Retrospective Review: Crisis on Infinite Earths
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Artist: George Perez
“Worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same again.”
This was the promise behind DC comics’ massive 50th birthday celebration event in 1986. To celebrate, there was a TWO YEAR lead up to a year-long event series bringing together almost every single character DC had published in one grand scale saga. A Multi-Universe, Multi-dimension, Multi-era epic that would tie together and cross over their entire line, be it war comics, super-hero sagas, post apocalypse, and funny books. All would be represented under the pens and pencils of DC’s hottest comics duo at the time…Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
No one was safe. “Worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same again.” Truer words has never been spoken in the comics world. Even now, 30 years after the event, it’s effects are STILL being felt. The crisis is not over. It may never be over.
As a kid, growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I used to love the summer months when DC would do the Annuals, and the JLA/JSA crossovers. It was a kick to see multiple versions of the same heroes, or the same heroes done different ways.. be it Al Pratt as the atom instead of Ray Palmer, or Jay Garrick, as the Flash, running alongside Barry Allen, or even the offspring and next generation heroes such as the Helena Wayne Huntress or Kara Zor-L. It was a summer staple, and the surest way outside of school ending that I knew summer was upon us. That being said, I always loved the odd parts of the DC Universe, be it space cabbie, Tommy Tomorrow, Kamandi, or the fourth world stuff. So the idea that they were going to put ALL this in one series over the course of the year was mind-blowing. Not only that, but there were going to be consequences.. real lasting consequences.
That brings us to summer 1985. I had picked up Crisis on Infinite Earths number 1 at a 7-11 up by the house, and had gotten a Slurpee to drink while I read it. I had picked up enough of the main line of comics to know that there was this arms dealer named “The Monitor”, and he and his assistant were selling arms to any and all bad guys in any and all eras and that this was not going to end well. There was also this rather ominous warning in the latest issue of DC Comics presents #78 that all was not well on the super-villain controlled Earth 3. Well, 2 pages into the first issue, the first rumblings of permanent change were readily apparent, when earth 3 (save a single solitary survivor) was destroyed. The entire universe.. gone like it had never existed in the first place. We had begun down the path, and none of us would know where it would lead. All we could do was watch month after month to see where it would go and where our favorite heroes and villains would fit into it all. This was also where we got our first in universe looks at the recently acquired Charlton heroes and where they would fit into the story.
To say that this comic series had it all would still be underselling it. Grand stakes, permanent changes to both newer and long-standing characters and line ups. Long standing, permanant deaths, and changes. A complete shake up of the status quo. Heartbreak and triumph where even the villains were heroes for a little while. Old guards retired while new heroes stepped up into their shoes, and if there was an era unrepresented, I’m hard pressed (outside the humor branch) to tell you what they might be. It was and is the blueprint for what a major event crossover should be who’s scope has never been beaten tho some have tried.
As this is a 30-year-old series and most if not all the major beats have been expanded on, I’m going to forgo a “SPOILER WARNING” as you should know better. Capsule synopsis is that there is a being in the anti-matter universe called the anti-monitor and he’s destroying the multiverse, one universe at a time. The Monitor (the positive universe version) has been testing and preparing the heroes of the five core universes (Earth 1: JLA, Earth 2: JSA/Infinity Inc., Earth X: The Freedom fighters, Earth S: The
Shazam heroes, and the newly minted Earth 5: Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and the Carlton heroes) to defend their worlds and all that lives and ever has or will. The battle is joined, and there are casualties of a MAJOR kind such as the Barry Allen Flash, and the Kara Zor-El Supergirl. These were the deaths that, among others, let us know that the writers weren’t screwing aroundwhen they promised change.
In the end, amidst the death and destruction, a single universe arose and only one man, locked in an insane asylum remembers what had come before.
What comes after is a legacy of event series, after event series. Other companies try to replicate the formula, but with only one real try that comes close (Secret Wars by Marvel). Some of these event series spin directly out of this one such as “Infinite Crisis”, or “Final Crisis” and others are just an attempt to tell a wide-ranging story, attempting to recapture lightning in a bottle. (“Final Night, Day of Judgement) but none even up to the current Civil War 2 and Convergence has ever been able to come close to the one that started it all.
This and New Teen Titans are what really put Wolfman AND Perez on the map. The story is laid out with care, forethought and precision, and the heart wrenching moments are truly that, heart wrenching. The art is nothing more than a master class in comic artistry as Perez, at one point, has to draw over 140 characters on one scene. THIS is the book that stands as a modern classic, and never have we seen it’s like again.
Worlds lived.. worlds died, and nothing in the comic industry was ever the same again.
Rating: 10/10 but only because I couldn’t give it higher.