04 July 2014

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part XXIV: Infinite Crisis

Comic trade paperback, 248 pages
Published 2006 (contents: 2005-06)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2014
Infinite Crisis

Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencillers: Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis
Inkers: Andy Lanning, Oclair Albert, Marlo Alquiza, Marc Campos, Wayne Faucher, Drew Geraci, Jerry Ordway, Jimmy Palmiotti, Sean Parsons, George Pérez, Norm Rapmund, Ivan Reis, Lary Stucker, Art Thibert
Colorists: Jeromy Cox, Guy Major, Rod Reis, Tanya & Richard Horie
Letterers: Nick J. Napolitano, Rob Leigh

(Nothing quite inspires confidence like seeing that it took fifteen artists to draw a seven-issue miniseries.)

Infinite Crisis is a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, twenty years on, in addition to being mired in the then-current DC continuity. In some ways, it feels very much like an attempt to replicate the success of its predecessor: there are beats here straight out of that story, down to a Flash sacrificing himself to (temporarily) beat the villain by running superfast, ending with some continuity alterations, and a completely gratuitous attack by every villain. But it doesn't quite work as well, and I'm hard-pressed to explain why, as most of what it does is what the original does. But what worked in the hands of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez doesn't always come across when done by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez.

Part of my difficulty with Infinite Crisis is that the character threads are muddled and unclear. Supposedly (you can see them on the cover) this story is about the trinity of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, but that doesn't always come across. A theme of the Countdown to Infinite Crisis materials was Batman's lack of trust, and this is maybe the most successful of the strands: Batman has a conversation with the Superman of Earth-Two about their much more congenial relationship, and by the end of the story, he's recruited a gang of superheroes to help him out, including Green Arrow. Another theme of Countdown was Wonder Woman's willingness to kill, but that's addressed incredibly poorly here. First off, Batman and Superman still fail to account for the fact that the situation in The OMAC Project was perfectly constructed to make killing her only option; neither of them could have done better. Secondly, there's not really a reason or development that would lead to her stepping back on that philosophy here; just all of a sudden she's like, no, I could never do that again! Finally, Sacrifice set up this notion that Superman was so powerful he was starting to scare himself. Not even mentioned in Infinite Crisis.

Interestingly, this story uses the same notion that Marv Wolfman seeded in his own return visits to the original Crisis (see especially the 2005 novelization): that the New Earth that came into existence at the end of the Crisis was fundamentally darker, with heroes who were less heroic. But it's kind of unclear why or to what end this thread is introduced, because this story is just as guilty of it as any other: the Superboy of Earth-Prime kills minor characters by punching their heads off! I mean, seriously, I don't want to read that. If this story's violence is just as gratuitous as all the others', it's impossible to take its critiques seriously.

I hate the propensity of these crossovers to kill off minor characters to prove the situation is serious. The Phantom Lady introduced in Action Comics Weekly is killed, for example; she wasn't my favorite, but she was fun enough. But each of these characters probably is someone's favorite. I think the reason it bothers me is the feeling they're being killed off because they supposedly aren't anyone's favorite. I'm okay with the Flash being killed off because I know the creators probably like him, and it's an actual sacrifice for them to build up their stakes by killing their character. But killing a character you know the writer thinks is worthless doesn't build the stakes; killing off Phantom Lady doesn't make me think Geoff Johns will do in anyone important.

Some of my problems are down to choppiness-- the sacrifice of Barry Allen has a whole issue in the original Crisis. That of Wally West is a quick, sudden moment here. That made me care about Barry despite knowing nothing about him; I like Wally and this did nothing for me. Or the giant villain attack on Metropolis has little time devoted to it (it's more clearly explicated in the Infinite Crisis Companion) and thus comes across as super-random: all of a sudden it's happening, all of a sudden it's not. And when Alexander Luthor mentions how the continuity's changed: ugh, just ugh. It's the most forced, unnatural thing you could imagine. And so pointless.  The original Crisis was a bit navel-gazing, sure, but it cleared the decks of a cumbersome storytelling mechanism. This just introduces some changes for the sake of it, like Zero Hour did.

Perhaps the fatal weakness are the villains. The Superman of Earth-Two is only meant to be a temporary villain, but even then it's kind of hard to believe that he would act the way he does, at least for as long as he does. The Superboy of Earth-Prime is too much of a spoiled brat: that kind of villain is never interesting. And why does Alexander Luthor want to make a perfect world? I'm not honestly very sure. I did like the explanations of how all the Countdown miniseries tied together, though I felt like The OMAC Project tie-in was the least successful. (what did Alexander gain from making Brother Eye sentient or creating the OMAC army or, especially, giving control to Maxwell Lord?) But it especially nicely builds off the goings-on in Villains United and Rann-Thanagar War. The best villain is, of course, our Lex Luthor: no one ever gets the upper hand on him for long, not even his son from an alternate Earth.

The moments this book works best are the ones it slows down and is about something for minute. Batman's conversation with the Superman of Earth-Two. Booster Gold's desperate attempts to save the past in the name of Blue Beetle. The Wonder Woman of Earth-Two leaving Olympus to talk to New Earth's Wonder Woman. Power Girl discovering she does have a meaningful past. The emphasis on Nightwing as the world's most moral man. The trinity chatting before they split up on their various journeys. The assemblage of heroes who will watch the world while they're gone (including ones from Seven Soldiers).

And, I'll admit, I loved that Luthor's vibrational fork was built out of the corpse of the Anti-Monitor.


  1. Well the good news is 52 is next... the bad news is that Countdown is coming.

    1. I am halfway through 52 and very much enjoying it so far... it is so honking big, though!