Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, & Joe Bennett (p), Andy Lanning, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, Jerry Ordway, Sean Parsons, & Art Thibert (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
As I flipped through each page of Infinite Crisis’ final issue, I found myself in a weird sort of rhythm: Open first page, “Yes”, turn page, “no”, turn page “yes”, turn page “no”, and so on. I found myself equally and alternately pleased and disappointed, until at one point it stopped being an equal balance. I feel the best way to do my feelings justice is with a page-by-page commentary.
Page 1: Sucks to be Robin. Good fallout from last issue though.
Page 2-3: It’s a merely decent splash of heroes and villains, but it looks like the colorist gave up halfway through or something.
Page 4-5: “I don’t even recognize most of them, Alex.” Neither do I, SBP, but I like what they’re doing. However, the Spectre development, or rather lack thereof, is disappointing, as is the almost throwaway mention of the new Earth’s history.
Page 6-8: Okay, two Supermen versus Doomsday, quite cool and effective.
Page 9: Not a good move to expose how random and chaotic everyone’s motivations are.
Page 10: The new Flash, maybe. Maybe not. Still, works for me.
Page 11-12: Uh. So is Zauriel dead? Yes? No? That Breach stuff sure is random. Also, when did Oa become such a great intergalactic concern? If it was always so important, wouldn’t people have, like, fixed the GL Corps a while ago?
Page 13: Conner dead, now Nightwing? Damn, it really sucks to be Robin.
Page 14-18: That splash page just doesn’t work for me. The Corps only look cool when they’re in the foreground, not behind. Is this by Bennett? What the hell is a new fill-in artist doing on the final issue? I usually like his work, but it’s not up to snuff here.
Page 19-20: Oh, is Wonder Woman part of this story? Really? And her big crucial role is to prevent something we already knew wouldn’t happen anyway? How momentous.
Page 21-28: Just not feeling it this battle. We know how it’s going to end. We know who dies and who wins. Is that all Superman stands for? Hitting things?
Page 29: Okay, that’s way too little space for so many important scenes. Very cool developments all around though, great set-up.
Page 30-31: This isn’t a satisfying payoff at all. I was complaining about the Joker’s ominous role in issue #2 for the last few issues, and he only appears now to play executioner? Lame, lame, lame. And we still don’t know why Lex was such a gaudily-dressed wimp for the last couple years.
Page 32-33: Infinite Crisis was billed as showing us what it means to be a hero in the DCU. So being a hero means giving up and taking a vacation for a year? And what the hell is up with Nightwing?!?
Page 34-35: Who’s drawing this shlock? This splash is a lot uglier than it ought to be. Perez should be on this, or the book’s main penciller, Jimenez. Yeah, there are some fun surprises, like the altered Marvel family and Batwoman, but there are some bad surprises, like deducing which of the Seven Soldiers didn’t survive. Thankfully the Martian Manhunter looks less gay, but the costume’s still bad. But wait – is that the future Starman? Whoohoo!
Page 36: An unresolved plot thread for which I’m not holding my breath.
As far as I’m concerned, this issue reverted practically everything back to the way it was pre-Identity Crisis rather than evolved things. It seems that the task of handling DC’s evolution is in the hands of 52, and that One Year Later was the entire purpose of Crisis, but Crisis itself was merely killing time. Things did get epic at parts, but the alternate earths are gone, the disappearances of Atlantis and the Amazons are practically a footnote, and the melding of earths was just an excuse to allow creators to pick and choose the DCU’s true continuity and history. How long until Superman: Birthright 2?
But credit where credit is due: DC has managed to keep me entertained up to this point, and now that this exercise in excess is out of the way, let’ s hope Infinite Crisis was just a bridge to better stories.
Plot: It’s heroes versus villains on the streets of Metropolis with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Kal-L joining in the fight. Superboy Prime forms a new plan and flies off into space with the intention of destroying the universe. It all comes down to the Green Lantern Corps, Superman and Kal-L to take Superboy down.
Commentary: There is a lot to cover in this review, so I'll waive the usual longwinded introduction where I tell you about where I was when I first read Superman (vol. 2) #81 back in 1993 or whatever cutesy lead-ins I usually foist upon you.
