Commence Ouroboros: DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 9

If you were to point to any single issue in this series and say “here is evidence that Wolfman and Perez were tasked with showcasing as many characters as possible before most of them are erased (have you noticed a theme in these reviews?),” this would be the issue.  Because for even the most tried and true Crisis fan, Crisis #9 feels insignificant or, perhaps more accurately, unnecessary.

Although, if I’m being honest, it might be worth it just for that cover.

The villains of the DCU have noticed that their remaining worlds are in chaos and, you know, chaos makes taking over the world(s) much easier.  So the famous Luthor/Brainiac team decides to unite the bad guys to take advantage of the distracted good guys.  You can probably guess how that goes.

At the very least, it’s cool to see so many villains from DC’s history in one place. For as wacky as DC’s heroes are, the villains are even more bonkers.

I also feel the need to point out that there’s an entire page devoted to checking in on a New Teen Titans story line that has fuck all to do with Crisis.  Seriously, it has nothing to do with anything that is going on, yet there’s an entire page for it.  I suppose this is Wolfman and Perez taking advantage of the extra eyes reading Crisis in hopes they’ll check out New Teen Titans.

And where the hell is the Spectre?  Things were about to get Biblical at the end of the last issue and we get none of it. This almost fills like a fill-in issue.

But the timing is relatively good for a fill-in issue as we see more tie-in issues than ever, some of which actually tie-in.

The Tie-Ins

All-Star Squadron #52

Captain Marvel (Shazam style) is in this issue, working with OG Green Lantern and the newly married Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle.  They fight the “shadow things” from Crisis and that is actually what they’re called on the cover — the “shadow things.”  Because somehow no one thought to name them, which is unfortunate, because “shadow things” aren’t the scariest sounding, um, things in the world.

Anyway, this issue takes place on Earth-5, which is Shazam’s neck of the multiversal woods.  Our group fights off the shadow things, then try to figure out a way of sending the Squadron members back to Earth-2.  Captain Marvel and GL figure they can work that out by themselves, particularly since Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle are beat.  So Billy Batson (aka Captain Marvel) lets them crash at his place while he and GL figure it all out…

…and Johnny Quick and Liberty Bell proceed to have sex in Billy Batson’s bed.  I mean, it’s skeevy enough that they have sex in the apartment of this guy they just met, but Billy is twelve years old.  They consummate their marriage in a tween’s bed!  Come on, people, you can’t wait until after the Crisis?

The Wizard Shazam eventually sends them back to Earth-2, but leaves Captain Marvel on Earth-5 in preparation for the part he has to play in the climax of Crisis.  Marvel also calls everyone “chum” the whole time.  It’s off putting.

This issue was written by Roy and Dann Thomas and drawn by Arvell Jones and Alfredo Alcala.  More on Roy Thomas in a little bit.

DC Comics Presents #88

Jack Ryder is taking advantage of the end of the world to score some massive TV ratings.  The owners of the network that Clark Kent works for (remember, pre-Crisis Clark Kent ended up a TV news anchor) don’t like it and ask Clark to have a sit down with Jack.  Jack tells him to fuck off and just as Clark leaves, he turns into the Creeper!  You think he’s crazy?  He’ll show you crazy!

Turns out one o the doom and gloom, tin foil hat types that Jack Ryder interviewed has unleashed a demon and it’s up to Superman and the Creeper (who unknowingly met as their alter egos) to stop it.  Which they do.

Crisis is a back drop for this issue, but nothing else.  The art by Keith Giffen and Karl Kessel is excellent and perfectly moody for a story focused on the coming end of the world, but I’m a fan of Giffen’s work, so your mileage may vary.  This isn’t one of Steve Englehart’s best, but it’s entertaining enough.

Green Lantern v2 #195

As I’ve been reading about the comics DC published during Crisis, I’ve seen a lot of comments about how this run of Green Lantern by Steve Englehart and Joe Staten is considered classic.  And I will say this: I have never been interested in reading Green Lantern until now, which says a lot.

This is actually a decent take on Crisis, in that it shows the Guardians of the Galaxy trying to rally their forces.  To do so, they bring in Guy Gardner, who just recently woke up from a coma.  They’ve decided to make him a GL since the current Green Lantern, John Stewart, is off fighting in Crisis.

There are a few pages of back story in this issue which was probably boring to regular fans, but was extremely interesting to me.  The entire mythology behind multiple Green Lanterns has been around much longer than I realized, which makes me think that even early on, creators knew how boring Hal Jordan was.

For those who don’t know, when Abin Sur (Green Lantern for Earth’s sector) was crashing on Earth, his ring located TWO perfect candidates to replace him: Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.  Jordan got the ring because he was closer.  That was the only reason.  Guy was going to be the back-up in case anything ever happened to Hal, but he ended up in a coma, which is where John Stewart came in.  And the story behind Guy ending up in the coma is fairly lengthy and interesting in its own right.

Needless to say, I’m going to start reading some old Green Lantern comics, which is the best compliment I can give this book.

