawk and Cinammon.
We see the nightmare that inspired the Jim Lee cover.
Batman goes to his base on the Moon, currently being used by the Superman Revenge Squad in Action Comics. Evidently, this story occurs before or after the one in Action.
He is visited by Mr. Terrific, who apparently spends a lot of time on another Earth. Since Earth-Two is gone, are we talking Earth 2? Or what?
Anyway, he has been working with Batman on the big picture of the crisis. Together they decide to release someone who has been in "the box" for a while, someone "unstable." It is obviously Plastic Man, who has not yet appeared in the post-Flashpoint DCU.
Duke and Jordan hear a voice in the secret cave in the Batcave.
The voice explains that Batman was first alerted to the new crisis when he found the Electrum the Court of Owls was using to resurrect their Talons. This, presumably, is some variant of the Nth metal.
Scott Snyder created the Court of Owls and the Talons.
The voice says the mysterious metal is connected to some of the most powerful artifacts on Earth, and we see (presumably projections of) the Helmet of Nabu, Aquaman's trident and Wonder Woman's bracelets.
Green Lantern's ring goes on the fritz.
The voice explains that Batman put together his first group of Outsiders (Metamorpho, Black Lightning, Katana, Halo and Geo-Force) to go "outside' his sphere of influence to follow the mystery of where the Electrum came from and what it's made of. This is a retcon, as the Outsiders were created in the '80s and the Court of Owls story didn't happen until more than 20 years later.
The voice explains that Electrum is connected to Dionesium, a green, liquid metal that is the primary component of the Lazarus Pits, and what saved Batman and Joker in "Endgame."
We see Carter Hall in some sort of Hawk-lair, surrounded by Egyptian artifacts and Hawkman souvenirs. Of note is a Man-Hawk mask.
Hall says the Nth metal channels energy from an unknown source. I think we can probably assume this is the Dark Multiverse mentioned in all the solicitations.
Hall also mentions the first men to walk the earth as belonging to three tribes, the Wolf, the Bear and the Hawk. Obviously, the Hawk tribe has something to do with Hawkman. Vandal Savage was from the Wolf clan. Bear clan members include The Immortal Man and Anthro, the first boy. This has all been previously established.
Hall adds a fourth tribe, the Bat. This might have something to do with when Batman was sent back in time by Darkseid in Final Crisis. He interacted with the Wolf and Bear clans then. There is also mention of Barbatos coming up, which might be the name of the dark monster in the Dark Multiverse, but last I heard that was a name used by Vandal Savage, so there might be a retcon a-coming.
Batman visits Superman in the fortress to go into a room Superman gave him but swore never to go into himself. Batman invites Mr. Miracle to open the door, since no one else on Earth can.
The room contains what appears to be one of the "tuning forks" used by the Monitor in Crisis of Infinite Earths to slow the merging of the multiverse by manipulating vibrational frequencies. Batman is going to use this vibrational tech to find the exact vibrational rate of the dark energy channeled through Nth Metal (and all its variants) -- so as to know exactly where it's coming from.
Mr. Miracle, a New God, is spooked by this. Batman admits to being afraid as well, but does it anyway. This hearkens back to earlier in the story, when Green Lantern mentions fear, and lack of it, or the ability to overcome it "when you know what you're doing."
Speaking of which:
GL and Duke discover the disembodied voice is that of The Joker, a prisoner in the secret cave.
Carter Hall's journal entries end with a warning not to pursue the Nth metal mystery.
DARK DAYS: THE CASTING
Both "Forge" and "Casting" are words used in the shaping of Metal, which is the name of the series these two books lead up to. But I have to think that "Casting" is a pun, in that this book helps fill out the main cast (as far as we can tell).
Batman, Green Lantern, Joker and Duke facing some unknown threat. It is a metaphor, as the scene doesn't appear in the book.
