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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Graphic Novels - Crisis on Infinite Earths

It’s my first trade in about a month, so I might as well do a story that ended a universe. As you can tell by the title and side photo, it’s another Crisis event. It’s not just another Crisis event, it’s “The” Crisis event. Crisis on Infinite Earths was one of DC’s first major crossovers. It was a 12-issues maxi-series that started in 1985 and ended in 1986.  It was actually the event that helped DC get some things straight continuity-wise. It also led to most heroes getting their entire histories rewritten. Characters like Batman and Green Lantern essentially remained the same while characters like Superman and Wonder Woman underwent major changes… I’m sensing some déjà vu here.

The creative team for was essentially a team of all-stars. The writer was Marv Wolfman who’s known for his work on this book, The New Teen Titans, The Adventures of Superman, and many other books. The penciller for the interior art and covers was George Perez. Perez is also known for doing art in books that include The New Teen Titans, Avengers, Action Comics, and JLA/Avengers. I can easily say that he’s one of my favorites. The inkers on this series were Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo, and Jerry Ordway. Their names are also well known. The colorist was Tom McCraw and the letterer was John Constanza.

For a while, I actually thought about going into detail with all 12 issues. I did it with Infinite Crisis and Zero Hour (hey, it’s a Crisis event in my eyes). I’ve decided not to do it with this one for a couple of reasons. First, this thing is DENSE. It’s 12 extended issues. It may even be too dense for me to really give it a good, thorough look. The other reason is that I really don’t want to spend too much time on this one. Besides, I got to save October for something (hint, hint).

I’ll just be doing a simple synopsis… well, as simple as something that involves time travel, multiverses, and over 100 characters.  I’ll give my opinion on the story. Finally, I’ll list some highlights and favorite moments. With that said, let’s jump on the Cosmic Treadmill and see what’s out there… I just used “cosmic treadmill” in a sentence… ‘Bout time, I say!

SYNOPSIS
Taken as a whole, the story is about two near-omnipotent beings fighting for control of the Multiverse, an infinite number of universes existing on the same plane but vibrating at different frequencies… Wow, I actually wrote that out. Anyway, the Anti-Monitor and his forces have set out to destroy the Multiverse. The Monitor (the good being) is the only one powerful enough to stop the Anti-Monitor (AM) from destroying all existence. So, the Monitor uses his resources to select heroes and villains from the remaining Earths. They’re assigned to defend massive "tuning forks” which are supposed to merge the surviving Earths into one that could be protected from the Anti-Monitor’s anitimatter. Eventually, the conflict grows and everybody gets involved in the battle.
Hmm... a lot of text? It must be a comic from the 80's.

The Monitor ends up getting killed by his messenger/surrogate daughter, Lyla/Harbinger, while she was under the influence of one of the AM’s shadow demons.  Luckily, the Monitor expected he might die soon, so he let himself die so that his death would carry enough energy to pull the last five Earths remaining into some sort of Limbo universe.  During all of this, the AM captures the Flash (Barry Allen), uses Red Tornado as a weapon against the heroes, and recruits Psycho-Pirate, a crazy villain, to his cause. The AM even infuses Psycho Pirate with some of his power into him so he can control the other three Earths (4, S, and X). This stops when those three Earths are also pulled into the Limbo universe.

Harbinger, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, and Pariah then recruit a small group of heroes from the five remaining Earths in order to lead an attack on AM’s fortress in the antimatter universe.  In the antimatter universe, Pariah acts as a guide in order to lead them to the AM. We find out that the AM was using some sort of machine that would force the Earths together and destroy them. Luckily, the heroes win this battle by destroying the machine and making the AM retreat from his fortress. Unfortunately, it all comes at a shocking loss as Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) is killed by the Anti-Monitor.

