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Breaking down “Event” comics, Part Seven: Infinite Crisis; or, who is first against the wall when the revolution comes?

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Breaking down “Event” comics, Part Seven: <i>Infinite Crisis</i>; or, who is first against the wall when the revolution comes?

Part One: Identity Crisis #1-7.

Part Two: Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

Part Three: Day of Vengeance #1-6.

Part Four: The OMAC Project #1-6.

Part Five: Villains United #1-6.

Part Six: Rann-Thanagar War #1-6.

“If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing.”

I have completed my task, good readers.  In the past month, I have read 7 issues of Identity Crisis, 1 issue of Countdown to Infinite Crisis, 6 issues each of four related mini-series, all leading into Infinite Crisis, 4 specials that serve as epilogues to those mini-series and tie in to Infinite Crisis, 1 Secret Files and Origins issue that ties in to Infinite Crisis, and 7 issues of Infinite Crisis itself.  You fine folk could absorb 44 issues of bad comics in two years – I had to soak it all up in a month!  It’s remarkable I survived.  But I did.  And so, here at the end of all things, the DC Universe, quite frankly, will never be the same!  And this time, of course, we really mean it!

To paraphrase Margo Channing, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a long and bumpy post!”

The feeling I had as I was paging my way through IC and its attendant tie-ins was not one of anger.  It was not one of frustration.  It was one of ennui.  Perhaps I tried to read too much, too fast.  Perhaps I am not as fully invested in the minutiae of the DCU as I should be, or as Geoff Johns and his allies are.  As I look back over my purchases of the past few months, I realize how divorced I have become from the DC mainstream.  If the Batman books have good creative teams, I buy them.  I’m buying Catwoman but remain on the fence.  I have started buying Checkmate and remain hopeful for its success.  Guess what?  That’s it.  That’s all I buy that could be conceivably affected by this crossover, and Checkmate doesn’t count, because it began after this.  This leads me to the conclusion that I am so far from the audience that DiDio and his unholy legions are writing for that one of two things can happen: I can actually judge this on the basis of whether or not it tells a good story without whining that Pantha loses her head; or I will miss the point entirely and be told that I am nothing but a worthless hack who hates superheroes. Some people in the comic book blogaxy already think I’m a worthless hack, and the fact that I didn’t know Fallen Angel was a flashback and that Jimmy Olsen used his signal watch as his hypnotic trigger probably didn’t instill any confidence in my reading abilities!  (My excuse: it was late, I was tired, and I probably should have just checked before posting – let he who is without sin cast the first stone, people!).  Which of these possibilities is it when we talk about Infinite Crisis?  Well, perhaps a little from column A and a little from column B.  I certainly didn’t gnash my teeth and rend my garments when Star Sapphire bit the big one, because she never meant anything to me (hell, I didn’t even know that Star Sapphire was no longer Carol Ferris – that wacky DC, always keeping us on our toes!).  So I can read this without crying in my beer.  However, I also know very little about the various intricacies of the story, and so I might miss some of the more subtle stuff that Johns is throwing at us.  You must judge!

For the most part, however, I enjoyed Infinite Crisis.  Yes, you read that right.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s a mess, but it’s a grand mess, one that has great ambition but perhaps less-than-great execution.  I certainly don’t understand the absolute condemnation of the series.  It’s an okay read, I guess, but again, I just felt dulled by the time I finished it.  Yes, it needs to be epic, but never being able to catch your breath eventually leaves you, well, breathless.  And not in a good way.

As there is a ton going on, I thought I’d do a quick synopsis of each issue.  You might have forgotten all the drama, you know!  So away we go!

Let’s start with a body count, which we will update after each issue.  Because in the new, cheery DC, nothing says “heroic deeds” like a body count!  If I miss anyone, I am counting on you, good readers, to fill me in!  Sue Dibny, obviously.  Jack Drake.  Digger Harkness.  Firestorm (does he count?).  Ted Kord.  Shazam.  A bunch of wizards (I don’t know their names, sorry).  I don’t have high hopes for Jean Loring’s survival, orbiting the sun like that.  Maxwell Lord.  The rest of the ruling circle of Checkmate.  The Fiddler.  That Parademon dude.  Pariah (maybe?).  Cheshire.  Shayera Thal.  Okay, whom am I missing?

