Sunday, September 27, 2015

All-Star Comics - The Crisis!


Doubtless one of the most significant publications in comic book history the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths was a true game changer for the industry. Twelve glorious issues produced with ardor and gusto by Marv Wolfman and the spectacular George Perez transformed not only the landscape of the DC Universe but also the landscape of how comic books were conceived and manufactured.

World War II Heroes Before The Crisis
Spurred by my recent Justice Society of America readings, I recently read the  "Crisis" again. I hadn't done so in decades, perhaps not since the beginning though I have lingered over individual pages and images since, but never have I read it over from beginning to end since first buying and enjoying it so many moons ago. It served as a capstone to my DC buying interests at the time and soon after the series I traded away my originals, since having replaced them with a handsome trade some years ago.

World War II Heroes After The Crisis
I won't bore you with a summary of this story, but suffice it to say that the assembled heroes of all the worlds of the former DC multiverse battle a godlike being who seeks to destroy everything and create an anti-matter counterpart so he can have absolute control over everything. Nearly all the worlds are obliterated and the heroes on them either disappear into the ether of memory or become part of a brand new world which contains fragments of all that had preceded it.

I will not bother with spoilers, but if you haven't yet read Crisis you really need to, and don't read further because I will assume everyone has a thorough knowledge of the events now thirty years gone.
I am just going to comment on events which stood out for me in individual issues. 


I loved Earth-3 and the villainous Crime Syndicate was given a pretty heady send off. Loved seeing Blue Beetle in a new comic book and drawn exceedingly well by George Perez.


Loved seeing the original Superman on the team sent by the Monitor into the past. His presence gave the whole affair a real gravity.


The battles are furious and it's hard to keep track, but the western heroes were fun to see assembled and the deaths of The Losers was a harbinger (pun intended) of things to come.


It all ends, and we for the first really get a sense of the scale of this epic. The new Doctor Light never really gelled for me, but I admit her acerbic tone does add some nice spice to this story, her heroism not certain by any means.


George Perez at his mightiest with a spaceship full of heroes. I cannot think of a single other artist who could've done this series so well. (Many have tried, none have succeeded.)


One of the weaknesses of the series is that the Anti-Monitor is a rather bland uber-villain. He wants the end of everything, but that seems such a callow desire it is difficult for me as a reader to find resonance with it. Of course compared to later examples of his ilk (Onslaught comes to mind) he was a giant among pygmies.


The passing of Supergirl is seen as a watershed moment for the series and comics as a major character dies, really for the first time with a sense of finality. It stung.


But not as much as the death of the Flash which was so much more tragic since one of my favorite heroes died mostly alone and unnoticed. He gets his just recognition later of course, but the decision to have him pass so far away from his peers was staggering. Flash was a my favorite DC hero, so his demise was an apt time for me to leave the fold.


The villains are plentiful and this issue shows they are true to form. Often in these big events the prosaic motivations of the baddies is difficult to reconcile with the larger threats to reality. The Joker works well throughout, that I'll grant you.


The climatic battle does seem a bit underwhelming since so much has been spent in its set up, but that's almost inevitable. Given the power of the Spectre in these kinds of things, it's hard sometimes to get too worked up about the threats. He's so totally over the top in terms of what he can do.


Death comes so quickly and often in the final issues that much of the effect is lost. I've always assumed that was intentional, the fog of war and all that.


The Crisis left a world behind which to my mind was less rich than the one that preceded it, save of course of the addition of the Charlton heroes of Earth-4, as briefly as it existed. But otherwise the DCU for all its energy was a lesser place, though as we all know now from this vantage point that didn't last.


Crisis on Infinite Earths is a dandy story, there's no disputing that. Folks dislike the results, I dislike some of the results. But like any great yarn it moved you to care about what happened and in the DCU once upon a time that was a rare thing indeed. 

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2 comments:

  1. As I've said, the art's fantastic and it's still a bit of a shame that the inks switch so obviously mid-stream. Had it been a more subdservient inker, it might have not caused such whiplash as Ordway's Wally Wood-like finishes. It's still hard not to be amazed by how intense the visuals are.

    Conceptually it was brilliant. The very title was a powerful hook to long-time fans who were aware of the implications of a Crisis on ANY earth. After Secret Wars, this was about the first time a story with this scope happened.

    I thought the script was pretty bad. We know that the decisions were planned on who would die and what would be absorbed in. It's likely that Wolfman and Perez got together ahead of time and decided what the broad outlines of the story would be, what points would have to be hit and maybe even what the covers would look like. But after that, it's a lot of pages of tiny superheroes yelling and blasting away at everything, interrupted by one heroic death after another (after another...)

    The thing about the Marvel Method of writing comics is that it seems like it's less work for both the writer and the artist, but it allows them to do less work than is needed to have a coherent story. When Stan and Jack started it, they'd both had a lot of years mastering the form and knew what was required to make it all work. In Kirby and Ditko, Stan was assured that he had storytelling masters to lean on, which he increasingly did. (Just imagine those guys in their heyday on Secret Wars. Like the FF wedding. only more so.) Too many of the younger writers of the seventies never mastered the discipline of storytelling and they were paired with equally novice artists. A lot of their comics read like the writer woke up in the middle of a panel and had to figure out how he got there.

    I admire the hell out of what was attempted here, but it may have been just too much to accomplish. What if Crisis on Infinite Earths had not been limited to twelve issues, and
    was an ongoing series? It might still be running today, and would save us the trouble of all the subsequent crossovers that have attempted the same thing. It'd be like a Superhero version of the Bible.

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    1. I concur there's a sameness to the deaths after a while, but overall I was impressed on this reading by how many folks pulled through. So many of the characters offed by the story have been returned in some way by now that much of the impact is relatively moot.

      I'm a big fan of Ordway, so his taking over the inks was in improvement to me, though I agree with you that changing artists on a limited can be a dicey proposition.

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