Cover to 'Dark Days: The Casting' #1. Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair/DC Comics

Cover to ‘Dark Days: The Casting’ #1. Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair/DC Comics

By Jarrod Jones. It’s not such a surprise that these Dark Days comics have gone without the publisher’s trustworthy Rebirth banner. (“DC Universe Rebirth: Dark Days: The Casting: Prelude to Metal #1″ would have been quite the mouthful, and DC books are entirely too banner-heavy these days, thank you very much.) I’ve said before that Dark Days is operating like your typical Snyderian opera: it hollows out its own pocket of the DCU to tell the kind of story it needs without any of that prickly continuity jargon getting in the way. (Metal will presumably do the same thing.) Dark Days doesn’t really need Rebirth hovering over it because it’s doing something different.

And that’s perfectly fine. While Metal has been revealed as one of those pesky summer events, complete with its own smattering of one-shot tie-ins (something readers have expressed plenty of aggravation towards over the years), it’s not designed to disrupt the adventures of your favorite DC superheroes. Don’t expect Metal to mess with Ben Percy’s Green Arrow, for example, or make the already substantial ubiquity of Batman any more ludicrous than it already is. (He’s on so many teams, you guys!)

If it seems like I’m spending a lot of time talking about how important Metal is going to be, that’s because I just read and re-read Dark Days: The Casting #1, a book that took that sentiment and bludgeoned me over the head with it. As the second chapter in the prelude to MetalThe Casting follows up on the events of The Forge with nary a missed beat. It’s large and impressive on a scale befitting its $4.99 price tag. It’s also quite a mess.

At thirty-pages, The Casting reads like it’s sixty. Characters are given entire monologs to explain plot devices to one another with the same portentous severity. It’s show-offy in its knowledge, but it’s defensive about it. The Forge weaved surprises and genuine shocks into its narrative, while The Casting reads like its punishing us for enjoying ourselves too much. There’s a saga to prepare for, it seems to be saying. It’s time to pay attention. If The Forge was a party, The Casting is dad calling us in to do our homework.

That would be fine if the book wasn’t so dull. A sequence that should be simple, even exciting — “Batman picks up a magic sword of fire from Wonder Woman” — turns into a monstrous slog of exposition. In this example, the sequence doesn’t end until we’ve learned all there is to know about the sword: who made it, what it’s made from, what it does, what it’s going to do, and where it fits on Batman’s utility belt. The concept alone is a thrilling, nutty thing, but by the sequence’s end, it doesn’t feel like it anymore.

Moments like these happen throughout the book. As every character is told what they are, why they’re here, and most pretentiously, why that’s so important, the dramatic heft gets sapped almost completely. That’s the overall dilemma of The Casting. It aspires to the reverence of Geoff Johns and the showmanship of Grant Morrison, but it forgets to have any fun.

DC Comics/$4.99

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV.

Pencils by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita, Jr.

Inks by Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, and Danny Miki.

Colors by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper.

Letters by Steve Wands.

5.5 out of 10