Thursday, July 7, 2011
Crisis Part 2 - Through The Crystal Ball!
Justice League of America #21 and #22 showcase the first "Crisis" between Earths 1 and 2. For the first time ever the JLofA meets its Golden Age counterparts the Justice Society of America. It's a convoluted tale of traps and the coniving creations of criminal masterminds.
"Crisis on Earth-One!" written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs begins as three villains who have dubbed themselves the "Crime-Champions" offer up a challenge to nine Justice Leaguers of Earth-1 to stop their intended robberies. Felix Faust, Chronos, and Dr.Alchemy throw down the gauntlet and three squads of the JLofA set out to meet the challenge. Likewise on Earth-2 the Justice Society meets again for the first time in twelve years and find themselves confronted with a challenge from the Wizard, the Icicle, and the Fiddler. Dr.Fate, Hourman, Black Canary, Atom, Green Lantern, Hawkman and the Flash form the JSofA and charge off to meet the challenge.
Felix Faust is confronted by Martian Manhunter, Atom, and Aquaman. Chronos is met by Superman, Green Arrow, and Flash. Dr.Alchemy is challenged by Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. During each of the three battles the heroes turn away threats and ultimately defeat the villain only to see each of the three vanish. Likewise the Flash also disappears. As it turns out on Earth-2 when Green Lantern and Black Canary confront the Wizard, Hawkman, Atom, and Flash battle the Fiddler, and Dr.Fate and Hourman confront the Icicle they likewise see their enemies disappear, and likewise the Flash disappears also.
As it turns out all six villains have been working in concert from the beginning, since the Fiddler who has already battled Earth-1's Flash knew of the twin Earths and took his two companions away from Earth-2 after a jailbreak only to be met by Felix Faust and company. The six "Crime-Champions" schemed to confront their opponents in order to capture the Flashes who are held prisoner in twin globes of force in a borderland between the two Earths. The villains decide to switch Earths so they can enjoy their booty without scrutiny. But as it turns out the foolproof scheme is undone when the Earth-2 trio cannot pass up the opportunity for crime and impersonate the Earth-1 trio. They are confronted by the JLofA but are prepared for them by setting up an elaborate magical trap that will ultimately strand the heroes in their Secret Sanctuary.
In order to escape the trap, the Leaguers use a crystal ball they confiscated from Felix Faust to have a defacto seance in which they learn of the Flashes' fate. They then summon the members of the Society to Earth-1 and a historic meeting takes place for the very first time. The heroes then decide to also switch Earths and the stage is set for part two of the initial Crisis.
"Crisis on Earth-Two!" finds the story already in progress as the JSofA confronts their trio of Crime-Champions. Hourman and Atom win against the Fiddler, Dr.Fate defeats the Icicle, and Hawkman and Black Canary take out the Wizard. On Earth-2 Martian Manhunter, Atom, and Green Lantern take out Felix Faust, Batman and Wonder Woman defeat Dr.Alchemy, while Chronos is taken down by Superman and Aquaman. Meanwhile the Green Lanterns travel to the borderland to free the Flashes.
But once again the Crime-Champions have planned a twist and when the Flashes are freed all the heroes of both Earths find themselves caged in space. Quickly enough they escape thanks to the power of the Lanterns, and the final battle finds the conjoined forces of the League and Society taking out the Crime-Champions once and for all before the villains can escape to a hypothetical Earth-3.
The battle won the heroes celebrate the end of this first crisis.
The power of this story is the mere fact that so many disparate heroes find their way together. The story is really just an elaborate excuse to have these two august teams meet and shake hands. Mike Sekowsky's two-page spread of the final battle is not something that might impress the modern reader, but I'd imagine that in 1963 it was something of a spectacular in and of itself.
It's hard to imagine what sheer fun it must have been to see fifteen heroes assembled to battle evil. That's a mighty crowd indeed, and Fox's plot requires some close attention. There is much shifting about and many twists and turns as the villains reveal plots withing plots within plots.
My favorite twist is when it is revealed that Crime-Champions have been working together from the get-go. It adds a level of suspicion to all aspects of the story. The reader is put on warning that what is happening might not be real, and that pervades the story right through both parts. Fox depends on contrivance a bunch, but can forgiven for his overwrought solutions given how many characters he has to juggle. There's little if any of what modern readers might consider character development. Both the League and the Society are noble and brave. The Champions are invaribly scheming and seem almost addicted to crime in a weird way.
Mike Sekowsky is an artist I like a lot. His chaotic style has a vivid quality that overcomes whatever clumsiness might be detected. Sachs gives the whole affair an edge. Murphy Anderson inks both covers and of course his elegant line makes everyone look very noble indeed.
These stories are a success in that they showcase the heroes. But next time something more will be needed. And the hint is in this story with the mention of a possible Earth-Three.