Dark Days: The Casting #1 review

One of the big keynotes of the DC Universe is legacy - heroes and villains constantly reborn, either literally, like Hawkman, or figuratively, like the Flash. Something less talked about, but for me a big part of the appeal of the line, is scope, and that's what this comic has in spades. So what does scope, for me, involve?

Think Time. Where the superheroic era of the Marvel Universe traditionally starts with the Second World War, DC has long had stories sparked by events that occurred when the stars were young. We're reminded of this here with Hawkman remembering his origins millennia ago, and realising they stretch beyond the first life he remembers. 
Then there's Space, with star-spanning Green Lantern Hal Jordan sent to investigate something weird in the Batcave that could mean the end of everything. 

And Legend, as Batman fights a beast that should be mythical in order to gain an audience with a god. 

It's this kind of scope which marks a good old-fashioned DC summer blockbuster, delivered in style by a creative team headed by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and pencillers Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr and Jim Lee. 

Dark Days: The Casting picks up the baton from Dark Days: The Forge so perfectly that I can't see why the different subtitle - a Dark Days #1 and #2 would make more sense. This double-sized special carries on alternating between Batman's modern day quest to learn the secrets of a mysterious metal that hums in the background of the universe, and Hawkman's journal entries as they unveil his previously unrevealed involvement in the sometimes sunlit, often shadowy world of heroes and villains. 
Hawkman and Hawkwoman allied with, maybe organising and financing, the Challengers of the Unknown and the Blackhawks? It's intriguing, and perhaps important for the story, but knitting Khufu/Katar/Carter and Chay-ara/Shayera/Shiera too tightly into the adventures of two of DC's cult teams risks taking away from their agency. 

I'm a lot keener on the idea of the Hawks gathering the planet's immortals to learn what they know of the Nth/Ninth Metal which gives them power and longevity. Or so they thought. 
Ignoring that Cain and Abel seem to be evoked twice, that's a really nice piece of writing, inviting us to guess who's under the purple hoods (all robes in DC comics are purple, it's the Law). Ra's al-Ghul, up top, is obvious, for example, but points for anyone who can identify 'Ms Seward' without looking her up! And exactly who is for the birds?
We also get a revelation about why Batman has taken in Duke Thomas but doesn't want him to be a Robin; cave paintings that point towards a surprising rivalry; a more detailed look at the Joker's recent resurrection, and more. It's intriguing, exciting stuff from Snyder and Tynion, pointing towards a Dark Crisis (the Classical gods have fled, of course there's a crisis coming...). 

Despite all the high adventure, my favourite moment is pretty much a gag. 
Hal Jordan, stickler for rules. Well, he is an intergalactic lawman. 

The issue ends with a set-up for a coming series of specials, but I won't spoil in case you've missed the publicity. 

The veteran pencillers show their experience, telling the story with nary a bump, but there's not much in the way of standout images. Some potentially big visuals are thrown away - the destruction of a DC landmark and possible death of its caretakers, for example, would fit onto a postage stamp. And the artists are occasionally hobbled by wordiness, but I'm not complaining as the odd bit of chatty exposition is forgivable in a 40pp strip that's setting up something big. 

But Kubert, with more delicate than usual inks from Klaus Janson, produces a great monster moment, Lee and Scott Williams give Batman a splendid reunion with Hal Jordan and Romita Jr's depiction of the 'blink and you miss it' battle with a not-so-mythical monster, with Danny Miki, is terrific. 
Mind, the last pair also have to draw a close up Bat-butt, and boy, does it look weird sans shorts. 

Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper add atmosphere with well-chosen tones, while Steve Wands' lettering is a tour de force in terms of style and colour, from the Joker's jagged font to Hawkman's serif-laden script. 
Kubert, Lee and Romita all contribute cover art, working with Williams, Miki and colourists Alex Sinclair and Brad Anderson. I like Romita's dynamic clash between the Joker and Batman best - any preference yourself?

So, that's the two Metal prelude issues over with, a six-issue Metal mini-series to follow and various tie-ins to come. I look forward to further secrets and plenty of big, daft DC action. 


  1. I loved The Forge, but this one didn't work for me as well. I found it too expositive -- the kind of zero-issue throat-clearing that happens before the fun begins.

    It also doesn't help that I find the whole Bird Clan/Bat Clan idea silly (and diminishing to Batman, who I think should be a singular force, rather than an unconscious part of a cosmic destiny/tradition). And Scott Snyder's all-knowing Joker never worked for me, so even the issue's one real action scene was irritating.

