Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
When discussing Crisis on Infinite Earths #3, I noted the story’s “seams were starting to show.” A few months later, I thought Issue 6 was more concerned with “marketing.” Now, with Issue 9 — which appeared in comics shops 30 years ago, during the first week of August 1985 — not only has the miniseries burst its original boundaries, but the crossovers have become more pervasive.
Although the bulk of the issue involves the Villain War (as last issue’s cliffhanger language called it), it starts off by setting up crossovers with Green Lantern, New Teen Titans and Firestorm. It also features some clunky dialogue and name-checking cameos, which by now are as much a part of Crisis as the red skies were.
Still, even if Issue 9 is something of a rough-and-tumble indulgence amid the ongoing struggle to save all creation, it has its moments. Scenes of tragedy and triumph are executed fairly well, characters exit and enter the stage effectively, and the issue is propulsive enough to energize an otherwise weak cliffhanger.
Cover-billed as “The Final Fate of The Flash,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 — which appeared in comics stores 30 years ago this month, during the first week of July 1985 — takes a while to get to the point. When last we saw the Anti-Monitor, in Issue 7, his citadel had been destroyed and he’d been forced to flee in some sort of rough-hewn spaceship. Thus, Issue 8 opens with a two-page sequence aboard Anti-M’s vessel and features Psycho-Pirate, Anti-Monitor, and the Flash; but after that they don’t appear again until Page 14.
Indeed, much of that gap is filled with six pages of digressions involving (among others) Firehawk, Blue Devil, Green Lantern and the apparently final fate of the android Red Tornado. As overstuffed as Issue 7 felt, with the origins of the Multiverse and various cosmic players, and the big battle culminating in Supergirl’s sacrifice, this issue seems rather thin. Still, the main event remains powerful, even knowing how it plays out, and even taking into account Barry Allen’s eventual return.
The cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (which hit comics shops in the first week of June 1985) screamed, “This is it! Double-sized SHOCKER!” However, the ending had been spoiled about two months before, when DC Comics revealed this was when Supergirl would die. (The April 10, 1985, edition of USA Today also revealed the fates of the Earth-Two Superman and Lois Lane, seven months early.)
Usually I try to be somewhat coy about Crisis’ plot twists, as if I were coming to it for the first time. With this, however, there’s little use. By now everyone and their super-cat knows Supergirl dies in Crisis, and it was pretty much the same 30 years ago.
Therefore, the question is how well does Crisis’ brain trust sell Supergirl’s death? It’s harder than you might think. Issue 7 is certainly one of the maxiseries’ best single installments (and that’s not a backhanded compliment); but the fact is that Supergirl not only dies to save Superman, she tells him how great he is with her last breaths. It doesn’t get much more meta than that.
The sixth issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths — which debuted in comics shops 30 years ago, during the first week of May 1985 — hangs a handful of fight scenes and expository moments on an almost rudimentary plot. It finalizes the series’ basic status quo and resolves some lingering threads, but beyond that it starts looking outward, to the regular superhero series which will survive it.
Consider Issue 6’s final page. The last page of the first issue fully revealed the Monitor, previously a mysterious figure who’d been appearing intermittently in the odd corners of various super-comics. The second and third issues ended with Harbinger’s internal struggle about whether she could fight the evil impulses leading her to kill the Monitor. Issue 4’s cliffhanger depicted the destruction of Earths-One and -Two, and Issue 5 threatened the same for Earths-Four, -S and -X. However, Issue 6 ends with Yolanda Montez showing off her new identity of Wildcat II. Regardless of your affection for the Wildcat legacy, one of these things is not like the others. The debut carries no cosmic implications (at least not for 1985) and serves mostly to advertise future issues of Infinity Inc.; but it also shows that Crisis was shifting more into a marketing mode.
This month’s look back at DC Comics’ signature Big Event comes at a very appropriate juncture. The first four issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths culminated in the destruction of Earths-One and -Two, which (for the most part) represented DC’s Silver and Golden Ages. Issue 5 — which appeared in the Direct Market during the first week of April, 1985 — began to combine the various parallel universes, although as we’ll see the process wasn’t exactly smooth. In fact, one might say it informs the basic setting of DC’s current multiversal event, Convergence. That’s probably not an accident, and we’ll look at those similarities in due time.
Besides that, though, Crisis issue 5 is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it marks the arrival of inker Jerry Ordway, whose distinct finishes complemented George Pérez’s pencils quite nicely and gave Crisis a unique look. Second, it kicked off a set of plot threads that would run through most of the rest of the “maxi-series,” including the mechanics of multiversal melding, the identity of the mysterious villain, and the team of Superman and Superman. Finally, it shifted the focus decisively from a handful of characters and settings to the embryonic “DC Universe” itself. Starting this issue, the featured players changed from issue to issue, producing the superhero crowds for which Crisis became (in)famous.
