I love event comics. I may be one of the few comic fans who can say that but I love it when massive groups of heroes are drawn together for a world-shattering event. What I don’t like is the deluge of events that we are currently suffering through. Events used to be special. Events used to mean something. Now the event comic is a constant. Every story seems to be building to an event. Marvel alone has three separate events going on right now with Civil War II, Death of X, and the Clone Conspiracy. I’m evented out at this point as they are purposeless and marketing driven, not character driven. Their purpose is forced and mandated from the top rather then being built from the creators.
This wasn’t always the case. Events used to be great and there were none greater then the modern day original, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Where today’s events promise world shattering ramifications Crisis actually delivered on that promise as the entire premise was that DC comics was destroying their multiverse. It doesn’t get more world shattering then that. I love Crisis on Infinite Earths. To me it is the gold standard of what an event should be and it doesn’t hurt that it’s creative team, Marv Wolfman and George Perez, were at the height of their creative talents.
I’m a Crisis kid. I’d started reading comics a few years earlier but right around the time of Crisis is when I started to collect them, where I was actively seeking out titles, filling in back issue gaps, and my collection began to expand. I was really into Marvel at the time but I was always drawn to the classic DC pantheon and found myself picking up the Justice League of America and the New Teen Titans every month but I had very little insight into the DC multiverse. Crisis made me fall in love with it even as DC destroyed it. I’ve luckily been able to go back and find a lot of the classic Silver Age and Bronze Age books and have spent countless hours delving into DC’s History. Even though I love the multiverse I’m still glad that Crisis on Infinite Earths happened since it has been one of my all time favorite comics. I still have my original 12 issues (plus an Absolute Edition, a First Edition Hardback collection, and a trade paperback) that I pull out when I want to step back into yesteryear and I’m instantly 11 again and fall in love all over again.
I don’t know if Crisis was necessary. From delving into the history of the book what began as a 50th Anniversary event celebrating the rich history of DC’s comic universe morphed into a continuity reshaping of the DC universe. Some felt that the concept of multiple earths had become confusing and was hard for new readers to access. I’m not sure if that is accurate as I had no problem but DC editorial thought it was needed. Whether you think it was necessary or not when the first issue hit the stands it was with a bang, literally as the comic opens with the big bang and the creation of the multiverse. The second page then begins the destruction as we see what will become a common occurrence in the book as the white wall of nothingness wipes yet another world out of existence. We are also introduced to Pariah, a character created for the event that is cursed with having to witness the destruction of every world and there is nothing he can do to stop it. Let’s just say if Pariah shows up your world is probably screwed. Then shockingly before we see any of our classic DC heroes Wolfman and Perez destroy Earth 3, home of the Crime Syndicate and heroic Alexander Luthor, who just like Jor El from Krypton, sends his infant son in rocket through the universe in a hope of saving him. This child will become Alexander Luthor II who is a living gateway to the multiverse and just like Pariah becomes crucial to Crisis even as his home is the first world that a DC reader would know is destroyed and I can only imagine how visceral this event was for long time fans.
The first issue of Crisis is brilliant in the fact that even with the mass destruction the book also has quiet moments that introduce new readers to the heroes and villains of the DC multiverse yet still entertaining for long time readers as they visit old friends. Also for a book that will include almost every DC character ever it starts small with a core group of heroes and villains collected by the Monitor (more on him later) to help save their worlds. The team that is originally collected comprises DC’s past, present and future as well as Earth 1, 2, & 4 as we meet the Blue Beetle for the first time. It’s also an interesting Crisis fact that even though series is a celebration of the DC universe past and present Hal Jordan never appears in the main title as Wolfman decides to use John Stewart instead. This team is then sent around time and space as they prepare to defend their worlds from the Anti-Monitor and his shadow beings.
Yet the Crisis did not begin in the main book. Like many of today’s events the Crisis was a line wide crossover and every creator was encouraged to seed the story in their books over a year in advance. In that time we had come to know the Monitor and his assistant the Harbinger. They’d appeared in almost every book that DC published, from superheroes to war stories and even westerns. Originally their intent was not clear. In the pages of the New Teen Titans the Monitor were seen as a weapons dealer to super villains but it is eventually revealed the Monitor was testing both heroes and villains. He was testing them for the coming Crisis and who would suit his purpose in his fight against the Anti-Monitor whose intent is to wipe out the multiverse just as the Monitors intent was to save it. This is the core conflict of the twelve issues and the comic builds with each issue. Where we have a small core group over the first few issues over time the rest of the heroes are brought into the story. By the end of the series everyone is present and no one is safe.