Infinite Crisis #1, cleverly titled “Infinite Crisis”: Well, it opens very well, with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at the JLA Watchtower not long after it exploded mysteriously.  There seems to be a lot of misguided anger directed at Wonder Woman.  Sure, she killed Maxwell Lord, but that’s the only reason people are scared of the superheroes?  Really?  Batman, although he’s never killed anyone, is far scarier than Diana is.  Anyway, we get a mysterious narrator who clearly doesn’t think the DC Trinity are terribly heroic.  But after the first couple of pages, this book shows us what it’s going to be: a mess.

This is the problem I have with all epic crossovers: holy crap, is this thing packed.  We get Conner Kent, we get Dick Grayson, we get the OMACs killing poor little Ratcatcher, we get the big storm at the center of the universe … you get the idea.  It is hard to keep track of all this, especially because of the fact that it everything has already been set up in other books.  I read the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and I don’t really enjoy it all that much for the same reason, but it does tell a complete story in twelve issues.  Sure, you can go read all the other tie-ins if you want, but for IC, reading the previous 4 mini-series, plus Countdown, is almost required.  It’s vexing.

There’s a ton of what feels extraneous in this issue.  The OMACs gathering over Blüdhaven is fine.  The Spectre appearing in the skies over Gotham is fine.  But what the heck is going on with Mongul in the Watchtower?  He just shows up and beats the three heroes to a pulp before leaving.  Wha -?  I don’t get it.  The destruction of the Freedom Fighters is a little better, because at least the Ray fits into Luthor’s plan, but why the villains couldn’t have just kidnapped him from his home is beyond me.  I guess then we wouldn’t have been able to see Phantom Lady, the Human Bomb, and (apparently) Black Condor and Uncle Sam die, as well as Dr. Polaris.  COOL!

The final scene with Batman telling Superman that the last time he inspired anyone was when he was dead is fine, if a bit self-aware.  This whole series will suffer from a sense that Geoff Johns is telling us what he does and doesn’t like about the DCU.  It’s a nifty line, but it’s not even the last time I was inspired by Superman, and I don’t even like Superman!  Remember when Superman Blue stopped the moon from falling into the Earth during Morrison’s JLA run?  Now that was inspiring!  Suck on it, Batman (Geoff Johns)!

And then, of course, the book takes its turn for the worse.  I knew it was coming, but I still groaned.  Earth-2 Superman (our mysterious narrator).  Alexander Luthor.  Earth-Prime Superboy.  Earth-2 Lois Lane.  Oh dear.  Boy, the weird realm they inhabit remains ill-defined, doesn’t it?  And where do they go when Superman punches through the wall (in tortured prose, mind you -  “I throw my fists at the wall …” just sounds stupid)?  This can only lead to bad things.  Oh dear.

Body count: Phantom Lady; Human Bomb; Black Condor (he’s dead, according to issue #2); Uncle Sam (missing, according to issue #2, although at the end of this issue he’s floating face down); Dr. Polaris; Ratcatcher.

That’s Clark’s “Whatchu talkin’ about, Bruce?” face.

Infinite Crisis #2, “The Survivors”: More fisticuffs, as Power Girl gets beat on by a bunch of bad guys.  The fact that the Psycho Pirate remains a key player is very neat.  Well, I think so, but then I remember that Grant Morrison made him a different person and I don’t know how they retconned it and it bugs me but I don’t let it bother me because I can always take out my issues of Animal Man and read a great story.  So at the last moment Earth-2 Superman shows up to help Kara.  So that’s where he went!  And the rest of them went to the North Pole!  Groovy!  We get a bit of Power Girl’s ridiculously convoluted back story, and then E-2 Superman launches into a synopsis of the original Crisis.  This bothered me, because I didn’t feel like going back and reading the original (I mean, it’s twelve stinkin’ issues, and as I mentioned, it didn’t thrill me all that much), but the way E-2 talks, it’s as if the Earth simply began in 1986 with the creation of Wonder Woman and New Superman (he’s like New Coke, don’t you know).  E-2 says, “The potential was there.  And it started off so well.  I felt confident the earth was in good hands.”  We see the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI, the Perez Wonder Woman, and the Byrne Superman.  However, according to new DC history, that’s not when it started.  Correct me if I’m wrong, people, but in this new world, Superman and Batman were not the first superheroes, but all those JSA people were.  So when E-2 Supes and Lois started watching them in 1986, the JSA had been around since World War II.  Am I wrong?  I certainly could be.  So then it was glorious for a long, long time and these new superheroes were simply carrying on a long tradition.  Superman gets all cranky because the shit starts to hit the fan, but it’s just a weird way to put it.  I don’t know where I’m going with this, so I’ll stop.

