08 July 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part IV: Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2

Comic trade paperback, 200 pages
Published 2003 (contents: 1967-70)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2

Writers: Gardner Fox, Dennis O'Neil
Pencillers: Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin
Inkers: Sid Greene, Joe Giella
Letterers: Gaspar Saladino
, Joe Letterese, Milton Snapinn, Ira Schnapp

This volume of Crisis on Multiple Earths features four more transdimensional team-ups between the Justice League and the Justice Society, the first two by old hand Gardner Fox, the last two by new hand Dennis O'Neil-- the first time someone other than Fox has written a JLA/JSA team-up.

Fox's first story is "The Super-Crisis That Struck Earth-Two!" / "The Negative Crisis on Earths One-Two!" It is a pretty generic Justice League story: there are some alien infestations, some bad guys, some fighting, and some really contrived villain weaknesses. Fox has done better and more interesting work, and one wonders if he is running out of steam, both on the Justice League in general and the crossovers in particular. The one potentially interesting thing here is the inclusion of Earth-Two's Robin, who is "no longer the 'Boy Wonder'"-- one would hope so, given that I think he must be about forty years old at this point! But he's just a cypher in this punchout-fest; Fox squanders all the potential of seeing what a grownup Robin would be like.

His last effort is "The Stormy Return of the Red Tornado" / "T. O. Morrow Kills the Justice League -- Today!" which is... I dunno... I guess it's there. I do like the new Red Tornado-- a robot without a soul!-- but other than the introduction of Dick Dillin on pencils (and what an introduction it is, the guy is great!) there's not a whole lot going on here. Still, it's fun-- Gardner Fox never puts one weird concept into a story when he can come up with fifteen.

Awesomely, Denny O'Neil then takes over, with some awesomely titled epics: "Star Light, Star Bright-- Death Star I See Tonight!" / "Where Death Fears to Tread!" being the first of them. A living star attacks Earth-Two. I wonder if this is where Neil Gaiman got the concept for "The Heart of a Star" from? Oddly this is one of the first JLA/JSA crossovers (if not the first) where two versions of the same person meet: the Clark Kents of both Earths are in this tale. But it doesn't really matter, as usual, because who would be interested in meeting their parallel self who is twenty years older? Evidently not these guys. Notably, though, this is the story where Larry Lance, the husband of the Black Canary dies, and so she crosses over from Earth-Two to Earth-One.

This is followed up on in the last story, "Peril of the Paired Planets" / "Where Valor Fails... Will Magic Triumph?" Something I've been doing as I read these is imagine how they would play out in the new universe formed after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where there is no multiverse. Some of these stories wouldn't work at all, of course, but others would. One of the most notable changes is that the Black Canary becomes two characters: mother Dinah Drake Lance and daughter Dinah Laurel Lance. It's relatively easy to imagine the elder Dinah being the character in all the crossovers up to this point (serving with the JSA), and the younger in the ones after this (serving in the JLA). But this story gives us a Dinah who was both married to Larry Lance and is now dating Green Arrow, which never happened in the new timeline of course. It gives one some cognitive dissonance if one attempts to imagine these events in the lives of the post-Crisis characters. I was interested, though, that this story takes place during the infamous "Hard-Traveling Heroes" era: Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary have to be recalled to assist with the current crisis. There's an increased focus on their characterization, as Black Canary frets that her crossing between universes may be what destabilized the realities, and thus she will have to die to fix it.

This story establishes, "Every twelve months, the temporal matrices of the Earths come together briefly! For 21 days, super-powered men and women can cross to the other existence... can and have!" It's a valiant attempt to explain why the JLA/JSA team-ups happen on a yearly basis, but it doesn't really make much sense. In the previous stories, it seemed as though people (heroes or villains) crossed at will, and the idea is never alluded to again, either. And in between the JLA/JSA team-ups, individual heroes (especially the Flash) seem to cross over all the time.

Also this story in some ways reads as a rewrite of "Crisis between Earth-One and Earth-Two!", with the Spectre trying to stop the two Earths from colliding with one another. Only this time he gives his life in the effort!  Kinda-- it's weird. In the first chapter, he's chairing the Justice Society meeting and helping deal with the crisis like a normal superhero; in the second, he lives in a crypt and has to be summoned to help by Doctor Fate. So who knows what's going on. I did like both of O'Neil's stories: Gardner Fox madness mixed with a bit of O'Neil's overblow style: fun stuff, too.

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