Wednesday, September 30, 2015

All-Star Gallery!

All-Star Comics had some of the best covers ever. Many have been honored many times by being swiped repeatedly. Here are some of the better ones in my opinion.

It's been a fun month, looking back on some of the best comic book stories I've ever read, in some instances pure enjoyment! It's a pity and shame that they don't make comic books like this anymore -- but it's good they did once upon a time. 

Rip Off

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

All-Star Comics - The Crisis As Novel!

In 2006 on the (gasp) twentieth anniversary of the Crisis On Infinite Earths Marv Wolfman concocted a novel version for IBooks. As you'd suspect it's at once the same and rather different.

For starters while there are still the same sprawling destructions of worlds, the story here is a much more personal one told from the tragic perspective of Barry Allen, the Flash of Earth-1 who realizes soon into the proceedings that he must be dead and subject to unknown powers he is shifting forward and backward in time getting glimpses of people he does not know and events he does not at first understand. It is from Barry's ghostly time-lost point of view that we see many of the events of the original story unfold and surprisingly he is able to interact with events at key points.

The death of the Flash in the original Crisis was handled most poignantly as he dies apart from his colleagues and mostly alone only to be mourned after the fact. That key reality remains, but for Flash fans  he is much more of a factor here and that adds to the luster of his heroic sacrifices.

The ending is a bit different, and many of the events are ignored or collapsed for the sake of unity. But nonetheless we do get to see the end of the multiverse and the birth of a new reality, which is at once the same and different. But this time there is the added advantage of knowing of what has developed since.

Rip Off

Monday, September 28, 2015

All-Star Comics - History Assignment!

According to Marv Wolfman the two-part History of the DC Universe was originally slated to be the final two issues of the twelve-part Crisis on Infinite Earths, but was shuttled out when the story of the Crisis grew to absorb all twelve installments. What these two beautiful books do is lay out in sumptuous detail the DC Universe (emphasis on the "Uni") that had evolved from the machinations of the Monitors in the epic which whittled down the sprawling reality.

We get a somewhat sober reflection from the point of view of Harbinger of this new reality from the very beginnings of the universe right up through the creation of the Earth and beyond. We follow the development of human history from the Neanderthal beginnings of Vandal Savage and the Cro-Magnon Anthro. We see the early gods of the Greco-Roman canon effect the planet and we see the rise of Camelot with its heroes such as the Shining Knight and the Demon.

The Old West comes into focus as does the American revolution right up to the advent of World War II when heroes assembled in large numbers to battle the Axis. With the assembly of the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron the curtain drops on this first part of the history.

The story continues in the then modern day of 1986 as the rocket containing Kal-el of Krypton arrives on Earth, Bruce Wayne loses his parents in Crime Alley, and Diana of the Amazons comes to be. The new DCU is ripe with glorious heroes who assemble as a Justice League with members such as Aquaman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern, Atom, and more. Other teams such as the Suicide Squad, the Doom Patrol, and the Teen Titans arise to defend the planet from a host of threats. Heroes such as Manhunter, Black Lightning, and even a new if not necessarily improved Captain Marvel show up to save the sundry days. We even get glimpses of the future with Tommy Tomorrow and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

All in all these two tomes showcase the then nascent landscape the Crisis had yielded, a landscape ripe with possibilities and rich with potential. Most agree that potential was somewhat squandered as the focus and energy to complete the Crisis itself seem to deplete that required to follow it up, but it did make DC relevant again to a readership which more and more in those days was comprised of dedicated fans and less and less casual readers. Only fanboys would buy a two-part history lesson like this, but then that was exactly the market which the Crisis had to no small extent succeeded in bringing to fruition.

Rip Off

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. 

Rip Off