This “calm in the storm” gives some breathing room for the heroes, but another issue starts to arise. During the entire calamity, Brainiac and Lex Luthor (Earth 1) have been teleporting villains from the remaining Earths. They plan to conquer them all. While they do all of that, we head back to the antimatter universe and the AM is trying to create another machine to destroy the Earths. Luckily, the Flash is able to break free of his bonds and sets out to stop him. Barry succeeds in using his speed to destroy the weapon, but he “dies” in the process. If you end up reading the story, throw some Queen on at that part. It works well.

The villains stage their attacks on the remaining Earths. It’s pretty much a game of tug and war as the heroes try to defeat the villains. Eventually, all of that is brushed aside when the Spectre (who plays a big role here!) warns everyone that the AM is traveling to the beginning of time to destroy the Multiverse. The heroes and villains call a truce and a decent-sized group of them head back in time to Oa. The villains are tasked with stopping Krona, an Oan scientist, from accidentally creating the Multiverse while the heroes take on the AM.

That's right folks! The Spectre actually gets to be a bad mofo in this event!

The villains fail to stop Krona’s experiment and the heroes are incapacitated by the AM. He’s about to win when the Spectre, being powered by the magical heroes, comes to battle him. The battle ends up “creating an energy overload that shatters space and time.” Because of this, a single universe is created and the heroes are sent back to the present day. When the heroes return, they find out that the new Earth is made of elements from the five remaining Earths. No one remembers that there ever was a Multiverse except for the heroes that traveled back in time. Anyone who had a double from another Earth like the Superman of Earth-2 (Kal-L) didn’t get incorporated into this Earth.

As the heroes get used to this new Earth, the AM (yes, he just keeps coming on back for more...) attacks this new Earth by unleashing his shadow demons and dragging it into the antimatter universe. The heroes band together and find the AM’s fortress. This is where they find Psycho Pirate and find out that the Flash has died. The heroes then stage a final confrontation with the villain and basically thrash him with all they have. They’re able to get the Earth back into the ordinary universe. Wonder Woman of Earth-1 ends up being the major casualty as she basically gets reset for her new book.

Unfortunately, the AM still comes back for more. Kal-L, Superboy from Earth-Prime, and Alex Luthor decide to stay in the antimatter universe and fight the villain and even get some help from Darkseid. After some major hits, the AM is finally defeated. After this, Alex is able to bring back Lois Lane from Earth-2 and the four survivors are teleported to an unknown paradise. On Earth, life goes on as fallen heroes are mourned and Wally West takes on the mantle of the Flash. The story ends with Psycho Pirate back in the psych ward remembering the Multiverse.

Bye, guys!! See ya in Infinite Crisis... unfortunately.

OPINION
And that is probably the briefest synopsis I’ve ever wrote. I guess that means you should go out and find the story because it’s actually pretty good. First off, the artwork’s awesome. As I said before, George Perez is one of my favorite artists. He’s able to draw these epic stories that involve multiple characters. I mean, there are a lot of heroes and villains in these 12 issues. Everyone from Animal Man to Zatanna is in the book. The story is truly epic on a cosmic scale and the artwork definitely sells that. The inks and colors complement the pencils as well.

The story as a whole is pretty good. You get everything you need in the 12 issue maxi-series. You really don’t need to know too much about the DC universe though it would help to have a good understanding of it. You also don’t have to buy a crapload of tie-ins to find out what’s going on. Everything that is important is explained here pretty well. We even get nice character development as well as some heartbreaking moments. The villains were also pretty cool. The Anti-Monitor was one of those “once in a lifetime” villains that you just need for this one story. Psycho Pirate was kind of creepy, but good for this story. The rest of the villains that were in the “Take over Earths” plot were okay though. That subplot may be the only thing I’m not a big fan of.

While you have your normal heroes in the story like Batman, Superman (two of them), the JLA, and the Teen Titans, you also get introduced to some new characters. Out of all of them, my favorite were Dr. Light (the female variety), Alexander Luthor, and Harbinger. I can see why people who liked Alexander Luthor were pretty peeved about what was done to him in Infinite Crisis. Personally, I’m not bothered by it because Alex served as a decent main villain for that event. Still, it would have been good to not make heroes evil for the sake of doing it. 

