Crisis of Mike’s Infinite Typing.

§ March 15th, 2021 § Filed under dc comics, does mike ever shut up § 15 Comments

To clarify somewhat regarding my Saturday birthday post…I do find things to enjoy in the various reboots/relaunches/house cleanings that DC (and Marvel too) regularly employ. For example, the big one, Crisis on Infinite Earths…while that’s arguably Patient Zero for all the shenanigans at the Big Two today, it remains a beautifully fascinating comic.

Is it a good comic? I mean, look, if this was the first comic you ever read, well, God bless ya and God help ya too, as this clearly was a funnybook for those with regular admission to the clubhouse. As I said, in retrospect, it was very much solving a problem that perhaps didn’t need a solution (i.e. DC’s supposedly convoluted continuity) by trying to establish the groundwork for a consistency for which comic books, especially superhero comic books, have defiance built into their very DNA. Crisis hadn’t been done for months before creators started finding ways to push back against it, through in-jokes and knowing nods then eventually outright reestablishing what had been specifically done away with by the series. Supergirl and the Barry Allen Flash, done away with absolutely for sure, until they returned. And the ultimate expression of this was the recently -concluded Dark Nights: Death Metal, giving DC its limitless multiverse once again after Crisis had winnowed it down.

Now it remains to be seen what exactly is going to be done with that, after decades of DC releasing event comic after event comic trying to undo, or at least plaster over the cracks, what Crisis had done. But that’s hardly the fault of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who tried to put out a comic with the nearly impossible task of telling a story while restructuring a fictional milieu pieced together by disparate hands for fifty years. It is, needless to say, beautiful to behold, with Perez absolutely in his element drawing everything and everyone in panels crammed with detail. Every character is essentially the Platonic ideal of itself in this comic.

But I don’t think anyone’s complaining about the art…it’s the story, and the editorial decisions evident therein, that’s the culprit for many. And I can’t blame anyone for thinking so…looking back, it seems wasteful to, say, open up the series by destroying Earth-3, the parallel Earth where the Justice League was an evil crime gang, a fun Silver Age-y idea that was so good that DC kept trying to reinvent it multiple ways over the following years until finally just saying “fine, okay, they’re from a parallel Earth again.”

That destruction had the intended effect at the time, however. It told everyone that nothing was safe, this Crisis series meant business. And boy, as this series was coming out you were on tenterhooks wondering what was going to happen next. The one-two punch of the deaths of Supergirl, immediately followed by the Flash, were appropriately shocking (even though Flash’s demise had been foreshadowed throughout the previous installments).

It is easy to let nostalgia color the memories of the series, admittedly, but there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t. In the context of the time, as the series was released, the perceived staggering importance of what was happening made each issue a must-read, to be absorbed if not outright studied. For someone who read it in real time back then, I can still look at the pages (in my slipcased hardcover edition, in which it was initially collected, natch) and recall that excitement I felt reading the series. I don’t think that’s a thing one should deny, but it should also be recognized as a problem when trying to approach the series critically.

Yes, I very much, emphatically and non-ironically, love Crisis on Infinite Earths. But it’s also very dense to the point of being cluttered, characters are given short shrift with that stilted dialogue in the Wild Wolfman Way, there are some editorial inconsistencies and shoehorning in tie-ins to other titles, and an ending that doesn’t quite stick the landing. Though in that latter case, the decision to allow characters to remember the DC Universe as it was, was generally ignored anyway so no big whoop, but it still felt like a cheat, a denial at least in part to the sweeping changes promised by the story.

There’s a lot of cover in this series, far more than can be really broached in a single blog post written by a later-middle age guy late at night who hasn’t been getting enough sleep lately in the first place. I did just want to let you know…I loved Crisis, still love Crisis, but yeah, it ain’t perfect. And despite knowing in my heart that the ripples it spread across DC, and Marvel too, that persist even today, weren’t intended consequences, it’s difficult to consider the series removed from its position as that epicenter.

Next time: to prove I’m not 100% a crankypants, I’m going to talk about the New 52 books that I liked. SPOILER: not Justice League so much.

Thanks for reading, pals, and for your thoughtful comments.

