Commence Ouroboros: DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 6

I love Crisis on Infinite Earths.  I think I’ve probably gone into detail as to why that is.  I will also admit that it has flaws, a great number of which stem from the fact that this series is trying to do a lot of different things at once.  There are times when the pushing and pulling from multiple agendas overwhelms an individual issue and leaves us with something not particularly great at anything.

Crisis #6 is one of those times.

The crux of this issue involves the five glamour earths of the DCU — Earths 1, 2, 4, S, and X — merging into one.  For all the hundreds of earths DC had in its multiverse at the time, these were the five that they wanted to stick around in some form or another.

They’re interesting choices, actually.  Earths 1 and 2 are the bedrock of the shared DC universe, so of course those two will play the main role in this series.  The other three earths were all home to characters DC had purchased over the years: the Charlton heroes of Earth-4, the Marvel Family of Earth-S, and the Freedom Fighters on Earth X.  It’s probably safe to assume that this was the deciding factor in saving these realities; DC wanted a return on their investments.  Because, let’s face facts, how many people were or are screaming for a new Freedom Fighters book?

Because this is a superhero event, there’s a very specific rule Crisis has to follow while introducing these 5 worlds: the characters have to fight.  It’s awkward and forced and seems to be the main reason the Psycho Pirate is around, which doesn’t make it any better.  We get pages after pages of fight scenes, and while they do a perfectly fine job of showing off these characters, it all feels forced.  You really see the man behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz here.  But maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe there had been some long standing debate in comic fandom about who would win in a fight, Earth-2 or Earth-X.  But it feels very paint by numbers.

Harbinger sacrifices her powers to save the five remaining worlds, but they’re still merging, which I suppose is a better fate than simply fading away all together.  DC’s current books seem to be a a less drastic attempt at something similar, bringing back characters and concepts that were throw away with the New 52.

This issue also features another attempt at preparing the DCU for the future, one which will theoretically better reflect modern day society (such as it was).  To that end, we meet the new Wildcat, Yolanda Montez, who had been introduced in the pages of Infinity, Inc. a few months earlier.  Yolanda is the second major new character introduced (in costume, at least) in Crisis, and not only the second woman, but the second person of color.  Even as hamfisted as these introductions were, it’s amazing how much more forward thinking this series was in comparison to, say, Flashpoint and the New 52.

Ted Grant (the original Wildcat) retiring and Yolanda taking his place would be one of a number of changes to come to the Earth-2 characters, who would perhaps be altered more than any others.  Roy Thomas’ WWII corner of the DCU was going to be very different after Crisis.

If I remember correctly, this is also the first issue to be inked in its entirety by Jerry Ordway.  While I like Ordway’s work, his inks are often overpowering to the point where there are panels where I’d have a hard time telling you if Perez penciled it or if Ordway did. That said, it’s entirely possible that this was out of necessity, given how much Perez was drawing every month. There easily could have been instances where it was more of a breakdown/finishes pairing.

This is supposed to be the culmination of decades of comic book stories.  It’s supposed to be the ultimate superhero comic, the last binge of sugar before we all go on a diet.  It’s meant to be ridiculous, I truly believe that.  I think it’s the main reason it’s 12 issues long.  I think, if you ask Wolfman and Perez, they would probably admit that they had story enough for half as many issues, but wanted the room to do exactly what we get.  In theory, this was to be the last time DC would publish stories like this as they entered a new, simplified era.  Sure, that didn’t happen, but I think that was the intent.

The Tie-Ins

Yes, it has finally happened: at the halfway point of Crisis on Infinite Earths, we finally have official tie-ins!

What’s that saying?  Be careful what you wish for?

There are two comics this month with the brand spanking new “Special Crisis Cross-Over” banner across the top and neither of them are particularly good, but I suppose they are notable for other reasons.

Infinity, Inc. #18

Yes, that’s right, this issue features Helix!  I would think you all know the cover of this issue, given how important and valuable it is.  They were the hit super villain team of the 80’s and all.

Wait, no, that’s right, they’re actually the most ridiculous collection of characters perhaps ever assembled.  Here’s the line-up:

Arak the Wind-walker
Baby Boom
Mister Bones
Penny Dreadful
Tao Jones

Get it? Tao Jones?  Baby Boom is literally a little girl that looks like a doll and Kritter is a cartoonish dog.  They are unbelievable.  Mr. Bones is reborn years later, but the rest are about as bad as they get.

This issue is basically about Helix attacking Beverly Hills and Infinity, Inc. responding even though two of their members are currently being held captive by Tao Jones.

If this issue is actually known for anything (aside from being awful), it’s that it’s pencilled by a young artist named Todd McFarlane.  It’s really early, really rough work.  The level of detail isn’t there yet, but the exaggerated poses are, which makes the ridiculous characters seem all the more ridiculous.

It’s an official Crisis tie-in because there’s a scene where Harbinger who, by this point in Crisis is no longer actually Harbinger, arrives to recruit Obsidian.  That’s it.

It’s interesting to note that Infinity, Inc. is an Earth-2 book and it, like All-Star Squardon, would undergo some extreme changes when it’s forced to fit in to the new, single Earth DCU.  Roy Thomas was the writer on both books and he got the worst of Crisis more than any other writer.

Wonder Woman #327

This is kind of the classic pseudo-tie-in that Crisis is famous for.  There are red skies in this issue.  That’s pretty much it.  Sure, the red skies wreck havoc on Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, but she sorts it out and everything is fine, aside from her feeling of dread but, hey, it’s a blood red sky; you’d have a feeling of dread, too.

The main story involves Wonder Woman fighting another obscure, all powerful god, the kind of story line that is generally responsible for WW’s low sales.  I appreciate that she has a unique origin that’s connected to old gods, but submerging her in those stories or, more specifically, pulling her away from mainstream DCU superhero stories, is how she ends up being irrelevant to the average comic book reader. 

Mindy Newell is the writer of this issue, so at the very least it’s nice to see a woman writing WW.  Don Heck provides the art and as much as I like his work in general, it’s dated.  Heck drew the Avengers in the 60s after Kirby and his style didn’t change a great deal in the two decades leading up to his run on Wonder Woman.  Comparing Heck’s work to George Perez, who would take over to co-write and draw WW post-Crisis, is like night and day.

The main reason this is a Crisis tie-in, though, is that it’s the beginning of the end for Wonder Woman.  This series, which had run 300+ issues, would end in two months, and Wonder Woman would be rebooted.  The Crisis banner isn’t on this comic so much because it’s essential to the main Crisis story (it’s not remotely important), but because it’s marking the historical importance of the end of this run.

Next: We got from two tie-ins to TEN.  Things are getting crazy in the DCU!

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