Monday, February 20, 2012

The Crisis Trilogy: Infinite Crisis (2005)

And so it came to pass that 20 years after the groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths, that a sequel would finally be released by DC Comics.  With a play on the name of the original, Infinite Crisis was released as a seven-issue epic that was not only a direct sequel to the game-changing COIE, but an event that once again changed everything.  And when I mean direct sequel, I mean direct sequel.  If you read my review of COIE, you'll soon see what I'm talking about.

The prolific Geoff Johns took on the writing duties with Phil Jiminez as the main penciller, with contributions from the great George Perez, Jerry Ordway, and Ivan Reis - all skilled at drawing enormous groups of people.  And much like its predecessor, Infinite Crisis has a cast of hundreds (thousands, if you really want to get technical).  Do you have to know the history of the DC Universe?  It certainly helps.  If this is the first of the three main Crisis books you pick up, you might find yourself a little confused.  Read Crisis on Infinite Earths first, and it'll all flow together.

Some time after that first major Crisis (20 years our time, probably around half that in DC Universe time), things are at an all-time low for the defenders of truth and justice.  Batman's darker than ever.  The world watched Wonder Woman murder the manipulative Maxwell Lord.  Superman can't keep everyone together.  From afar, four mysterious figures watch, worried that the world can no longer be held up by this trinity of heroes.  Not only that, strange things are cropping up:  robotic OMAC's (One Man Army Corps) turn up by the thousands, killing villains.  The faraway worlds Rann and Thanagar are at war.  The realm of magic has gone haywire as The Spectre begins killing various magic-users.  Super-villains are finally getting together as an organized crew.  The original Freedom Fighters are cut down and slaughtered.  Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can barely get along as it is.

"...they need to be inspired. And let's face it, 'Superman'...the last time you really inspired anyone...was when you were dead." ~ Batman, Infinite Crisis #1

Wicked burn by Batman there.  As the three once-great friends split up in shame, the four mysterious beings finally break through into reality:  Superman and Lois Lane of Earth 2, Superboy of Earth Prime, and Alexander Luthor.  Last seen when Alexander invited them into a pocket reality at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, they're back to help straighten out the world.

Superman-2 invites Power Girl - once a part of Earth-2 before everything folded into one reality - to join them in their quest.  A confused Lex Luthor wanders the tundra...but wait...didn't we just see Luthor leading a cadre of supervillains?  For a few pages, the reader does get some exposition as to what led to the quartet coming back, as they have observed the darker times of the world such as Superman's death, the death of the Jason Todd Robin, and Green Lantern going insane.

The Joker, meanwhile, tries to join this huge supervillain collective but is told by a beaten King of the Royal Flush Gang that he's the "only one they don't want."  Of course, Joker doesn't find this funny.

Luthor's supervillains continue to attack heroes, kidnapping certain ones he needs.  He even betrays Black Adam, as Adam is representative of a long-lost parallel world, Earth-S.  But then the armored, somewhat confused Luthor shows up...and now there are two of them?  Hm...something's afoot.  During the confrontation, one Luthor reveals that he is indeed a disguised Alexander Luthor.  The real Lex manages to teleport out when one of Alexander's superpowered allies shows up.  Power Girl stumbles upon a fragment of one of those old Monitor towers from Crisis on Infinite Earths, which contains subdued heroes and villains along with the corpse of the Anti-Monitor.  Something ain't right here...  She's knocked out and Alexander's ally is revealed to be the young Superboy of Earth-Prime.  Elsewhere, Batman figures out who attacked the Martian Manhunter:  also Superboy-Prime.

Alexander explains to Power Girl his master plan:  to erase the current reality and replace it with a more perfect one. In order to do so, he's set multiple plans in motion including manipulating the villains, the magic-users, creating a war in space, and taking over the OMAC's and Brother Eye.  And now she's going to be a part of it as a representative of the original Earth-2.

Superboy-Prime flies off to confront the current Superboy, Connor Kent (a hybrid clone of Lex Luthor and Superman).  They begin a devastating battle that soon involves all of the Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol.  It doesn't take long for the battle to turn ugly and tragic as Superboy-Prime spins out of control. The Flashes (Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Bart Allen) manage to force the now-pyschotic kid into the Speed Force.

Alexander powers up his tower and is able to tune space and time, forcing a recreated Earth-2 to appear.  Superman-2 and Lois Lane-2 appear there, and feel all is as it should be.  But simply existing on the new Earth doesn't help Lois, and she dies in her love's arms.  Superman-1 hears his counterparts cries and tries to console him, but they come to blows.  Wonder Woman arrives in time to make the raging Superman-2 see reason.