The Joker shows up to slaughter the Royal Flush Gang after he learns that the Society didn’t want him because he is too insane.  Who knew that one page – the only page on which the Joker appears until the end of the epic – would be so important?  Anyway, I can’t wait for the new, improved Joker in the new, cheery DC – I’m sure he’s going to dress his gang like bananas and hold up a carnival while saying stuff like, “Take my wife … please!”  I mean, that’s what we’re all about here in the new DC, right?

Kara remembers her past, which is nice, and Bruce Wayne is all mean to Alfred (a scene parodied very nicely in this week’s Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink).  That Bruce – he’s stinky!  He finds out that the OMACs are attacking Themyscira, because the Amazons are all evil.  Meanwhile, E-2 tells Kara that the wrong earth was saved, and he’s going to bring the right one – his – back.  So that’s his dastardly plan!!!!!

Body count: Remarkably small this issue.  It looks like five members of the Royal Flush Gang, plus the big robot dude (who doesn’t count).  Some random Amazons.  Man, Johns is getting sentimental in his old age, ain’t he?  He better ratchet it up in later issues!

Not a good look.

Infinite Crisis #3, “Divine Intervention”: Aquaman kills that shark dude on page 1.  Too bad Brother Eye didn’t catch that on tape.  Talk about scary!  Then the Spectre steps on Atlantis.  So who dies?  Does Garth?  Does Dolphin?  Anyone?  It’s a pretty cool scene, actually.  As is the next scene, with Diana and Artemis discussing the future of Themyscira.  But then we get goofy.  An Amazon actually says, with a straight face (it’s in the middle of a battle with OMACs, so I would expect a straight face, but still), “The purple death ray has been completed.”  Funniest line of the year by far.  What is the significance of it being purple?  If it has been the yellow death ray would it not have worked as well?  Awesomely stupid line by Johns.  E-2 Superman tempts Batman like he’s the serpent in the Garden, which is kind of cool.  He tells him how wonderful Earth-2 was and shows him his marriage to Selina and his daughter, Helena.  It’s kind of neat that because Dick Grayson is a hero on Earth-1 and not on Earth-2, Batman rejects his offer.

The war continues on other fronts.  While E-2 Supes tempts Batman, Superboy-Prime does the same to Power Girl.  They both reject the offer, but interestingly, Batman is the one who does it for personal reasons, because he loves Dick Grayson and doesn’t want to see him become a bad guy on Earth-2.  Kara, it seems, might actually join Luthor and Superboy, but she stumbles across Luthor’s big Anti-Monitor thing before she can make her decision.  At the same moment she gets ambushed by Luthor and Superboy, Batman finally gets around to checking out the security tapes of the Watchtower, where he finds out that Superboy destroyed it and kidnapped J’onn.  This is pretty well done by Johns, even though we can kind of see it coming – the Superboy part, at least, since we already know Luthor is evil.

In an effort to continue to remove all sense of wonder from the DCU, King Dan and his minions decide to send Themyscira to another plane of existence.  This is in the same issue as the destruction of Atlantis, remember.  Again, strange underwater kingdoms with fish people and islands with mystical Greek warriors have no place in the new, cheerier DC!  So Artemis and the rest of the Amazons are gone.  Despite over 200 issues of the last Wonder Woman title, it never seems that it lived up to its great potential.  Oh well.