15 Responses to “Crisis of Mike’s Infinite Typing.”

  • Adam Ford says:

    I love crisis too, mike. but for a funny reason. i missed it when it came out, but jumped all over the revamped series (all of them) – the promise of simplicity and “more serious” storytelling was a jumping on point that got me reading almost everything dc put up on the newsstand and the excitement of diving deep into a new (to
    me, staid marvelite that i was) universe that still retained the familiarity that came from the cartoons and toys id had and watched… i was CONVERTED. and then the promise of the (all of a sudden) apocryphal stuff that came before… well i had a path forward and a path backward too. and crisis, for all of its “here’s the new order” focus, is truly rooted in the past it seeks to eradicate, which makes it a gateway that goes both ways. it feels so clean, so different to what came after. more wholesome? i dunno. anyway i always am bemused by how little batman had to do with any of it, just standing around and narrating or emoting for most of what i remember, a testament to the idea of him as a non-powered hero.

    oops. i gush. but: what are your thoughts on that legends of the dc universe issue about crisis, with the culturally diverse justce league if earth d? i always liked that story too.

  • DK says:

    I love love love love CRISIS. I bought the super expensive Absolute slipcase hardcover with the truly excellent companion volume with notes and all kinds of bonus materials.

    Greatest of All Time.

    But…yeah. They had those towers all hyped up in the first couple of issues and then…never mind, bigger fish to fry. Haunted Tank, really? Kids love the Haunted Tank. (What a missed opportunity for the Jeb Stuart Ghost from Earth-Whatever)

    Jonni Thunder, not gonna be a thing.

    It’s very “Old DC” in that its a mega-crossover in which normal human Batman basically sits in the corner. Robin asks him: but what can we do Bruce?

    “Soil our pants in the corner, old chum” says Batman “something disintegrated the Flash, gonna stay outta this one, this is Clark’s problem”

    Another thing never adequately resolved: why did the Monitor (super good guy) spend the previous two years selling guns and muscle to people trying to kill the Teen Titans etc.? There’s this huge line-wide build up (Alan Moore even has it in Swamp Thing) that the Monitor is a criminal mastermind and oops its his twin brother, who lives on Qward and never heard of Jericho, whats a Jericho why would I want to kill that punk?

  • >I mean, look, if this was the first comic you ever read, well, God bless ya and God help ya too, as this clearly was a funnybook for those with regular admission to the clubhouse.

    As a matter of fact, #10 was the first issue of Crisis I read – for the longest time the only one I read. It wasn’t my first comic overall but it was pretty early. I loved it, mainly because it had so many super heroes. I think it makes a huge difference if you read it as an 8 year old.

  • I’ll never not miss the real Earth 2 Superman codified by Levitz/Wood/Staton et al.

  • Thom H. says:

    CRISIS was so much fun to read as the story zigged and zagged all over the place. My favorite issue is probably when the villains decide they’re going to take advantage of the situation and just create total chaos. Good times.

    It was such a smart decision by DC to revamp their Big Three characters. They definitely each needed a shot in the arm at the time. And regardless of what you think about the individual results, CRISIS and its aftermath got people talking about Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman again.

    Did they need CRISIS to do that? Probably not. But I bet the success of that series and set of editorial decisions is one of the things that keeps them going back to the multiverse well over and over again.

  • Two summers ago–I keep thinking last summer, which for Chicago, never truly existed–I would sit on my stoop and read all three HCs of the tie-in books. I got them cheap-ish, and it was fun reading ALL-STAR SQUADRON and INFINITY INC. again. But the early issues included were just the one panel Monitor books. If anything, it tells you how many books hammered this home. The SWAMP THING tie-in is still one of my favorites in the Moore run.

    I was really tired of Pariah. In the novelization (by Wolfman, and pretty decent to read), he came from Earth-17. Then the crying started. Like with Pandora and that female alien who showed up at the beginning of THE FINAL NIGHT, I don’t get why DC need these throwaway characters.

    I did like COIE a lot, Supergirl and Flash dying during summer issues, me being mid-twenties when most books, DC and Marvel, were must-buys for me as I had my first decent paying job. And the tuning forks went right over my head. Probably the neatest thing was seeing the Charlton heroes as being from Earth-4, I had all the issues from the 60s.

    Mike: will you ever consider a column on non-reboot line-wise annual events like THE FINAL NIGHT or even the annuals where each was ELSEWORLDS or the really great PULP HEROES?

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    @Wayne Allen Sallee
    Just getting Mike to opine on Bloodlines would be worth the price of admission.