    And man, those Hawkman pages just draaaaaaggged. I guess the Hawks were funding the Blackhawks and the Challengers, and not actually part of the team? The hawk connection seems a little on the nose for me -- does everyone with a bird motif in the DCU have to fall in line? They're pilots. They FLY. So they choose a bird as their logo. Why get mystical about it?

    And Batman gets a Sword of the Gods, and all he does with it is swap it for something else? What a waste.

    I'm still looking forward to Metal, but this issue has dampened my enthusiasm somewhat, after the giddy volcano-busting action of The Forge.

    1. I'm on record as not being down with some of Scott Snyder's ideas - the hologram during the 'I shall become a bat' sequence, the idea that the Court of Owls could go unnoticed by Batman, for two, but this event I'm just reading as a big, daft story whose revelations will be gone in a year or two.

      The bat/bird rivalry? Well, let's see where it goes, it seems a bit late in Batman and the Hawks' careers to have them at odds, and bat cave paintings, is that a continuation of the ones we've seen previously... I suppose we'll see.

  2. I thought The Forge was ok, but this isn't as good. The differences in writing are much more apparent than on the previous one shot, and once again, it feels like we've got two different Batman characters in the same story. Kubert's art is rushed, whereas Romita Jr.'s is probably the best he's done for DC (same in the previous issue).
    My big problem is that I don't feel engaged in the story and that it suffers from the same kind of writing that put me off Snyder's Batman.

    1. I'm really enjoying the Kubert stuff, especially his Hawkwoman and Man; they don't have the same primal impact of his dad's version, but the throughline is there.

  3. Not to be "that guy" but...
    How the heck does this at all even begin to fit in with Rebirth and the Watchmen/Doc Manhattan meddling with the DCU's timeline? I really wish that storyline had been settled first.
    Seems like Rebirth is about re-establishing the pre-New52 universe. It's already started in Jurgen's Superman Reborn and in The Button Flash/Batman crossover with characters remembering their lives/histories before the New52.
    But now Snyder is off in his own little corner, rewriting/relintroducing DCU history on his own? So the Chals and Blackhawks existed, and Hawkman, but we still don't have a Justice Society?
    It's all too confusing. Give us one universe-shaking/rewriting/rebooting story at a time.
    Don't have them run concurrently, which is happening here.
    Finish Rebirth, settle on a consistent history editorial/writers/readers can rely on, then let Snyder muck about with his Dark Multiverse.
    Also the tying of various DCU artifacts - the Hawks Nth Metal, Wonder Woman's bracelets, etc. - together AND the decision to have special "metal" found in the bloodstream of heroic types just diminishes the magic of the DCU. It's over-explaining everything. I don't need a scientific explanation for why people in the DCU get powers. I don't need there to be a connection between all of the special weapons/tools the heroes use. Instead of making the DCU more intriguing, it makes it boring.

    1. Very fair comments. I don't know if you saw my review of The Forge, but I thought the thing that was exciting Hal's ring in the Batcave wall was the spot where the button was - did I imagine that? It happens!

      Whatever revelations/'revelations' we get, I'm expecting them to vanish when the multiverse gets rebooted, as surely it will, when Rebirth wraps. I certainly hope so, I really don't like superheroes with unique background being suddenly connected at the origina, such as Iron Man and Hulk during Heroes Reborn.

  4. I believe Snyder has stated that this has nothing to do with Rebirth. That Geoff Johns is guiding that story.
    I get why you think this story will "vanish" but I don't think that at all. This is being built up to be something big, not something inconsequential. Did you see those preview pages for Metal issue 1 that show off the multiverse map from Grant Morrison's Multiversity?
    And that's the problem.
    I just don't see the wisdom, editorially, in allowing Snyder to go off and do this while so much about Rebirth is still up in the air. What's canon and what's not? What's been forgotten? What's been remembered?
    It's like we're now getting three different DCUs in one - we're still dealing with some of the New52, plus we're getting remembered pre-New52 history thanks to Rebirth, PLUS Snyder is rewriting pre-New52 history in Metal.
    Arrrgh. Just writing that hurts my head.

    1. I haven't seen that preview issue you mention, I'm too mean to lose out on Wednesday wonder by reading a batch of pages in advance! I am intrigued!

      I hope your head got better!


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