Finally, the real Lex Luthor, in his stupid armor, shows up again just after Alexander Luthor decided to use Black Adam in his Anti-Monitor thing rather than wasting time finding a Marvel.  This is another cool little scene.  It sets up Black Adam nicely for later in the series, when he’s fighting on the side of angels even though he’s killing people.  And I’m a bit confused about Alexander Luthor.  He doesn’t say in this issue about projecting his image to the Society (I’ll find it somewhere), but in this issue, it appears he is actually there and it’s not a projection.  So what the hell?  How does he switch back and forth so quickly?  He talks about it later, but it sounds stupid.  I could have sworn at some point we see Luthor addressing the Society at the same time as Alexander Luthor is talking to Superboy.  I could be wrong.

Finally, I want to point out what I think is a minor continuity glitch, although, again, I’m sure I’m missing something.  Out in space where the center of the universe is now, Firestorm is fighting with Donna Troy and the gang.  Suddenly another Firestorm shows up.  This Firestorm is the Ronald/Martin Stein Firestorm, who disappeared at the end of Ostrander’s run on Firestorm.  DC decided to ignore that very cool story and brought him back with that horrible costume and moved on.  So is this the first time we’ve seen that Firestorm since?  Or was the Firestorm who was stabbed in Identity Crisis a different Firestorm?  WTF?

Body count: Shark dude that Aquaman kills; Tempest and Dolphin (I doubt it – can anyone help out?); many Atlanteans; some Amazons (probably).  How disappointing.

Words fail me.

Day of Vengeance Special #1, “The Ninth Age of Magic”: Nabu decides to gather the Shadowpact and defeat the Spectre by losing to him.  Good job, Nabu!  It turns out to be a great plan, actually, because by killing Nabu, his crimes are so great that it draws the attention of God, who decides the Spectre needs a human host.  Good to know God is paying attention!  Like the rest of the series, this is a big fight book, with Nabu fighting the Spectre while the Shadowpact fights various DC sorcerors who have been possessed by the Seven Deadly Sins.  It’s pretty, and resolves several key points: the Spectre’s rampage ends, and he bonds with a human host (but God forbid we find out who it is in this issue); Hawk and Dove apparently lose their powers because the Lords of Order and Chaos who gave them their powers die (which will lead to another continuity glitch later in the series); Captain Marvel becomes the new Shazam; Luthor finally grabs Nightshade; and Detective Chimp throws away the helmet of Fate, which is kind of neat.  Oh, and in order to one-up Geoff Johns, Willingham throws in almost every single magical character in the DCU.  Holy crap – hey, there’s Freedom Beast!  Hey, there’s Black Orchid!  Hey, there’s some chick from the freakin’ Power Company!  How cool.

Body count: The hosts of Hawk and Dove, charmingly named T’charr and Terataya; Nabu.

One of maybe three funny panels in the whole crossover.

Infinite Crisis #4, “Homecoming”: I don’t care what anyone says: dropping Chemo onto Blüdhaven is awesome.  Luthor tells Kara about their big scheme, and he mentions that his Luthor at the Society was a “simple hologram.”  Hmmm.  Maybe.  We learn so much!  Yay, Luthor!  It turns out all the people hooked up to his Anti-Monitor thing have a “specific vibrational frequency hidden in their genetic codes.”  Um, whatever.  Do we ever find out why J’onn is there?  All the others are from “different” universes who were folded into the restructured DCU because they were marketable – uh, I mean, because of some strange unfathomable reason known only to God.  And then he needed fuel, so he recruited the Spectre to “destroy” magic, but instead he reduced it to chaos, which Luthor was able to use.  Cool!  Brother Eye and the OMACs are going to provide the programming, and Superboy moved planets around (yes, he can do that!) and sparked the Rann-Thanagar war while shifting the center of the universe to where it was in the Earth-2 universe.  Boy, I’m glad this isn’t confusing!  Luthor tells Kara he’s going to manipulate the multiverse to find the perfect combination.  Who knew that would entail physically taking planets and smushing them together!  Physics means nothing in the DCU!  One last thing about this rant intrigued me – Luthor claims that no matter what universe exists, when a Superman stands by a Luthor, “they will always be at odds.”  Yes, it’s a subtle endorsement of predestination by Geoff Johns!  If we don’t have free will, then all that we do is pointless – so why not be evil?  Yay, evil!

