Crisis on Infinite Earths

So, after nearly three months and almost 50 trades, I finally reached this point on “the shelf”.  It just so happens to be  a happy coincidence that my 50th post on this blog should be about the comic series that celebrated DC’s 50th anniversary.  It’s nice when things work out like that.

I had been hearing about Crisis on Infinite Earths since before I began reading comics.  I knew from Mistah J that this was a pretty seminal moment in the DC Multiverse for one reason or another (he was very careful to not give away too many spoilers), so I was anxious to read it and see what all the hype was about.

After reading, all I can say is… I’m speechless.

So much happened in this trade, which spanned a year’s worth of publication.  The entire DC Multiverse was turned on its head, with major changes affecting literally every single character DC had ever written about.

I don’t even know where quite to begin with this post.  There is just so much I could write about.

I suppose I’ll start with a basic synopsis for those two people in the entire world who haven’t yet read this collection (or more likely, for those who haven’t read it in a while).  I make this point now so that on the off-chance you haven’t yet read this trade, you should stop reading right now because there are about to be epic spoilers:

The story begins with the destruction of a number of various Earths within countless universes.  A host of superheroes perish in these planetary destructions, and there seems to be no hope in sight.

A group of all the worlds’ best heroes and villains is summoned to a remote satellite base, where we learn the identity of the ever-watchful being who was teased in a number of previous comics:

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He is the Monitor, a positive matter being who watches over all of the positive matter universes.

I admit, I had my guesses as to who this overseer would be.  I always enjoy the reappearance of well-known characters in a new role, and had hoped one of the many characters I had met along the way would be making another appearance here.  Alas, no such luck.  Still, the Monitor’s a pretty cool character, all things considered.

The story progresses with our heroes attempting to save the few remaining universes, battling against an as-yet unseen force.

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Again, I had hoped this would be a known character.  I wondered at one point if it would be Trigon (I read a lot of Teen Titans recently, so he stuck out in my mind) and Mistah J said many people thought it could have been Darkseid.  I was surprised (and just a tad disappointed) that it was a new character. For such a massive upheaval, I suppose it makes sense to create new heroes and villains, but I had still hoped one of the villains I had come across previously would have been responsible for this.

Instead, after much hinting and teasing, we learn that this foe is the Anti-Monitor, an anti-matter being set to destroy all the known universes.

This brief summation actually encapsulates the first few issues in this story.  The opening issues are both action packed and slow-building.  We see countless heroes and villains, many of whom have come out of the woodwork after decades of inactivity.  Many are killed on their home worlds; a few escape to the few remaining universes.  All are in mortal peril, and all are seeking a way to save the last few remaining universes.

The issues themselves are largely driven by action, but there is a fair sprinkling of character-driven scenes and narrative.  About halfway through the trade we are faced with one of the most upsetting casualties of this war: The death of Supergirl.

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Sacrificing herself to save those she loves, Supergirl’s death was a poignant moment within the story.  Unfortunately this is such an iconic moment that I was aware of it before reading this trade, and so knew what was coming.  Still, I was touched by the way her death was handled in the story, and even moreso by Superman’s reaction to the loss of his beloved cousin.  This scene was injected with real heart and emotion, making the loss that much more real.

If Supergirl’s death was sad, I was completely distraught when, shortly thereafter, we are faced with another hero’s downfall:

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Unlike Supergirl’s story, I had no inkling that Barry Allen (aka Flash) would not survive this battle.  Indeed, when it happened I was convinced it was a ploy, one of those “fake-out” deaths that comics love so much.  I expected Flash to disappear for an issue or so, only to miraculously reappear, perfectly safe.

This was not the case.  Flash is really dead, and I was surprised at how affected I was by this event.  Perhaps it was because I had just read the 588-page tome that is Trial of the Flash and felt extremely invested in his story, or perhaps it was because I pitied all the drama and heartache he had to deal with recently.  Whatever it was, I was greatly saddened that they chose to kill off his character.

(On a lighter note, Mistah J, sitting beside me at the time, mentioned that I appeared to be going through the five stages of grief as I read this particular scene, first refusing to acknowledge what I was reading and ending with my accepting the inevitable.  Upon reflection, I begrudgingly admit he was right.)

I thought that these two deaths would be the culminating moment of the story, but I was soon proven wrong.  The entire story builds to a massive overhaul, in which the entire multiverse is destroyed and replaced with a single universe.  While we still have multiple Supermen and various other characters due to an anomaly in the rewriting of time, there is now only one Earth.  The aftermath of such a cataclysmic event is addressed, with numerous characters suddenly being the only people from their universes to ever exist.  The comic handles such traumatic events with a deft hand, keenly addressing how distraught each character is as they attempt to find their place in this new, unified world.

One of the most moving scenes in the entire story occurs towards the end when, in order to destroy the anti-monitor once and for all, Superman and Superboy remain behind in the anti-matter universe while all of their friends return to Earth.

This Superman of Earth-2 is ready to face the end, not wanting to go on in a world without his beloved wife Lois.  In a surprising turn of events, we learn that Lois was saved before her Earth was erased from history.  She and Superman are reunited and share a loving embrace before magically disappearing into a netherworld where they will seemingly live happily ever after.

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I found this to be perhaps the most touching scenes in the entire trade.  Superman could have easily suffered the same fate as Supergirl and Flash, sacrificing himself so that others may live.  This would certainly fit his character.

This is Superman of Earth-2 though. He is the original superhero, the one who started it all.  It would have been cruel to send him off to his death in the midst of a battle.  The character deserves more than that.  This quiet ending to his story was a fitting sendoff for such a seminal character in comic history, and one I’m glad they went with.

This story ends with everything we thought we knew about the DC multiverse being tossed out the window in favor of this simpler, more streamlined universe.  I found it to be an ingenious way to unify all of the existing stories and allow the characters to operate in one world.  Going forward, I know that the next batch of comics on the shelf deals with the aftermath of this massive shakeup, retelling characters’ origin stories to fit into this new Earth’s history (thank you Mistah J for the heads up).  I’m really excited to see where the stories go from here.  I have a feeling that after Crisis, all bets are off, and I won’t really be able to predict what will happen next.  I find this rather exciting, and look forward to the stories to come.

As a closing, I realize there is a massive amount of the story that I haven’t addressed in the blog post.  Truth be told, it just seems way too daunting to address everything that happens.  There are so many angles I could have taken with this post, so much that was left unsaid.  I could write an entire post about each main character’s role in the battle and its ensuing impact, or about the villains’ roles working both with and against our heroes.  There is just so much happening within these pages that it’s nearly impossible to touch upon everything important.  Perhaps I’ll revisit the story later after I’ve had a chance to fully absorb all that has happened.  Until then, I’ll be busy pondering all of the implications of such a massive overhaul to the DC multiverse.

-Jess

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