Ray Sonne: Before we talk about Crisis on Infinite Earths, let’s talk about film.
You ever wonder how Christopher Nolan films keep on getting nominated for stuff like Best Sound Editing even when special effect noises in his movies drown out the dialogue? Or how people said “not much happened” in Mad Max: Fury Road? Perhaps this is something that film critics often talk amongst themselves about, but I’ve mostly seen it from Film Critic Hulk: laymen have this misunderstanding that quantity = quality in films.
There’s so much noise you can’t help but notice it? Must be some great noisemaking then (this is obviously not true when the sound interrupts the film’s utility)! There wasn’t a lot of plot points in a movie? Not a lot happened then (meanwhile, almost everything happened in the Mad Max action sequences when most of Hollywood just uses action scenes as meaningless fireworks displays and 7 out of 8 of the main characters in Fury Road get a full character arc)!
I think this mistake, that quantity equals quality, is exactly what is happening in this comic. Yeah, we’re back, folks: this is your latest installment of Crisis of Infinite Drunks © Daniel Elkin 2015.
After taking up 8 pages to re-explain the plot we already knew (I am done excusing this as periodical style catching-up, there is no way readers forgot all 4 previous issues and what they contained in one month. This is some blatant waste of real estate), there’s a whole lotta assumption that the reader cares about stuff that they…may not. Why the hell are all these people loitering around, gawping at the prehistoric humans and dinosaurs and future people crashing into their universes instead of getting to the core of the problem? Why are readers supposed to care what Red Tornado turns into when it was made clear prior that nobody knew what he was in the first place? Why is there no Supergirl except in one panel?!
It’s like Wolfman and Perez accidentally stumbled upon the heart of their story last issue, but still think that the veins are what people want to see. So the numerous veins they follow, forgetting that veins need hearts in order to pump blood in the right direction. Implying that there is any direction in this issue at all is generous of me.
Original readers of Crisis claim that this comic is incredible, yet I see nothing convincing me of that fact other than that Perez’s three-dimensional tornado in that one panel. It’s all just a bunch of people that are barely connected to one another punching things. That’s it. They don’t know what’s going on, they don’t know what they do, so they physically react. The appearance of the Freedom Fighters at the end of this issue is pretty appropriate, actually, because if being dumb and aimlessly hitting things isn’t the most American expression possible, I don’t know what is.
It’s extensive, it’s ridiculous, I don’t need to see all these people doing the same things they did the previous four issues. Stop it, DC. Go back and actually create a story as you did last issue instead of the confused bumbling you tortured us with for three issues.
If the entirety, instead of the best of the best, of Crisis is considered to be the core of superheroics, which I kind of suspect is precisely what the creative team believes, no wonder I’ve been sinking more and more into parodies and deconstructions lately.
Oh, and nice new look, The Monitor. NOT.
(I’m also regressing, apparently. Must be all the wine.)
Daniel Elkin: More like all that whine, amirite?
But seriously, Sonne, I feel your pain. While issue 4 of Crisis on Infinite Earths was like a healing scab suffused with idealistic balms and salves, issue 5 has savagely ripped that fucker off and all the pus and blood and stink from the festering wound of ridiculous super heroic posturing and pontificating is starting to ooze all over the place again, isn’t it?
Do you think we could get Wolfman and Perez to cover our bar bill when this is all done? Seriously. How can anyone remain sober after reading this crap?
To top it all off, I’m a middle-aged man, and all this drinking is becoming unseemly. The neighbors are starting to talk. My girlfriend is no longer finding the humor in my late night screaming, “Silence, Psycho-Pirate! I have questions of my own!”
Still. Focus. Ahem.
I want to pick up on your initial point above, Sonne, that of “quantity equals quality”. You’re too young to know it, but this was sort of the battle cry of the go-go 80s. There we were, reeling from all the tacky and weird shit we consumed as a culture in the 70s, when finally our nation discovered Reagan and cocaine and the fact that indeed the clothes made the man and the Soviets still wanted to annihilate us and greed was good and anyone who wasn’t making it in America was simply a lazy fucker and why have two when you can have four and big hair and shoulder pads and consume or be consumed. USA! USA!
When we would make beer runs in the mid-80s, we would always be hollering “quantity over quality!”, because there was drinking to do, the end justified the means, and we had to wash down that plastic taste in our mouths from licking all the corporate assholes we could as we tried to climb that brushed chrome ladder of success (which totally falls apart as a metaphor, but whatever… look at how many words I was able to squeeze out of it).