Superboy goes to visit Conner Kent because he doesn’t like that Connor isn’t all super like he is, and they have a big fight.  BIG FIGHT!  Then the Titans show up.  With the Doom Patrol and the Justice Society.  Oh, what a huge mistake.  As the fight continues, you know someone is going to die.  Even though in non-event books heroes can fight each other for hours and hours and never die, in “event” comics people throw random punches and people die – like Pantha!  And then he kills a bunch of other people that I don’t know!  DC nerds, help me!  Big wildebeest-looking guy – please tell me he’s not called Wildebeest – some guy he turns to ice, some redhead in green whose arm he rips off, and some weird ninja/samurai dude with a sword.  All the Flashes – including Barry Allen! – show up to somehow get rid of him – Wally and Bart disappear, and Jay is the only one left, and the Speed Force is somehow gone.  Explanations are for wimps!

Luthor tells Psycho Pirate to force Black Adam to say “Shazam.”  The lightning that comes is the fuel Luthor needed to crack open his hole in space, I guess.  Somehow he re-creates Earth-2 – it just suddenly appears.  All the old Earth-2 heroes are transported there.  And E-2 Superman takes Lois there.  All is right with the worlds!

Finally, the Spectre gets a human host.  Isn’t that Cris, Montoya’s partner?  I assume he was killed in Gotham Central, because I seem to recall hearing about it.  So why does the coroner call him “Vic”?  Is it just a mistake by Johns?

Body count: Is Chemo dead?  If so, excellent last word: “Oop.”  Millions dead in Blüdhaven, of course, although I always thought Nightwing’s “town” was supposed to be significantly smaller than Gotham.  So “millions”?  Really?  This issue is, of course, a bloodbath – we’re back on track, DC!  Pantha, wildebeest dude, iced guy, redhead guy, ninja guy.  Quite the swath!  And Firestorm sort of “dies” – again.  Sheesh.

Jeez, Pantha, that’s going to leave a mark!

Rann-Thanagar War Special #1, “Hands of Fate”: Oh dear.  The HANDS are back!  We all remember the hands from the first Crisis.  Well, this time they’re Alexander Luthor’s, and they’re sticking out of the hole in space that he created in IC #4.  Nobody knows what’s going on, but Komand’r convinces the Grand Mor that it’s a dastardly Rannian trick, and even though it appears God is about to scoop up the universe and kill everyone, the Thanagarians attack again.  Energy waves keep rippling out of the hole, which destroys all these Thanagarian ships, which makes the Grand Mor call off the attack.  In the midst of all this, Kyle manages to have a “Kyle Rayner: Adult!” moment, which I bet made Devon happy.  This issue has really two things to do: prove that Superboy started the war, which we get from video evidence, and when that’s destroyed, from two handprints on the surface of Thanagar.  Yay – war’s over!  Oh, and Jade dies.  Her energy flows into Kyle, and it fucks up his face and gives him a new name – Ion.  Boy, I sure hope DC gives him a series!  That’s really all there is to this issue.  And it cost five (5!) dollars.  Jesus H.

Body count: Jade.  I miss her already!  

Kyle Rayner: Adult!

Infinite Crisis Secret Files and Origins 2006, “Heaven”: This is a vexing issue, as it cost 6 dollars, tells us only one small nugget of information about the rest of the series, and that nugget is so mind-boggingly stupid that I thought my brain might explode.  But it’s also kind of crucial to the series.  At this point, the people running DC should be rounded up and shot.  This is like Marvel having a world-changing event and putting a crucial piece of information in a Maggot mini-series.  I mean, really!

The crucial piece of information, of course, is that Superboy can alter reality by … punching it.  I can’t believe I just typed that.  Anyway, Alexander Luthor can’t explain it, which means that Geoff Johns doesn’t know how to explain it, even a little bit, which means it’s unbelievably stupid.  Here’s what he thinks to himself: “I don’t know how, but he’s altering reality out there.  Creating conflicting truths.  People are changing without explanation.  New events are superseding what had always been.  Each strike he takes is rupturing the continuity of life without reason or purpose.”  So, apparently, each time Superboy hits the crystal stuff that surrounds them, he changes the DC reality.  So it’s his fault that Superman died, and Batman got his back broken, and Superman turned blue, and Green Lantern went nuts, and all the other stuff.  But … I thought it was because those heroes weren’t heroic?  But if it’s Superboy’s fault …?  Arrrgggghhh!

