I figured with Crisis on Infinite Earth featured as the big crossover for the Arrowverse it would be fun to revisit the comic inspiration. It’s one of my favorite comic stories so we’ll see if I can remain unbiased as I break down each issue. I’ll probably stick to cranking out two issues a week, which should put me right on track for the kickoff to the CW adaptation starting Dec. 8.
Crisis #1 starts with a literal bang as we witness the dawn of the universe, which exploded into the multiverse. Writer Marv Wolfman immediately establishes the foreboding tone with a line that “the darkness finally…screamed, as much in pain as relief.” If you missed that, page 1 ends with another ominous statement of “…And a multiverse that should have been one, became many.” That’s a pretty clear mission statement and a goal that would actually be so much more than hype.
It doesn’t take Wolfman long to start setting things in action in a terribly tragic fashion as we watch Pariah arrive on an Earth getting wiped out in a wave of anti-matter. One of the reasons George Perez is such a master artist storyteller is evident in this splash page. We don’t know any of these people but Perez conveys the fear and panic of these regular people getting blinked out of existence. Pariah makes it clear this is not a new phenomenon as he’s witnessed enough Earth deaths that he’d rather get blinked out now instead of being forced to watch any more.
He doesn’t get his wish as he’s transported to Earth-3 where he watches the end of Earth-3. Wolfman and Perez spend more time here to really show the weight of this threat as the Crime Syndicate with evil doppelgangers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash are powerless to save their world. If the evil Justice League gets taken out with no problem, who can stop this wave of anti-matter?
Maybe the answer lies in the baby rocketed off from his dying world as his homeworld gets destroyed? The symbolism of Alexander Luthor III getting a Superman-like origin is a big tell for the importance of the character and his role in Crisis.
With yet another world taken off the board, the shadowy Monitor sends his associate Harbinger to began recruiting heroes and villains from across the Multiverse. Wolfman immediately answers readers’ biggest question of why not assemble all the Supermans and Wonder Womans, etc. to deal with the threat as The Monitor explains the mix of heroes and villains is more essential than power.
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This explains to some degree why Harbinger’s recruits aren’t the obvious heavy hitters. With a Multiverse at stake King Solivar, Dawnstar, Firebrand and Blue Beetle hardly seem like the top tier characters to fight the threat. It’s that approach that gives Crisis more depth than most event books. All of the characters are presented as important and it’s not just a matter of pointing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League/Society at the threat and calling it a day.
After watching decades of superhero movies it’s hard not to view Crisis through a cinematic lens and hear the changing soundtrack as Harbinger begins recruiting. Perez is so good at quickly immersing readers into each environment from the 1940s with Firebrand to Solivar in Gorilla City and the frozen Atlantis to recruit Arion or the 31st Century. It feels like a big epic moment right away. But the darkness is always just around the corner with shadows observing Harbinger’s actions.
Perez makes the big assembled heroes and villain scene feel majestic as they take in The Monitor’s spaceship and the diverse cast around them. There’s representation from multiple Earths from the 1940s Earth where the All-Star Squadron and Justice Society are in the midst of World War II, the modern Earth-1 with John Stewart as Green Lantern, Firestorm & Killer Frost, Cyborg and Geo-Force and Blue Beetle’s Earth-4.
While some modern writers can’t properly get the established voices of a half dozen characters, Wolfman’s command of how the characters speak from their phrasing to demeanor is so impressive.
Issue 1’s big action sequence pits the gathered heroes and villains against a swarm of shadows seemingly impervious to their powers. This was a savvy move by Wolfman as the characters already seem overmatched. We’ve already seen at least two worlds get wiped out and now the heroes and villains’ powers are worthless. Perez’s art makes it easy to fill in the action gaps between the panels and he constantly changes perspectives to provide dynamic shots of the action.
Against the darkness of these mysterious shadow warriors the only solution is the light, in this case provided by The Monitor who makes his official full page debut. It’s a big moment that had been a year in the making and it has the desired impact of presenting The Monitor as a game changer even as he’s already foretold his death.
Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 establishes the deaths of multiple Earths, removes a quartet of major villains off the board and assembles the most unique mix of heroes and villains to tangle a threat unlike any before in it the DC Universe.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Comics