52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
In the mid-1980’s, Marv Wolfman and George Perez teamed up yet again to bring Crisis On Infinite Earths to life. DC Comics was celebrating their 50th Anniversary and wanted to honour it in bold fashion. Wolfman and Perez crafted the 12 part series as a way to celebrate the company’s history but also clean up some of the convoluted continuity issues that have plagued the company for years. Inconsistent origins or errors in stories were all meant to be tidied up from Crisis as it combined several different universes into one, streamlined world for new and old readers alike.
Crisis On Infinite Earths
The Monitor, a mysterious man overlooking all of the DC multiverse, examines heroes far and wide, watching as worlds are erased from existence by an antimatter wave. With the antimatter wave’s destruction seemingly unstoppable and far reaching, The Monitor uses his ally The Harbinger to round up the mightiest of heroes across as many remaining universes as possible to help combat this terrible evil that threatens their very existence. As worlds begin to fade faster than they can be saved, The Monitor enacts a plan to have the remaining universes vibrate together so that they can exist in the same space while the heroes try to thwart the plans of the Anti Monitor and his anti matter wave once and for all.
Crisis On Infinite Earths might be one of the most ambitious crossover events to have ever occurred in comics, all thanks to the brilliant minds of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Condensing and cleaning up over fifty years of continuity is no small feat but something that Wolfman and Perez set out to do nonetheless with this Crisis event. Drawing in seemingly ever character across all DC timelines and universes, Crisis On Infinite Earths is just as much a celebration of years past as it is a streamlined book to, at the time, introduce and welcome new readers to a cleaner version of DC history.
Although this comic features one of the largest casts you’ll ever find in a series, Wolfman still keeps his main cast trimmed and lean. This story focuses primarily on four characters: Monitor, Anti Monitor, The Harbinger, and Pariah. Although there are seemingly hundreds of other characters who are given moments in the spotlight, none are as important to the story as these characters are. Monitor at first seems almost villainous in his approach, taking mysterious steps to achieve goals that he keeps shielded from even his closest of allies. It isn’t until you’re deeply committed into the story that you start to see there are more things at play than just Monitor’s well hidden goals. About a third of the way through the story you get a better understanding of who the character is and start to root for him far more passionately as you’re given a reason to take his side. The Harbinger is a rather tragic character, being someone who means well but is ultimately used as a tool for great evil. She is tied rather closely to Monitor on a personal front which makes the fact that she actually works against him all the more difficult to stomach. Her character goes through great loss throughout but ultimately is placed on a fitting path. Pariah, too, is a tragic character, forced to watch the death of worlds from the anti matter wave as a curse. It’s his own naivety and greed that drives him to be plagued by this curse, even though the character only ever means well. The way Pariah and Harbinger’s tragic character arcs play off of each other is a true joy to watch as their unhappiness invests you in their characters.
Anti Monitor is an interesting villain to place against all the heroes of this story. He checks off all the boxes to be a serious threat to everyone who opposes him: he is seemingly indestructible, immeasurably powerful, brutal, wicked, and has a masterplan that threatens all of existence. A character like Anti Matter could have easily come off as a flat, one note villain, and in some instances he truly does, but Wolfman manages to add compelling flares to the character because of how difficult he is to defeat. You watch the heroes strike out against him time and time again just to fail. You become interested in how exactly these heroes could ever actually amount to a serious attack against an enemy who can’t be defeated. It’s right around the back half of this collection where Anti Monitor becomes a truly fascinating story, watching as he strikes out against his adversaries in a way that leaves them with two fewer members in their ranks, eliciting strong emotional reactions from characters like Earth-1 Superman and Wally West, otherwise known as The Kid Flash.
As I’ve already stated, the cast of this story is huge which means that the scope of this story is even larger. This is a massive event that interweaves so many different narratives from all sorts of comics and can leave you feeling a little lost at times. A story that condenses and simplifies decades of continuity errors is sure to not be as necessarily simple as the final product is intended to be. Wolfman draws in from dozens of different storylines, referencing the fact that these characters do actually have lives outside of the current “Crisis” occurring. Things like Barry Allen hiding due to his trial for murder or even Starfire’s desire to return to her home planet Tamaran are events that play out over in the series these characters are associated with but still effects what they have going on during this massive crossover.
I don’t recommend this being the first book you ever read if you’re trying to get into the DC Universe. It can be a complex and interweaving tale that is really meant to be grasped if you have at least a decent understand of the characters in the DCU. The action makes tons of quick cuts away to different characters and how they’re dealing with the destruction the Crisis brings. One minute you’re with Earth-1 Batman, the next you’re watching Jonah Hex protect a massive machine in a mine. From there you’ll transition off to watching Wildcat trying to protect civilians. Without a familiarity with at least the heroes from Earth-1, Earth-2, and even some of the ones from Earth-3, you’re sure to feel lost in a story that will get way too convoluted for you far too quickly.
To counter balance out these massive amounts of characters and story at play are some truly stunning moments. The back-to-back stunning deaths of two major DC characters in issues 7 and 8 are not just sad but also incredible to watch. These are the sort of moments comic fans wait their entire lives to read, the moments where these prestigious characters get the send offs they deserve. That’s not to say that death as a storytelling device is always acceptable, because it’s not, but instances like during issues 7 and 8, where these two heroes get these amazing deaths that send them off with justice, it’s easy to forgive the fact that death in comics is as common as changing our clothes in real life. Crisis On Infinite Earths feels as though it’s packed with an infinite amount of moments like the two I just alluded two and it’s a great story that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime, even if these crazy kind of crossovers aren’t necessarily your cup of tea.
Collects: Crisis On Infinite Earths #1-12
Best Character: Supergirl
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: Is there beyond the silent night an endless day? Is death a door that leads to light? We cannot say. – Declaration of the Free (Issue 7’s closing statement)
Best Scene/Moment: A character makes a sacrifice – Issue 7
Best Issue: Issue 7 – Beyond The Silent Night. There’s a certain character death from Crisis On Infinite Earths that I feel as though gets far more attention than the one that occurs in this issue. This issue is perhaps one of the best stories ever for the character who passes away here and I’m intentional being vague to not spoil a great moment for people who have never read this story. The issue itself isn’t contingent on being great because of the death that occurs. It’s a great story that just so happens to be punctuated by the death of the character who makes the story great.
Why You Should Read It: Crisis On Infinite Earths is an ambitious crossover event that would inspire comics for decades to come. It’s one of the most complex but reward crossovers ever done in comics, taking a chance to dust up some of the sloppy continuity from years past. It’s a great platform to see Marv Wolfman and George Perez reunite on, even taking chances to throw some great moments up at their beloved New Teen Titans team for years gone bye. If you’re up for the task of reading a story that will test your comic reading mind and thrill you all at the same time, look no further than this book.