The end of issue #2 suggested a slight glimmer of hope that The Monitor would be able to stop the chaos spreading across The Multiverse. That officially ends with this issue as basically everything that could go wrong goes horribly wrong as his plans unravel and all hope seems lost.
Initially the wave of anti-matter was limited to destroying one Earth at a time. Now it’s wiping out different worlds and different time periods simultaneously.
Last issue, writer Marv Wolfman went with the slow burn approach as he was still setting characters and pieces in motion. There were enough unanswered questions that there was little reason to suggest this wouldn’t be more of the same. That definitely wasn’t the case as Wolfman revealed the full scope of Crisis for the first time as various A-list characters were powerless to stop the destruction.
It starts with Earth-1 in the future where The Flash has relocated after his trial. This era has already been under siege by the Crisis warning signs of red skies and nature gone wild, but now the white wall of anti-matter is devouring everything. Flash escapes by vibrating back to the present day 1985 where the Teen Titans, The Outsiders, Batman and Superman are trying to help civilians as the anti-matter advances.
This is a powerful scene on multiple levels from Starfire futilely trying to stop the anti-matter, Nightwing forced to watch on as Wonder Girl nearly has a building fall on her and Katana questioning what she can do against this surging death. But none are stronger than Batman’s reaction to Flash appearing. Seeing Batman stammer and desperate to prevent his friend from wasting away before him again is a gut punch I wasn’t expecting so early in the series. And Jericho stops Batman from reaching out to pull Flash away forcing all the heroes to watch Flash beg for their help before getting ripped apart again.
Artist George Perez will top this scene, but three issues in, this is a haunting sequence that has the intended emotional impact.
That would be enough, but Wolfman is just getting started as he turns to other time periods where the World War II era characters like Sgt. Rock, Jeb Stuart (yeah, it’s weird seeing a hero with a Confederate flag attached to his tank now) and The Losers battle Nazis while Geo-Force, Doctor Polaris and Blue Beetle try and protect The Monitor’s tower. It’s here that we see the true danger of the shadow creatures left uncheck as they attack and disintegrate The Losers and some of Easy Company.
The Monitor has little time for ineffective members of his advanced group and teleports Blue Beetle and Solivar back to their respective time frames when they get injured in their respective battles. Solivar’s removal from the playing field packs some added drama as Kamandi had quickly bonded with him and is devastated that he lost another friend. In two pages, Wolfman accomplishes emotional stakes it takes modern writers seven issues to come close to in most occasions.
But that’s not all. Next is a trip to 1879 where Western DC characters Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, Nighthawk, Ke-Woh-No-Tay and Johnny Thunder find The Monitor’s tower and meet Cyborg, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Firebrand and Psimon. Green Lantern doesn’t know of the attack against the Guardians, but his de-powered ring reveals he might not be a factor any longer. Nighthawk tries to get aid only to watch his town get decimated by the anti-matter before dying himself.
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Next, Wolfman turns to the 30th Century where the Legion of Super Heroes also is failing to stop the anti-matter wave. Dream Girl is confused where her powers didn’t warn her while Kid Psycho suffers the fate Wolfman teased with Wonder Girl as a collapsed building knocks him out and he’s wiped out by the anti-matter wave.
Even in an issue with a lot of action and happenings, Wolfman sets up some future subplots like the concerned Braniac realizing the scope of the Crisis and seeking out the one ally he trusts, Lex Luthor, to help. This is an interesting subplot as it’s the first time a character outside of The Monitor has enough of an idea of what’s happening to take significant action to stop it.
After clearly establishing it over the first three issues, Wolfman finally pulls the plug on Harbinger’s heel turn as she tells The Monitor he’s about to die. Harbinger’s new master wants her to kill Alexander Luthor before he becomes a threat to him, but he’s more focused on her killing The Monitor.
This issue is filled with so many memorable moments and the rapid switches from one era to another sells the stakes, but it wouldn’t resonate nearly the same without Perez’s art. Some artists like Bryan Hitch or Jim Lee could capture the widespread, blockbuster style of the chaos while others like Kevin Maguire and Ivan Reis would shine with character expression, but no one could so beautifully marry both elements so spectacularly. There’s so many opportunities to shortcut scenes here, but Perez dutifully fills out every panel to give it a real sense of life.
Colorist Anthony Tollin does some beautiful work with the snowy 1940s setting, the iconic red skies and lightning and the blending of the anti-matter wave. This color work is very well done.
The slow burn of Crisis is officially over with a very action packed issue full of some early emotional moments.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Comics