So yea, of course Wolfman and Perez had to shove as much foul calf and pony meat as they could into this thin skinned casing because not only was that the zeitgeist, and how else are you going make sure that your fictional world will NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN unless you cover us all in all of your spittle as you scream it in our faces over and over again.
And I so want to spend time giggling and talking about the Monitor’s “Netherverse” or Alex Luthor’s “positive matter and negative matter in one” or the “Death Star Squared” or the political moralizing of Red Star as he hurls a boulder at the head of a dinosaur or the fact that whichever goddamned caped face it was says, “This is nuts with a capital N”, but I’m worried that such puerile tittering will only make me lose even more credibility than I already have just agreeing to keep writing about this pompous and pedantic Crisis hero porn.
So I’ll refrain.
Instead, I’ll turn my attention to what you wrote about how these heroes have returned to their previous incarnation of reactionary face-punchers who are more about pushing things down than building them up. Gone again is that brief but beautiful heroic ideal so poetically expressed by Supergirl last issue. Once again we have gawping and gawking and shooting blasts out of their hands while the plot of this thing inches slightly forward, sort of like that drunk guy in line at the post office who is on the verge of passing out, but instead reorients his center of gravity by crunching the toes of his left foot in his loafers. He’s not getting anywhere. He’s delaying his eventual fall. Nothing pretty will come of it.
And characterization? In Crisis #5 who’s got time for that? There’s a huge fucking barn to paint, so Wolfman needs industrial sized rollers to lay it on thick. He’ll leave the detail work to those fucking punks who are jealous of his bank roll and his Eggshell with Romalian type business cards.
You only keep the carpet white by doing your blood letting in the other room after all.
I don’t care what the old-timers say about this series. It represents pretty much everything I hate about mainstream superhero comics.
Except for one thing…
Yeah… We all have our secret shames. You know, those things we love that might seem antithetical to our nature, or at least the personality we like to show to others. I’m not a proud man. I’ll admit that I like to sing along to George Michael songs and, sometimes, I have an insatiable craving for a Quarter Pounder.
Another secret shame of mine (especially given all the ranting I’ve been doing) is I like the Freedom Fighters. See, back in 2010 I was writing for another site, doing an early incarnation of what later became my Cheap Thrills column here on Comics Bulletin. In March of that year, I pulled Freedom Fighters #9 out of the bargain bin.
Reading back over that review, I am in awe of my enthusiasm — it’s gushing, over-the-top. Somehow this simple superhero comic yanked out all sorts of positive vibes and joyous yawps! Towards the end of my review, I wrote:
Like I said earlier, I love this comic. The fight scenes, the cheesy dialogue, the cliffhanger ending, the unresolved everything, the unexplained unexplainable, the fanboy shout-out – what’s not to love? This is a comic the way I remember comics back when I was a boy. This sort of story line, action, possibilities – this is what drew me in and I have enough of that boy buried deep in my scruff to still enjoy the hell out of it.
How’s that for gushing? I still have that kind of fervor lurking in my loins. Shouldn’t I be saying things like this about “Oh my god the best thing ever” Crisis? Isn’t the fact that I’m not saying it indicative of the failures of Wolfman and Perez more so than the supposed “cynicism” Zack Davisson keeps telling me I am full of? Shows what he knows, I guess.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
So bring on the gin, keep my nails cut short so as not to claw out my own eyes, and let’s reverse vomit our way through the rest of this Crisis.
If we can…
(And the next issue better have the Human Bomb punching somebody in the face or I will have such hateful things to say.)
Michael Bettendorf: “Why am I here? What’s going on? I want answers.”
Very wise words from the Flash. As I sit here, enjoying some whiskey neat, I’m finding myself asking the very same questions. Why am I here? How did you guys get me to join in on this new timer’s read of this ever-loved Crisis on Infinite Earths? I mean, new comic experiences, obviously.
The recap was a bit much, but to be that guy and play devil’s advocate, from a storytelling standpoint…*sigh*…I suppose it makes a small amount of sense. The Monitor was killed, +/- Luthor is there and now they have to explain to the rest of the gang the most common question in this comic, “What the hell is going on?”
So Wolfman did.
Sure it was a lot of real estate and could have been done in fewer panels…meh. I guess. Meh. That’s how I feel about it. I’m more or less, just not surprised at all. Crisis has been wordy so why not display more of it?
So, universes becoming one, all must band together. Is that all that we’re supposed to take away from this? I want issue 4 back, where we talked about true heroism.