  • Jeff says:

    Would you believe that Crisis was my gateway into DC? I was a Marvel guy until 7th grade, when I met my counterpart, an avowed DC guy with whom I shared a study hall. I loaned him Bill Sienkewitz New Mutants, he loaned me Crisis. I loaned him X-men circa 190-200, he loaned me Watchmen. I loaned him some early West Coast Avengers, he loaned me Infinity, inc. I became hooked on DC, he was decidedly not hooked on Marvel. As a result of Crisis and Infinity, Inc, I have always had an affinity for the Justice Society and bought as many Earth 2 back issues as I could. Who’d a thunk it?

  • Jack says:

    Crisis in a nutshell for me:

    Gorgeous artwork, bland dialog, a story solving a problem that didn’t exist with no long term planning that caused DC to just keep making mistakes over and over trying to fix mistakes (looking at you, Legion of Super Heroes) and needing an expert’s knowledge of the DC Universe to truly appreciate.

    And yet I still unabashedly love it.

    I try not to think about what Infinite Crisis did to it in the name of making it all kinds of Geoff Johns dark and grim. And I wish Grant Morrison had nailed down what was clearly his intent with Final Crisis better: the notion that big event storytelling was not a good thing, but a violent attack on a storytelling universe, causing it to collapse in on itself until the only escape was to wish for a happy ending. But Crisis itself, ahh, I love that flawed but pretty thing.

  • Chris V says:

    Crisis is just a fun series. It’s not a comic book that you are supposed to think about too deeply. It was a love letter to the prior DC Universe before the birth of a new one.

    I tend to enjoy Marvel Comics more than DC Comics. I will buy Marvel titles based on the characters, but I buy DC books solely based on the writer.
    However, that period of time after Crisis when the DCU was rebooted and most of the books tended to be darker and more depressing (except Justice League which became the opposite), that’s a period of DC Comics that I truly adore.
    Almost every DC book from that time-period I consider to be worth reading.

    It’s not that I don’t care about the DC Universe though.
    After reading that crazy Crisis as a TPB, I decided I needed to read Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron too.
    I have a lot of good memories of that series.
    Plus, I had to buy almost all of the DC Showcase Presents B&W books when they were being released.

  • DavidG says:

    CRISIS was the book that got 17 year old me back into comics, having convinced myself I had grown out of them. To my eternal shame I totally bought the “continuity needs fixing” concept, but I was young and stupid. There really was a feeling that after years of stagnation DC was doing exciting stuff though, and everything they put out was worth trying.

    I still love CRISIS, and reread it every few years, and although it has problems (there is a bit of a sense that Marv was making it up as he went along, or that editorial was messing with the details), it’s the only essential crossover as far as I’m concerned.

  • @Allen Hoffman: or maybe Mike could write about that goofy John Byrne event called GOD WAVE or GOD FALL.I think that came after INVASION! and then NEW GUARDIANS.

    Even thought it was five years after the comic shop opened, another minor joy was that this was the first series us old-timers could mull over in groups. Even in my mid-twenties, I knew about Earth-2 and Earth-3. But I could never talk event comics like that back in the neighborhood with adults my age or a bit older.

    I agree with those who say the dialogue was not great at times, but I also agree with the Who Cares? thoughts. In every way, COIE was handled incredibly well.

  • Adam Ford says:

    @everyone gee i love all of you guys. glad to know i wasn’t alone in my response to coie

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    I experienced Crisis in an entirely different manner, via trade paperback after reading and loving a sizable chunk of post-Crisis goodness. A few years before the Crisis collection, I was making enough money to buy back issues along with then-current books. I experienced the effect of Crisis before the event itself. Reading the series in trade was weird. The plot was all over the place, characterization was broad to non-existent, and I knew most of the big story beats already. I liked it fine, and George Perez is an amazing artist, but my take-away was, you had to be there to appreciate it as more than an artifact.

    The last couple issues were especially odd. The post-Crisis universe was forming, but wasn’t the post-Crisis universe I knew & loved. It was like watching the pilot of a long-running tv show after you started in the middle of season 3.

  • […] theme next week, but I did want to drop in one point I was sort of thinking about regarding Crisis on Infinite Earths. As can be inferred from some of your reactions, and my reaction, to DC’s continuity-sweeping […]