I’m about full-up with the referrals to 1985′s Crisis on Infinite Earths as the ‘first’ Crisis of the DC Universe. Far from it, oh avid spenders of disposable income.
(touching the Anti-Matter Man may risk utter destruction but a right cross is perfectly safe, apparently)
Waaaaayyyyy back in 1963 when DC Comics decided to have regular cross-overs with Earth 2 (the reality where their original characters lived), a big event was called upon to challenge both teams. The whole idea was that if the threat was worth the attention of two Earths, it had better be big. The danger got more dire, each year encompassing more heroes each year until 1985 when DC Comics was facing a real crisis- the loss of its readers.
DC editorial rightly felt that Marvel was stealing their readers and they had to act fast to get them back. Before the slate was cleaned, however, one last cosmic-scale Crisis was unveiled. This time characters from every single reality was present as the mega-event comic to end all such comics rolled out the carpet for the new regime.
The max-series (as it was called) had been viewed as an embarrassment for ages until recently. The latest story in what is being called a ‘trilogy’ starting with the Crisis of 1985 is so poorly constructed that now the old series is being re-assessed… and it looks pretty good, doesn’t it? A story with character development (Barry Allen is a true star of this series), drama (Supergirl’s death is a heart-stopping moment) and real honest-to-goodness change in comics (the folding in of the Charlton line into the DCU as well as the new origins of the JLA, Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman to name just a few), the Crisis of 1985 has a lot to offer.
A tour of the entirety of the DC comics universe at a time when you could pick up anything from New Teen Titans to Jonah Hex, one has to wonder why Crisis on Infinite Earths was ever regarded as anything other than a resounding success.
In 2005, Infinite Crisis was released, building upon a series of stories that all combined (more or less ) for a universe-shaking event. The idea was that nothing would be the same and, much like its predecessor in 85, a new DC Comics would emerge from the ashes. Rumors flew wildly that DC Comics had become far too violent and a change in ideology was in store to bring back the fun of comics. The result was one of the bloodiest and most violent series DC ever published, with as deranged Superboy ripping apart nameless characters like fresh bread and the Joker and Luthor kicking Alexander Luthor into submission in an alley as the final moment of the comic.
Infinite Crisis turned out to be little more than a ripple that had little-to-no lasting impression on the DC Universe. The only real death was that of Kon-L, Superboy (lost in a game of legal poker with the Seigel and Shuster heirs). The weekly comic 52 was very promising but it too had no impact after all was said and done and in fact saw more fantastic ideas left on the floor than any other comic I have ever read.
EIC Dan DiDio has made repeated claims that there is some massive change on its way that will impact the DC Comics universe, but with each event comic he fails to make good on this claim and instead angers the few remaining readers left.
The current series, Final Crisis, (in its 5th issue as of this column) is supposedly drawing from the previous two Crises. A mess of poor storytelling, no character development at all and less direction than a spastic child on as dance floor full of eels, it has confused and bewildered readers who are left wondering if they are missing some grand super-intelligent message or if they have been robbed of $4. Each issue spans wildly from scene to scene and none of the moments actually connect to each other. To make matter worse, subsequent issues fail to draw from the previous ones except for the fact that Darkseid has seized control of the DCU.
The failure of the 7 part saga to build up a single coherent plot aside from ‘the bad guy wins’ could be down to many things but it ends up with the same dross. A talented writer more suitable for soulful stories such as We3 is sadly wasted here. I’m a gigantic fan of Grant Morrison’s writing and maintain that he is one of the warmest, kindest, and most talented comic writers I have met… yet this series is just a chore to get through.
Case in point in the latest issue where the focus inexplicably turns to a band of Japanese teenage heroes last seen in the first issue, a Rubic’s cube and a depressed love-sick cosmic Watcher-like entity. I’m not such a comic fan that I demand a mega-crossover only include Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but I would prefer a through-line of some kind rather than a random selection of set pieces featuring characters and events that 9 out of 10 times fail to gel into any form of coherence in the 24 pages allotted and are forgotten for two months.
Reading Final Crisis is like reading a comic via TV with Beavis and Butthead at the controls, their short attention span keeping them from resting on one panel long enough to get an idea of what is happening.
In the first issue, for instance, Orion is killed by a bullet out of time.
We see the Flash chasing the bullet.
Green Lantern Hal Jordan is blamed for Orion’s murder.
(These ideas swish about in the contents of the comic drunkenly looking for some form of direction that never arrives.)
The Green Lantern murder mystery story has finally been concluded, but in such a contrived way that tries the patience of the reader. Readers of the Final Crisis #1 comic will recall that Morrison stated the mystery behind the scar on Hal’s face would be realized in time. The answer involves so many off-panel events as to make the entire idea pointless.
There is a big deal made out of the return of the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen), but where is he this month? Who knows.
I could close by saying that it is of course unfair to judge the series as it is not yet finished… but so far it has been the most disappointing major event in comics in some time and with the rumored editorial rewrite ending, I doubt it is going to get better. In fact writer Morrison has stated that this is more of a sequel to his Seven Soldiers of Victory experiment a few years back, adding fire to the opinion that this has nothing to do with the Crisis of 1985 or the Infinite Crisis of 2005.
Added to the confusion is that the ramifications of Final Crisis have absolutely no presence in any of the monthly DC Comics, greatly reducing any hope of drama or suspense as to ‘what will happen next.’ Back in 1985, readers could see the impact of the cosmic Crisis in the pages of their favorite comics. Today, readers have no idea what they are reading or if it will even matter in a couple of month’s time.