The Hawkman and Hawkwoman who lived in St. Roch were Katar Hol (who thought he was Carter Hall) and Kendra Saunders. The duo seen here in St. Roch are wearing outfits that would put them in the Silver Age of Katar and Shayera Hol (or, going by the boots, earlier), not the outfits worn by the couple when they were in St. Roch. Oh, Hawkman history, how you taunt us!
"The Jewels of Nabu": Nabu is the ancient Egyptian sorceror whose helmet powers Dr. Fate.
"Kandhaqi Artifacts": The fictional country of Kandhaq is where Black Adam came from in ancient Eqyptian times, and he, his wife Isis and their son Osiris were for a time its rulers in the present.
"The Tomb of Chay-Ara": Chay-Ara was Prince Khufu's significant other, who reincarnates with him.
We have more from the Carter Hall journal. He makes mention that in his many lives he has been called an adventurer, a philosopher, an archaeologist and a detective. He says that pretty much they were all "detective." Given that Katar Hol was a police detective, that fits too.
The journal continues that at some point in the St. Roch years the Hawks found out that their lives had not started in ancient Egypt, but went back much further, and Hath-Set has erased their memories of the earlier years. This is a retcon, and will have to serve as the explanation for the Demiurge telling Hawkman that his life as Khufu was "an illusion" back in Brightest Day.
The journal continues that the Hawks had become aware of other immortals. They gathered them together in St. Roch.
They are hooded and not named. There are 14 of them (13 in the foreground, one shadow in the back). The journal refers to them obliquely, but we can infer that Hall is writing about Etrigan, Cain and Abel, Uncle Sam, the Parliament of Trees, Nabu, Shining Knight, Vandal Savage and Immortal Man.
One of the hooded figures is clearly Shazam ("His voice was like the low rumble of thunder ... the truth would hit us like lightning"). He pulls forth a knife, which may or may not be the knife Hath-Set forged from the Nth metal of the Thanagarian spaceship. We later see that it has Shazam's lightning symbol on it.
Two figures react to the knife. One is Ra's al Ghul, the other is Mary Seward, Queen of Blood, from the "I, Vampire" series.
Shazam says a terrible being was brought forth by the Nth metal, and was cast out, but wants to come back.
Batman is in Methana, Greece, a real place, battling a mythological creature Wonder Woman (who arrives) addresses as Amphitrion. Amphitryon is found in Greek mythology, but was a human king of Tyrions. Well, things change.
Batman tells Diana he wants to speak to Hephaestus to find out the big picture. Diana tells him the gods have gone back to Olympus and locked the door behind them, because a big war -- the one Batman's been talking about -- is coming. Diana is impressed that Batman knows the thinking of the gods.
She said she had a vision of Hephaestus who told her to give Batman the Sunblade of Apollo. It is made of Eighth Metal, "the most powerful metal hephaestus ever worked with ... it is not the pure form you seek." This makes sense if you remember that the Nth metal was originally called "Ninth Metal" in the Golden Age.
Joker runs through his post-Flashpoint adventures, so we know this is THAT Joker. (Although how this plays into Batman finding out there's more than one Joker, I don't know.)
Joker says he was resurrected after he and Batman died under Gotham in "Endgame" by a liquid, green metal (sounds like Dionesium, which is an Nth metal variant that fuels the Lazarus Pits). While down there he saw an ancient cave painting of a bat ("the bat behind the bat"). Joker wanted to know what it was (and five will get you 10 it's the creature Shazam warned about).
Joker says the Owls and Crazy Quilt knew what it was.
The Nth metal continues to mess with GL's ring.
Carter Hall's journal tells us he and Shiera confirmed Shazam's story of a rip in space/time (from the Dark Multiverse, no doubt) that gave us the Nth metal and a demon that almost destroyed mankind. This also confirms that the Hawks had begun with the Hawk tribe and battled the demon (although Hath-Set made them forget). They also learn of a "Judas of the birds" that joined with the bat-demon.
Is that why we have a Batman and Robin?
