To round out the year, I thought I’d run with the rather messy theme of the DC Multiverse and the Crises that shake-up their continuity. There have been several crises over the course of DC comics history, but obviously, today, we’re starting with the first (major) one, because where else would we start other than the beginning? Anything else would be silly.
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Pérez
Real Name: Mobius
Affiliation: The Sinestro Corps
First Appearance: Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 (May 1985)
One of the most dangerous beings in the multiverse, the Anti-Monitor was born from the moon of Qward, the dark mirror to the moon of Oa – the centre of the universe and home to the Green Lantern Corps – in a parallel anti-matter dimension. For millennia, Mobius has battled with his positive matter counterparts, going so far as to attempt the systematic destruction of each positive matter universe. As the embodiment of pure evil and fear itself, Mobius has made several moves to eliminate all life following his attempt to destroy the multiverse, and is responsible for the empowering of the Sinestro Corps, the lord of the Weaponeers of Qward and possess Darkseid‘s coveted Anti-Life Equation, which he can use to enslave any living being.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
By 1985, the year Crisis on Infinite Earths came out, DC had come to realise that their multiverse had become too convoluted. And, as some of the heroes seen on their pages had now been operating for nearly fifty years, there were also many flaws in the continuity, which writer Marv Wolfman thought this unfriendly to new readers. With this twelve issue series, he hoped to realign DC’s multiverse into one, single, simple universe.
To this end, Wolfman needed to conceive a threat that would be powerful enough to wipe out the many alternative Earth’s from existence, while also designing a story that would allow for several of DC’s alternate Earth’s to be merged together with ‘Earth-1‘, the home of ‘Silver Age’ DC characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League.
This was the second attempt to tidy up DC’s failing continuity, the first being The Flash of Two Worlds, wherein the ‘Golden Age’ Flash met the ‘Silver Age’ Flash, and it was suggested that the two came from separate, yet similar, realities.
Alongside Earth-1, the Earths chosen for survival consisted of Earth-2; the home of DC’s original heroes from the forties, such as the elder Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash (the ‘Golden Age’ DC heroes); Earth-4, home of the heroes purchased from Charlton Comics such as Blue Beetle and the Question (who in turn, served as inspiration for the characters in Watchmen); Earth-X, a world where World War II never ended, and where heroes like Uncle Sam (purchased from Quality Comics) lived; and finally Earth-S, the magical world from which Captain Marvel / Shazam! and the Marvel Family hailed (purchased from Fawcett Comics).
In the same way that Crisis followed on from Flash of Two Worlds, there would later be several other crossovers to tidy things up further, and Crisis on Infinite Earths would form the first part of the ‘Crisis Trilogy’, rounded out by Infinite Crsis (which we’ll get to later) and Final Crisis (which we looked at some months ago.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
When the multiverse itself is put in danger, the enigmatic cosmic being known as The Monitor assembles a team of heroes and villains from different Earths to stop the destruction of all reality!
Meanwhile, amidst the chaos that threatens a series of alternate worlds, Lex Luthor and Brainiac assemble the largest army of super-villains ours or any world has ever seen, with only one goal in mind: conquest.
Heroes rise and fall in this quest to save all reality itself!
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Not in the slightest. We’ll get into this more in the ‘verdict’ section, but Crisis on Infinite Earth is both a celebration of DC comics’ then-50-year history, as well as an attempt to simplify it. As such, it features hundreds of characters, weird cosmic goings on, super-hero origins, super-hero deaths and team-ups, and at no point does it slow down to hold your hand.
There’s also a lot of expository dialogue that may as well be gibberish to the uninitiated, and weird trippy visuals and concepts that hearken back to earlier years of DC comic stories.
Of course, the stories that spun out of this were meant to be more reader friendly, but this is like jumping into the final episode of season five of a TV show, knowing that season six was meant to be a revamp of sorts. You’d just wait til season six or start from season one.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
This comic got pretty good reviews when it came out. But times have changed, as have the expectations of comic-book fans, myself included. As such, when I read this comic for the first time, I vaguely recall finding it somewhat interesting, but trying to get through it now, I’m overwhelmed by how difficult that is. It’s just sooooooo boring.
First off (and I think this is more a problem with modern day audiences than it is with the comic-book itself) it could be a heck of a lot shorter. It takes so long to get to the point. And I’m all for a long story if it’s told well, but when trudging through this I just couldn’t bring myself to be invested. There are some powerful moments that make this comic-book stand out, but you have to dredge through so much nonsense to get to it. It’s filled with so many characters that no one could possibly care about all of them, and the spotlight is so spread out amongst these various characters that very few of them get many meaningful moments or substantial development, except for the ones that then die, or the ones who have been introduced in or just before this story – characters who you can’t really grow to love because the focus is very much on the fact that there is a multiversal crisis going on.
I’m not saying I hate this comic. It has it’s moments, such as the parts where they link into Green Lantern lore to talk about the creation of the universe, the nature of the Anti-Matter universe, things like that.
But the structure does not hold up by modern day standards. Six or so issues are spent just setting the scene (that’s out of twelve, in case you’ve forgotten), the next three just linger in a bizarre little central act that’s not all that interesting and involves some of the heroes still trying to decide whether they want to do something (3/4s of the way through – that is far too late), which means out of twelve issues, only about three or four are actually dedicated to the actual purpose of the comic-book.
I’m not blaming writer Marv Wolfman for this. Considering the goal of this comic, to celebrate the many heroes of DC, cull some of their number, and reset the universe, this is probably about as good as it could have been. Unfortunately, by today’s standards (where the majority of audience wont remember what things were like pre-Crisis) it doesn’t make for an all that enjoyable read.