Crisis on Infinite Earths #5 was written and edited by Marv Wolfman, penciled by Pérez, inked by Ordway, colored by Tony Tollin, and lettered by John Costanza. Bob Greenberger was the associate editor and Len Wein was the consulting editor.
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Continuing the retrospective, we come to Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, which went on sale during the first week of March 1985. Narrative captions give the in-story date as July 1985 (as was the case in Issue 3), which isn’t that important now, although later we will see that the bulk of the series happens/happened in that month.
Anyway, Crisis #4 puts the superheroes in the background to follow some vignette-style arcs, mostly involving Pariah and the Monitor. This has the effect of distracting the reader from the bigger cosmic goings-on. However (at the risk of overloading on negatives), this doesn’t mean that nothing happens — it’s still happening, even in the background. Re-reading this issue, I was struck by how quickly it moves, such that by the time Pariah turns in horror to watch a cosmically-coordinated cataclysm, it’s the bottom of Page 22 and therefore far too late to stop. Indeed, just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong — which at the time struck me as a genius move, and still resonates today. The issue was written and edited by Marv Wolfman, penciled by George Pérez, inked by Mike DeCarlo, lettered by John Costanza and colored by Anthony Tollin. Bob Greenberger was the associate editor, with Len Wein the consulting editor.
The third issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which appeared in comics shops 30 years ago this week, or thereabouts, is probably the first to feel all “Crisis-y.” After two table-setting issues introducing the Multiverse to the characters and situations that would reshape it, Crisis #3 ramps up the carnage. From the New Teen Titans to the Haunted Tank, from the Legion of Super-Heroes to Jonah Hex, and otherwise across time and space, the issue is one giant disaster-movie trailer.
Now, I didn’t say the issue itself is a disaster, but some seams may be starting to show in the overall story. This 25-page installment was written and edited by Marv Wolfman, penciled by George Pérez, inked by Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo, colored by Tony Tollin, and lettered by John Costanza. Bob Greenberger was the associate editor and Len Wein was the consulting editor.
Last month marked the 30th anniversary of the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the ur-Big Event whose ripples continue to influence today’s (and tomorrow’s) superhero books. Accordingly, I thought it was a good time to revisit each issue on its approximate anniversary. That’s not because each issue of COIE was always a landmark unto itself, but because we tend to remember Crisis’ effects more than the ways in which the story was told.
Thus, it’s time for Issue 2, which was published in the direct market during the first week of January 1985. The issue was written by Marv Wolfman, penciled by George Pérez, inked by Dick Giordano, colored by Tony Tollin and lettered by John Costanza. Wolfman is listed as the issue’s editor, with Bob Greenberger as his associate editor (and co-plotter, according to COIE: The Compendium) and Len Wein as consulting editor.
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Thirty years ago, as part of the first ship week in December 1984, the debut issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths arrived in comics shops. Cover-dated April 1985, and scheduled to appear on newsstands during the first week of January, it was the flagship title of DC Comics’ year-long 50th-anniversary celebration. The two-year Who’s Who encyclopedia had launched a month earlier, and most of DC’s series would tie into Crisis at some point; but this was the book that promised big changes.
We talk a lot about the legacy of Crisis — high-stakes events, crossovers, reboots, etc. — but that can obscure the story itself. For all that it was designed to do, and all that it promised, Crisis remains both uneven and intriguing. At times it can read like a ramshackle assembly of exposition and spectacle, held together by the combined wills of its creative team. Some of it is flabby, some of it is clunky, but Crisis can still be thrilling, and even touching. In any event, it remains one of the great mileposts of DC history, so it can certainly stand another look.
Today is for the first issue, but this series will continue periodically throughout 2015. Grab your own copies of Crisis and follow along!
(NOTE: The Futures Index is on Thanksgiving vacation, so you’ll get a double dose next week.)
It doesn’t look good for the current Universe Designate 2. If the title of the miniseries Earth 2: World’s End weren’t enough of a clue, the setup of its companion Futures End tells the tale: Apokoliptian troops devastate the planet, forcing the refugees into the main DC Universe (Designate Zero). Moreover, glimpses of the previous Earth-Two — one-time home to DC’s Golden Age heroes and their legacies, like you didn’t know — suggest that it might be making a comeback.
Considering the New 52 relaunch eliminated the original versions of the Golden Agers, their collective reinstatement isn’t without its own set of issues. A few months ago I looked at how the current Earth-2 has distinguished itself from its predecessor. Therefore, today let’s ask how the return of that predecessor might work.
For months speculation had raged about what DC Comics would do to mitigate the logistics of its West Coast move. This week the publisher made it official: Convergence is a two-month, 89-issue event starting April 1. It involves a central weekly miniseries and an array of two-issue micro-series combining various versions of venerable DC folk. Basically, if you’ve ever wondered whether Blackhawk could beat Kamandi, or wanted to see the Superman of 2010 square off against the Green Lantern of 1944, next April and May are going to be pretty fun for you.