So, let’s get this party started.
What I enjoyed the most about this book as a whole is the fact that it tied up the remaining plot points and themes that have been running through most of DC’s books for the past year or so, especially when it comes to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. If anything can be said for this final issue is that it not only paid off what had been set up in this series but also the ending of the Villains United Special. The only thing that disappointed me about the fight in Metropolis was that it wasn’t longer. I know that there was precious little room in the issue to begin with, and that Johns and crew had a lot of ground to cover, and I appreciate the fact that the page count was bumped up to make room for everything, but in my fan heart I wanted to see more. Not more violence per se but after that final scene in Villains United, I was really looking forward to watching what had to be the ultimate battle between the heroes and villains of the DC Universe.
Despite my gluttony for people in funky costumes beating the snot out of each other, I wasn’t disappointed with the final result. The number of characters, both heroes and villains that they dragged out of the fifty cent box was staggering. The whole scene felt like the ninth issue of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths only amped up to eleven. My main question with this sequence was what does Geoff Johns and crew have against the heroes that came out of the “Bloodlines” debacle? Okay, I probably just answered my own question, but at the same time, there seemed to be a lot of those characters that assumed room temperature during the battle.
(I don’t know what was sadder: the fact that I knew they were “Bloodlines” characters or the fact that I had to dig out my set of “Bloodlines” trading cards to get the names of the heroes I didn’t remember. Of course the fact that I have the “Bloodlines” trading card set is sad in and of itself, but that is beside the point.)
There were a lot of great moments during the fight. Dan Didio wasn’t kidding about the fact that Bane was back to his back breaking ways. Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers were brought into the spotlight nicely, and even though I didn’t care for the whole L.A.W. thing, I felt bad for Peacemaker for buying it the way he did. Then I saw Wild Dog blowing away the enemy along with the new Crimson Avenger and Vigilante and had to stare at the panel for a bit to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. Wild Dog! The bastard child of the Punisher and Friday the 13th’s Jason actually got screen time. I’m impressed not because I like the character but at the fact that Johns had the guts to bring him out of obscurity.
Then came the moment I never knew I was waiting for: Superman and Kal-L versus Doomsday. This was awesome. Absolutely awesome. I know that I am seriously biased here, but watching the Earth-2 Superman trying a bit of Doomsday on was sweet. You get the sense that he enjoyed taking the monster down. The page layout on this spread was a little clunky. The shot of Superman and Superman laying out Doomsday like he was a carpet was fantastic, but the stalactite shaped panels were a bit small for my taste. Again I realize that this had more to do with space limitations, so I understand it, but I still would have liked to see the brawl in more detail.
Okay, enough about the fight. There was a plot in there, and I was rather impressed with the way Geoff Johns weaved the various battle into it. Alexander Luthor’s explanation about how the Earth and its history have changed was intriguing. It could be argued that all they did was set the clock back to before Zero Hour (where the retcon concerning Batman not knowing who killed his parents happened) and Crisis (where Wonder Woman’s first appearance was changed from before the formation of the Justice League to after Legends), but I don’t see it that way. There were so many problems with continuity getting messed around with after the original Crisis, the fact that DC has decided to do something other than putting a band-aid on a gushing wound is pretty cool. It’s not that continuity is all important to my enjoyment of a comic book, but when you follow these things for a few years, some consistency would be nice. The best part of his exposition was the teaser at the end that those changes weren’t the only ones that have occurred.
The culmination of Batman and Wonder Woman’s past sins was very well done. You know things have gone to hell if Batman is picking up a gun. Alexander was firm in his conviction regarding justice needing a shortcut and for one moment, after watching Nightwing fall, Batman almost gave into it, but he knew that Alexander was wrong. Wonder Woman’s action show that she has learned something too. You could see the fear in Alexander’s eyes as she stepped towards him unsheathing her sword. The image of her sword falling to the ground and shattering was especially powerful and gave the scene added emotional weight. Both characters realized that some mistakes were made, and while they can’t change the past, they can learn from it.
Of course, they did walk away as a pile o' rocks tumbled down onto Luthor, but I’m going to cut them some slack on that one.
