Writer: Priest, Vita Ayala, Becky Cloonan, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Becky Cloonan, Doug Mahnke, Dan Panosian, Khary Randolph, Eduardo Risso
Cover Price: $5.99
Release Date: August 18, 2020
I always have issues when it comes to reviewing big event tie-in books. As a reviewer, you try to judge each book by its own merits, but these things always end up making me debate whether they are essential and worth buying, even if they are fun. Now, sometime they're not even that, and that's when the shit hits the fan, and Grammarly asks me if I want to curse that much. For the record, I usually don't swear as much as I want to, it's just Grammarly doesn't know me well enough to realize that! However, sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, and the tie-in is fun and essential and leads to cursing like, "Hell Yeah!" and "Shit Yeah!" and "Fuck Yeah!" Listen, I never claimed to be original! So, is this a bad cursing or good cursing book? Let's find out...
The Guidebook opens with the story of what happened after the Justice League went through that door at the end of Justice League #39. It's a question that every reader of Death Metal (and the heroes in the book) have been asking since page one! Spoiler Alert - the shit hit the fan!!! We don't get the big answers most have been waiting for, just why characters were where they were when Death Metal started and hints of how we will continue. Doug Mahnke's art looks great, but it feels like it's only filling in a couple of cracks when there are so many left untouched. I understand we should get big answers in the main book, but I also know that, because they aren't here, this is... less essential. Shit!
The next story is a Harley Quinn story by Chip Zdarsky and Khary Randolph, and I love all three of them, so I was pretty damn excited about it. It's a quick story that may not do much for the overall Death Metal narrative, but it gave me a couple of chuckles ("suicide quads") and even had a tongue-in-cheek editor's note. Yea, it's an origin story of sorts, but one that... wasn't essential. Shit! I think you know where I am going with this.
We continue with a quick Aquaman story that had great art by Becky Cloonan (I love her style) and a Vita Ayala story that had a Planet of the Apes moment that made me giggle, though I'm not sure I was supposed to. It also showed the compassion of Wonder Woman even when it looks like it's not there, but for now... I won't repeat it, but you know.
We end with a Batman/Jonah Hex team-up by Priest and Eduardo Risso that feels like it wants to spill some beans but isn't allowed to, so we get hints instead. We also get a shit-talking Jonah Hex, which I usually like, but Priest uses him to stop Batman from telling us anything of real value here. Fuck!
Guess what? I'm going to tell you that this book is not essential reading for Death Metal. It's also not that much fun overall, and while it has good art throughout, it doesn't have much more than that. Each story felt incomplete at best, but most just felt unnecessary. The whole thing felt like just an assignment and lacked any spark to inspire me to read more. This is your typical anthology tie-in that is not a guidebook, like the name suggests, but another thing that DC can try to make a quick buck on while the hype of Death Metal is still going strong.
Bits and Pieces:
This collection of stories did not feel essential to the Death Metal story, and besides that, most were not much fun to read. The art was excellent throughout the book, and I love seeing all the different art styles. However, with so many unanswered questions in Death Metal, I need more than hints, setups, and side stories to recommend this to anyone besides completists.