Commence Ouroboros: DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 10

I didn’t buy Crisis as it was coming out.  I started buying it a year later, only because I’d discovered Who’s Who in the DC Universe and it was referenced repeatedly in every issue.  The death toll alone made it sound like the most epic story ever told.

I think I was 12 then and there was only one comic book store in my town, so I was dependent upon whatever they had in their back issue boxes.  I think I managed to find 4 out of 12 issues.  It would take me four years to actually get all of them, basically because by then I could drive and could go to other towns and other comic book stores.

But I distinctly remember the four issues I was able to find at the store in my hometown.  Crisis #10 was one of them.

And while there’s plenty to talk about with regards to what actually happens in this issue, the various characters who get attention, the splintering off of the DC magical characters, etc., the thing that struck me the most and has stuck with me ever since is the narrative technique that Wolfman and Perez suddenly decide to use.  It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and, looking back on it, has the two fold affect of being both awesome and underscoring how padded the series was.

At the bottom of every page, we got a wide panel of Harbinger recording the events of Crisis.  She covered it all and often did so in a more poignant way that much of it had been covered earlier in the series.  But that’s because we were prepared for this.  We’d lived through this story with her, and hearing her retell it gave it more emotional weight.

It’s a wonderful storytelling technique and to this day I wonder what possessed Wolfman and Perez to try it.K

Unlike Marvel, DC had been around for so long that they had literally published books in any genre imaginable and somehow decided that all those stories took place in the same universe(s).  And that’s what I loved about it.  It made no sense.  It was completely ridiculous.  But pre-Crisis DC didn’t care.  It embraced how insane it was.  That was the beauty.

So allow me to diatribe for a minute…

This is how superhero comics have failed us.  There’s a Grant Morrison quote from Supergods where he says something along the lines of adults wanting to know how Superman can fly, while children don’t care because the answer is obvious to them: it’s not real.  And I think that as a genre we went from DC to the Marvel Age to post-Crisis/Watchmen/Dark Knight to the extreme 90s and what we got was further attempts at explaining how Superman flies.  We got away from the “stop thinking about it so damn much and enjoy it.”  We got away from the pure craziness, the unfettered creativity that owed nothing to anyone.

I mean, cosmic treadmill.  Cosmic motherfucking treadmill.  It’s a treadmill that is cosmic.  What does that even mean?  Who fucking cares?  It’s a goddamn cosmic treadmill!  The Flash runs on it and ridiculous shit happens!  Enjoy the fucking ride!

Don’t get me wrong, the Marvel Age was much needed.  I am all for characters in comics.  The death of Viking in Strikeforce: Morituri #20 has stuck with me for 27 years.  I love emotional comics as much as the next guy, and that emotion comes from three dimensional characters.  I’m all for it.

But that doesn’t have to be at odds with wonder, with awe.

I love Crisis because it was big and bold and didn’t really make a ton of sense, but it didn’t care.

The Tie-Ins

We’ve got a very small month of tie-ins for Crisis #10, which is a good thing, mostly because it keeps the average quality higher than we’ve seen.

All-Star Squardon #53

Roy Thomas writes this book (with plot assistant from Dann Thomas), with pencils by Mike Clark and Arvell Jones and inks by the overpowering duo of Colletta and DeZuniga.

This is exactly the kind of comic that I think DC had in mind when they came up with Crisis.

Not only does it feature a lot of generic white people running around hitting each other, but the stakes never seem very high because it’s regularly campy.  I’m a big fan of these characters, but is the All-Star Squadron vs. the Monster Society of Evil big on anyone’s list?  Particularly with Captain Marvel no where to be found?

We do get the return of The Dummy, though, which is kind of great if only because he was last seen in 1941, and I love when comics pull out ridiculous old characters or events (this is why I love so much of Grant Morrison’s superhero work).  And the fact that Mr. Mind traveled to this earth specifically to find The Dummy after having traveled to other earths only to find actual dummies, and not one that talks on his own.

The last third of the book is actually Crisis related and jumps the gun a bit as far as that series is concerned.  While not stated, you can figure out what’s to come in the final two issues if you piece together what’s going on in the remainder of this comic.

It should be noted that Thomas seemed to be squeezing Superman in as much as you could in the last few pre-Crisis months of All-Star, which makes sense, as the Trinity were going to be off limits to him very soon.