Then there was Superboy Prime going further down the psycho path. It was amazing to see that he still thought he was a hero in a world full of villains. He can fry Baron Blitzkrieg, rip Charaxes in two and decide to destroy the universe so that it can start again with him as the hero, and he still doesn’t see anything wrong with that. The most disturbing part of Superboy Prime’s character is the casual nature in which he kills people. It’s as if he has done it so many times and feels so firm in his convictions that he doesn’t feel anything when he starts slaughtering people. It certainly makes for a complex character and separates him from most of the other villains that DC creates for its big cosmic throw downs.
While Batman and Wonder Woman and a pile o’ rocks took down Luthor, it was up to Superman and Kal-L to take care of the Superboy problem, and it really couldn’t have gone any other way. Kal-L needed to take part in the fight because he was the first. If any of the people who wear the S should go rogue, I think he would feel a certain responsibility to be the one to take that person down. Superman needed to be there to get some measure of justice for his Superboy. It was a truly innovative way to take care of the problem too, though you had to wonder why the Kryptonite didn’t affect Superman sooner.
The actual fight (or in Kal-L’s case the beat down) was amazing. I guess there comes a point where Superman has had enough. Geoff Johns clearly illustrates why Superman is a hero. Despite Superman’s conviction that a symbol does not a hero make, there was something poignant about the fact that he ripped the S from Superboy’s chest. It was as if he was saying that Superboy wasn't fit to wear it. Then Superman shows that he has the courage of his conviction by fighting even though he has taken a serious beating and is surrounded by Kryptonite. If there was ever a question that Superman has stepped back up to be the lead hero of the DCU, it has now been answered.
Kal-L’s death was sad but fitting since at the end of the first Crisis he and Lois got to enter what they thought would be heaven and now they are finally there. There was also some interesting sub-text that I got from the sequence. Kal-L tells Power Girl that he will always be with her even though she can’t see him and that it was never going to end. Now I could be reading a little too much into this, but it seems to me as if Geoff is saying that even though Kal-L has died and that other characters have died in the course of the series that they will always live on because of the comics that they had appeared in will always be there. It’s kind of like saying that even though changes have been made you can always go back and read the old issues if you want to. I liked this, even if I’m the only one who sees it that way.
In The End: So what did we learn from all of this? Well, aside from the obvious dislike of the “Bloodlines” characters, the fact that Wild Dog can show up in a contemporary comic book and that if you push Batman far enough, he will pull a nine on you, there were a lot of lessons learned from the final issue of Infinite Crisis.
First, while Jim Lee can pack a bunch of characters onto a cover, you still can’t beat George Perez for organized chaos. Though did anyone else notice that the Perez cover wallpaper that DC posted on their website had a coloring error? Somewhere along the way Zoom’s suit was mistakenly colored red, so it looked like Jay Garrick was punching out the Flash instead of Hunter Zolomon. I don’t know what the problem was, but it was very funky to look at.
Second, Bart Allen’s role in the issue was neat, and I really enjoyed the bit at the end where he and Jay were discussing the supposed disappearance of the Speed Force. This was a nice homage to the ending of the original Crisis where Wally and Jay were discussing Wally’s newly altered powers right down to the reference to Jay’s topping out at the speed of sound. It left the identity of the new Flash up in the air, but luckily the new series premieres soon.
Third, Guy Gardner is still one of the best Green Lanterns ever. I wonder how long Geoff has had the thin green line concept in his head. Seriously, the Green Lantern Corps, despite losing thirty-two members to Superboy, stepped up as the powerful force they are. The scene at the end with Guy and Hal was nice and showed how their relationship has changed.
Fourth, if the Joker asks to be part of something, let him in. Added to this is never impersonate Lex Luthor because both men will wait for the right moment to get back at you. The ending came out of nowhere for me, and I loved it. It was so perfect for both characters and had a twisted Shawshank Redemption quality to it where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.
Fifth, always leave the door open for a sequel. The bit at the very end with Superboy was so damn creepy. I mean I've known some pretty devout Superman fans, but never one who is willing to carve the symbol into his chest. This was a great way to close out the series, though and the drool made the character look even crazier.
