Ray Sonne: It is the 4th of July at the time of this writing and, for the record, I don’t feel as if I am living my free, independent life to the fullest by sitting inside and reading Crisis of Infinite Earths #8. I just have one thing to get out of the way:
Why in the world when creating this comic would you ever think, “Now that my characters are surrounded by a flood of fire and the very real threat of death, I need to pause in the narrative to change Firehawk’s costume?”
Everything, everything is so counterintuitive in this series. Even now that the exposition is over and the narrative is consistently bearable makes more sense doesn’t babble mindlessly, it does this weird shit. The fuck do I care that Firehawk has molecular reconstruction powers unless they’re important to the actual plot? The fuck do I care what her new costume looks like? The fuck is she changing at all because what woman in her right goddamn mind stops to change her clothes when she thinks she’s going to die??? OH RIGHT, A SEXIST STEREOTYPE WOULD!
One more question: WHY DOES FIREHAWK NEED TO RUN OUT OF THE FIRE ANYWAY WHEN SHE’S APPARENTLY MADE OF FIRE? IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE SEXIST AS ALL HELL, MARV WOLFMAN, AT LEAST TRY TO BE LOGICAL IN THE SAME SEQUENCE.
- M. G.
dr.light i need you pls return to me
(a devil literally says “eek” in the last panel of this same page) (save me)
Now that that quibble, which I’m sure most male critics and readers think is trivial or not worth mentioning (to which I say: shove it), is noted, let’s get to the infamous Barry Allen death.
My first ever major DC crossover superhero event was 2009’s Green Lantern: Blackest Night. Those who have read that event know that in the very beginning Barry Allen, newly resurrected, chats with Hal Jordan, who dies in a DC event a few years after Crisis On Infinite Earths and is resurrected a few years before Blackest Night. So Barry has never been dead to me. In fact, no single superhero or villain has ever truly died to me because superhero deaths were so thoroughly broken after 1992’s Death of Superman that we all just roll our eyes and carry on whenever we hear that whatshisface has kicked the bucket for a temporary sales boost.
I haven’t read a whole ton of Flash, but even I am Team Wally West. The majority of fans, whom, of course, DC is totally oblivious to, are Team Wally West. This is because, as much as Barry wails in the panels his goodbyes to his parents and his wife, Iris, and his other loved ones, Barry was never actually a character. While I wouldn’t mark Crisis as the first time The Flash had relevance, due to high Golden Age sales and Carmine Infantino’s still incredible 1956 costume design, it is certainly the first time Barry Allen had import. His death in Crisis gives him something equivalent in value to a personality; that is, elevation to an icon of goodness.
That being said… Aside from the assumption that most of us imagine crying out goodbyes and I love yous to the people that mean most to us in the world (in between the intrusive “fuck fuck fuck I don’t want to die” thoughts, of course) as the end nears and that those emotions don’t quite differentiate Barry from any average dude, this sequence still works. I mean, I would be one hardhearted ass if I didn’t read a story of a dude literally decaying as he runs and runs and runs through impossible pain to save the world, wouldn’t I?
So, opposed to almost every previous feeling I have had toward Crisis of Infinite Earths so far, this managed to work for me. I get now, on an emotional level, how Barry Allen’s death fits into the stories between 1986 and 2008 (the publishing year of DC event Final Crisis). It seems a very fitting situation for how the character’s legacy affected the current and future DC characters. While it is, for sure, dampened by the character’s re-emergence and probably would have worked forever if the character would have just stayed dead, dammit, this is a bit of the universal reach that everyone always told me that Crisis had had.
Universal if you’re a DC reader, anyway. All that real estate the creative team spent on so-called foreshadowing rather than Barry’s character development in the first 6 issues…I find it hard to believe that the death sequence has strong value to anyone else.
Mark Stack: I recently had the misfortune of seeing Jurassic World and have been quite dismayed at the generally positive reaction to it and its staggering box office haul. I consider myself a fairly average dude, not particularly smarter than anyone else. I enjoy a lot of popcorn movies. I fucking hated Jurassic World and want to claw my eyes and ears out whenever I read or hear someone say they thought it was a good movie or “dumb fun.”