Because otherwise, we have "birds and bats, forever at war." Sort of like Batman and the Court of Owls. Or Batman and the Penguin. Oh, and the Blackhawks being so hostile to Batman, keeping watch on him at all times.
Because it turns out the original Blackhawks (and the Challengers of the Unknown) were set up and financed by the Halls to explore the mystery of the Nth metal. Needless to say, this is a retcon.
These panels confirm that we're looking at Shiera Hall. This is difficult to reconcile with existing Hawk-history, which has Shiera merged with Hawkman in Zero Hour (1994), with even some earlier, post-Crisis appearances retconned away as "Sharon Parker." Shiera Hall no longer existed when Hawkman and Hawkwoman moved to St. Roch, the latter being Kendra Saunders at the time. So either Shiera Hall lived past Zero Hour, or at least two sets of Hawks lived in St. Roch and Shiera's history has been retconned to that effect.
Challengers Mountain disappears, presumably taking the original Challs with it, and the Halls get a brief glimpse of the Bat-Demon.
Batman breaks into a destroyed lab in the Arizona desert, which we find out from Dubbilex used to be a Cadmus project. They were searching for the source of the Nth metal power, too. Dubbilex warns that the power corrupts before passing out (or dying).
He had been battling Talia al Ghul. She is breaking from her father, who wants the power, because she also sees war coming, and mentions "potentials" already affected by the power, one of whom is Duke Thomas.
Batman strikes a deal, trading Apollo's sword for Shazam's dagger, and the possibility that Talia will aid him in the coming war.
A mention is made of a great assassin named The Silencer. He is a new character who will get his own title after Metal. Talia also displays a tattoo that is supposed to show Batman she is not an enemy, but I don't recognize it.
Green Lantern's ring is completely shorted out. This does not bode well for the Green Lantern Corps in the coming war.
Joker tries to destroy a machine he says will destroy everything if Batman uses it (with a crowbar, like when he killed Jason Todd). He says that's why GL was sent by Ganthet -- to destroy the machine.
Joker also reveals that a flag goes up at Gotham Mercy when the Nth metal is detected in a newborn. Joker says Batman has been collecting these names for years, the new soldiers in the army for the coming war, on both sides. The DNA flag is M-E-T-A.
Metahumans are what superhumans are called in DC Comics. Evidently, every naturally occurring super-power is due to the Nth metal. Characters who are exposed to the metal, like Batman and Joker, having been resurrected and healed by the Dionesium, must be considered metahumans.
Joker calls Duke "The Signal," which sounds like a new code name to me.
Carter Hall's journal says he has found a way to where the energy is coming from, "the dark," and he goes through the portal.
He speaks of Shiera in the present tense, although we don't see her.
He refers to his "spies," which are being killed. Their sigil looks like a hawk, but it could be a Blackhawk. ("Hawkman spies" is a new thing.)
He says the Thanagarians didn't come to tell us about the Nth metal, but to warn us -- or impede our development. (This is a retcon.)
Hall gives the journal to "the family that has always been most loyal to the birds." The face is shadowed, and there are no clues in the panel. It could be Cobblepotts, but I'm guessing it's probably another family that got mysterious, bird-related powers: Hank and Don Hall's family, of Hawk and Dove fame.
Joker keeps saying this has all happened before and is happening again. He says because he tried to stop it, he was the good guy.
Joker also gives what's happening a name: "Dark Crisis."
Batman arrives, explains that after the Dionesium brought him back to life, he had to use his "make your own Batman machine" to get his memories back, but it also showed him impossible images of impossible Batmen being killed. I don't recognize any of them specifically, but there have been a LOT of alternate Batmen over the years.
Batman says there is still Dionesium in the cracks of his skull.
Duke reacts to Carter Hall entering the portal -- a flash of light and he passes out. Batman arrives with the Shazam dagger and, for some reason, Duke's helmet crumbles and he suddenly understands how to build a machine to contact the dark.
