Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1

Written by Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, drawn by Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke with Jamie Mendoza

This is a story about a creature – no let’s call it what it is, or at least what it might once of conceived of itself as, a god – trapped in its own creation.

From The Invisibles volume two #4, by Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenenz 

Echoes of its own previous compositions haunt the piece like half-forgotten memories of childhood. How else could the story go? The fallen demiurge may no longer be in charge of the story but it’s still a part of it, still conscious, still able to discern its own hand in proceedings.

From Dark Knights: Metal #6, by Scott Snyder, Jonathan Glapion and Greg Capullo

It’s not just the question of who’s in control of the dreaming that’s confusing here though. There’s also the matter of structure. How can a creator – once functionally a god, at least – be expected to handle the notion that they aren’t even part of the main story, that no matter how much of this story is built on their own labour they’re at best a diversion now, a side story, a spin-off?

Everything looks as it should on the surface, mind. The basic template is still in effect, the shape of things recognisable from when the creature-god was last aware of using it, but in this semi-self-contained effort these familiar names – Porter, Jimenez, Mahnke – lack certain counterpoints, their work suffering from the absence of contrasting art styles, clashing moods, different levels of information. Despite the long list of writers and artists involved in the book’s creation the final product is if anything too coherent, to the extent that you find yourself looking for meaning in the differences between this iteration of the story and those that precede it.

The essential narrative techniques are familiar, with the move from the unexpected character showcase to protagonist-free, Grand-Guignol superhero drama echoing the structure of Final Crisis #7 as much as anything. The bank of imagery will be similarly familiar to anyone who has read Final Crisis or Multiversity, post-Beatles psychedelia that has been allowed to curdle in the heat of DC’s perpetual Crisis.

What’s new, then, is the story’s inability to end on its own terms. Having sounded the usual cry of despair, provided what seemed like a hopeful countermelody, then revealed that to by part of a larger symphony of despondence, the creature is unable to turn this into its antithesis.

The heroes appear to escape their untimely end, but their actions are revealed to have been part of the villain’s plan all along:

Of course, the concluding pages tease the reversal but if one seeks it out within the pages of Dark Knights: Metal then one will be confronted with anti-story, anti-information, idea-death:

From Dark Knights: Metal #6, by Scott Snyder, Jonathan Glapion and Greg Capullo

The creator-god’s own stories have hardly been free of such implosions, of course – not even the ever-more-expanded editions of Final Crisis have helped Super-Young Team’s story to complete itself - but here all of the creature’s efforts meet the same fate. Before, even when the connection between what was happening and what might be felt could be somewhat baroque, the process always had a certain shape, an emergent functionality. Not here.

This is what makes Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 a truly hopeless comic in the end: the limits of the creator-god’s poetic gifts are exposed, its capacity to suggest, to communicate, finally overwhelmed by the sheer illogical volume of its combined efforts:

This is a story about a creature – no, let’s call it what it is, or at least what it might once have been, a god – trapped in its own creation.

We live in the future so we can see that there’s a way past this sense of futility, but The Wild Hunt stands as a record of one particular demiurge’s ability to find despair in the heart of seeming triumph, in the moment when its most personal of languages became a recognised regional dialect in comics and had even – finally! – started to be heard in the living rooms of millions.

The Wild Hunt isn’t good comics as such, but it remains a strange and vivid footnote to the ongoing tale of capitalism’s ability to find new worlds of alienation every day.

6 Responses to “I Am Not a Comics Critic #5: Everywhere I Look It’s A Darkness”

  1. plok Says:

    What a truly eerie post this is, Vol-Man, in fact it rather reminds me of reading The Just! It is all there before us, and none of it is a secret, and we’ve all known it for decades now, and yet on every new turn it’s like reading a fresh page of the script, and eventually we get to the issue of the Invisibles that’s drawn by Moebius and then THAT’S IT, EVERYBODY OUT!! The DCU may not be a sentient hypersigil, but GM’s passage through it may be a little like Darkseid’s fall…

    …Uh,and either it will wake it up, or it won’t?

    I was watching your “Westworld” the other day, and two things struck me: one, that it’s pretty hilarious to say that ol’ Julian jaynes’ “theory” has been “disproven”, and two…

    That in the Tipper Gore disclaimers they promise “mature themes and content” as often as they promise “nudity”, and neither promise is ever truly fulfilled. There *are* some TV shows that can truly boast of “mature themes and content”, but in a way the beauty of Westworld is that it has themes, yes, but they’re essentially juvenile.

    Aggressively juvenile?

    Can “aggressively juvenile” pass for “mature”, so long as it’s just aggressive enough?

    I think GM’s themes are mature, even if his content isn’t always (and maybe that’s the trick!), but in the Darkseid Fall perhaps there is a bit of emergent banality happening. This is the next Crisis, perhaps, and a Final one to boot: “mature themes” are passing through the DCU,but on their way through they’re getting permuted, infected, refracted, dissolved. Maybe the true GM story is, and always has been, that he knows the pure story can’t survive in this place for long. Conditions in time are fierce; Alfred these chicken-and-jalapeno sandwiches are ferocious; we must be absolutely incandescent when we meet the Harlequinade.

    So we all know it’s only a matter of time before The Writer joins the Suicide Squad…but…

    “Fuck, Fanny. You go for it, eh?”

    Uh…waitaminute…

    OH YES I’M DRONK

    whoops

  2. plok Says:

    But the more I think of it, the more I just want to read further issues of “The Just”.

    In fact I want an Animated Series.

    With the same colour scheme.

  3. plok Says:

    This may have sounded a bit disoriented, but I promise if you have a bottle of green grape soju and three doubles of Macallan to wash it down, it will all make perfect sense.

  4. Illogical Volume Says:

    I would murder* for an animated series of The Just!

    *maybe actually pay

  5. Illogical Volume Says:

    Good point on that mature themes/unstable content point too… I struggle to work out how much good work Morrison’s doing in amy given project because we’ve already done so much good work together, you know?

  6. plok Says:

    That’s pretty interesting, right? I like to consider the juxtaposition of Jog and Marc S. on Final Crisis, superimposed on the fans and the furious at the time: should I be buying this Morrisonia at the same aesthetic price, now, that I bought Seven Soldiers at? Maybe in a way the haters were a bit right, and by their own lights too: maybe everything Morrison makes now has to be just a little bit broken, vexed, unsatisying…maybe this is like when they put the drop of civet piss in the fancy perfume. Maybe Multiversity is even the place where he shows a mastery of that technique, that specific civet-pissy technique, where elsewhere he doesn’t? With Morrison I’m always looking for moments, panels really, where economical dialogue opens up a character and a situation like water’s supposed to do to whiskey, and the larger conceits seem suddenly more supportable, believable. Like I’m looking for just that one sharp brushstroke, that both breaks everything up, and also folds it together. But what it is that gets folded together must be the point of the exercise, surely? Since what gets broken up is usually the same stuff exactly, and the method is the same every time too.

    Hell, maybe he is making perfume!

    Or we are…

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