Ray Sonne: Funny how this never occurred to me before this issue, but…this comic is for children, right?
It’s pre-Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. It contains zero pacing, stumbling over itself in its attempts to perpetually overexplain things. Anything that it references (except for all the inner DC Universe workings, which take whole books to read) is made deeply obvious, like the Moses Parts the Waters Biblical reference, just in case you missed it. Children don’t understand pacing and children can’t make the connections between what they are reading and older, more important works on their own. If it’s shiny, children like it, and that’s about all you need.
That’s why Crisis On Infinite Earths has rode to legacy all these years on top of people’s nostalgia–who doesn’t have an extremely biased affinity for things they associate with their childhood? Hell, part of my brain still insists that Britney Spears’s “Oops I Did It Again” is on par with Beethoven’s “Letter for Eloise.” It’s an unstoppable kind of irrationality we all carry with us.
Anyway, this double-sized issue of Crisis finally explains everything they’ve been hinting toward for the past 6 (yes, 6) issues and pushes the plot forward. By killing the only character that was ever worth anything in this series.
I can’t say that I was shocked by the death of Supergirl because Sacks told me and then afterward the cover did (I suppose at the time of its release, the cover itself must have had the shock effect–no solicitations in 1985, after all). Weirdly, I’m not as upset about it as I’d thought. At first, when I read it, I thought I felt nothing because I was on this stupid no-starch diet and my separation from bread made life meaningless. But now, it seems more likely that Crisis has dulled any scrap of enthusiasm I may have once had for it.
Seriously, the girl is throwing herself at an evil, world-destroying monster because she hears her cousin is in pain and Wolfman felt the need to caption: “But Supergirl is a hero…and her concerns are not for herself…but the one she loves.”
No fucking shit, dude. Not being able to trust George Perez to tell a story is absurd enough. Not trusting yourself to tell your own story to the point where you feel like you need to constantly repeat yourself? Why even embark on this task?
I heard this issue was meant to be heartbreaking. Yeah, it’s heartbreaking, in the sense that the last remainder of good storytelling we had is now wrapped up while we have 6 more issues to go. Plus my dear Dr. Light just went through an implausible face-heel-turn from the woman I love. I’ll miss you, my dove, you were the only one that saw things my way. <3
I’m going to go find some bread and put it in my mouth now.
Mark Stack: My heart didn’t break over Supergirl. Sure, the scene was touching if you could ignore all the words (the last page would have been beautiful had Perez been afforded the vote of confidence to handle it on his own without any nasty words to clutter things up).
My heart broke for Alan Moore. I’ve made no secret of my distaste for much of the man’s work and how I feel it has negatively shaped the last thirty years of comics. But now I find myself sympathizing with the guy. He must have felt so alone.
It feels wrong to call this a contemporary work to Watchmen and Wolfman a contemporary to Moore. They may have been working in the same medium but this is like comparing Kubrick to whoever the fuck directed Karate Kid II. One guy’s making art and the other one isn’t. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy Karate Kid II but let’s not pretend that it’s something it’s not.
Moore was just leaps and bounds ahead of most other writers. And knowing that a book like this could be both popular and critically acclaimed would drive me to drink if I were him. This isn’t pushing the medium forward. This isn’t experimenting with anything other than how much continuity dreck young readers can handle.
If Watchmen truly killed comics as they were then I’m glad because they needed to die. And I’m glad that guys like Frank Miller desecrated comics’ corpse and danced around in its skin (Editor’s Note: read Dark Knight Returns!). This is not a good comic by modern standards but I’m supposed to be looking at this with moderns eyes, right? Well, too bad. Its inadequacies have been revealed by time and, if I’m being fair, some of them would still be apparent if I could bleach my brain and approach it fresh.
The first twenty pages are an extended history lesson that absolutely failed to engage me. The heavy captions created a barrier that made it read like a history lesson rather than an intriguing revelation. Having to search the recesses of my brain for who Krona is and why we had to hear so much about him pulled me right out. The previously mentioned death of Supergirl is rendered inert by Wolfman’s captions telling me how to feel like an obtrusive score in a Lifetime movie. This is a comic with pretty neat characters and a nice sense of scale but it’s fighting against itself to the point that it’s dramatically inert.
I don’t even like Watchmen all that much but this issue made me long for the simple effectiveness of that book’s construction with every image perfectly placed and word carefully chosen. I know I sound pretty shitty, like I’m holding this book to an impossibly high standard, for saying, “It ain’t Watchmen.” But if it isn’t then why is this even worth remembering? And don’t you dare say “continuity.”
If you want to revisit what this era has to offer, pick up a book by Moore. See the way he eliminates the need for thought balloons, puts consideration into things like pacing, and treats his readers like intelligent human beings.
