Mark Stack: Elkin has written before about certain issues of this series acting as an example of automatic writing, a term that I mistook to mean that the comic practically writes itself. I’m still not quite sure what automatic writing is but I don’t think my application of the phrase as I thought I knew it is wrong. This book does tend to write itself and it does just so in this final issue.
To summarize, there’s a big fight against the Anti-Monitor and the various wheels of plot finally stop spinning after delivering what they promised. Doctor Light finishes her big face turn, Wally West becomes the Flash, Darkseid does “something,” etc. It all feels designed to be satisfying and, really, it should be because this is the final installment of a 12-part story and I like to leave a 12 course meal feeling satisfied. Is it satisfying? Maybe. I really couldn’t get anything out of this issue like I did with the previous one. Things happen but none of them compare to last issue’s sequence of Superman lost in the world, unmoored and unsure of his place in it.
I think we all liked the last issue because it was about something. The existential terror coming from questions of identity when one’s history is erased is a great subject for a story. It got me invested in what happened when Superman eventually went off with all the other superheroes to punch someone really hard. Last issue asked, “Who am I?” and then followed it up with, “And can I punch this guy hard enough?” The former makes the latter interesting but the latter question is all we really get in this issue and it left me at a remove from the comic I was reading.
There’s a scene that I really like conceptually but dislike in execution in a movie I never want to see again called Once Upon a Time in Mexico. In the scene, Johnny Depp’s character is eating a dish that he deems the best he’s ever had and then proceeds to kill the cook. It doesn’t really track for me that he’d kill the cook for making one dish the best he’s ever had when it’s possible that there are other dishes that the chef could have done even better. Johnny Depp should have killed the dish; if he was so sure he’d had the best it could ever be then he should have just decided to never eat it again. You can tell that I’m talking about Crisis on Infinite Earths #11, right?
If #11 was the best that the comic was ever going to be then I really should have killed the comic and just not read any more of it. Not to sound too melodramatic but I feel like I and a whole host of other people are complicit in the creation of mediocre art by continuing to buy it past the moment it has achieved the height of its potential. This isn’t a bad comic or even a mediocre one. It’s pretty good, actually, for a superhero comic written by and for people that have been reading superhero comics for their entire lives. But #11 was better and this one is an obligation.
This issue really spoke to my current dilemma regarding superhero comics: why keep reading when you know it’s not going to get better? Nothing I’ve read since has had the complete success in structure and detail as Watchmen, has defined what I love about the genre more than All-Star Superman, or been as smart, trashy fun as an issue of Nextwave. I keep watching movies because every now and then I do find something that I think is better than the previous best. Some people call Citizen Kane the greatest movie ever made and I’ve seen at least five movies this year alone that are better than it.
I worry about the ability of superhero comics to be better than they are now. I like Daredevil a lot and I wonder if there will be any superhero comics better than it released in the next five years. I don’t know if the genre and the corporate structure that it predominantly lives in can even allow them to get better. I like superhero comics, most of the comics I read have superheroes in them so I’m not some snob saying that they aren’t good or can’t be good. I just don’t know right now if they can get better or if I’m interested in reading them so much anymore when I’m not sure.
It’s the suicide dilemma. Why keep living if things aren’t going to get any better than they’ve been? Why do we keep insisting that a longer life is more valuable than a shorter one when there’s really no discernible difference that I can pick up other than being around longer and having more of the same happen? Philosophically, I’ve never found a convincing argument for continued existence; the (I think pretty good) practical reason is that it would make other people sad and that’s not something you’d want to experience if someone you loved left the party early. Critically, I can’t think of a reason for me to keep reading superhero comics or much of anything when I feel like I’m not going to see it reach new heights. It’s not their fault, it’s mine for wanting something that they aren’t selling. I keep living, though, so I’ll probably keep reading for those moments where I do enjoy something even as it completely fails to surprise me.