Meanwhile, Alexander's experiment really takes off.  Hundreds of alternate Earths appear in the sky as he  manipulates space and reality.  Bart Allen, somehow older and now wearing the basic Flash garments, warns everyone that Superboy-Prime has broken out of the Speed Force, angrier and even more powerful.  From one frying pan into another frying pan.  Through all this, Batman gathers a specialized group to take out Brother Eye and his OMAC's, no small task.

A god-like Alexander literally snatches pairs of Earths, jamming them together to create new ones, searching for that one combination that will be perfect.  The team that went to space manages to use their combined power to temporarily halt Alexander's crazy experiment, awakening the kidnapped heroes.  Everything's going their way until the insane super-brat, Superboy-Prime, returns.  He's given in to his psychotic obsession to bring back his own world.  Fortunately, the real Superboy is there to take him on just before he murders Nightwing.  In the battle, Alexander's tower is destroyed, but at the cost of Superboy's life.

Superboy-Prime and Alexander get away and observe the carnage taking place in Metropolis, as the Secret Society has attacked en masse.  Casualties all around, and when Doomsday enters the fray...yeah, it's pretty much over.  Or is it?  A very angry pair of Supermen join other heavy hitters like Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter in evening the sides.  Superboy-Prime sees Alexander's plans go to hell, so he comes up with one of his own:  fly through the center of the planet Oa, which sits at the center of the universe.  This will cause a new Big Bang and he might get his universe back.  Or he just might kill all of existence.  Either way, he's cool with that.  The heroes that fly take off after him.  The Green Lantern Corps do their best to stop him as well.

Back on Earth, Batman faces off with Alexander, and he's had enough.  Seeing Nightwing get injured, he very un-Batman-like aims a pistol in Alexander's face:

"...I know what Superman is going through.  He doesn't deserve that.  Superboy didn't deserve that.  What do you deserve?" ~ Batman, Infinite Crisis #7

Wonder Woman - she who had been burdened with a recent murder - appears as the voice of reason and Batman stands down while Alexander gets away when debris falls.

The two Supermen engage Superboy-Prime, shoving him through Krypton's red sun and landing on the sentient Green Lantern planet, Mogo.  There, a fierce fight breaks out as pieces of Krypton rain around them, sapping their strength.  But it's enough for Superman-1 to finally take down the brat, but Superman-2 sadly takes too much punishment and joins his beloved Lois.  The GL Corps take Superboy-Prime into custody and Earth tries to get back to normal.

But what of Alexander?  His fate is...well-deserved.  Let's just say he ticked off the wrong guys.

The trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman meet to discuss not being around for a while.  Superman must wait for his powers to return.  Wonder Woman takes on a civilian identity.  Batman decides to travel the world, retracing the steps that made him Batman.  They're not worried as they know the world is in good hands until they are back full strength.

And as for the utterly destructive Superboy-Earth.  He's imprisoned in a miniature red sun, but as he says:

"I've been in worse places than this...and I've gotten out." ~ Superboy-Prime, I.C. #7

Infinite Crisis served as not only a sequel, but the first in a series of bridges between it and the third in the Crisis Trilogy, Final Crisis.  Directly after Infinite Crisis was published, DC Comics embarked on an ambitious and ultimately well-crafted weekly series for one entire year, told in "real time," 52.  Geoff Johns, the writer of Infinite Crisis and one of DC's architects, was in his element here:  a giant cast of characters with accessible personalities in a grand-scale story that seems part Silver Age craziness and modern film-like storytelling.  With artists such as Phil Jiminez and George Perez, who specialize in "casts of thousands," there is a "multimillion dollar blockbuster" feel to it.  It's not overly complicated, but just complex enough that all the strands twist together and tie up at the end.  You had the main plot, but you also had the side plots (which became mini-series to be read along with this main series) in the villains, the OMAC's, The Spectre going crazy on the magic world, and the Rann-Thanagar War in space.

It does help to have read Crisis on Infinite Earths before Infinite Crisis, if only for the emotional impact of returning and betraying characters.  It makes sense that Alexander Luthor would turn out to be such a manipulator...he's a Luthor!  He comes from Earth-3, where good and evil are reversed, but ultimately, his genetics are what they are.  Superboy-Prime is an interesting character.  Many have speculated that he represents the fickle segment of the comic book fan community, those that criticize everything with nothing constructive to offer.  In fact, in a later storyline, he ends up back on Earth-Prime, but is feared by those he loves because they read about his atrocities in the comics of that world.  He literally becomes a comic book message board troll to lash out at those who wrote him like that.  Funny, cheeky stuff, really.  As a villain, though, he's actually quite frightening:  Superman with all the power and none of the filters.

So continue your Crisis collection with this graphic novel, which you might be able to find at your local comic book store or online in both hardcover and softcover.  The hardcover is especially nice, with sketches and a round-table discussion with Johns, Jiminez, Group Editor Eddie Berganza, and Assistant Editor Jeanine Schafer about the ins and outs of the series.

Until next time, dear readers, happy reading!

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