Crisis on Infinite Earths was an emotional roller coaster. For every victory there was a price to pay. The Anti-Monitor and his Anti-Matter wave were obviously killing countless billions but for the most part they were nameless. Yes the Crime Syndicate bought it in the issue #1 and Batman has a vision of the Flash dissolving into dust in issue #2 but is this for a real or a possible future? In the beginning we don’t know but by issue #7 we know that Wolfman and Perez had free reign to take out whomever they wanted as Supergirl made the ultimate sacrifice, which also gave us the iconic cover that has been reproduced time and again over the years. Then just as we are catching our breath we find out what Batman had witnessed as the Flash meets his final demise in issue #8. Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 and #8 are a one two punch to the reader and we barely have time to catch our breaths before the series ramps up for it climactic conclusion.
Crisis on Infinite Earths was omnipresent in 1985 as every DC book was linked to the event. But unlike today’s events you did not need to read every title. Today you’re forced to purchase comics you usually don’t pick up to follow the story or be lost. For Crisis DC let their creators tell their own stories and their characters stories as the Crisis occurred. If you didn’t read a title then you wouldn’t be lost. As I look back it’s refreshing to think you weren’t forced into buying books to figure out what was happening. If you didn’t read Firestorm then you simply didn’t know what happened to Firestorm during the Crisis, which you probably didn’t care about anyway.
Marv Wolfman and George Perez were the perfect combination for Crisis on Infinite Earths. They had already been the guiding force for the New Teen Titans that consistently battle the Uncanny X-Men for most popular book month after month in the early ‘80s. They also knew their DC history and the painstaking detail that Perez puts into this comic is mind blowing. There are hundreds of characters and each of them is rendered with perfection. I find myself in awe of some of the splash pages and as a youth I would spend hours looking up who the characters were in my trusty Who’s Who in the DC Universe and I drooled over how beautiful the pages were. George Perez is a master and Crisis may be his finest work. Wolfman is no slouch as a writer and his pacing for Crisis is superb. It starts out with the destruction of a classic earth and then slows down and has a small team feel before ramping up as more and more heroes are brought into the fray. We reach a climactic conclusion and everyone thing seems fine only to have the rug pulled out from underneath us and we have to ramp back up for a satisfying finale and it is an actual conclusion, not a set up for the next event. Plot threads are dropped in the early issues and then picked up and wrapped up in later issues, Like the Flash and Batman’s interaction in Crisis on Infinite Earths #2. The plot details and layouts are the perfect merging of writer and artist and it is a fulfilling read.
The ramifications were real. I read Death of Wolverine a few years ago and it is a fun read but I had no doubt by the end that Wolverine would be back. Now as the Logan is coming in March of 2017 there is a rumbling that Wolverine would be returning in ResureXtion. When Supergirl fell in battle and the Flash died trying to destroy the Anti-Monitor they were dead. They weren’t coming back. And for years they didn’t. We had a Supergirl a few years later, but a protoplasmic Supergirl, not Kara Zor-El who wouldn’t be returned until the mid 2000’s in Superman and Batman by Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner. As far as anyone knew Barry Allen was gone and for a generation Wally West was our Flash. I was disappointed in DC when they let Geoff Johns bring back Barry in Flash Rebirth. It took away from Barry’s sacrifice and tarnished Wally as a Flash, as my Flash to be honest. The deaths in Crisis on Infinite Earths felt real. Can anyone tell me that Tony Stark, if in fact dead, isn’t going reemerge before the next Avengers movie? It’s a sucker’s bet if you think otherwise.
If you’ve never read Crisis on Infinite Earths go find a copy. It shouldn’t be too hard to find. That wasn’t always the case as DC originally refused to reprint the series and it took almost 15 years before the first collection saw a limited print but since then it has been in constant print in various forms. It is without a doubt the most satisfying event I have ever read. It is great throughout and it helps that the creative team were not only at the height of their craft but also consistent throughout all twelve issues. If you’re less then happy with the current status quo of events do yourself a favor and take a step back to the original and read Crisis on Infinite Earths, you’ll be happy you did.