Sonne: Holy shit, Mark, your line about Watchmen needing to kill older comics just gave me an existential crisis (OH FUCK NOW I’M PUNNING). I’ve literally written three separate things here and have deleted them in the last 48 hours while having two separate meltdowns. Why do I like superhero comics? Do I even like superhero comics anymore? Is everything I love about superhero comics actually just a subversion of superhero comics? If Crisis #7 is considered the pinnacle of superhero comics then what does that say about people who love it? What does that say about me, who can’t figure out what it is that people cherish about it? Am I a terrible critic or is this just a part of the pattern of other people having bad taste? Am I going to die someday (oh wait I know the answer to that one)?
Usually comics that affect me only give me one meltdown. Jesus Fuck what is wrong with this abomination? Somebody take the wheel, I need to jump out.
Stack: Can you see what people like about something like All-Star Superman?
Sonne: Yes, because I like it.
Stack: That’s a pretty good, straightforward superhero comic. Executes everything Crisis tries to on a better, much more human level. Everything in Crisis gets chewed up by the cogs of the machinery, no room for actual character or human moments. Do you miss actual humanity?
Sonne: Yes. Are people just filling in humanity that’s not there?
Stack: They’re supplying it with their love of the characters and the continuity whereas All-Star could make any grown man cry with that perfect page we all love so much. Baggage.
Sonne: It’s weird, though, because I am absolutely a DC person. Well, maybe second to being a WildStorm person. Yet I am not feeling even the characters I love (Lois Lane, John Stewart) that are presented in this story because they are so misused. And that’s the problem, it’s that everything is supposed to be functional, which is ironic because this series is so disgustingly dysfunctional that we’re supposed to be impressed that this one issue managed a plot arc.
Stack: I think that’s because you’re able to separate characters you like from bad writing. Lois Lane is fundamentally a great character but you know she isn’t going to be portrayed that way all the time. Seems like you don’t fill in the gaps the way other people do because this story should stand on its own. It takes character for granted without actually delivering a whole lot.
Sonne: Which goes back to my original point in this discussion is that this comic stinks like it’s for kids. This isn’t to bag on kids, it’s just that kids are forgiving. Even if they’re reading a “bad” comic (if they even can judge it as bad, my judgment of what I read only started developing at age 10 or so) they apply previous, better issues from that same series to the bad comic so it’s part of a grand scheme of things that’s overall good. This book really does live on nostalgia because nostalgia relives that kind of forgiveness.
Daniel Elkin: Wow, you guys are such nerds.
But that’s okay. Everybody loves nerds nowadays.
Still, I do admit to feeling a certain level of “I told you so” head nodding glee when I read that Sonne is starting to go through the existential CRISIS that eventually must happen to an intelligent person who self-identifies as a superhero comic book reader. What kind of thinking man or woman reads a line like, “The inter-universal membrane is ruptured” and says to themselves, “Wow, this book is really speaking to me”?
Sometimes all it takes is a little separation from the starch.
But I’ve been on a two week vacation away from home, away from writing, away from comics, so, in a way, my first timers eyes are even fresher than ever. My clarity of vision has led me to have some pretty mixed feelings about Crisis #7.
I keep thinking that Pariah is Wolfman’s mouthpiece for the struggles he is having writing this unwieldy thing. After all, early in this issue, he says, “In the name of all justice, have I not atoned for my sins.” It’s like confession or psychoanalysis or some other deep, inward journey of the soul. Somehow Crisis must have been purgative for Wolfman. You can’t vomit up this much fetid claptrap without it being cleansing in some manner. By getting every single fucking superhero bullshit easy-bake narrative hogwash out of his gizmo in one single series, he must have then gone on to a quiet life of thoughtful musing and philosophical meditation, right? I mean, once you write something like, “Super-breath may be one of my dumber powers… but it sure comes in handy now and then!” you’ve got to have that all out of your system, right?
Hmmmm…. according to Wikipedia, after Crisis, Wolfman ended up at Disney. That makes sense. It’s the happiest place in the world after all.
There’s clues to Wolfman’s questioning his role in perpetuating these superheroic shenanigans all over the place. He has Atom (whoever the fuck he is) say, “Am I playing a game meant for young folk only?” He has Uncle Sam say in his folksy manner, “We’ve all been down an’ low. But a good man always rises.” He has Supergirl say, “There’s always hope! You can’t give up hoping. Not ever!” This isn’t a Crisis on Infinite Earths, this is a Crisis of a Waffling Wolfman!
Of course you pit positive and negative energies against each other! Of course you spew and spew dialogue in order to reach some sort of deeper truth! Of course you kill off the character who “is easy to dismiss … because she had powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men…” Of course you quote The Great Agnostic, Robert G. Ingersoll, at the end of this issue as you say your goodbyes.
