Spoilers ahead for Dark Nights: Metal #3.
The heroes of Earth aren't doing well against the powers of the Dark Multiverse, as Dark Nights: Metal #3 began with a sense of hope and ended with what appears to be the end of the world.
Just like previous issues, this one had some great cameos and crazy, unexpected moments. In the issue readers get to see:
- Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent playing the Batman TV show theme song on electric guitars.
- Lots of nightmare Batmen, some of them in battle with Superman.
- The Oblivion Bar and characters from Shadowpact, who host the heroes of the DCU that are hiding from Barbatos. Included among the crowd is what an editorial caption calls a "Jon Snow" version of Nightwing (a shout out to Game of Thrones).
- The Plastic Man egg that appeared in Dark Days: The Forge. The issue confirms that this oddly-contained version of Plastic Man has connections to Nth Metal, and Mr. Terrific figures out what its vibrations mean - moving the story toward its next juncture.
- Deathstroke literally swimming through the ocean with Aquaman and Green Lantern.
- The dimensional tuning fork from Crisis on Infinite Earths that was used in Dark Days: The Forge, as well as the Phantom Projector in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman, the Flash, and Steel use these artifacts to attempt a trip to the Dark Multiverse.
So how do these scenes and items combine for a disastrous day for the DCU?
The issue begins with a happy gathering - it's Lois, Clark, Diana, and Bruce watching an outdoor concert by Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne in Smallville, Kansas. The boys are playing a song where the kids yell "Batman!" - it only has three chords, Clark says (so we assume it's the Batman TV theme show they're playing).
Bruce gets a little too serious for the light-hearted moment, pointing out to his friends that the "war we just fought brought my worst fears to life," but he thanks them all for their friendship.
Suddenly, Clark points out that Bruce is bleeding from his chest, with the blood making the shape of a bat on his shirt.
As Bruce says "Carpe Diem," out of his chest bursts a giant creature's arm that grabs Clark, and Barbatos emerges with his 'Dark Knights' Batmen.
"No, no, not again!" Clark yells. "We beat you!"
"Again, because I let you," Barbatos says. "So you could see this moment is all that happens, Clark Kent. The only truth is, in the end, all roads lead back to darkness."
Back to Reality
It turns out that Clark is experiencing a vision - one of many that both Superman and Wonder Woman have been experiencing over and over in their minds, battling Barbatos again and again but losing every time.
Wonder Woman has apparently escaped from this madness first, and she wrapped her golden lasso around Superman's arm to revive him.
As Superman wakes up, he realizes that he's part of a tower of skeletal bodies looming over Metropolis.
Wonder Woman tells Clark that it's been seven days since they were attacked by Barbatos (in Dark Nights: Metal #2). Superman finds out that Jon is safe, but Lois has been infected and turned into a creature serving Barbatos.
Superman rushes to Gotham City to face Barbatos directly, where he meets a group of the nightmare Batmen.
Readers are told by the Batman Who Laughs that in the Dark Multiverse, "worlds are created" by the characters in the DCU.
"You fear or hope for something and it births a world," he says, adding that the 'Dark Knights' are Bruce Wayne's "great fears come to life."
But the Batman Who Laughs asks, "Are we really his fears? Or are we his desires?"
Superman says the creatures are "monsters, nothing more," but as he tries to fight them, the Devastator Batman points out that they aren't "made from the same stuff" as Superman. "Your rules don't apply," he says. "Every punch you throw, it just makes you weaker."
Just as Superman is getting beaten down, the Flash emerges from an ankh-shaped portal. He brings Superman to the Oblivion Bar, a pocket dimension of magic where Kendra Saunders and various heroes are gathered. (Readers are introduced to the Oblivion Bar, its proprietor Nightmaster, and one of its customers, Detective Chimp.)
Aquaman brings Superman (and readers) up to speed. "Doctor Fate, Steel and Mr. Terrific used their connections to Nth Metal to create a portal here and gathered us, after we battled those abominations." (Wait, Mr. Terrific has a connection to Nth Metal? Hmmm…)
Nightwing shows up, wearing some kick-ass armor (and he's called "Jon Snow Nightwing" by an editor's note). Nightwing clarifies to Superman that "we lost" (referring to the "Gotham Resistance" battle that's been waged in a Bat-titles crossover).
In the seven days that Superman's been knocked out, Dark Knights have taken over several cities. Flash tried to save Central City, Green Lantern fought in Coast City, and Cyborg has been missing since the Justice League Watchtower fell. The Teen Titans are also lost, Nightwing says.
In each city, the Dark Knights create towers of people, living conductors of dark energy. Superman says they're creating a circuit, trying to "sink the world into the dark."
