Current Reviews


Infinite Crisis #5

Posted: Tuesday, April 4, 2006
By: Jonathan Larsen


Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Phil Jiminez, Ivan Reis, Jerry Ordway (p), Andy Lanning, Ivan Reis, Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: DC Comics

One of the most interesting, enjoyable and disappointing things about this issue is that its best momentís power comes not from the characters or the story, but from a meta-textual reading. Itís hard for a story thatís been created to resolve continuity issues not to morph from Infinite Crisis to Infinite Recursion. Still, the storyís comments on continuity, I think, ought to remain a part of the subtext, rather than overwhelm the story itself.

And overwhelming is whatís happening with this issue of Infinite Crisis. Some quick background on me: Iíve been reading DC comics for more than 30 years. I read O.M.A.C. Project and Villains United. I read Identity Crisis. I read DC Countdown to Infinite Crisis. I donít regularly read JSA, but I keep half an eye on whatís going on there through the solicitations and trade journalism. And I have no coherent idea of whatís going on in this issue. I expect a moderate amount of whelming with a line-wide crossover, but someone with my depth of DC-ology ought not be overwhelmed. Nevertheless, if a comics knowledgeable friend asked me to summarize this issue, Iíd be able to say that an alternate-Earth Luthor is the bad guy and he, I think, is
somehow messing with the alternate-Earth scheme Ė oh, wait, no, thatís Earth-2 Superman who was doing that because he wanted to save his Lois Lane and ďfixĒ what he saw as the failings of the Earth that resulted from the original Crisis. Oh, yeah, and the Earth-Prime Superboy has gone batshit for some reason and is killing people or something. The anti-Monitor might be back, unless Iím misremembering a flashback. Thereís a new Blue Beetle. Oh, and all the villains in the DC universe have ganged up and after decades of acting individually are now pooling their awesome powers for a goal that theyíve never shown interest in before and benefits them in ways that escape me: Destroying Bludhaven.

Now, part of my befuddlement, I think, genuinely is an issue of age. Iím 39 years old and I read comics differently than I did when I was a kidÖof 29. When I was a kid, I was all about characters and powers. Who was in the Legion of Super-Heroes? I could rattle off their names and powers (not too tough, since they were usually the same). Which members of the JLA had direct analogues on Earth-2? I could tell you, and I could tell you which anomalous Earth-2 heroes kind of matched up with anomalous Earth-1 heroes. Itís not better or
worse that thatís no longer the case; itís just a function of my increased focus on the art of comic-book storytelling (I follow creators now, more than I do characters) and the decreased stock I place in current iterations of continuity (when I was a print journalist, I learned before the mainstream media did that Superman was going to die; I didnít even print the news because I knew it was a non-story: Heíd be back).

Now, the moment I alluded to at the start of this review is, of course, the death of Earth-2 Lois Lane. Donít get me wrong: Itís a great moment. And it works, as they say, on so many levels. But I was disappointed by the fact that it worked best on the level of irony. I wasnít particularly moved by her death; I hadnít become particularly attached to her character, and I didnít feel a major sense of loss at her passing. What struck me most powerfully was the line Ė of a style thatís quickly becoming characterizable as ďJohnsianĒ Ė of Supermanís: ďSuperman always saves Lois Lane.Ē It was poignant and sad, but it carried the most impact when it was read as a comment not about Superman but about Superman stories, and the apparent passing of such stories. This wasnít about the death of Lois Lane, it was about the death of stories in which Superman saves Lois Lane. And I mourned the clichť more than I did the character.

Johns is a genius when it comes to resolving continuity issues. Green Lantern: Rebirth was a feat worthy of David Blaine. But to date, his most noteworthy moments have been comments on DC storytelling, rather than exemplars of it. The most famous, of course, was Batmanís critique that Supermanís most inspiring moment of recent years was his death. That was, inescapably, a comment on the subsequent Superman stories.

Donít get me wrong, I love these Johnsian moments. Iím enjoying the
political subtext Johns is exploring in the differences between the two Supermen and their respective Earths. His thought-provoking commentary on previous DC and comic-book storytelling is fascinating, unique and engrossing. I just wish I could have a story that was equally so.

You can find Jonathan Larsen's blog here

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