When these big, nostalgia-based blockbuster films are released (barring a bungling of marketing the size of John Carter), they might as well be critic proof because the question of whether or not they’re good doesn’t matter to the audience. But time will not be so kind. I fully expect Jurassic World to be a footnote in conversations about Jurassic Park that may occur in twenty years. Just as cream rises to the top, shit sinks to the bottom of the collective Port-A-John that is modern blockbuster filmmaking.
Of course, that whole theory is upended by the fact that I’m currently reading Crisis on Infinite Earths because this year is a big anniversary that somehow demands to be remembered (would you have an anniversary release of Cleopatra?). Why is this book fondly remembered? Why is it still critic-proof? It could be that comic criticism just isn’t up to the standard of or as prevalent as other forms of criticism of popular media. Maybe. I know some great comics critics that I’d apply the label of high caliber to but they’re not necessarily considered prominent voices in comics the way Roger Ebert was for film.
Here’s what I think: this series is helped by a lack of critical eyes on it. Thirty years later, it’s just not going to attract the critical attention something like Watchmen does. So there’s not a lot of people actually looking back to evaluate it and the voices that may have evaluated it at the time aren’t easily found because they were in the pages of fan magazines that are pretty much lost to the current generation. This book gets by on some positive memories centered around the moments that worked.
I’ll give credit where credit is due and say that I really liked the scene of Red Tornado being put back together. Characters were acting with clear purpose, there were some nice little interactions between characters like Martian Manhunter and Firehawk, and it just kept moving. And there’s no denying how good that Flash sequence is. I actually have a fair amount of affection for Barry Allen so I found it extremely affecting even as Wolfman tried to undercut it with a few too many words.
That’s a great moment but a great moment doesn’t necessarily make a comic great.
Daniel Elkin: Great, Stack. Thanks.
Here I was all set to bloviate on my general Crisis fatigue and you had to get all get-up and stand-up in regards to comics criticism and the lack of a genuine canon of criticism in regards to these sorts of bloated and staggering corporate crossover events.
Now you’ve put me on the spot, when all I really wanted to write about in this issue was Darkseid’s use of air quotes… I really want to know more about his “certain precautions”, what it means to “cloak” instead of cloak, how his version of the “status quo” differs from mine, and what exactly is that “lesson” he means.
It’s cryptic stuff, and, by golly, I sure did want to write screeds about that.
Either that, or even take on the inclusion of a female character named Vixen — seriously — who is standing over a man she has shoved up against some console with her leg between his saying, “You’re in for the ride of your life!” — but I realize this aspect is fraught with gender politics and I’ve vowed to not enter into those debates anymore, but rather just listen to and support those who have a direct experience with such matters.
So air-quotes it was to be as A) I am a high school English teacher, so I know something about grammar and punctuation, and B) waaaaaaaaay more funny.
But now I feel robbed of this opportunity because Stack wants to raise the level of discourse and actually talk about comics criticism in general and Crisis in particular.
Okay — I’ll take this on briefly.
Stack… Dude… I know you have access to the internet. If you are actually looking for true criticism of Crisis on Infinite Earths, it’s out there if you search for it:
Begin with Andrew J. Friedenthal’s well-documented and carefully thought through (especially starting around section #16) essay, “Monitoring the Past: DC Comics’ Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Narrativization of Comic Book History”
Then, of course, there is Philip Tew’s article in Critical Engagements 3.1 A Journal of Criticism and Theory, titled “Re-Reading The DC Universe(s) of Super Heroes: Tracing the Spectacular, Malice and Sacrifice through The Crisis on Infinite Earths”
Both of these are academic papers, to be sure, and rely heavily on academic language, so they may not be what you are talking about exactly, but this stuff exists. In droves. On the internet. For everyone!
This is high level critical attention — the kind that certainly puts both my previous “Waffling Wolfman” and “Gysin/Burroughs cut-up” arguments to shame. I mean, they don’t even mention penis pylons once! But to dismiss comics criticism with a Orwellian whisk of your hand, Stack? There are some toes you step upon by doing so.
Gawd — I wish I could have just written about air quotes….
Sonne: With what measure are we stating that these other criticisms are superior if they don’t ever mention penis pylons?
Elkin: It’s a subjective measure, certainly.
Sonne: Nah, our analyses are objectively better.
