Is the Arrowverse about to go full Batman?
A recent episode of The Flash, “Memorabilia,” gave fans a closer look at the future of Central City and the Flash Museum that honors a fallen hero. That episode is crammed full of cameos and Easter eggs from DC Comics lore, but one stood out above all others. A villain named The Red Death is briefly referenced in this episode as a deadly enemy that The Flash fought at some point. If that name rings a bell, it’s because The Red Death is one of the villains introduced in a 2017 Batman comic book crossover called Dark Nights: Metal.
Is this just one Batman reference among many in the aftermath of the “Elseworlds” crossover? Or could The Flash be teasing a Metal-inspired storyline down the road? Here’s why we think this reference hints at much bigger things to come for the Arrowverse.
Who Is Red Death?
The Red Death has a pretty simple, effective elevator pitch. He’s an evil version of Batman who gains access to the Speed Force. He’s a villain with all the speed of The Flash and all the tenacity and fighting ability of Batman.
Frankly, if The Flash were going to hinge another season around a major speedster villain, Red Death might be just the man for the job. The series has met with diminishing returns when it comes to speedsters in the past. An evil Batman could easily shake up that tired formula and attract the interest of viewers who might not normally tune into The Flash.
We could also see Red Death helping to forge a stronger connection between The Flash and the upcoming Batwoman series (assuming it does get a greenlight in May). No doubt Kate Kane would be keenly interested in the existence of an alternate universe version of Bruce Wayne.
It may be a good idea to tie the two shows more closely together since the future of Arrow is very uncertain at the moment. Yes, the series was recently renewed for an eighth season, but the “Elseworlds” crossover strongly hinted that Oliver Queen will die in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in late 2019. Assuming Arrow even continues past Season 8, the focus will likely either shift to a different character like Emiko Queen, or else the show will pull a Walking Dead and permanently jump forward in time. Either way, Barry Allen will need a new superhero BFF.
The Dark Knights
Despite Red Death’s potential as a major Flash villain, we’re not necessarily convinced the series is positioning him as the main villain of Season 6. We think it’s more likely the show is quietly setting the stage for the next crossover after “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” We could see 2019’s Crisis being followed up by a Metal adaptation in 2020.
That’s because Red Death isn’t a solo player in the comics. Instead, he’s a member of an entire team of evil Batmen called the Dark Knights. Each of these villains is, like Red Death, a version of Batman who falls to darkness and gains the powers of another Justice League member. For instance, The Dawnbreaker wields a Green Lantern ring, The Murder Machine is augmented with Cyborg’s Apokolips tech, and The Devastator is a Batman who transforms into Doomsday. The leader of this team is The Batman Who Laughs, a Batman who finally snaps and kills the Joker, only to find himself transformed into a new Joker.
It pretty much goes without saying that any Arrowverse crossover featuring our heroes going up against evil Batman/Justice League hybrids would be a huge ratings smash. You barely even need a story at that point. We can easily see 2020’s epic crossover pitting Flash, Batwoman, Supergirl and the Legends against the Dark Knights and their true master, a demonic entity known as Barbatos.
The crossover could also be used to address the newest burning mystery in the Arrowverse. “Elseworlds” made it clear that Bruce Wayne has been missing for some time, leaving his cousin to fill the void in Gotham. Perhaps we’ll learn that Bruce has become trapped in the Dark Multiverse, and the Metal crossover is where he finally resurfaces in the Arrowverse. A Metal crossover would be a great chance for The CW to introduce their Bruce Wayne actor and have him play multiple roles at the same time.
Introducing the Dark Multiverse
The Arrowverse has focused plenty of attention on the multiverse in recent years, with characters crossing from one Earth to another with increasing regularity. But even as these shows continue to chart the endless multiverse, a Metal adaptation would allow the Arrowverse to grow even bigger. It could introduce something called the Dark Multiverse.
The Dark Multiverse exists entirely separate from the regular DC multiverse. It’s a place where entire worlds are created from a person’s nightmares. The Dark Knights themselves only exist because of Batman’s fears about himself. He fears not being fast enough to save the people he cares about, and so The Red Death was born. These nightmare worlds aren’t solely limited to Batman’s imagination, either. As the climax of the Metal comic showed, each Justice League member has their version of the Dark Knights.
The introduction of the Dark Multiverse could wind up having a major, lasting impact on the Arrowverse. Take The Flash, for example. Each season has its own MacGuffin for explaining the rise of new metahuman villains. First it was the STAR Labs particle accelerator explosion. Then there were Earth-2 transplants, Flashpoint’s timeline modifications, and The Thinker’s bus metas. This season’s villains have been spawned by the fallout of DeVoe’s attack on Central City. What if Season 6 or 7 used the Dark Multiverse as a catalyst for new villains? We could see a whole new wave of enemies generated from the nightmares of Barry, Cisco, Caitlin and the rest of Team Flash. Other shows like Batwoman and Supergirl could be impacted in the same way.
It’s not hard to imagine ways in which the Dark Multiverse could influence the direction of every Arrowverse series. One simple DC reference on The Flash could wind up reshaping the entire Arrowverse.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.