If you’ve been reading Dark Nights: Death Metal, you know the world as we understand it is gone. Instead, our planet has been transformed into a nightmarish hellscape overseen by the Batman Who Laughs—or as he’s known now, the Darkest Knight—and his many minions. But how did this happen?

To really understand, you need to go back to Justice League #39. At the end of that pivotal issue, which also marked the climax of Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez’s run on the book, the Justice League was defeated in their battle to win the hearts and minds of humanity. Belief in Doom won out, empowering Perpetua and leaving our heroes on the outside of their home looking in.

But how exactly did we get from there…to a seismically altered splatterpunk death-planet lorded over by twisted versions of one of Earth’s greatest heroes? The Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook promises to shed some light on just what happened, as we’re introduced to a mysterious hooded observer, looking down on the planet from the reaches of space. This lone figure has been watching and recording—putting together a remarkable guidebook that could help our heroes in their plan to rid our world of this nightmare once and for all. Within his guidebook are answers to questions that we’ve all been wondering. How did Wonder Woman become the queen of Hell? How did Batman find the Black Lantern ring? And how did Harley Quinn end up with a hyena that’s roughly the size of an elephant? (Though we’re willing to just go with that last one. It IS Harley after all.)

Dark Nights: Death Metal Guidebook is written and drawn by a dream team of comic book superstars including Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Chip Zdarsky, Becky Cloonan, Vita Ayala, Christopher Priest, Doug Mahnke, Khary Randolph, Dan Panosian, Eduardo Risso and more. It’s an absolute must-read for fans following the Death Metal saga, and we have your exclusive first look at it right here!  

Dark Knights: Death Metal Guidebook by a creative team made up of so many awesome people that we’ve lost count is in stores and available digitally on Tuesday, August 18.