The more of Crisis I read, the more sorry I feel for Marv Wolfman. The dude spent the first 40 years of his life wanting nothing else than to write superhero comics. Then, there in his middle age, he finally realized that, like you said Sonne, superheroes were for kids, and, like you (and me a few years ago), he started questioning the whole course of a life plentifully bestrewn with their ilk.
“Be true to yourself… be the best you are able to … and don’t give anything but your best.” These were the words that Supergirl took to heart to become a hero. I think Wolfman was coming to the realization that a life filled with superheroes is ultimately a futile life unlived. We reach for the ideal, only to have our hopes dashed again and again by the true nature of humanity and an uncaring and unfeeling universe devoid of any ultimate plan.
In this context, perhaps, Crisis resonates. Maybe what those who love this series really love is the mirror it holds up to themselves. Wolfman is providing them a way out, but denial is powerful, pushes back hard, and turns the mirror into a green light across the harbor towards which they unceasingly reach, firm in their orgiastic belief that one fine morning….
Michael Bettendorf: Good gracious. This is what I get for not reading this oversized issue until Friday…the day we’re supposed to post this.
So, I have some thoughts, but I need groceries and I have a few things to get done before my dad’s birthday and brother’s wedding this weekend so I’m going to make this short and sweet.
I wouldn’t call myself cold or stone-hearted or anything like that. Hell, I have a box of “good memories” in my closet. I could list numerous songs that bring this bearded man-child to tears. Some of them are metal songs. METAL. Like…songs riddled with screaming, guitar solos, sweeps, blast beats, you name it. I’m an emotional dude, but this comic did not make me feel anything but anguish for my eyes. The lettering, guys…that lettering kills me. Perez’s artwork was covered up like some jealous classmate who puts their work in front of yours because they’re jealous of your talents. Wolfman. Sure, he may have come to an existential crisis while writing this before going off to Disney (A place that makes my cynicism sour through the roof. I hate that place. Seriously…except Epcot…but anyway…).
I felt nothing for these characters and here is my reasoning.
#1 – I don’t know much about DC characters as I’ve previously stated, but even then that shouldn’t matter because…
#2 – It was Wolfman’s job to characterize them to MAKE me care. Perez did his part, but Wolfman did not. Everything was so…just overwritten, over-explained that (as you have mentioned Sonne and Stack) he had no time to characterize them because he was too busy giving us history lessons. It wasn’t personable. It was lacking humanity. It was riddled with cliche statements about what it means to be a hero…
#3 – I don’t think it’s an empathy thing. I feel like I’m a fairly compassionate and empathetic person, but it’s hard to empathize with a cardboard cutout of a character I only know a tidbit about. If I grew to know these characters, maybe I’d feel more for them.
And with that, I leave you.
Sonne: Bettendorf, I’m a super emotional/empathetic person too. Meaning, it’s actually not that hard to make me cry like a baby at a book. But nothing about this issue tugged at me. We can all just agree that whatever people who read this series while it was being published were seeing was not permanent nor universal. Or, hey, maybe we all just have exquisite taste. Either way, we still have 6 issues to go–here’s hoping we survive.
Kristopher Reavely: Wow I’m going to be the really odd man here and say something that will set me apart from everyone else.
I liked this issue.
I read the issue immediately after issue 6, I wanted to get ahead and try to actually contribute to the article. Unfortunately after reading what everyone else thinks I might come across as naive.
Here’s my review as I wrote it right after reading Issue 7 –
I’m going to say it, Issue 7 was amazing. Finally I know why the cover has been copied so many times; finally I know the big deal. This issue was not random chaos; it was well planned and well played out. Who cares that some of the logic is flawed, for example if a being is capable of destroying universes how is it possible a weekend Kryptonian can harm it.
I know that 2 out of 7 is not a great percentage but I also know that sometimes one home run can change an entire game.
Issue 7 finally tells us the story of the annoying character Pariah, hell it tells us the story of all the characters that we’ve never heard of before.
This book reminds me of why I originally got interested in comics, amazing clean art and a story about heroes fighting against impossible odds. These characters are 80’s hokie and that’s ok, and the writing is ’80s hokie as well, and that is also okay. The 80’s were a different time. If this tale was told now it would be vastly different, but in the 80’s I bet everyone felt like their heart was breaking when Supergirl died.
We are a nitpicky culture. Full of self-importance, arrogance, and very little shame, we sometimes forget that things used to be simpler. Even 25 years ago people still believed in right and wrong, and sometimes a sacrifice is needed for the greater good, while the dialogue was excessive, the concept was and still is sound.
The issue has faults, but to me I can look past them and enjoy the story, much like I used to enjoy comics when I was a kid.