I’ve been writing about this for so long that I’m not sure what else to say. (And yet, here we are.) Last week I wrote about DC’s various narrative delays and deferrals. Now I’m even more certain we’ll have to wait until June for the next significant DCU development. Still, the fact that Convergence is happening is … I don’t want to say “encouraging,” but it does seem like progress toward an ultimate — no pun intended — resolution. (Note: This presumes that DC does in fact have specific plans for the superhero line.)
Therefore, today let’s survey the Multiversal landscape, with an eye toward determining Convergence’s role in the grand scheme of things.
Legal | Former Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint against cartoonist Musa Kart over a cartoon caricaturing Erdoğan’s attempts to cover up a graft investigation. The prosecutor initially decided that there were no grounds for legal action, but Erdoğan took his case to the Bakırköy 14th High Criminal Court, which ruled that the cartoon exceeded the bounds of normal criticism and allowed the indictment to proceed. Kart could face nearly 10 years in prison if convicted and given the maximum sentence.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have dropped charges against all 209 of the people suspected in participating in the actual corruption Erdoğan is accused of covering up; those charges would have included “the transfer of lands with a value of billions of dollars at very low prices, the seizure of mines from businessmen by force, tender-rigging, illegally giving state tenders worth billions of dollars to businessmen, changing the status of protected areas through bribery, opening these [areas] for construction and making large profits off of them.” [Today’s Zaman]
The sprawling intertitle crossover “Doomed” wrapped up this week with the release of Superman: Doomed #2. It’s a 40-page installment produced by writers Greg Pak and Charles Soule and artists Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder Vicente Cifuentes, and Norm Rapmund (assisted ably by colorist Wil Quintana and letterer Taylor Esposito). However, it’s getting some attention due to the final page.
Yes, “Doomed” began as a sequel to an as-yet-unseen event — the New 52 version of the monster’s first deadly battle with Superman — but it’s ended, like many a crossover before it, as a tease for the next big thing. Moreover, it’s joined by the only Futures End special one-shot without its own series (yet); namely, Futures End: Booster Gold.
Accordingly, today’s all about how everything might start to make sense, and how it doesn’t quite make sense for DC to go that way.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for the finale of “Doomed” and for Booster Gold.
Let’s get this out of the way: The first issue of The Multiversity is one of the craziest main-line superhero comics I’ve read in a long time. It’s self-referential. It attempts to engage the reader directly. It leaps around various parallel worlds in great flurries of color, off-kilter captions, and shouty dialogue. It’s apparently also a pretty-direct sequel to Final Crisis, writer Grant Morrison’s 2008-09 big-event miniseries, which — not that it matters much — took place under a different set of cosmological rules.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the interaction between those rules and the need to reference a potentially “invalid” story. Some readers may be frustrated (not unreasonably) by such interactions, and so far The Multiversity isn’t making things easier.
Again, though, consistency across continuity reboots is beside the point. Indeed, with a giant one-eyed bat-thing intoning “WE WANT 2 MAKE YU LIKE US,” consistency itself appears to be one of The Multiversity’s main villains. Change the emphasis slightly and the plot becomes more insidious. “We want to make you like us” — i.e., happy to exist in a state of “anti-death,” an everlasting “moment of ruin.” The imagery isn’t very subtle, and commentators have already compared the Gentry’s members to DC and other big comics publishers. For that matter, Morrison and artist Cameron Stewart made the globular, monocular corporate mascot Mickey Eye the symbol for all that was wrong in the superhero world of Seaguy. (Coincidentally, that hero also had a funny-animal sidekick.)
My review could end up being in the form of a cop-out, but saying that readers get out of Multiversity what they put into it might actually be the point of the series. As a superhero comic, The Multiversity #1 is perfectly decent. Penciler Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado, colorist Nei Ruffino and letterer Todd Klein present it in an attractive package. (The fact that Reis is the current Justice League penciler probably has its own metatextual significance, given the subject matter.) However, just as the Multiverse is a framework for various parallel realities, so The Multiversity #1 provides a framework for engaging with those realities — and that’s a little harder to quantify.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, assuming plot still matters for this sort of thing.
A big part of me still thinks Forever Evil would have worked a lot better as one of those late-1990s done-in-five-weeks events. I did enjoy the final issue, but it was because lots of things actually happened, and it made me wonder why they couldn’t have occurred a bit more quickly.
Still, the last-page reveal warmed my withered nerd heart. It’s the sort of thing that cries out for a boatload of analysis based on a set of comics published when I was in high school. Could be a stretch, but I’ll risk it.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, therefore, for Forever Evil #7 and probably some other stories you have already read.