“Perhaps if we survive the politicians will remember the cooperation.”
On the nose, much?
I’m not going to get all Elkoquent (Rage induced Elkin speech that is beautifully eloquent – in case you needed to know) about this issue because I don’t feel the fury, really. I just, feel nothing, like the Red Tornado, presumably, because he’s “Just a robot.” As I mentioned earlier this issue has just been meh.
In the very beginning of the issue it’s mentioned that everything has positive and negative matter, so the Monitor’s “big reveal” at the end warranted a response akin to “Oh…neat, I guess?”
Like the very end states, “…and many, many more!” The quantity is taking over the quality. More universes, more big names fighting the mysterious, but not so mysterious duality of the Monitor. The quality of issue #4 where true heroism is played with was where, as you said Sonne, the heart of the story lies, not some lame “oh we just need to cooperate” sort of message. That’s a pretty simplistic message to send and it feels lazy. I want issue #4 Wolfman back!
Elkin: I just want an end to this Crisis!
Or more booze…
Kristopher Reavely: One of the things I’ve noticed over the reviewing of Crisis is that kids back in the ’80s must have had awesome attention spans. The sheer number of words that Wolfman throws into every single panel is enormous. In comparison to a lot of other books out there right now, including the recent Convergence crossover, I think Crisis must hold the record for total dialogue. George Perez doesn’t slack in the “total number of panels per page” department either.
Looking back on the harshness we’ve all dished out onto Crisis 1-4 I think I’m really starting to get the idea of what the underlying tale was supposed to be. To me it seems like Wolfman was attempting to demonstrate just how horrible the DC Universe was for clutter with characters upon characters all just taking up space and destroying any form of continuity. By Issue #5 I wanted all of the DC Universe to crumble, I want all the useless characters to fall to the wayside and I want a new start. Unlike the classic readers of this tale I’m fortunate enough to know that I’m going to get what I want, and not just once. DC has always had issues with continuity, even in modern times they can’t seem to get a grip on things, but I’m ranting.
Much of Crisis #5 is enjoyable. I have a few issues with the constant need for cliffhangers to be instantly resolved. We could have gone a little bit without knowing that Harbinger’s murder of the Monitor was actually a part of the big plan. Lois Lane could show a little more shock at the arrival of 2 Supermen, or the characters arriving from multiple timelines. The story is also still relying a lot on the reader to know all of these hundreds of characters and their various roles in the infinite worlds that make up the DC universe. These are all minor annoyances to me.
In truth this story is starting to shape up, maybe it’s our nature as readers of the modern age to look back on stories of old with disdain, maybe it’s our attention span that wouldn’t allow for a series like Crisis on Infinite Earths to exist in today’s age of instant gratification. Yes the costumes look hokey, and yes the dialogue with its “oh gosh” comments is dated, but put that all aside and we might be reading one of the best DC crossovers of all time. Then again I did just review Convergence and a punch in the face would seem awesome in comparison.
Sonne: Reavely, I think you’ve hit exactly what’s going on here with the sheer clutter of this book and what angle the creative team was working on. If one thing is for certain, I understand now why this event had to happen.
I started reading DC after Infinite Crisis was published so most of many of my books, and all of my ongoings upon the beginning of the New 52, took place inside the DC Multiverse. The Multiverse itself has even become one of DC’s biggest selling points as its definition is one of the few things that separates DC from Marvel, the latter of which has a Multiverse, but not a whole guidebook on it.
The way I used to see Crisis on Infinite Earths: you have a million universes with an unending range of opportunities for stories and you squander it by combining it all into one universe?
Uh, well, yeah, past me. They had to do it. There were TOO MANY DAMN CHARACTERS and TOO MANY DAMN STORIES and what better way to show it than have them clog one giant story together? Multiversity recently organized the first current Multiverse by writing up a guide for the 52 universes it contains, but oh my god. Who could have hoped to separate, define, and organize the masses upon masses we see here?
No one did and that’s why DC took all their important characters and pushed them into one world. It probably seemed like the easiest way to handle this mess. A limiting way too, yes, but it was only temporary. The story itself doesn’t quite convey the supposed glory of DC’s history, but that’s the kind of PR you put out when you’re promoting anything anyway. Crisis never had to be good, it just had to occur at all and if we’re stuck dying of alcohol poisoning as we read it, so be it.
Then again…it’s only convincing if you think canon is that important. Your mileage may vary.