All in all, I really enjoyed this series. This is the most exciting event the DC Universe has seen in well over a decade, and while there were some hiccups along the way, this was not only a really solid story but also a heck of a lot of fun too. It has been so long since I’ve been this psyched to be a comic reader and collector. The fact that it isn’t ending with the premiere of 52 on May tenth makes it all the better. Hopefully a lot of the energy and enthusiasm the creators will carry over in the next few years.
Or it could all tank and everything could change again five years from now. Either way, this was still an amazing series and worthy of being a sequel to the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Kevin T. Brown
One countdown, one day of vengeance, one interstellar war, one satellite run amok, many villains united into one society, and one crisis of infinite proportions. The end result is this issue. An issue that from page one to page thirty-six is filled with nearly everything imaginable. To just call it non-stop action would be a disservice. When last issue ended, I was left wondering how Geoff Johns was going to tie up nearly everything in one final issue. When it was announced there were to be six extra pages of story added to the issue, I figured that would be just enough. Boy, was I wrong. The unfortunate thing is that it’s only 36 pages. What we have here is a 64-page story stuffed into 36.
Johns is usually at his best when he just cuts loose. And in spots he really shines in this issue, but for the most part the story is just too unfocused, too rushed. Just when he hits a high moment, something else occurs to detract from it. He just had way too much to do in one issue, and it shows. However, some of those high moments are definitely classics-in-the-making moments. Small moments that reveal some of what makes up the new Earth. Moments such as Wonder Woman now firmly entrenched as one of the founders of the Justice League, Joe Chill revealed as being the killer of Thomas & Martha Wayne (as well as being caught by Batman), and apparently Superman was active as “Superboy” when he was younger. Then there are extreme moments such as Batman picking up a gun and nearly using it to kill, both Supermen apparently killing Doomsday, the chase for Superboy-Prime, and death of a beloved character which I will readily admit did bring a tear to my eye. However, as great as each individual moment is, it feels like just a series of such moments strung together.
The entire issue feels like Johns had a checklist he had to follow as he wrote it. In separate parts there are some great pieces there, but as a whole it’s one long frustrating drive to a conclusion. It’s extremely rushed and bursting at the seams. Each moment is lost among the other moments. The only time it feels as if there’s a chance to expand the story and slow things down a bit are the final 13 pages, especially towards the end when Diana, Bruce and Clark are discussing what to do next. But, once again, there’s a disappointment in the story in how Alex Luthor is dealt with. It’s just way too pat. But that last page was a killer way to end the story. It’s unfortunate that the first 23 pages feel as if they should have totaled twice that amount. As I said, it feels like there was a checklist that Johns was going through as he wrote this issue.
Normally, the artwork would have been enough to save the weaknesses in the story. In this case, it helped to detract from it. As a whole, the art was fairly solid, having some great moments here and there, but like the story, it too felt very rushed in spots. Also, as great as double page spreads look, having four of them in this book really hindered this story rather than help it along. Though the final double page spread featuring nearly 100 different heroes, including those who have yet to appear in the new DC Universe, did lend to the excitement of things to come.
Overall, this issue felt like an out of control freight train heading downhill on ice-covered rails. Though there were numerous positives that will have people talking about them for many years to come and redeemed the rest of the story, it wasn’t quite enough to raise it up to the standards set by previous issues. It’s just a shame that such a great series has to end in such a rushed way.
It’s all over. It’s all just beginning. While we do not have a multiverse, we do have a new Earth, with an altered past. We only have one Luthor again, and one Superman…and even one Superboy, for better or worse. We’ve been strung along for seven long months, desperate to know what happens, only to walk smack into an express train called 52 that will most certainly cause us to start thinking that even a week is too long to wait! However, I digress. On to the review of Infinite Crisis #7!
First, my page by page thoughts (a la Dan Didio):
Page 1: “Never again. It never happens again. We learn from it. We learn from them.” Hey, isn’t that what you said after Jason Todd’s death? Oh man, Tim’s lost his best friend. THAT’S the emotion we SHOULD be seeing from Superman.
Page 2-3: Umm…what’s up with the faded red background battles? Is it representing an alternate universe? Just odd depth effect?
Page 4: Well, at first I thought it was the JLI being targeted for death, but perhaps it’s really Charlton!
