Comic Book Review: Dark Days: The Casting #1
DC Comics’ Rebirth line has entered its second year. As someone who began reading comics weekly a few months before DC’s New 52 relaunch, I think the Rebirth line-up has injected some much needed energy into the publisher. There are out-stated changes DC has made such as re-aligning their characters with their iconic statuses and realizing the failings of the New 52. Some other aspects to the line-up has been the focus on developing a long term reader base with mostly consistent creator teams on books and a lax approach to cross-series continuity. Most of the line up’s books have remained self-contained and when cross-overs occur, they often finish quickly. A good example of that model was last year’s Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. Despite being an event comic, the story came and went within seven weeks with the only two tie-in issues reserved for the eponymous superhero teams.
The reason for that lengthy preamble is that as someone who’s relationship with contemporary comics has been reserved to mostly DC Comic’s flagship books, I think the publisher is at a significant crossroads. The Rebirth line-up as a creative endeavor seems to have been created aware of the failings of both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, especially Marvel’s constant event comics and canceling/announcing new ongoings. Now DC is making way for their new event comic Metal, running from August to February and at least seven ongoing books crossing over. The lead-in to this event comes in Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting two-parter, the latter we’re looking at today.
The issue is written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV; penciled by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr; inked by Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, & Danny Miki; and colored by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper. Apologies in advanced if some of the members of the creative team are miscredited.
The book’s cover is by Lee, Williams, and Sinclair. It’s a decent if a tad generic image of Duke Thomas, the Joker, Batman, and Green Lantern staring off page at a glowing light while Lantern seems to power up some massive gun-looking machinery. Maybe they’re as taken aback at the massive roll of credits as I am. Lee is a respected penciller but his strengths seem to be more as a technical artist, able to draw massive panoramas and muscly superhero-excess, than one able to convey subtext and nuance in his panels. I do think Sinclair’s colors here shine. He’s something of a “house” styled colorist but here adds depth to the image and makes it much less static.
Snyder and Tynion’s script has three main features, following Hawkman’s cryptic diary entries about a mysterious metal connected through human history, Batman’s cryptic mission tracking down the same metal in the modern era, and Green Lantern sent to Earth by his boss to find out what in the world Batman is doing. What Batman’s doing is casually keeping the Joker locked up under the Batcave to keep him from spewing enigmatic trailer-talk about this no-good spooky metal, human rights be darned. The script does a number of deep cuts and references to DC characters who’ve alleged been hiding in the shadows including hints that Batman might be the incarnation of some big weird doomsday cult.
Lee, Kubert, and Romita Jr. show their strengths as definitive superhero artists however everyone’s contributions seem rushed. These are some of DC’s proudest talents and there are some pages that come off as week. At times Kubert seems stuck in the mode where he was emulating Frank Miller from his work on the recent The Dark Knight Returns sequel. This also happens to Romita Jr. near the end of the issue. Some inconsistent quality between panels and awkward staging occur as several issues feel like they land with more emotional impact than they do. Granted, much of this issue is foreshadowing the next several months-worth of comics so there’s only so much that can be given away and the issue ends on two really strong panels that are exciting and ominous.
It’s difficult to discern Sinclair and Skipper’s color work since I’m not as familiar with their styles. The book has a lot of dark blues which is monotonous. I get that it’s alluding to a metaphorical coming storm and most of this comic takes place in the Batcave. Duke and Green Lantern’s color palettes really clash with most of the issue while all the Hawkman segments stick out from everything else.
Dark Days: The Casting is a comic very much aware of what it is. Its purpose isn’t to tell a story but to build hype for a different story. Snyder and Tynion’s script is a number of DC lore references mixed with ominous foreshadowing of the upcoming Metal storyline while Lee, Kubert, and Romita Jr exist as the big-name artists who’re also here to build hype. I know I’m coming across as rather mean on this book but I found it enjoyable in that it seems The Casting’s vibe is to be somewhat aware of the schlocky nature of DC’s event comics. Most of the issue is punctuated with Grant Morrision-esque vague-speak while tying together its universe’s many loose-ends. Snyder in particularly has been breaking Batman out of his mold into some really weird new directions and I hope that trend continues into Metal. However, the book is priced high and this two-parter is again mostly a lengthy trailer for a different story. Check it out if that’s your thing.