Hatching a Plan
Green Arrow has some Nth Metal that he says will stop the Dark Knights. Unfortunately, Kendra and friends destroyed much of the Nth Metal.
Doctor Fate shows up and says there are a few "last repositories of Nth Metal," including Steel's hammer, Dr. Fate's helmet, and the Plastic Man egg. (Apparently, Aquaman's mention of Mr. Terrific having a connection to Nth Metal actually referred to the egg he's guarding.)
Mr. Terrific, who's literally leaning on the Plastic Man egg, says the egg is vibrating in patterns that he reads as coordinates. One location is deep space, one is beneath Atlantis, and one points to the center of the Multiverse.
"The Center of the Multiverse lies at the Rock of Eternity," Wonder Woman says.
Diana directs all the heroes to break into three teams - one Nth Metal artifact per location. After an argument about whether they're even accessible, Mr. Terrific says there's one more location coming through.
Trip to the Dark Multiverse
The coordinates to the fourth location don't make sense, Terrific says - they're negative, so they point to "darkness."
Superman says it's the Dark Multiverse, where he believes Batman is. He remembers the dream about Smallville, where Batman said "Carpe Diem" - a code Superman and Batman had for the most dire situations - and he thinks Batman is trying to communicate with him.
Nightwing says he also felt Batman trying to "say something." But he thinks they shouldn't go into the Dark Multiverse, instead fighting here on Earth.
Damian hits Nightwing. "He's trapped out there with them! Superman's right," Damian says. "We need to go get my father!"
It doesn't matter - the heroes realize they only have three Nth Metal artifacts, so they can only go to three locations. Batman's screwed.
But wait! One of the creepy "crow" Robins (used by the Batman Who Laughs) breaks into the Oblivion Bar, but Deathstroke unexpectedly (and quickly) kills it.
"Hey," he says. "This job, it'd pay, right?"
Wonder Woman says Slade's armor and sword have a connection to Nth Metal, because they're made from Promethium.
Now there are four Nth Metal remnants to be used for the four locations.
As the forces of the Dark begin to break into the Oblivion Bar, Superman says that because Batman's been treated with metals, he could be the power source Barbatos is waiting to activate when the towers get big enough.
Superman says he has a way to get to the Dark Multiverse, but he'll need the help of the Flash and Steel. Damian thanks Clark for going after his dad.
The heroes all depart toward their various coordinates, while Nightmaster decides to stay behind to face the Batman Who Laughs.
Fate, Kendra and Diana end up in Bialya, where they head toward the Rock of Eternity.
Green Lantern, Terrific and the Plastic Man egg are in Space Sector Z68Z, the Polaris System, heading toward Thanagar. Terrific calls the place they're going the "hidden heart of the empire."
Aquaman and Deathstroke are swimming down through the ocean at the Mariana Trench, although Arthur worries he'll "likely destroy all of Atlantis."
Superman, Flash and Steel are in the Fortress of Solitude, where they're using the Anti-Monitor's "antenna" (the "dimensional tuning fork" that Batman used in Dark Days: The Forge).
Superman reveals that he realized that the coordinates for the Dark Multiverse weren't far from the Phantom Zone. The Flash says that means "the Phantom Zone might be a permeable membrane between our reality and the Dark Multiverse."
So the plan is to open a portal with the Phantom Zone Projector as the Flash super-charges the Antenna with the Speed Force. They hope that Steel's connection to Nth Metal might create an energy link to the Dark Multiverse - and to Batman himself.
Superman believes Batman is fighting the forces of darkness, and it's helping hold back Barbatos' plan. But he'll need rescued from the Dark Multiverse.
As the three heroes prepare, we find out that Superman's reference to "Carpe Diem" was supposed to represent "C.D." - or Clark and Diana. Each of the Trinity had previously agreed that if they were in trouble, they'd send initials in a certain order. Batman's code was "C.D."
Dark Nights Indeed
As the Dark Knights Batmen put a song on the jukebox in the Oblivion Bar (where they've eliminated Nightmaster), Superman emerges in the Dark Multiverse.
But as he arrives, he realizes this is a trap, as he faces nightmare versions of Superman within a huge tower of bodies that is conducting dark energy.
Superman talks to an aged version of Batman who chastises Superman for mis-reading his message.
"The notes of the song our sons played," this Batman says. "Starts D … then C … the reverse of my code. It was a warning Clark! I was saying don't come here!"
The aged Batman says Superman is what Barbatos wanted all along - his cells make him the real battery.
"The circuit is complete," the voice says. "He was right, don't you see? In the end, all roads lead to Barbatos … and now the world will sink into darkness."
A teaser says, "Next: Discover the Nightmare of the Dark Multiverse in Batman: Lost! Then in two months, the Road to Darkness begins in Metal #4."
Dark Nights: Metal #4 is scheduled for release December 20.