It’s finally here! The prelude to Rebirth’s next massive crossover event, DARK NIGHTS: METAL, has officially begun with DARK DAYS: THE FORGE. And, as you probably could have guessed by the appropriately heavy naming scheme in play here, it doesn’t pull any punches.
But of course, since it is only the first prelude (don’t forget—number two, DARK DAYS: THE CASTING will be hitting shelves next month) it’s definitely got more questions than it has answers.
So, with that in mind, let’s get ready to rock by breaking down the five biggest mysteries of The Forge, and speculating a bit about what they might mean.
Who are the Blackhawks?
As Bruce barely escapes his volcanic rescue mission with the help of Arthur Curry, we see a cloaked jet hovering just past the horizon, observing the fallout from afar. Someone named Lady Blackhawk makes a call, promising that Batman can look all he wants but he’ll never find what he’s searching for.
The name “Lady Blackhawk” might ring some bells if you’re a long time DC reader, and the concept of the Blackhawks might look familiar if you’ve been keeping up with ALL STAR BATMAN. Since Rebirth, the Blackhawks have become a sort of covert, black-ops team who are keeping a very intense eye on Batman as he works. They’ve even gone as far to disguise themselves as members of the Bat family to try and interfere with his missions.
We don’t know who this Lady Blackhawk is just yet—whether she’s their leader or just another cog in their shadowy machine—but we do know that who and whatever they are, they’re certainly not to be messed with.
And they’re definitely not the biggest fans of the Batman.
But what is their connection to the mystery of the Nth Metal?
What has Batman Been Hiding?
As part of his top secret mission from the Guardians, Hal Jordan finds himself smack dab in the middle of the Batcave and he’s...looking for something. And, of course, Batman has a second secret cave inside his secret cave.
But he’s also got another sidekick-in-training in the form of Duke Thomas this time around, so Hal’s not exactly taking this one on his own.
This is where things start to go from “strange” to “terrifying” as Duke and Hal delve deeper into the mysterious second cave. Hal’s ring begins to go on the fritz and they both start to hear voices echoing from deep within the cavern (or...maybe within their own heads?).
The mystery of the Nth Metal has, apparently, been something Bruce has been working to solve for a long, long time, since that first encounter with the Court of Owls all those years ago. (The one you can read all about in BATMAN: THE CITY OF OWLS.)
What’s more, he seems to have collected some other pretty recognizable relics in his hunt—Dr. Fate’s Helmet, Aquaman’s trident and Wonder Woman’s bracers, to be specific. All, apparently, related back to this mysterious metal.
He even apparently had a secret black-ops team devoted to helping him unravel these mysteries apart from prying eyes. You might recognize the lineup as a call back to the classic Batman and the Outsiders roster of the mid-‘80s! Yep, that’s a real thing! That’s Metamorpho, Black Lighting, Katana, Halo and Geo-Force in the picture.
Of course, the cave isn’t the only place Bruce has kept secrets stowed away. Over at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, he’s been holding onto a very familiar relic of the multiverse’s past...a cosmic tuning fork of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and INFINITE CRISIS fame, has been buried within the Fortress’s vault.
And Batman intends to try and use it. Which, if you ask Mr. Miracle, is probably not a great idea.
Who are the Immortal Men?
In a secret place called “The Campus,” apparently hidden under Philadelphia, we find what looks like a very secret and very high-tech organization where two unknown people talk about a group they call the “Immortal Men.”
Now, this in and of itself probably isn’t a huge surprise if you’ve been keeping up with your DC News. A couple months ago, a new slate of upcoming books spiraling out of Dark Nights: Metal was announced with all-star creative teams, and a new book called (you guessed it!) THE IMMORTAL MEN was one of them. So that’s not really the surprise.
The curve ball here is that, apparently, the Immortal Men have been in contact with Elaine Thomas. Or, as you might know her, Duke Thomas’s mother.
Duke’s parents have been in a bad way since they fell victim to Joker Venom during the Clown Prince of Crime’s major attack on Gotham City back in BATMAN: ENDGAME. They’ve been locked away in an institution while both Duke and Bruce work to discover a cure.
If Elaine Thomas really is connected to these Immortal Men, what does that mean for Batman’s latest protégé?
What are the Four Tribes?
Meanwhile, Carter Hall, aka Hawkman, has been working to uncover the mysteries of the Nth Metal for longer than Batman’s even been alive. Naturally, he’s made some pretty huge (and pretty unsettling) discoveries in that time.
But not all of those discoveries are easy to decode and understand. Especially this one about four “tribes” that he’s found are linked back to the very first human beings to walk the earth.
They’re represented by pictographs of animals: a wolf, a bear, a bird, and...a bat.
It’s pretty clear who the bat symbol relates back to, but that leaves the remaining three wide open to interpretation. The bird could very well be something connected back to Carter himself (he’s Hawkman, after all) but the bear and the wolf are still ambiguous at best.
Whatever it is, whatever they mean, Carter is ready to solve this mystery “no matter the cost.”
Let’s just hope it’s worth it.
Finally, we come to the biggest bombshell of them all. Remember that strange, disembodied voice that was leading Hal and Duke through the secret part of Bruce’s cave as they discovered his obsession with the Nth Metal mystery?
Well, it turns out that voice wasn’t so “disembodied” after all.
It belonged to...the Joker. The actual Joker. At least as far as we can tell.
Now, this is strange for...well, too many reasons to count, really. The last time Scott Snyder wrote the Joker was in BATMAN: ENDGAME, where, if you remember, some very, very interesting events befell him.
...Of course, that doesn’t much answer the question of why Batman has kept him locked away in a secret vault, or how he was able to “telepathically” communicate with Hal and Duke. Maybe Dark Days: The Casting will shed some light on that. Until then, let us know your thoughts on this and the rest of The Forge’s mysteries below!
DARK DAYS: THE CASTING will be available on July 12, 2017.