Kyle Garret: Look, over there, it’s the Flash!
Yes, it’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 and the Flash has started popping up and being all ominous. In this issue, he appears before Batman as the Caped Crusader is taking on the Joker. This is mostly important because it means we get to see both Batman and the Joker drawn by George Pérez, which is awesome.
Zack Davisson: Pérez rocks this issue, as he always does. And I again liked the focus on minor characters. As my first DC Universe comic, I was surprised and intrigued by Anthro, the Legion, and all the rest. It gave the sense that the DCU was such a vaster place than the Marvel comics I was used to. This was a place with history, and the introduction really sets this up.
Jason Sacks: And what minor characters they are! Thirty years on, who aside from hardcore fans remembers Firebrand, Arion or Dawnstar?
KG: I love Dawnstar, Sacks, how dare you! But I’m Legion fanboy, so your point is well taken.
JS: This utterly ridiculous group of second-raters make it feel like the minor-leaguers are battling it out with these time-lost heroes — and that also increases the drama somehow. Because we don’t care if Solivar or Psycho-Pirate are killed, it makes the drama feel more real. In part that’s because George Pérez draws the hell out of Crisis #2.
Daniel Gehen: Pérez really has his work cut out in this issue, but he is up to the task. I maintain my position that no one in the 1980s could have drawn this series but him. It starts off with the world of obscure hero Anthro and a pack of woolly mammoths merge with the that of the Legion of Superheroes. Then the issue shifts to the aforementioned scene with Batman, Joker, and Flash – and then we finally get to the credits page. Essentially, these opening pages prep readers to get ready for “Wolfman and Pérez’s Wild Ride.” It’s both engaging and completely bonkers.
I do want to take a moment to talk about Anthro. First, I read this well before discovering Kamandi, and I initially thought they were the same character. Big mistake on my part, so apologies to The King. Secondly, I find it fascinating how big of a role he played in this story. Before Crisis, he had only a handful of appearances. There was a 6-issue Anthro series and two features in Showcase… and that’s pretty much it. He wouldn’t pop up again with any prominence until Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, so this is pretty much the highlight of his career.
KG: And, funny enough, Wolfman is using him the same way that Morrison did, as a book end. Anthro is ostensibly the DC character whose adventures take place the furthest in the past and, surprise surprise, we then move to the Legion, who hang out a thousand years in the future.
JS: The original Anthro series is hella wonderful, btw. I wish DC would collect it some day. Howie Post’s story of a henpecked caveman is wonderful.
KG: But the use of Anthro — and the Legion — underscores my biggest problem with this issue: it’s crazy padded. Wolfman obviously wants to showcase as many corners of the DCU as possible as a way of honoring them before they go away, but it’s a bit much. The division of the heroes (and villains) into teams that go to different times comes across as arbitrary and unnecessary. It’s as if Crisis wants to double as an event comic and a tour of a DCU that won’t be around in ten months.
DG: I’m willing to cut Wolfman a little slack on that since they were still trying to figure out event comics back then (though it could be argued that they still haven’t figured them out). But I will agree that this feels padded. The only significant development we get is Psycho Pirate’s immediate abduction by the unseen Anti-Monitor, which means that he was part of the initial recruitment for the sole reason of switching sides. Nothing surprising there. Sure, some of the “filler” material pays of later (like in Crisis #8), but it the context of this issue they contribute nothing substantial.
ZD: I honestly didn’t feel it was that padded. The characters and world are still being introduced, the table is still being set. There are lots of implications here, lots of breadcrumbs being set. And as a first timer (many years ago) I was hooked deeper by this issue. I liked the introduction of the of the “famous” characters too, like Batman, The Joker, The Flash, etc .. I knew them from the Superfriends cartoon, but this was long before superheroes were mainstream and common knowledge. And as mentioned in a previous review, this was long before you could just Wikipedia any character. These more familiar characters gave me an anchor to the story, and kept me intrigued.
Sure, it isn’t the greatest comic in the series, but it does what it is supposed to do, and does it well.
JS: It’s meant to be flash and wildness and presage future events, and in that way this issue succeeds. It’s only because we know what’s going to happen later that we see this issue as thin.
DG: When any of you first read this, did you wonder what in the hell was going on with the Flash? Kyle isn’t wrong in describing his appearance as “ominous.” That’s exactly what it is, but he’s so similar to Pariah here that to be honest, I was worried that his role would be rather redundant. In retrospect, DC clearly had a plan for the character, but at the time readers had no clue what was going on with the character. He was put on trial for murder and eventually banished to the distant future. His book was cancelled. His sidekick, Wally West, was retired because his powers were literally killing him. So when Barry pops up during a rather ordinary encounter between Batman and the Joker it just adds to the mystery in this event’s early stages.
ZD: Honestly, I knew so little about the Flash that I didn’t think much. I think that’s a hard thing for people to remember in today’s omnipresent superhero environment. The Flash popping up in a Joker/Batman encounter? For all I knew, that’s exactly what was supposed to happen. And Wally West? Kid Flash? Complete unknowns to me. I knew as much about them as I did about Anthro. It was all delicious mystery to me.
KG: Zack’s perspective is interesting to me because I don’t remember thinking it was padded when I first read oh those many years ago, yet feel like it is now. But Zack is right — it’s because I know who all these characters are now. I don’t need each of them to have a moment. I just want the plot to move forward. But that wouldn’t have been the case when I first read it.
The problem, in my mind, is that the audience would be reading it like people do now. I could be completely wrong here (and Jason Sacks probably has some insight on this), but given what Crisis was, the audience had to be people who already read DC comics.
Then again, I think the reading habits of the audience were very different. I think we were all a bit more willing to let stories play out slowly, particularly if it involved giving dozens of seemingly random characters a few panels of time.
JS: Crisis was billed as an attempt to wipe DC’s complicated continuity clean, and a perfect jumping on point for readers new to the DCU. It was intended explicitly to bring over fans who hadn’t read DC recently, and that might explain why DC made a point of highlighting these second-stringers. It was if they were saying “sure, we know you’re bored of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but look what else we have! We have talking apes and a magic guy and some black characters — look, we’re less stodgy than you thought we were! And Crisis succeeded with that, along with the post-Crisis reboots (John Byrne’s Superman was a genuine blockbuster).
But this issue is crazy silly. With its arbitrary super-hero logic that basically just makes sense because the creators say it makes sense, the comic is a wild, silly, summer movie blockbuster type ride. And I love it dearly for that.