All that said, I really enjoyed Darkseid’s continued use of “quotation” “marks” and how they defied any sort of pattern that I tried to find. For a minute, I was convinced that all of his quotation marks were surrounding good-natured words/phrases that have no place on Apokolips but that never felt convincing. What say you all?
Ray Sonne: I managed to convince myself that the quotation marks were put into use instead of italicizing, but then a word was italicized. So I flopped over and died and now I’m a spooky ghost doomed to roam this desolate Earth, eternally grieving over my misfortune of reading several terrible examples of other people using Jack Kirby creations before taking the opportunity to read the original stories. Ooooohhhhh spooky ghooooost oooohhhhh–eh, I guess it really is time for me to take a weekend and read Fourth World. Like you, Mark, I am tiring of superhero comics so I need to recharge and go back to a time when they had the potential for meaning and creativity.
Crisis of Infinite Earths #12 is not that time. Marv Wolfman made a year-long commitment and, while he valiantly fulfilled it, I suspect that most of his energy and passion was depleted by time of this issue’s release. Superman even says it: “I’m fed up with talking.” This doesn’t stop the overwriting that occurs, but we can tell for sure this time based on the destruction, the resurrection, and the final redestruction of the Anti-Monitor that Wolfman, on some level, was determined to beat this book to its end. Can you imagine having this task, which you’re not quite sure what you’re doing with, coming up to haunt you like a persistent internet troll again and again throughout an entire year while you have other obligations? DC editors don’t write for the company at the same time anymore, dudes, Crisis might be the reason why. Crisis is the annoying, needy, screaming child that sapped Wolfman of his soul.
I swear it’s sapped a little of mine as well. However, this isn’t to say I didn’t savor some of this issue–when you read a George Perez comic, you respect the hell out of that comic. You look at the variety of angles he uses and go DAMN THOSE ANGLES, WHY DO MODERN ARTISTS ALWAYS BORE ME BY USING THE SAME !@#$ING ANGLE. And WOW THAT FACE EXPRESSES EMOTION WITHOUT THE CHARACTER’S TEETH SCARING THE SHIT OF ME, THAT’S AMAZING. And HOW DOES HE MOTION SO GOOD???
I’m going to miss Perez’s art.
Anyway, I can’t bring myself to be too negative of this finale just because Dr. Light’s character arc turned out to not upset me too much after all, plus this series led to me drinking a lot and making T-shirts. Nothing that lets me drink so much and make kooky wardrobe items can be the worst thing in the world.
Daniel Elkin: I thought we were calling Darkseid’s perplexing penchant for purposeless punctuation “air quotes”? Didn’t I write all about that before? Wasn’t there a time when it was all I wanted to write about? Who was that man? Do you think he might lend me some cash?
Before I go any further into talking about this Crisis, I want to talk a bit about OUR crisis. I’m so very proud of you guys for sticking with this.We’ve tortured our livers and our souls and I’m not sure we are better people for having been through this experience. Asking us to review twelve issues of dreck was a pretty ballsy move in the first place, Garret. Part of me has been wondering if you have some sort of endgame in mind. The other part of me worries that you are just a sadist. The last part of me suspects this constituted your own Secret War.
Well, if the latter is true, then I declare us all victors. Even if Sonne is now a ghost and Stack is having his own existential crisis, and I have a constant headache after so much punching myself in my face, we are still standing with arms akimbo and our capes gently flapping in the breeze as the world burns behind us.
The true heroes of this Crisis are us.
That being said, this final issue was the comic relief I needed after the tension wrought throughout issue eleven. Never before have I so fully felt that a “Pfffffffffftttttttttt” was the absolute and final critical response to a work. I mean… come on …. really?
The whole issue reminded me of a John Cena/Randy Orton match at SummerSlam. No matter how many RKO’s the Anti-Monitor delivers, Superman will always win the fight. Because it’s rigged that way. It’s what the audience is howling for! “Cena Sucks”? Yes, he does, but the “Let’s Go Cena” fans are the ones spending the most cash at the gate.