GL gives Duke a duplicate power ring -- Jordan's ring is unique, in that he makes it himself out of will power, so he can do this -- and Duke builds the machine. It shows projections of various items that Batman references without naming them, but you can see a tube of Dionesium, The Court's Electrum, the Psycho-Pirate mask, the Helmet of Nabu, Wonder Woman's bracelets, "hyper-elastic molecules" (Plastic Man) and, presumably since we saw it earlier, Aquaman's trident.
The machine is activated by sticking Shazam's dagger into a stone column. A sword in a stone, if you will.
But Batman sees nothing. That's because ...
A group hidden 3,000 miles below Gotham (that we have not seen before), all wearing robes and giant bat-skulls from what one would assume is pre-history, blocked him. This is all part of their plan.
Now they promise "the true father of Batman" and the Dark Knights.
We have seen these dark knights in DC press releases. There are seven, and they are sort-of Batman-Justice League mash-ups. Only, you know, evil. Each will have their own one-shot before Metal begins in September. They are:
I think I will mostly enjoy this book as an Elseworlds title. Then again, everything from DC now is Elseworlds to me, the "real" world being the pre-New 52 universe. Don't get me wrong; I have enjoyed so much of what has come since (and hated much more).
This seems to be what the major comics' Universe needs: an unbridled adventure spanning back centuries. That's what I loved about Crisis on Infinite Earths and Final Crisis.
Sure, it makes absolutely no sense that this whole thing is pinned down by the Joker and Batman. I hate Joker as the all-knowing narrator. But the inclusion of Mr. Miracle, Duke, Green Lantern, Plastic Man, and Hawkman & Hawkwoman... Well, this thing just became way interesting. I love it when they take characters that don't belong together and then put them right beside each other.
I think the New 52 did a couple of good things, but a whole lot of bad ones.
But the pre-Flashpoint universe seems like it's creeping back -- which always seems to be the case with these line-wide reboots. They have what Commander Benson calls a "neat idea," implement it, and then discover they've lost something important or they've made a tremendous blunder that they have to scramble to fix (like Crisis removing Superboy from Legion history, and Zero Hour removing Katar Hol from early Justice League).
We've already seen the return of original-recipe Wally West (which returned much of the Titans' pre-Flashpoint history), the pre-Flashpoint Superman blending with the current one (essentially removing the New 52 Superman's alternative history, which was never adequately explored) and hints of both LSH and Earth-Two JSA on the horizon.
And I think Doomsday Clock (and to a lesser extent, Metal) will restore even more.
Meanwhile, some dumb ideas have been erased, like Catwoman's baby, Bart Allen's death, Aquaman's hook, dead Aquababy, a lot of bad Hawk-history (which still seems in flux), replacing the various clone Superboys with a real blood relative, the most interesting and plausible Robin yet, and so forth.
I agree with you that The Joker is often more annoying than scary or dramatic, since he's wearing plot armor three feet thick. And he does seem to know things he shouldn't. Perhaps the multiple-Joker scenario (that still isn't explained) will give us a plausible reason for that.
If nothing else, Scott Snyder has made both Batman and Joker metahumans. I don't know if that was his intent, but both have essentially been revived by a naturally occurring Lazarus Pit, and have elements of Dionesium in their physiology. Technically, Batman should no longer have any scars or injuries -- he should have a pristine physiology, and resistance to injury and quick healing going forward.
Again, I don't know if it was his intent, and if it was, it needs to be un-done pronto. It's not being reflected in current Batman and Detective, so that's a good sign. I'll wait and see how this plays out.
I get the feeling Snyder has started his own universe here. As much as it may splinter off and affect that official "DCU", the multiverse will surely play out in many ways throughout this series. I like the idea of the "Dark Multiverse", which makes me wonder if this is a separate, dark version of the 52 universes (making 104 universes?), or whether the dark multiverse is just one of the 52. Either way, it will probably play out the same. I'm looking forward to whatever plays out.