Is there anything I don’t like about it? Yeah. This trade is long enough for me to find some fault in it. I think my main complaint is the dialogue. Everything is plotted and stated out. It’s kind of a chore to read it all out. Of course, this is how comics were at that time. It could just be Wolfman’s writing, I don’t know. I like Wolfman’s stuff, but it can be pretty verbose at times.

As I said before, I also thought the plot revolving around the villains conquering all of the Earths was okay, not great. I guess if anyone wants to make a play for world domination, it’ll have to be at a disastrous time. Plus, it’s one way to get a lot of villains in on a few pages. One last nitpick was the character Pariah. Wow, that guy was whiny! He even looks like a whiny person. I guess that’s to be expected when you are constantly teleported to doomed Earths. He may have been my least favorite of the new characters.

HIGHLIGHTS
Finally, here are my highlights of the story. There are a lot, but I’ll just limit it to my favorite ones:

1. Three Supermen!!!
Not only do we get one Superman, but we get two Supermen. We have Kal-El of Earth-1 and  the returning character of Kal-L of Earth-2. I liked their friendship. I mean, it’s basically like hanging out with an older version of yourself. They’re both there for each other when Kal-El loses Supergirl and when Kal-L finds out that Earth-2 has ceased to exist. We even get Kal-L trying to take on the Anti-Monitor by himself at the end. Superman in general is treated pretty well in the series. We even get Superboy-Prime before he got turned into a psychotic fanboy in Infinite Crisis.

2. The Death/Rebirth of the Flash
The Flash’s death is another highlight that makes the event worth watching reading. Like Supergirl, he basically gets a death that’s not only memorable but foreshadowed in earlier issues. It’s a death that has also been undone in the comics. What’s interesting about his death is that nobody finds out that he’s dead until the final issue. It’s a shock to everyone especially Wally. Wally came out of retirement to help with the Crisis. After Barry’s death, Wally decides to carry on the Flash legacy and we get the beginning of my favorite version of the superhero.

3. The Death of Supergirl
Another memorable death from the event is Supergirl’s death. In the antimatter universe, she goes toe-to-toe with the Anti-Monitor when Superman gets knocked out. She tells Dr. Light to get Superman out of the villain’s chamber. She’s then killed by the Anti-Monitor as she destroys his generator. She’s mourned by everyone. Her death reminds me of Superboy’s death in Infinite Crisis. Outside of the event, we really don’t get any more from it since she actually didn’t exist after the Crisis. We did get one good scene from “Whatever Happened from the Man of Tomorrow” when Superman sees a younger version of Supergirl with the Legion of Superheroes.

4. New Earth and the end of the Multiverse
After the battle in the past, the Earth remained as one Earth but it had various elements of the five Earths in it. Both Supermen and the Flashes find this out when they try to go to Earth-2 which never existed. The doubles who went into the past like Kal-L didn’t get added into this new universe. It’s a pretty sad scene seeing Kal-L, Robin of Earth-2, and Huntress of Earth-2 realize that their Earth is gone.

5. The Final Battle
The last battle is pretty epic. In the last issue, the AM unleashes a full barrage on Earth. All of the heroes do what they can against the villain and stop him for a moment. Then (like Jason Voorhees), he comes back and the only hero who’s left to stand against him is Kal-L, the original Superman. Superboy-Prime aka “PRIME” and Alex come back to help. Darkseid (through Alex) even gets a blast in. The whole last issue is just epic.

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Do I recommend this series? I do, but there is one reservation. If you’re into cosmic-level events involving many characters, you’ll like it. If you’re not a fan of such events, you might not like it. Even if you don’t like those types of events, I say check it out anyway. It’s definitely one of the best crossover events I’ve read. It’s got a good story and great art. Well, I’m out. Peace and God Bless.

NEXT TIME: SOME MORE ULTIMATE X-MEN!!!

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