27 September 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Prose Fiction #6: Project Crisis!, Part XV: Crisis on Infinite Earths [novelization]

Hardcover, 310 pages
Published 2005

Borrowed from the library
Read August 2013
Crisis on Infinite Earths
by Marv Wolfman

Thirty years after he wrote the original comic, Marv Wolfman revisits Crisis on Infinite Earths by retelling the story in prose. It's less a retelling, though, and more an alternate perspective or side story. The book is narrated in the first person by the Flash, Barry Allen (with the occasional third-person limited interlude from other characters, mostly to give a sense of scale), after his death. When the Flash runs so fast he freakin' disintegrates, he essentially becomes unstuck in time, bouncing back and forth through the events of the Crisis, mostly unseen but always seeing. The novel is his attempt to put together the big events that lead up to his death, at the same time trying to make contact with his wife, Iris.

The novel gives a lot of glimpses into parts of the Crisis we didn't see in the comics-- there's a lot more material on Lyla/Harbingers (one of my favorite characters!), for one-- while glossing over much of the other action. I don't know how well it would stand alone, but as a companion piece that doesn't retread the original, it actually works very well. Barry is a great viewpoint character, a reasonably ordinary fellow, just a police investigator doing the best he can in progressively more impossible circumstances. I found myself getting a little misty-eyed at the novel's conclusion. What an ending! I know Barry comes back to life during the Final Crisis; I find it hard to believe that it'll be worth undoing what a great death he received.

It's interesting to note that Wolfman has revisited the events of the Crisis three times-- in Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 (1999), in this novel (2005), and in "New Day, Final Destiny," his tale for the 1980s DC Retroactive: Superman issue (2011). In all three cases there's an association between the Crisis and the increased grimness of comics after 1985. In the Legends of the DCU issue, Earth-D, already a more joyous and optimistic world than Earth-One, is destroyed,* and in DC Retroactive, the pre-Crisis Superman receives a vision from Destiny of the Endless (actually Harbinger in disguise) of all the terrible things to come after the Crisis, like The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Identity Crisis, and Blackest Night.

In this novel, Superman at one point realizes that in order to combat the threat to the multiverse, the heroes are going to have to become more like the villains, and learn how to kill. The implication being, to me at least, that this determination became a defining aspect of the post-Crisis single universe. One wonders if Wolfman blames the grimness of superhero comic books-- which began around the time of the Crisis with Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, The Longbow Hunters, et al.-- on himself in some way. One can kinda see it: a lot of that unnecessary grimness is born out of the requirements of "event"-based storytelling, and that model of storytelling was ushered in by Crisis on Infinite Earths and hasn't really gone away since. I guess what I'm asking is, does Marv Wolfman blame himself for Trinity War?

That's it for Crises for now-- before I tackle the onslaught that is Infinite Crisis, I'll be taking a break from superheroes by journeying into... the Houses of Mystery and Secrets!

* The events of which are kinda alluded to in this novel-- the Flash mentions seeing Earth-D destroyed and describes its superheroes. He doesn't mention helping save its civilians, but the recounting is vague and brief enough that the stories could fit together.

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