Saturday, July 16, 2011

Crisis Part 10 - Anti-Matter Is A Trip Man!

Now comes arguably the most wacked JLofA-JSofA crossover ever. In the midst of the comics camp era fueled by the success of the Batman TV show (note his prominence on both covers) , this adventure reads like nothing so much as a staid comic book writer's attempt to recreate an LSD trip. It's really, really weird.

"Crisis Between Earth-One and Earth-Two!" by Gardner Fox with Mike Sekowsky on the pencils and joined by Sid Greene on the inks is a bizarre story. It begins with relative new Leaguer Hawkman battling some hijackers on a lonely road when a mist appears and suddenly he finds himself confronted by an armored car and completely different thugs. Nonetheless he dispatches them. On Earth-2 meanwhile Sandman finds himself in exactly the opposite situation and using his enhanced sand weapons puts down the hijackers Hawkman had been fighting before. In quick order we meet Dr.Mid-Nite armed with his new gun the "Cyrotuber" battling criminals and getting vibrated to Earth-1. Batman finds himself suddenly on Earth-2 punching Wildcat. As it turns out across the world switches like this are happening all over. In between the Earths, the Spectre though detects a greater threat still while Solomon Grundy in his Dr.Fate-Green Lantern bubble trap descends out of orbit onto Earth-1.

Part 2 finds Dr.Mid-Nite and Black Canary hooking up with the League to confront the Grundy threat. On Earth-2 the Blockbuster finds himself in Slaughter Swamp. There is a very brief cut to the lab of Erichetta Negrini's lab where Ray Palmer finds he cannot change to the Atom. The League meanwhile take on Solomon Grundy and after a furious fight trap him inside a mountain. As Part 2 closes the Spectre finds himself confronted by an offbeat looking weirdo he dubs "The Unknown" (called "The Anti-Matter Man" on the covers).

Part 3 finds the Spectre battling the Unknown but losing badly. He then turns his attention to keeping the Earths from sliding into one another by using his body to keep them apart. On Earth-2 the Justice Society plus Batman battle the Blockbuster. But the combined forces of Dr.Fate, Wildcat, Sandman, and Bats are not enough and only Bruce Wayne's revealed face calms the man-monster down. (He likes Bruce Wayne of all people it seems.) That threat averted, the end the story shows Spectre still desperately keeping the Earths from touching which will cause them to explode.

"The Bridge Between Earths!" by the same creative team picks right up where we left off. Ray Palmer is at last able to become the Atom and begins to investigate the problem. Meanwhile Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster switch places and the Society and League find themselves in pitch battle once more. The creatures seem possessed of great powers and offer significant resistance. Finally learning of the threat of the Unknown in the Borderland, Dr.Fate sweeps up the heroes of both Earths and takes them to the space between Earths.

Part 2 opens in the Borderland where the combined heroes battle The Unknown, shielded from his anti-matter, but they are summarily defeated. But as the battle gets close to the Spectre's body, he takes a hand and helps the heroes who are able to at last bind The Unknown. The Atom appears and cooks up a scheme to shrink then quickly expand the Spectre's body, the only thing keeping the Earths apart, with the hope that the expansion will kick them back into their proper places. But it could destroy the Spectre. Nonetheless he gives the go ahead and the Atom does his stuff. The Spectre is exploded but the Earths return to safe places relative to one another. But the Spectre is able to reassemble himself.

Part 3 sees the Spectre and the heroes send The Unknown on his way. They then turn their attention on the problem of Grundy and Blockbuster. But the Green Lantern of Earth-1 has had the two beast men battle one another while the heroes have been gone and they have beaten the hate out of each other and are now buddies. It turns out the lab experiment by Negretti caused the near destruction of both Earths, but as the story closes the combined heroes are fine with allowing her to continue her work since the superheroes will be around to handle the fallout.

My summary does not do this story justice at all. As offbeat and peculiar as this plot is, you have to add in the hipster dialogue which seems to get more and more pronounced as the threat deepens. The heroes have a devil-may-care attitude about the whole concept of the total destruction of two Earths, that it's sometimes hard to keep hold of the threat as the story unfolds. The Unknown is silent and offers no internal explanation of its motives.

The Spectre's powers in this story are off the charts. Also strange is the way Fox seems intent on redesigning both Dr.Mid-Nite and Sandman, giving both heroes updated equipment which gives each a wide and wacky range of powers. Clearly these two Golden Agers are seen as underwhelming in the Silver Age and need some sprucing. The truth is they don't and the cleverness of the two heroes is undermined by Fox's offbeat additions.

This is an entertaining story, but in a whole different way than the previous crossovers. This story is a relic of the brief time when superheroes were ultra-hip and pop culture glossed them with satire. This weirdo story makes no real sense save when I think of it as the heroes on some sort of wacked-out trip.

Groovy man!

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