Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breakfastman review time special: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

This probably a one time thing. I probably won't start a comic review series in the future (I already have 2 review series running, I think I can live without 3). But, I was bored today, so I decided to write a review of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I just finished. So, bear with me.

Breakfastman review time special: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Crisis on Infinite Earths is a crossover mini-series/special event mini-series published by DC in the mid 80's. It was written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Perez, and was twelve issues long (though there were numerous series that had tie-ins to the main plot). It was also one of the most influential mini-series in the entire history of the medium. I would say that it was just as important to the industry as Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, maybe even more so. Without Crisis on Infinite Earths, there would be no Civil War, or House of M, or Zero Hour, or any number of other world shattering cross-series events. The DCU in its current state (well, at least until the reboot later this year) would be much more complex. The series itself is positively massive, with entire universes being destroyed, legions of heroes and villains duking it out across multiple realities and across time itself. Well known heroes are killed, timelines collide, and lots of crap get blown up real good. Worlds lived, worlds died, and the universe was never the same again. This is Crisis on Infinite Earths.

                                    This guy wants to kill everything because... um... evil? Yeah, that sounds right.

The series starts out with a bang: the total and ultimate destruction of both Earth 3 and the entire rest of that universe, consumed by either nothingness or antimatter (it is never made clear which). Here we meet two of the most important characters in the series: Pariah, a man who cannot die and is forever doomed to travel from world to world, watching the destruction of each, and Alexander Luthor, Jr. the son of that universes version of Lex Luthor (who is a good guy here). Pariah doesn't do much more than whine, and Alexander Luthor, Sr. puts his son in a spaceship and sends him to safety in another universe a la Superman. Immediately later we are introduced to the Monitor, a near immortal being who is trying to stop the destruction of the multiverse, and Lyla/Harbinger, who basically functions as Robin to the Monitor's Batman, short pants and everything (except she is way cooler than any Robin ever was). Lyla/Harbinger travels across both Earths 1 and 2 to collect heroes and villains to stop approaching menace. Among those heroes collected are the Blue Beetle, Earth 1's Superman, Earth 2's Superman, the current Green Lantern, Cyborg, Firstorm, Psycho Pirate (who has the stupidest name of any character in a comic book, ever), and a random assortment of no-names that nobody remembers or cares about.

                                                   Super Smash Bros. wishes it could be this epic.

Once everyone has been they are all gathered into one large room, where they fight an assortment of shadow monster-things, who scatter in fear once the Monitor finally decides to turn up. He tells everyone their universes are about to die, and he is the only one who can do anything to stop it. He breaks up everyone into 5 groups, each tasked with activating a defending a special device that, once activated, should turn back the antimatter waves that are killing all the alternate realities. Long story short, it works, and Earth's 1 and 2 are saved. It is then a race against time, with the surviving heroes and villains of both worlds trying to rescue the last 3 remaining alternate realities from destruction and find the cause of the threat. They eventually discover that the ultimate cause of the destruction is the Anti-Monitor, the anti-matter version of the Monitor, who wants to destroy the entire multiverse in order to increases his own power. Massive battles are fought to stop this fiend, with at least 3 major heroes dieing in the process, in addition to a plethora of other minor heroes and villains. Longer story short (I really am cutting a ton of story out here), they do and everyone lives happily ever after (well, most everyone).

              Yeah, the art can get rather cluttered sometimes, with everyone and their mother vying to be seen at once.

My main problem with the book is that it seems to go on for far too long. The entire thing could have done and done well in 6 issues, not 12. It just tends to stretch things out for longer than they should have. They fight and defeat the Anti-Monitor, not once, not twice, but three times before they actually put him down for good. They even have time for a cross-dimensional super-hero/villian war in between bouts! The war doesn't really even lead anywhere interesting, it just feels like a contrived reason to get everyone in the same general area so they can make up (again) and rally to fight in the 2nd to last battle. It all just feels really unnecessary and forced, like the Wolfman was told to make a 12 issues epic series that reshaped the entire DCU, but couldn't figure out how to keep it going after the Anti-Monitor was defeated the first time, so he just decided to do the same thing over again, and throw in some random cool crap to keep us entertained. You would think that the Anti-Monitor would wise up after the 2nd time he gets his ass handed to him on a platter made of fists and energy beams.

That leads me into another criticism of mine about the writing: specifically, it really isn't that good by modern standards. There is far too much exposition by the narrator, who explains things that we either already know about or can clearly see from the images presented to us. Most of the characters have no real personality beyond a couple superfluous character traits and have that curious trait that older comics often have of talking way much about things that they either are thinking of or about things we can clearly see. It really isn't up to snuff compared with all the improvement that comics have gotten in the writing department after all these years.

                                            The DCU learned the danger of nuclear power the hard way....

Despite that, the comic is still great fun. It is awesome to see dozens upon dozens of costumed heroes and villains flying around, beating the crap out of each other and the Anti-Monitors minions. Everyone, and I mean everyone is there, and the fights range across both the surviving planes of the multiverse and time itself, with one key fight taking place at the beginning of time itself. There are a number of truly fantastic moments as well. The death of one key red-garbed character is haunting and effective, with reverberations throughout the entire book, and stands as one of the most memorable things I have read in a comic yet (seriously, it is worth it just for this one part). The super-hero/villain war was just pure awesome as well, despite being useless to the overall plot, with dozens of villains and heroes fighting across multiple universes, wrecking everything in sight. It really is fun to just watch it all play out. The art is holds up as well. Perez manages to keep even the most cluttered scenes organized (which many are, cluttered that is), and you can always tell exactly what is going on even when things get frantic.

The Spectre challenging the god-like Anti-Monitor to a fight. It is official: The Spectre is the coolest thing to come from DC since Batman.


While Crisis on Infinite might not be the smartest or tightly scripted comic to come out of the 80's, it is one of the most fun. Lovers of spectacle like myself should be able to just turn off their brains for a minute and enjoy all the universe-destroying, world conquering fun.

-Breakfastman out.

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