Anyway, this is an awful issue.  And it was stupid of DC to tell this story in a separate issue of the big event.  Blech.

Body count: None.  Very disappointing, DC!

Infinite Crisis #5, “Faith”: You know, it’s all very nice that the heroes have a service for their fallen comrades at the beginning of this issue, but who is it commemorating?  And why now?  “Hey, check it out – there’s another Earth hanging in the sky!  Let’s have a generic funeral for all the people who have died so far!”  Meanwhile, in a twist that is certainly not meant to be ironic at all, the new Blue Beetle turns out to be the only one who can see Brother Eye.  And Conner Kent is in some kind of Luke Skywalker-at-the-beginning-of-Jedi statis tank, recovering from the injuries that Superboy inflicted.  And Lex Luthor shows up!  Where exactly is Conner?  Is it someplace Titans-ish?  If so, shouldn’t there be security?  Just wondering …

And then old Lois dies, speaking crytic words: “It’s not going …”  Oh dear.  That will probably not make E-2 Superman happy.  He takes his grief out on the first person he sees, who happens to be Earth-1 Superman.  He grabs an olde-tyme automobile – I’m going to call it a Packard, because that has a nice olde-tyme sound to it – and bashes our Superman over the head with it.  It’s a really nice image – someone should put it on a cover sometime.  He’s kind of misguided, though – old Lois had to be around 80, and people die, you know, E-2.  Don’t pick on poor E-1 Superman just because human beings die!  It’s old home week, as old Wonder Woman shows up and gives new Wonder Woman some sage advice and takes her to Superman.  E-2 gets all righteous and then weepy, while our Superman has a nice line: “If you’re from this Earth it can’t be perfect.  Because a perfect Earth doesn’t need a Superman.”  SNAP!

Alexander Luthor, meanwhile, explains why Breach is plugged into his tower – he would have been the Captain Atom of Earth-8, which is a nice theory (but he should have called it “the Ocho”) – but he still doesn’t tell us why J’onn is there.  He also tells Psycho-Pirate that “everything comes from Superman.”  He doesn’t know why, but Superman is the key to the return of the multiverse.  Another vague thing that Johns doesn’t even attempt to explain.  Grrrr.  Then, Luthor brings back the multiverse (yay!) and somehow Superboy returns (boo!).  Oh, there’s going to be a smack down!

Body count: Old Lois.  Well, it’s something.  Oh, and old Wonder Woman, but I don’t think she really counts.

You tell him, Superman who has just been to the dentist!  (Seriously, isn’t that what he looks like?)

Infinite Crisis #6, “Touchdown”: The Philadelphia Eagles score on a last second scramble by Donavan McNabb and win the Super Bowl!  Oh, not that kind of touchdown?  Okay.

Batman makes a funny on page 1: “Booster.  You have no idea how to talk to kids.”  Bwah-ha-ha-ha!  And then Blue Beetle makes the Brother Eye satellite appear, and the OMACs come out to defend it.  Meanwhile, E-2 Superman tells E-1 Superman and Wonder Woman that if they don’t stop Alexander Luthor, the multiverse will explode in a Big Bang.  Then Alexander Luthor starts smushing Earths together, and in two pages DC once again proves that the idea of a multiverse is awesome, so of course it must die.  All those Elseworlds stories they’ve been telling for fifteen years?  They could all exist on different Earths!  How cool is that?  But no, fun is not allowed in the DCU!

