26 June 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part II: Crisis on Multiple Earths

Comic trade paperback, 206 pages
Published 2002 (contents: 1963-66)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
Crisis on Multiple Earths

Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciller: Mike Sekowsky
Inkers: Bernard Sachs, Sid Greene 
Letterers: Gaspar Saladino, Milton Snapinn, Joe Letterese

With the door between Earths-One and -Two having been opened by the Flash, not only did characters start crossing between Earths, but whole groups of them-- the annual team-up of the Justice League and the Justice Society quickly becoming a staple of the comics of the 1960s and 1970s.

There's a lot of fun to be had, of course, and Gardner Fox has it, though two teams of six-plus characters means that the characterization often has to be put on the back burner to the punching and the shouting and the improbable twists. Why do villains who can transmute elements need to rob banks? Fox never stops getting creative with the characters' powers and abilities, though-- there are some great, odd fight scenes here.  "Crisis on Earth-One!" and "Crisis on Earth-Two!" are pretty typical team-up stories once you subtract the alternate Earth element.

"Crisis on Earth-Three!" introduces the first alternate Earth that did not derive from a previous comic book: Earth-Three, the home of the evil Crime Syndicate of America, evil versions of the Justice League. It's a weird story-- Power Ring's power ring is so powerful as to beggar belief. At first he uses it to put vibrational energies into the Crime Syndicate so that when they touch someone and say a certain word, they'll be vibrated into Earth-Three. I can just about buy that. But then he rigs things so that when the Justice Society says that they've won a fight, they'll be vibrated away.  What the--!? If it can do something so powerful and specific, then surely it can do all things! How can you ever beat someone with a power ring? I did like the idea put forth in this story, though, that one's home Earth is intrinsically biased towards one. Thus, a fight between the Justice League and the Crime Syndicate will be won by the League on Earth-One and the Syndicate on Earth-Three-- it can only be neutral on Earth-Two!

"Earth-- without a Justice League!" introduces some interesting ideas that it doesn't quite play through. The evil Earth-One version of Johnny Thunder (the first time we've seen the exact same person on both Earths, actually) uses Johnny's Thunderbolt to rid history of the Justice League, creating a new Earth which he dubs Earth-A. Unfortunately, the implications aren't really thought through, as Johnny has to tell his gang that the Justice League doesn't exist anymore... but surely they would have never even heard of it? The idea of Earth-A isn't really explored, though, as all Johnny does in this new timeline is rob banks. Then, when the Justice Society crosses over to Earth-A, Johnny has the Thunderbolt substitute his crooks in the past for the Justice League members, turning them into replacement Justice League members... the evil Lawless League. But how does this actually work? We see one thug get hit by the lightning bolt that gave Barry Allen his Flash powers, and another surrounded by atomic energy becoming the Atom, but Superman's powers derive from him being a Kryptonian-- there's no place you could substitute a human for him to make that human into Superman!  Similar problems exist for the Martian Manhunter, the Green Lantern, and (worst of all!) Batman. An attractive idea, perhaps, but sheer nonsense as executed.

The last story, "Crisis between Earth-One and Earth-Two!" is perhaps the most barmy one yet. In addition to people randomly popping between Earths, the Spectre discovers that Earth-One and Earth-Two are going to crash into each other. This is no mean feat, given that Earth-One and Earth-Two actually exist in the same physical space, but vibrate at different rates. One could take this as symbolic... only the Spectre grows to enormous physical size to hold the Earths apart! And then, the Anti-Matter Man begins walking down the Spectre to one of the Earths! I guess it could all still be symbolic-- the Atom mentions that all of the events are happening in "warp space," not physical space. Anti-Matter Man is actually a great "villain"-- a silent, eerie explorer from the anti-matter universe (which I suppose is the same universe that the Anti-Monitor and the Weaponers of Qward come from) who doesn't know (or maybe doesn't care) that stepping foot on a planet of matter will cause massive destruction. (He can walk on the Spectre because the Spectre isn't made of matter, but it's not really explained how the Justice League and Justice Society fight him without exploding.) This story gets pretty nuts, but so much so that I felt I had to like it.

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