This is the big one – the story that took Crisis from an interesting concept to one of the most pivotal stories in comics history. It’s also features one of the more pure examples of superheroics I’ve read to this day with a final act that gets me every time I read it.
Writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez knew this was a key issue in their 12-issue maxi-series so #7 is a special double-sized issue.
First, let’s start with that cover. There’s been a handful of comic covers that may have been done in homage more than this one, but it’s easily the most emotional. The sight of a bawling Superman carrying a lifeless Supergirl with all of the heroes in the background is a striking, unforgettable image. It’s a massive spoiler for the issue, but the after so many cover fake-outs over the years there was no way Supergirl was actually going to die, right?
The first half of the issue neatly explains how Crisis came about. Pariah and Lyla lead a small forum with a representative from each of the five remaining worlds. It’s kind of funny seeing Superman, Earth-2 Superman, Uncle Sam, Captain Marvel and Blue Beetle. This would begin my real love of the character, who didn’t flinch standing side by side with some of the all-time greats. Lady Quark is there as well representing her dead universe.
Storytime begins with the tale of Oa and the Oan, Kroana, who deeply desires to learn the origins of the universe. Krona’s rash actions lead to the creation of the Multiverse as well as its opposite Anti-Matter universe. Guilt ultimately led the Oans to create The Manhunters and The Green Lantern Corps in response.
Meanwhile in the Anti-Matter universe, life was created in the form of the Ant-Matter. Wolfman crafts a great line here “And then, as if in protest to some cosmic imbalance, its doppelganger was spawned on the lifeless moon of Oa.” This was The Monitor and the two waged a lengthy battle that ended in a stalemate.
Until Pariah, a brilliant scientist on his Earth, decided he wanted to learn the secrets of creation. Like Krona, his plans end in disaster and another creation — the wave of anti-matter, which destroys his world and tips the scales for the Anti-Matter universe.
This awakens both Monitors, but the Anti-Monitor realizes his powers increase with the destruction of each world in the opposite universe and a race for The Monitor to scramble to assemble forces to stop him.
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With the five Earths merging, Lyla and Pariah assemble 16 of the Earth’s best heroes to take the fight to the Anti-Monitor. Wolfman doesn’t adequately explain why such a small group was the smart play especially in leaving behind some heavy hitters like Power Girl, Mary Marvel, Cyborg or Zatanna.
The screwy part of this, reading in hindsight, is the lack of any prominent black heroes with John Stewart incapacitated like the other Green Lanterns. At least Dr. Light is there to have some diversity. Of this small group the Legion of Super Heroes, vintage Justice League and Justice Society are the best represented with no members of the Teen Titans, Outsiders or Doom Patrol making the cut. Maybe some of them should have tagged along…
Since this is a double-sized issue, Perez gets help from two inkers in Jerry Ordway and Dick Giordano. Given the magnitude of the story and its significance, Giordano probably should have tackled the first half while Ordway handles the more memorable and eventful second half. Ordway’s inks are tighter and boost Perez’s pencils while Giordano’s inks are less involved and much looser.
The attack on the Anti-Monitor’s base gets off to a rocky start as his creatures ambush the heroes. Wolfman foreshadows this isn’t going to be the standard battle as the Earth-2 Superman is shocked to find he’s bleeding while The Ray narrowly escapes getting killed on the first salvo. Superman navigates through the initial surge just in time to find Dr. Light charging after the Anti-Monitor after he ambushes Pariah. For his intimidating presence, Wolfman gives the Anti-Monitor a bullying demeanor as he wants no part of a fair fight with the heroes. The Anti-Monitor sucker punches Superman while Dr. Light attempts to destroy the machines he’s using to bring the remaining worlds together.
Superman might be a match for the Anti-Monitor, but not without a chance to regroup. Fortunately Supergirl hears her cousin’s anguished screams and comes to the rescue. She beats the heck out of the Anti-Monitor, refusing to back down and shatters his armor. This inspires the formerly dismissive Dr. Light, but she won’t take Supergirl’s directive to take Superman out of the fray allowing for Anti-Monitor to get in one devastating cheap shot. With one final heroic moment left in her dying body, Supergirl takes Anti-Monitor through his machines to save the Earths before dying in Superman’s arms.
The Death of Superman manages to reach the same emotional gut punch told through six issues and Superboy’s death in this sequel comes close, but it’s hard to find a better DC death scene than this one. And this was before a key character died every other month so Supergirl’s death resonated in a way that was atypical and was very memorable.
Crisis had been a great read up to this point, but this was the issue that took it to another unforgettable level.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Comics