Stack: Mwa-hahahaha! My plan to have other people do the work for me has worked expertly.
Elkin: Damn you and your youth, Stack!
Stack: I think there’s a point to be made about the accessibility and proliferation of such criticism at the time of Crisis’ publication as well as the present day but that’s a conversation for another time.
Elkin: As long as we include the role of criticism in the world of comics in that conversation, as THAT is a topic I’ve been committing a great deal of gray matter towards of late. I’d also like to discuss the difference between critical analysis (such as I’ve linked to above) and “criticism” and where the two intersect. As well as the benefits of that intersection.
Michael Bettendorf: “And here I thought the crisis was over…” – Green Lantern. Why must you tease us? You know there are four more issues…
And here I am, a few days late to the conversation, but being late to the conversation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I ate BBQ on the 4th and didn’t read Crisis so there is that.
Let’s see, let’s see…where to start. We already mentioned the ridiculous costume change, the air-quotes and tapped into the, “What’s the meaning of all this?” conversation [I.E. the role of comics criticism] which probably should be left to another discussion seeing as Crisis “should” be our topic today. (Like that, Elkin? We should make air-quotes a thing again.)
Let me take a sip of my “coffee” and begin.
The scene with Barry Allen was intense. You can actually see Marv giving a shit with this one. The Flash has to deal with Psycho Pirate and his constant mood swings (get it?) until he finally has to succumb to the Flash because, c’mon, Barry Allen is saving his emotion for a couple more pages. I don’t think the sequence is necessarily paced that well…mostly because it’s broken up by the Flash forcing Psycho Pirate to manipulate the baddies. Regardless, it’s the best part of this issue because it continues to send home the message that Wolfman is getting across – what it means to be a hero. It’s another death of a character immediately after the pivotal issue where Supergirl died. This has to be important and purposeful in some way, right?
Whether it’s to keep the momentum going now that we’ve moved passed mid-arc or to keep sales up or “whatever”, it’s important. I don’t know anything about Crisis, so I’m not sure if characters are going to drop like “flies” now, but I guess well have to see.
Maybe it’s just me, but I actually liked how Wolfman brought the Flash’s death full circle with some explanation to the apparently “random” appearances of the Flash earlier in the series. Granted, some good moments don’t make up for the mostly not good moments, as Stack said. There’s a lot of bad writing in Crisis and it makes me wonder what his schedule was like back then. How much of this was forced garbage because he was having his own crisis and just had to get words to the page. The overly cheesy dialogue is part of what get’s me most. “Eat Jell-O.”
To quote Elkin, “PFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTT.”
Stupid dialogue. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Then again as we mentioned a couple times ago…this is for kids, right? The first thing that came to mind was Batman and the sticky goo. I’ll be honest. Maybe it’s because I’m a product of the public school system or pop culture or having an older brother, but Jell-O was the last thing I was thinking. Couldn’t he at least have said, “Eat pudding” or something more believable? Looks like a damn penis-pylon blew up all over the page not Jell-O.
I was just about to write about the scope of this project. Tackling a bunch of universes and having to portray various places simultaneously, so the focus should be on select examples of great heroism (Supergirl, The Flash, etc) but now I’ve lost focus.
Someone please tap in.
Sonne: In regards to Green Lantern: this time John Stewart wasn’t talking in “street” dialect or whatever they were trying to do a few issues ago. He also happens to be the smartest Green Lantern so if we interpret “I thought the crisis was over” to something more like “END IT ALREADY!” his characterization is perhaps the most accurate in this series so far.
Good job, creative team. Now, go home.
Bettendorf: Perhaps, Wolfman was trying to go meta on everyone. Maybe Wolfman was creating a satire and we’re reading it all wrong. What if we’re supposed to think this is ridiculous. And Wolfman is at home thinking, “Wait, what? NO! You’re not getting it!”
Sonne: In that case, he’s suffered the last thirty years of comic book fans like the Oldtimers not getting it. If that Firehawk sequence hadn’t happened this issue, I might say “poor Wolfman.” Alas, I have no sympathy for men who think that women are so image-obsessed that we can’t wait until after being lit on fire to go clothes shopping.
Alright, see you all next time for “crisis of infinite better things to read.”