Infinity, Inc. #22

And this issue comes even closer to give Crisis away over the course of the first 3rd of the book.  It’s nice to see the assembled heroes of Earths 1 and 2 together, though.  I’ve said on many occasions that I’m a big Earth-2 fan.  It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the other earths, it’s that two was enough for me.

The rest of this issue, which is drawn by Todd McFarlane (the first 13 pages were drawn by Mike Clark, and the whole thing was inked by Tony DeZuniga), covers the first adventure of the new Hourman and Doctor Midnight as they battle the various time disturbances happening all over the world due to Crisis.  It’s standard superhero fare, although the African American Doctor Midnight not taking great exception to the Confederate soldiers she faces feels like a cop out.

Also, Roy Thomas, have you ever actually heard someone say “in blazes?”  And who was the first comic book writer to use that phrase?  Because I would like to punish him.

Legion of Superheroes #18

Funny enough, the best Crisis tie-ins have been in the book that arguably featured the least repercussions, at least during Crisis (I’ll write a post-Crisis column that will cover one of the greatest stories in Legion histories and believe me when I tell you that you need to read it).

Scientist Rond Vidar (who ends up being an excellent character, for what it’s worth) realizes that a slew of things have happened in the universe recently, yet no one can seem to remember how those things happened.  Time and space are being mucked with!  He gets the grieving Brainiac 5 involved (see last issue) and in an attempt to fix whatever is going on, they inadvertently resurrect the Infinite Man!  A big battle ensues and the Infinite Man loses his powers, ostensibly curing Jaxon Rugarth of his crazy evil god condition.

It may not sound like much, but the fact that the Legion addresses some of the overlooked points of Crisis (wouldn’t massive changes to reality alter not just events, but people?) and yet doesn’t actually answer anything, which is a nifty trick.  And by not answering anything, it sets up the forthcoming fantastic story.

Hm.  I don’t think any of that made any sense.

Anyway, this was written by Legion writer extraordinaire, Paul Levitz, with art by the criminally underrated Greg Larocque and Larry Mahlstedt.

Superman #415

Comic book readers tend to get upset about retcons and they also tend to act like such things are a recent development.  Granted, they do seem to be more prevalent than ever, as I think every hero published by Marvel and DC has some hidden secret we never knew about.  But while perhaps not quite as common, retcons have been around for ever.

Case in point: Supergirl’s secret marriage.

Apparently, two years ago Supergirl was somehow knocked unconscious while out in space.  She’s found by an alien named Salkor, who takes her back to his home world in hopes to save her.  He does, but when she wakes up, she has no memory of who she is.  She’s still Supergirl, though, so she helps Salkor defend his planet from all sorts of problems, because the hero that she was on Earth, and falls in love with Salkor.  So they get married.

Eventually, as you probably guessed, Supergirl remembers who she is.  But then she pulls a total dick move and just leaves while Salkor is sleeping (in the bed they share, I should probably add).  No note, no nothing.  It’s like their marriage was an extended one night stand.

Salkor eventually tracks her down, but not before she dies in the Crisis.  So he breaks into the Fortress of Solitude and steals a memory device that she’d taken with her that is full of their thoughts and feelings from their time together.  Of course, Superman doesn’t know any of this, so they fight for a bit before Salkor explains his deal.

Eventually, the two team up to fight another alien with a mad on for Supergirl.  In the end, Salkor takes the memory device with him.

Kind of sad, right?  But also kind of strange.  Salkor claims they fell in love over the course of a few days — did no one notice that Supergirl was missing?  And did she wake up in the middle of the night with her memories?  She didn’t talk to anyone about that, like, holy shit, I woke up next to some dude that I married when I had amnesia!

Anyway, as retcons go, not a particularly offensive one.

This issue was written by Cary Bates with art by Curt Swan and Al Williamson, who I still think are an odd pairing, but their growing on me.

Next: Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld!  And the first volume of Wonder Woman comes to its stunning conclusion!

2 thoughts on “Commence Ouroboros: DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 10

  1. Love your reviews of COIE. One of the things I remember about this month was the Who’s Who featuring the Huntress came out. It was mentioned in the back cover that she will play a key part in the Crisis. I was wondering how she will be playing a key part with no superpowers and 2 issues remaining. Turns out her key role was to be forgotten and then killed in a less than valiant death in #12. The dark night daughter deserved better.

  2. She really did. Given all the reboots and relaunches that DC has been through since Crisis, I’m a little amazed that we still haven’t gotten an Earth-Two book that picks up where the original left off.

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