For some reason, the Phantom Stranger decides to summon the Spectre – yes, the same Spectre who recently tried to kill all magicians.  Felix Faust thinks it’s a bad idea, and what do you know – the Spectre kills Star Sapphire!  But that’s just a side note to the two big fights in this issue – Batman and his bunch versus Brother Eye, and Conner Kent, Dick Grayson, and Cassie Sandsmark versus Alexander Luthor and Superboy-Prime!  Alex tries to merge Earth-2 and Earth-3, almost killing Superman and Wonder Woman, but Firestorm thwarts him at the last second.  Conner, Dick, and Cassie free all the people on the Anti-Monitor tower, and they go after Alexander.  Black Adam pokes his fingers through Psycho-Pirate’s eyes.  Eeeeewwwww!  Very nice, DC, to actually show us all the viscera, not to mention one of Psycho-Pirate’s eyes.  The kids will love that!

Superboy says something vague about where he’s been – the Flashes kept him imprisoned “for years” under red sunlight.  Can anyone tell me if – shocking! – DC told us what happened to him in a different book that I couldn’t be bothered be read?  Batman, meanwhile, distracts Brother Eye so that Mr. Terrific can throw the satellite out of orbit, and Alexander Luthor decides to make Earth-Prime the main Earth.  Earth-Prime, of course, being “our” Earth, which leads to that stupid little scene of him reaching for us through the pages.  Yes, I know Morrison did it, but that worked.  This is dumb, because of course Earth-Prime isn’t “our” Earth – Superboy doesn’t live in my world, after all!  At the last second, just before Alexander reaches through the page and grabs me, Conner propels himself and Superboy into the Anti-Monitor tower, destroying it.  Goodbye, multiverse!  Hello, “New Earth.”  So long, Conner.  Your death didn’t quite resonate like Barry Allen’s did.  And did everyone notice that Batman asks Hal Jordan to take him to the North Pole, where all this is taking place, but on the last page, Hal is nowhere to be found?  Where’d he go?

Body count: Star Sapphire, Psycho-Pirate, Conner Kent.  Definitely quality over quantity in this issue.

Murder – now with charming sound effects!

The OMAC Project Special #1, “The Lazarus Protocol”: Well, Brother Eye fell to Earth.  So what happens next?  Greg Rucka is glad you asked, because this issue is all about that!  In order to save itself, Brother Eye initiates the Lazarus Protocol (Lazarus was the guy Jesus raised from the dead, for you Bible-challenged people out there), which involves creating a single super-OMAC plus Sasha Bordeaux, for some reason.  Batman tells Sasha she needs to go to Saudi Arabia to make sure that Brother Eye is destroyed.  Amanda Waller gets promoted to head of Checkmate and told to go get Brother Eye.  The Russians, Chinese, and Israelis are also interested.  Man, I hope the shit doesn’t hit the fan with this!  Sasha, meanwhile, is fighting Brother Eye’s attempts to take control of her.  Waller calls out Beatriz and tells her that she knows Fire used to be a killer – for the Brazilians.  Wouldn’t that be cool if we could see some of Fire’s old adventures, back when Brazil was the terror of the world and its agents ran roughshod through the intelligence community????  Anyway, Super-OMAC is kicking all kinds of ass, but Sasha gets through – because Brother Eye lets her.  Waller thinks Brother Eye is controlling her, but Beatriz trusts her to resist long enough to destroy it.  Sasha is supposed to be the repository for all of Brother Eye’s programming, but before it can complete the download, she blows it up.  With her inside.  End of Sasha, right?  Well, yeah, if Rucka weren’t in love with her.  The nanobots covering her body not only protected her from the blast, but they were burned off in the process.  So not only did Sasha survive, she almost looks human again.  How dare you question the logic of that solution, puny mortal!

Body count: Well, I’m going to miss Brother Eye.  He had pizzazz!

The Wall lays down the law!

Villains United Special #1, “A Hero Dies But One”: This issue contains perhaps the single greatest panel not only of this entire crossover mess, but possibly of the past five or ten years.  I shall reveal it below!

