Batman: The Red Death #1
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colorist: Ivan Plascenia
Letterer: Tom Laponitano
Publisher: DC Comics
A review by Stacy Dooks
Imagine that for every choice we make, each branch of the decision spirals off into a separate but completely valid branch of reality. Take the bus or take the train? Go on a blind date or stay at home? Long time fans of science fiction (and DC Comics in particular) will find the concept of the multiverse to be old hat. But, what if for every bad decision, every nightmare, every unworthy thought we’ve ever had in our heads, a universe exists? A realm not for things that might have been, but things that should never, ever be That’s the premise of each of the Dark Nights tie-in issues to the current METAL event, and Batman: The Red Death #1 hits the ground running.
Set on Earth-52, it’s pretty clear from the red skies and the Flash running trying to stop the end of life on this Earth as we know it, that something akin to the classic Crisis On Infinite Earths is taking place. In the classic story we know how this ends: Flash sacrifices his life, and the crisis in averted in the ‘traditional’ multiverse that we know. As this is the Dark Multiverse, it’s safe to say things go bad. Real bad. In this universe, an older Batman has lost all his allies and has been driven mad with guilt and remorse. He wants the Speed Force from Barry, the power that allows the Flash to move at the speed of thought and save people. Simply put, Batman wants to alter his famous vow not just to save Gotham, but the entire world. And if Barry’s not willing to give it to him, he’ll take it by force. Thus, from the ruin of Batman and the downfall of the Flash, Batman: The Red Death #1 is born.
One of the more intriguing notions to come of out of Dark Knights Metal is the chance to see a number of alternate Batmen who went wrong for various reasons. And, while I was initially leery of the concept of nihilistic Batmen who were purely ‘muah-ha-ha’ evil for their own sake, Batman: The Red Death #1 surprised me with its take on an evil speedster Batman. The Batman of this reality is clearly doing wrong and he knows it. And, Barry continually tries to pull him back from the ledge, providing a constant (if ignored) conscience for a Dark Knight who’s gone so completely off the rails. Kudos to writer Joshua Williamson for taking a character who could have become painfully one note and providing him with depth and context. We learn why this hero would go bad, and this gives the reader a modicum of sympathy for his plight. The art by Carmine Di Giandomenico is stylized and fun, mixing the best of George Perez and Frank Miller while providing some new tricks. For example, the Red Death’s “speed drift” being comprised of bats was a nice touch. The colors and lettering by Plascenia and Laponitano do a nice job of conveying a comic that just feels ever so slightly off, as if this were to be published on negative Earth-Prime, rather than our world.
Buy It! If you’ve read the previous Dark Nights Metal issues and want an insight into just who the various Dark Knights are, then this one-shot is a great place to start. If you just want a one-shot Elseworlds tale of a Batman gone wrong, this is also an entertaining done-in-one issue. Batman: The Red Death #1 is a fun little tale of what should not be, and it’s a comic that runs nicely on all cylinders. Recommended!