| November 3, 2003 | CBG's Retroview: Crisis
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1565
(14 Dec 2003)
RETROVIEW: CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
written by Jim Johnson
published in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1565 (14 Dec 2003)
DC editors bestowed four-color godhood
upon Marv Wolfman, when they OK'd his proposal to revamp the company's
incomprehensible 50-year history in the early 1980s. and, like an angry
deity come judgment day, Wolfman waved his hand and wiped countless
redundant universes from existence, making the DC universe a more
accessible place for new readers.
Of course, fandom would have settled for
no one other than George Pérez to illustrate such an epic, and Pérez
superceded all expectations by turning in one of the finest efforts of
Wolfman wastes no time getting started,
beginning the culling of the multiverse on the second page. With the
ironically heroic demise of Earth-3's Crime Syndicate immediately
thereafter, Wolfman also kicks off the first of many emotionally
intense and beautifully constructed death sequences.
It's a bit unfortunate that the
remainder of the issue is little more than exposition for the rest of
the series, but riding along while various heroes and villains from
different Earths and eras are brought together is, nonetheless, a
It's another fairly slow issue,
action-wise. But that's barely noticed amid the excitement generated
from the intermingling of such characters from different Earths and
time periods as Kamandi and Earth-2's Superman, for example.
Amazingly, among the dozen of characters
utilized (so far), Wolfman still manages to squeeze in panel time for
individual characters, like The Flash and Psycho Pirate, who eventually
play important roles. And, as if that weren't enough, he jams a few
intriguing plot developments into an already-packed issue. Astonishing.
It would be easy to criticize the fact
that all Wolfman does here is fill another issue with unlikely, ragtag
alliances plopped into random time periods.
Except it's just too doggone cool not to like, and this is what we all paid 75¢ to see, after all.
This is fun, plain and simple. But it's
obviously none are having as much fun as Wolfman and Pérez themselves,
who are making the most of the limited playtime allotted to them In
comicdom's biggest sandbox.
Not to worry. It is a 12-issue series, remember?
Recognizing the need for a breather, Wolfman shifts from the
razzle-dazzle of the previous issue's mix'n'match team-ups to the
relatively quiet introduction of new characters. Although neither the
new Doctor Light nor Lady Quark made any kind of long-term impression on
the DC universe, their importance to this story helped keep it from
becoming nothing more than a year-long slugfest. Not that there would
have been anything wrong with that, of course…
No longer content with just sampling characters from the DC universe,
Wolfman brings aboard just about every significant player of the day and
manages to cram them all into one scene, no less. Hundreds of worlds
have been destroyed, and the focus now narrows to a mere handful of
dimensions and paltry few hundred characters.
The villain behind the Crisis is finally revealed, and he also calls
himself the Monitor; fancy that. Future references wisely referred to
him as - what else? The Anti-Monitor.
Who says all the action has to belong to the "main" earths? Wolfman
turns the wow-factor up yet another notch by bringing the former
Charlton, Fawcett, and Quality heroes into the conflict.
As with all renovations, half the work is cleaning house first. With this issue, Wolfman has done just that.
It's been a multiversal rollercoaster ride so far, and, with the
surviving worlds and heroes now gathered, it's clear that the best is
yet to come. And it does.
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #7 (Oct 1985)
The grandest and most heart-wrenching issue so far. Having helplessly
watched countless worlds die, the heroes finally get to go on the
offensive in the most epic and grandiose battle yet. If Pérez'
instantly classic cover didn't foreshadow the outcome, world of mouth
among fandom certainly did. But, for all its lack of surprise, Kara's
death has no less an emotional impact.
Speaking of the cover, Pérez took some heat for a rather, er, uncanny similarity to John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men #136 cover from five years earlier.
A month prior, no one would have thought Wolfman could top Supergirl's
heroic death, but with this issue he does just that. Only this time, it
is one of the DC universe's founding fathers who bravely gives his life
for that very same universe.
And, seniority notwithstanding, his death is all the more tragic because
he dies alone, not among his allies, as Kara did, and therefore, his
sacrifice goes unknown, at least initially. To this day, this remains
probably one of the best written death scenes in comics.
With the surviving worlds momentarily out of danger, Wolfman takes a
break from bumping off major characters and focuses on many of the
previously neglected super-villains of the DC universe. Actually, it's
not so much a break as it is a detour, for this villainous coup has
nothing to do with the events of past issues; it's just about bad guys
doing what that guy thing.
But one has to forgive Wolfman for his fanboyish diversionary
indulgence, because, well, it's a really, really fun issue to read.
Oddly enough, Wolfman aborts the villain's multi-world takeover as
unexpectedly as it began, and it's mildly disappointing, because it's
suddenly truncated rather than truly resolved. This would have been a
neat idea to revisit, were the entire multiverse not seemingly destroyed
at the end of this issue.
In fact, that destruction was originally intended to be the end of the
series, leaving the DC universe wide open for future revamps, but
Wolfman was ultimately given two more issues to give this series a true
conclusion and tie up the many loose ends in more fitting fashion.
As Doc Brown would say, one has to think fourth-dimensionally to understand what's just happened.
Or one could just pay close attention to Wolfman's explanation, which
actually makes sense, considering that hundreds of universe have been
retroactively wiped from existence.
Which is different from being destroyed, according to Wolfman. When
criticized for writing the deaths of hundreds of billions, Marv said
that, technically, these universe didn't die; they never existed in the
first place. So the first 50 years of continuity could now classify as
The multiverse problem has been fixed, so Wolfman basically uses this
issue as a lengthy denouement to address the fates of the now-redundant
But Wolfman appropriately gives special treatment to the Golden Age
Superman, in an incredibly heroic battle in which, for once, the hero
doesn't lose his life but is, instead, given a blissful retirement.
Wolfman did exactly what he intended: he left the DC universe a much
cleaner, simpler place. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for it to
become mucked-up again.