CRISIS OF INFINITE GOBBLEDYGOOK or How I changed my perspective and ended up loving Crisis #6
DANIEL ELKIN: Oh my fucking god, this Crisis just keeps getting worse and worse and worse to the point now where I read issue 6 and literally had no idea what the hell happened in the entire thing.
Did something happen? I mean, really… Did anything happen in this issue?
You would think that issue six of a twelve issue series would, by its very nature, contain some sort of climactic moment from which all the remaining issues would serve as denouement. But this issue is so convoluted and bloated and full of itself that not only does it fail as some sort of climax, but it fails as a narrative as much as it fails to make sense.
Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 is seemingly on a pace to explode from its own frenzy. It’s so full of scene jumps and random characters and explosions and face punches and so many fucking words that how the hell is anyone supposed to follow this thing? I kept wanting to scream “STOP!” as every fourth panel took us to a new set of characters either punching each other or sulking around or mouthing inane dialogue or filling the frame with their flexing.
AND, I might add, the Human Bomb never punches ANYONE! So Fuck You, Marv Wolfman!
I was really about to light this shit on fire in order to warm my balls while I pissed on it (which, I realize, wouldn’t actually work, but I’m dabbling in metaphor so get off my back), when Comics Bulletin Grand Poobah Jason Sacks said to me, “Think of it as an exercise in automatic writing.”
An exercise in automatic writing?
It was a moment of satori for me.
My friends, all this time I’ve been looking at Crisis on Infinite Earths from the wrong perspective. Up until now, I’ve been drunkenly reading it as a failure of traditional narrative and character exploration. I’ve been bewildered by why fanboys like Zack Davisson have been fawning over this obviously flawed and misguided attempt at some sort of epic poem (featuring superheroes no less). I’ve been questioning whether or not I am so out of touch with the mainstream that, in essence, I’ve become the cranky old man of Comics Bulletin.
But then Sacks set me straight.
As Cassius says in Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”
All it takes is a change in perspective, a reading through a different lens as it were, for everything to fall in place.
I replied to Sacks something to the tune of, “Wait — if I think of it as some sort of Brion Gysin/William Burroughs cut up technique experimental writing… If I listened to it as if it were John Vanderslice doing a cover of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs or Camper Van Beethoven doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk then Crisis on Infinite Earths is actually a beautiful work of art, a deconstruction of the form, and a commentary on the bloated and out-dated nature of superheroics in the age of Rambo and Reagan. It’s as if Wolfman and Perez are using a twelve issue maxi-series in order to replicate the effects of ambient electronic trance music where the audience is pummeled with a cacophony of disparate sound purposefully designed to challenge the human being’s ability to find patterns and meaning in an attempt to bring about a shift in consciousness and a new understanding of the universe.
It all makes sense suddenly, doesn’t it?
Crisis #6 is the apex of this intent in comic book form. Once you no longer feel obligated to “understand” the “story” or the “characters”, but rather just let the increasingly frenetic panels wash over you like a multi-colored rainstorm pissed out by a benevolent and omnipotent being who only wants you to be happy, then the whole thing becomes beautiful, profound, and joyous.
It’s better than gin. It’s even better than acid. This shit is powerful.
And if you read it pacing around your living room then you really start to fly…
MARK STACK: Boy, you are not kidding about the “automatic writing” with this issue. I don’t know why Marv Wolfman should be getting a writer’s credit on this issue when it so clearly writes itself. Heroes show up on different Earths and get into fights with each Earth’s native heroes since they are being mind-controlled by the exquisitely named Psycho Pirate.
This issue is primarily a series of redundant fight scenes that unfold in the most obligatory manner imaginable. Maybe that’s why Wolfman felt the need to over-write the dialog and captions in this issue; to compensate for sticking George Perez with the lion’s share of the work.
I should note that this is the first and only issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths that I’ve read so far. I saw how much fun these dudes were having and said, “Hey now, that looks like fun.”
I’ve known of Crisis ever since I began reading DC Comics but I’ve avoided every book with the word in the title because an exercise in rejiggering continuity does not sound like a fun read outside of a dedicated Wikipedia page. Heck, I read all of Hickman’s Avengers books and it’s my understanding that they’re practically the same thing.
But I jumped in here at issue six anyway to find a book that is surprisingly coherent if only because it seems to lack any discernible ambition. No characters stand out aside from the racially insensitive Judo-Master. No events demand to be remembered. This is just killing time because a publisher solicited a twelve issue series without twelve issues of story.
When I read older comics, I usually do my best to acknowledge that the creators were doing their best with the storytelling tools they had at the time and that the comic book format has been constantly evolving. I forgave the bad layouts and the awkward intercutting between scenes (even though only a year later Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli would push the technique forward into the modern era with the masterful Daredevil: Born Again). What won’t I forgive? Bad lettering.
John Costanza, the book’s credited letterer, does a bad job here. He’s not helped at all by Marv Wolfman’s pathological need to cover up his more capable partner George Perez’s contributions with words that too often restate the things that the reader should be able to see. I sometimes had difficulty telling which word balloons were supposed to read first as the usual tell-tale signs led me astray.
The final page of this issue really stuck in my craw as poorly crafted. The way balloons are placed in the second panels pulls the eye down to the book’s fourth and final panel, skipping over the third panel completely.