Infinity Inc. Annual 1

While it might not seem like it based upon my reviews, I’m a huge Earth-2 fan.  I love those characters and I even love a lot of those stories.  Part of the thrill, for me, came from the fact that Earth-2 moved forward in time.  The Justice Society got older, they had kids, their kids became superheroes, etc.  Heck, Batman died — and stayed dead!  Anything could happen in the Earth-2 books because they weren’t the main DCU titles; they had no concerns about IPs or licensing.

But the quality of the two Earth-2 books being produced prior to Crisis weren’t the best.  I don’t mean to single Roy Thomas out, but he was the keeper of the Earth-2 flame at this point, mostly because Paul Levitz had walked away when the Justice Society disappeared.  The All Star Squadron was steeped in nostalgia, to the point where all those aforementioned opportunities for change were ignored.  Infinity, Inc. was supposed to be about the next generation of heroes, but that’s not really the kind of thing Thomas was known for.  He would have been in his mid-40s at this point.  A book like Infinity, Inc. should have had a brash, youthful writer.  It had a youthful penciler in McFarlane, who would certainly become brash.  The book needed more of that energy.

Roy is joined by his wife Dann, as well as McFarlane and Ron Harris on pencils, and Tony DeZuniga, Dick Giordano, Alfredo Alcala, and Richard Howell on inks.  This continues a trend of having at least half of the art in every Infinity, Inc. comic inked by a heavy handed inker, in this case DeZuniga and Alcala.  Neither does McFarlane’s pencils any justice and I’m left wondering why they were continually paired with him.

There’s really not much of a tie-in to Crisis here.  The focus of the story is on Green Lantern, the supposed father of Jade and Obsidian.  This annual not only confirms his fatherhood, but reveals who the mother was: The villainous Thorn!  The Harlequin saves the day and reveals that she’s actually the elderly Molly Mayne, who has been in love with Green lantern Alan Scott forever.  In an absolute classic scene, Harlequin lets down her illusion to show her real age, so Alan Scott removes his hair piece to show her he’s really old, too!

And they get married and live happily ever after.

Infinity Inc. #21

Following up directly after the annual, Harbinger shows up and zaps away a bunch of the heroes at the wedding reception.  In a classic “the heroes are gone, we need new heroes” story, Rick Tyler becomes the second Hour Man (in a horrible costume) and Beth Chapel becomes the second Doctor Midnight, although spelled correctly since she doesn’t have the clever name gag going on (the original was Charles McNider aka Doctor Mid-Nite).  These two would eventually join with new wildcat, Yolanda Montez, to form the next generation of Infinity, Inc., a more diverse one (although Tyler is a white dude, Chapel is black and Montez is from Mexico).

At the very least, it was a nice effort on Roy Thomas’ part to expand and diversify the cast.  Todd McFarlane continues to provide pencils that are buried under DeZuniga’s inks, but shine through in the half inked by Steve Montano.

Justice League of America #245

God bless you, comics, because this is the kind of story only you would tell.

The Justice League’s main involvement in Crisis has been Steel’s bouncing around time due to Crisis playing wacky with the laws of nature.  In this issue, Steel finds himself in the far, far, far future.  He’s taken in by a woman named Orlanda, who happens to be the daughter of long time Justice League foe, the Lord of Time.  He’s on the side of the angels (kind of) these days, but his six sons are trying to kill him and take away his chrono-cube.  Only his seventh child, his daughter, stand by his side.

Steel helps the Lord of Time, who goes back in time to stop his younger self from cloning his sons, thus erasing them from existence.  He saves Orlanda, though, and she and Steel wander off together at the end of the issue, for some implied hanky panky.

It’s a wacky story nicely told by Gerry Conway, Luke McDonnell, and Mike Machlan.

Superman #414

For the first time since Crisis started, the main Superman title gets involved.  And it’s the location for a crazy ass story.  Instead of going into great and ridiculous detail about it, let me just say that there are some aliens who want to destroy Superman, who capture him, who threaten New Krypton/Kandor, but who eventually lose because Superman is super clever.  What does all of this have to do with Crisis?

Well, apparently Superman forgot that Supergirl’s parents are alive and living on New Krypton.  This little adventure reminded him of this fact, so he flies out into space, finds Kara’s body, and brings it back to her parents (wrapped in her cape, at least).

The moment would have had more impact if it weren’t seemingly tacked on to the end.  Elliott S! Maggin, Curt Swan, and Al Williamson tell the story.  It’s sad to think we’re reaching the end of the line for Curt Swan Superman stories.

The Fury of Firestorm #42

For some reason, this week has made me really interested in going back and reading some 80s DC comics.  First it was Green Lantern, now it’s Firestorm.  I’d always thought Firestorm looked cool, particularly the later issues when his appearance radically changed.  I’ve also always thought Firehawk look really cool, so the fact that this issue was focused on her was great.

Firehawk and Wonder Girl team up to try to find Wonder Girl’s husband, but end up going back in time to fight the British.  No, really.

The art from Rafael Kayanan and the Akin & Garvey inking duo is wonderful, moody but not overbearing, full of energy, but not over the top.  It reminds me in spots of Steve Lightle via DC horror comics.  And while the story by Gerry Conway leaves a bit to be desired, the art more than makes up for it.

Next: The number of tie-ins actually goes down as we close in on the finale!

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