Say what you will about superhero comics, the truth we’ve all learned from this experience is that they are all always the same. You can dress them up however you want, but in the end it’s all about solving problems by punching them and imposing one type of moral structure upon another. It’s as predictable and as hollow as the Cena/Orton rivalry became after a while, and the awe-like entertainment it once provided either switches into feeding a habit or drugging you from having to make interesting choices.
Superheroes are the heroin of comics. Crisis just showed that your dealer has more stamina than you.
Will I ever read another superhero comic after having read all twelve issues of Crisis? Of course I will. There are times when I like not having to think about things and just smile and drool and watch things blow up all pretty in the night sky. Superheroes are comfortable in as much as they don’t really require much of us at all. They cushion our falls and provide salve to our wounds.
And this, perhaps, is why we still read them, Stack.
They do no harm other than dumbing us down (which is what we all crave anyway), and there will always be things that are far, far worse in the world. If reading a stupid superhero comic is the worst part of your day, you’ve had a pretty fucking amazing day.
So yeah, as a whole Crisis on Infinite Earths sucked. It was a fucking trainwreck and it added nothing to my life or the world. From here on out I can only look askance at someone when they begin to laud its merits. And, I gather, any “changes” that this thing tried to bring about (other than teaching the industry how to milk even more money out of its dwindling readership) have been subsequently undone as editorial choices have become even more corporatized.
But at least I got to write with you guys for 12 issues and that, for me, was worth it all in the end.
Michael Bettendorf: The heroes of Earth have banded together blah blah great powers blah blah dwarfed only by their “infinite” courage. Okay, yeah well, what did I expect? This is the epitome of superhero comics. Most of it is flashy, lots of action and as you’ve mentioned – solving problems by punching faces. Every now and then you’ll find a nugget of pure, quality comics (I.E. Supergirl’s death, issue 11 with Superman, the Flash’s death) but then again, every now and then a blind bird can build a nest.
“But it is through selflessness that any measure of greatness can be attained”
Initially, all I can think is a big solid, Elkin-like pffffffffft, but then again, I can’t disagree. It’s like a sappy Christmas movie or a Lifetime movie. It has to have that happy ending so people feel warm. And hell. Why not? We all knew what we were getting into. Most superhero comics have this type of resolution. Sure, things and times change, but all in all this is what it’s all about. I watch a Tarantino film and expect plenty of “fucks” and violence. Same sort of thing goes for Superhero comics.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Sonne. Perez’s artwork is incredible and I’ll miss viewing it on a bi-weekly basis. Perhaps it’s because this was a double-issue and there’s more to go around or maybe because it’s the final issue, but I find myself appreciating Perez more than ever. I think they could have cut this into a normal sized issue, or maybe a 32 pager, but our poor horse has been beaten far too much. So I’ll leave him alone.
I think it was said best, “We should never forget the past, but we should always look toward the future.”
That’s the only way we can make improve comics, especially superhero comics. It’s been an enlightening past few months reading this, seeing where comics were and how far we’ve come. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we all need a good pfffffffffffffffffffffft from time to time.
Kristopher Reavely: This has been an experience I won’t soon forget. I’ve felt at times overwhelmed by negativity when it comes to our modern feelings towards a comic that came from a time when I was a small child. As we’ve slung mud and crap and way too many bottles of alcohol, I’ve come to appreciate the feelings of my fellow writers. Crisis on Infinite Earths is not a good series. In fact at times it’s beyond horrible, at times it’s brilliant, but those times are very rare.
The artwork is consistently amazing, George Perez should hold his head high for visually stimulating readers while the storyline was boring them to death. Too many words to much exposition, just too much.
That being said this series changed the DC universe for years, its influence can still be felt today. Bad things can have positive reactions I guess.
It’s been an honor to share this experience with several writers who I now have way more respect for. I’m sorry if my opinion came through as naïve but sometimes I romanticize about a better time when our heroes stood for something other than just a quick punch to the jaw.
Someday I hope we can all sit back and share a drink and reflect on the Crisis we all faced, and survived.