Page 6-7: Jerry Ordway’s the man!!
Page 9: “The only HERO in a world full of VILLAINS.” Powerful stuff. Alex really doesn’t see himself as a villain!
Page 11: Did I miss where Martian Manhunter returned from being missing?
Page 12: Welcome to Wildstorm, Breach!
Page 15-16: Great splash page, even though, if you didn’t know better , you might almost think that was Superman instead of Superboy in that armor.
Page 19: Wow, Bruce must have really been pushed to the limit, since he never uses guns. Too bad there wasn’t more time to really show him being pushed to that edge emotionally, perhaps with a flashback to Jason Todd when Superboy died. Here it just seems rather sudden.
Page 20: Great Wonder Woman scene! Diana’s back!
Page 21: More great Ordway art! The two Kals look so similar!
Page 22: Oooh! Red sun! So that’s what weakens him! (helps to know some backstory on EP Superboy, I guess).
Page 23: Wow, I didn’t know Mogo was near Krypton! Isn’t there a really old comic cover with a similar heat vision scene?
Page 24: Well….Mogo’s pretty helpless for a planet GL…of course they later thank him anyway! How about, “Hey, thanks for everything except for the part where you just sat there while E2 Supes was getting beaten into a pulp!”
Page 25: Y’know…the LAST time Hal Jordan’s arm was in a sling and Superman was close to death didn’t turn out too well for Hal or Coast City…Oh, and nice passing of the torch with Kal-L acknowledging Kal-El as Superman!
Page 26: I REALLY, REALLY did hope that E2 Supes would survive to fight alongside the JSA, but this page was well done, writing AND art.
Page 27: Don’t worry, guys! The space team will be back…at least some of them will be in 52. After all…they…umm….cut off Alex’s finger. More than someone like the Joker could accomplish….oh, wait. Interesting flipped parallel to COIE with the Flashes. Where once Wally took the torn costume and assumed the mantle, now Bart relinquishes the torn costume and gives up the mantle.
Page 28-29: Gross! Yet another character I think had potential for cool future stories, but once again the writing and art was really well done here.
Page 30: Dick sure looks good despite being shown as practically a corpse on multiple panels after being blasted by Alex, who was taken out by…the Joker.
Page 32-33: Cool page! Looks like the Marvels have aged…is that Captain Marvel in white? I thought he was stuck in the Rock of Eternity. Is that the new Batwoman? Where’s Supernova? Does this mean Boomerang’s son and Black Adam are on the side of the angels next year?
Page 34: Oooh…the inevitable setup for “This Time It’s A Really Big Crisis, Bigger Than Infinite!” 20 years down the road! Dibs on the 1-in-30 3D cover by George Perez!
I could talk about how the miniseries felt rather disjointed at times, as did the art, but everyone’s already having those discussions. I think that, past all of Dan Didio’s malarkey about this being more of a character driven story and less of a universe spanning story than COIE in an effort to keep the real story shrouded in mystery, the ultimate moral of the entire series, as stated by DC over and over again was…what it means to be a hero. I think, if nothing else, this idea was examined very closely, with Alex and EP Superboy thinking they were the heroes while Kal-El, Bruce, and Diana had to really take a fresh look at what kind of heroes they wanted to be.
Amazingly, throughout all the darkness of the past few years, the ending is brighter than it has been in a while, another DC promise, and with the OYL titles that have come out so far, the quality of writing and drawing is giving the impression that DC has a very bright future planned for us all over the course of the next year.
Plot: The worst threat any hero has ever faced is back; he’s immature, and he’s not going to take it anymore! Also, lots of plot points need to be introduced quickly, because it’s already One Year Later. So just talking about those changes is probably the most dramatic way to go.
Comments: You all know who Superboy-Prime is by now, don’t you? Last son of a vanished Earth where no one had powers and funny books were the only place heroes appeared? Spoiled child untouched by mother or woman’s love, intent on resetting the universe back to his own preferred state? Rageful psychotic who lashes out when things don’t go his way, or even when someone disagrees? He’s not the heroes’ worst nightmare. Heck, he’s got nothing on Doomsday or the Joker or even Solomon Grundy, all of whom merit mere walk-on roles in this story.