So readers are forced to either interrupt the flow of the balloons by reading the page in sequence or read the “climactic” final panel and circle back to the third one to create a less satisfactory ending note.
I should not be noticing lettering! But that’s what this book has done to me.
Michael Bettendorf: Ya know, it feels like we’re all at a family reunion that none of us wants to be at. Sonne and I are the older, cynical cousins that get along. Elkin, you’re the uncle that sneaks booze to us and has been since we were sixteen. Stack, you’re the cousin that arrived late to the reunion because you’ve been stuck in the hotel, watching shotty TV while your parents were out with the other adults. Kristopher, you’ve joined in because some old grudge with the other adults and figure, “why the hell not?”
And now we’re all here, standing on the sidelines, watching this thing that sometimes we can’t help to enjoy, but mostly don’t. Like a lot of family functions, a lot of the meat and heart aren’t noticed until it’s all over. You find the turkey baster after the bird has been cooked. Your dad finds the good beer he left in the trunk of the car so you’ve been drinking Schlitz all weekend. Everyone else is running around asking the same damn questions… “Why?” and “What’s happening?”
No one knows the answer until it’s all said and done and everyone is miles away from the dreaded place.
That’s Crisis for me. There is a lot going on, but I don’t think I’ll fully get it or understand until I’m all the way through and we’ve beaten it to death like a Johnny Wu villain.
All in all, this issue read pretty easily for me in terms of plot. Of course, there is the mass amounts of text, smooshed into every useable (and unusable) space of the panels…overstating everything, telling us what would be better off shown.
So they’ve rescued a couple more Earths. Cool. There’re random scenes for the sake of having more fights and conflict on Earths we don’t really know or care about. Cool. Harbinger saves the day and loses her powers. Neat. Psycho Pirate FINALLY get’s to use his powers and then… “boo-hoo it’s too much to handle.” Pariah gets called away AGAIN to go witness more anguish…
Crisis, you’re too much to handle.
Automatic writing exercise, eh. Sure I suppose. It is pretty much the continuation of a self-contained series that’s only purpose is to wreck stuff so DC can start over. Sure, I’ll get behind that idea.
Costanza as a bad letterer, I can almost get behind that. He made some pretty weird (bad) choices with bubble placement and sometimes the letters are so squeezed together it’s illegible. I still place the blame on Wolfman because he’s the writer AND editor. If I were Costanza I would have had some words with Wolfman…get it? More words with the wordiest wordy word spewer of the 80s. But really, if Wolfman was the writer and editor, he should have known that it was too much. Costanza was probably faced with putting balloons in nonsequential order, confusing the shit out of us or covering up more of Perez’s than he already had to.
The art in this issue is my favorite. There are a lot of cool sequences in here and loads of panel variation and he’s doing what he can…we should count how many heroes he had to draw per issue. It probably hits at least 50 per issue. Gotta hand it to the guy.
Ray Sonne: Guys, before I start on anything else, what I said about Dr. Light upon her introduction is 100% validated in this issue. “Unhand me, you dolt!” she says to Hawkman, the biggest dolt of them all. She is me. I am her. We are one. Crisis has returned to me a part of myself I didn’t know was missing.
Wolfman and crew will ultimately destroy my connection to her in how they contrasted her refusal to accept help exactly adjacent to Katana’s accepting of help AS IF ANYONE WOULD WANT HELP FROM ANY OF THESE BIMBOS, but I will enjoy her while I can oh yes I will, yes I will.
Also, page 21 was nice, too. Perez is the thread of which we are all hanging from as we read through this series.
What I had planned to declare was that I didn’t see Elkin’s point on automatic writing. But now, thinking about it further, I see it. I see it among the edge of that girl’s buttcheek in that Aquaman sequence and the chauvinistic, racist comments coming from the male “heroes.” The creative team has no idea what to do with this series to the point that the prejudices in their psyches are spilling out onto the page and they have even forgotten what genre they’re playing with.
We think we’re turned around? Wolfman and Perez are so turned around they don’t know where to go! We’re just stuck in the backseat! HEY, HEY, SOMEBODY HELP US!
Convert to nihilism, folks. Weep into your veils. Burn that page that has Lex Luthor and Brainiac. Lex Luthor doesn’t know what a Crisis is; Lex Luthor has never known our pain. Only we have truly experienced what a Crisis is all about.
Kristopher Reavely: Can anyone guess what happens every single time I get my hopes up with this story? That’s right; my dreams get crapped on by melodrama and overly detailed dialogue. Does anyone really believe that any character even a superhero, would completely define everything they are thinking into spoken word? If Alexander Luthor spent more time using his Matter/Anti Matter Energy he would have far less chance of being interrupted while doing so. Wolfman seems to feel the need to drag the words out of characters, there is no way anyone that is a teammate with Black Manta would ever actually call him Black Manta, they would shorten it to Manta, or BM. It’s like calling someone by their first and last name every single time you saw them. Issue 6 adds a new low for Wolman’s Wordy crossover, well maybe not a new low, but at least he maintains the status quo for crap.
George Perez work is still excellent, his attention to detail is the only reason I continued reading. Well that and the 5 or 12 glasses of Irish whiskey. I’m so saddened by how this series has slid back since the previous issue. I had hoped that I was correct in why it had been so poor up until now, but I was wrong. Win lose or draw we all agreed to read all 12 issues of this excrement. I just don’t know how I’m going to afford all the alcohol it takes to get through it.