No, what he really is is Geoff Johns’ worst nightmare. He’s a Super-Fanboy, obsessed with a continuity that’s out of style and willing to hurt people to get it back.
As a threat to these heroes, however, he’s laughable. He may be able to kill Conner (clones are always so expendable in comics), but two Supermen outclass him. Johns keeps the carnage coming in the hopes that we won’t notice the wildly lurching plot. The multiple artists, who despite doing serviceable jobs don’t really fit together, augment these uneven shifts in tone; Perez and Ordway come off the best in this issue, with Jimenez making mostly brief bookend appearances.
Sexism watch: Super-Fanboy holding up an unconscious Cassie by the ponytail to declare “I don’t want anything that impostor had” is just vile. And it seems that Wonder Woman has learned her lesson about using excessive force, as she gets to talk Batman down from making a choice similar (but not really similar enough) to the one she was demonized for.
Art-wise: Perez offers his best and least busy cover yet, and does a better job of identifying his cast than in some cases inside. But the whole composition for some reason converges to a popular Perez mainstay up in the sky, who is awkwardly obliterated by the series logo. The free-for-all nature of the battle does reflect the randomness of the fights inside.
While not horrible, this concluding issue seems to be more about setting up the new status quo than any felt developments relating to character. It’s way too schematic to actually be any good. Lots of blood, little resonance.
In the end, it’s as if Superman walked into the Justice League headquarters and announced to the team, “Our continuity has become convoluted again, but a new menace has arisen that provides us with an opportunity to reorganize and neaten our continuity once again!” This series started, literally, as once-discarded characters re-emerged to announce that they were unhappy with the editorial direction the DC Universe had taken since their departure. The series ends with no radical re-imagining of the DC Universe. The multiple Earths are not back (I think). There is no Hypertime (I think). After all the blood and thunder, sturm und drang, the climactic result is: Tighter continuity.
We know this because, astonishingly, the characters tell us so. (A) Luthor: “This ‘unified’ world, this new Earth, has been altered again. There are changes within its history. Wonder Woman helped found the Justice League of America once again. Batman still fights for Gotham, even though his parents’ killer was caught, as we saw way back in Batman #47, which is now back in continuity again.” Okay, so I tacked on the last part, but if the entire thing feels like an editorial note, you get the idea.
Don’t get me wrong. Old and curmudgeonly as I may be, and as consistently as I’ve kvetched about the meta-continuity narrative, I had my fingers crossed for a rock-‘em-sock-‘em, tears-and-triumph ending. Infinite Crisis #6 had lifted my hopes and showed signs of setting up a great climax. And I had enjoyed the Villains United Infinite Crisis Special. So, I was ready to cheer and thrill at the final conflict and the final resolution. But I didn’t.
I freely admit, Johns works up some good moments. The race to Oa. The death of, well, it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was handled nicely and the art was particularly effective. I think part of the problem with giving these stories emotional punch is that, er, the fabric of reality has weakened. In other words, each time continuity gets strengthened, it gets weakened. Why? Because continuity’s strength lies in the fact that what has happened before is irrevocable. What the anti-continuity camp has never understood is that continuity does not stand in the way of good stories, continuity gives good stories impact. A Batman story only means something because we know who Batman is. We know what he’ll do and what he won’t. We’re afraid on his behalf, because we know what tools he carries and what feats he is, and is not, capable of.
So, when Judomaster dies (and if you needed a Spoiler Alert for that, I am more sorry than I could ever say), it no longer matters. Because continuity rewrites make death meaningless. They make every action revocable. And every time you change continuity in the name of strengthening it, the message you’re subliminally sending is that you’re willing to change continuity, which undercuts the intent of your change.
So, Infinite Crisis succeeds on some fronts. It has some good, effective moments. The artwork is crisp and dynamic and exciting. Some bad continuity is tossed (Batman’s confrontation with Joe Chill was too powerful for DC to have ditched) and the DC trinity is sent on its one-year odyssey, clearing the decks for 52. The story that was designed with the intent of letting DC tell good stories succeeded in every regard except one: Being, itself, a good story.
You can find Jonathan Larsen's blog, Petty Larseny, here.
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