Hey, remember that jail break that the villains were all planning?  Yeah, well, it takes place in this issue.  It’s worldwide, man!  Wow, that Luthor can bring a plan together, can’t he?  Just like George Peppard!  Barbara Gordon is designated as the person who recruits every single hero on the planet (El Diablo!  Geo-Force!  Whoo-hoo!) to fight the bad guys.  And that’s what they do.  There’s not a lot else to the issue.  The Secret Six pick up Scarecrow and Adam Fortune and find out that all the villains are heading to Metropolis, but it’s unclear why they care, and when they show up in Metropolis, they don’t do anything.  Strange.  The villains all go to Metropolis and Doctor Psycho sends Doomsday out to fight them, and we get a big page of the heroes fighting Doomsday and the other villains while Barbara Gordon goes on about heroism.  Yay, heroes!

It’s a weird little story in that it clearly fits into the rest of the story, but doesn’t resolve any section of the story as the other “Specials” did.  In that, it’s the weakest of the “Specials,” which is ironic since Villains United was the best mini-series.  I suppose there wasn’t anything really to resolve from the mini-series, unlike the other three, so this feels extraneous.

There are what appear to be a few continuity glitches.  First, we see Beatriz in her trashy early-1990s outfit fighting for the good guys, when in The OMAC Project, she’s a secret agent for Checkmate.  I suppose she could have ditched Checkmate for a while and fought for the good guys, but it’s weird to see her in the way-out-of-style outfit (come on, Bea – a head band?  What Not To Wear on line 2!).  On the same page we first see Bea, we see Hawk and Dove.  I thought when their Order and Chaos hosts died, they lost their powers.  Whatup wid dat?????  Finally, Green Arrow is fighting a shark dude.  That can’t be the same shark dude that Aquaman speared back in Infinite Crisis #3, can it?  Does DC have two different shark dudes?

Body count: Some random guards and the warden of Enclave M.  Adam Fortune gets thrown out of a helicopter, but for some reason I doubt that he died.  Can anyone enlighten me?  That Nazi guy with the gold epaulettes.  Seriously, what’s up with that costume?  Black Adam kills him.

As for the greatest panel in the crossover and of the past five or ten years, behold!

What’s so great about that panel, you ask?  Gaze behind Ollie’s right shoulder …

Yeah, that’s Looker, people!  Looker is awesome.  Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis should do a Looker Prestige Format mini-series.  That would totally rule.

Infinite Crisis #7, “Finale”: So the Society says that they’re going to “take” Metropolis, and that if they do, other cities will fall.  This is kind of a lame plan of Luthor’s, isn’t it?  Luthor always said that the Society wouldn’t function like the League, because all these villains could never work together.  So who gets Metropolis?  Who gets Gotham?  Why would this work at all?  Why wouldn’t the United States government simply drop a couple of nukes on Metropolis and take care of the problem once and for all?  They didn’t have a problem cutting Gotham off from the rest of the country, after all.  (Okay, maybe not nukes.  But at the end of the Villains United Special, all the villains are simply walking down the interstate.  Couldn’t the government send some planes in their with missiles and fry ’em up a bit?  Could that hurt?  In fact, the government has been strangely missing from this whole thing, except when they went after Brother Eye.)  I’m not entirely sure how all the villains taking over makes this “the perfect Earth” that Luthor has been searching for.  But then again, I’m dense.

Anyway, on page 2 and 3 we get the big spread of the big fight in Metropolis.  Is this where people say we can see all the Seven Soldiers but one?  I see Bulleteer, Klarion, the Manhattan Guardian, but no Shining Knight, Mister Miracle, Frankenstein, or Zatanna (we’ve seen Mister Miracle and Zatanna in previous issues, though).  Whatever that means.  I haven’t read all the mini-series yet (and won’t, apparently, until freakin’ September, even though Seven Soldiers #1 was supposed to be out in April!), so I’m not sure what the significance of it is.  Alexander Luthor and Superboy, last seen in IC #6 at the North Pole, are wandering through the carnage, and Luthor apparently has gained total consciousness (he’s got that going for him), because he knows how Earth-1’s history has changed even though the Anti-Monitor tower no longer exists.  Weird.  He knows that Wonder Woman helped found the Justice League, that Superman was active before he showed up in Metropolis, and that the killer of Batman’s parents has been caught. I ranted about this a while back, so I won’t again, but I’ll just point out: 4 different fates for Joe Chill since 1986.  Pick a freakin’ back story and stick to it, DC!

Then the big guns show up – Superman, E-2 Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Raven.  Wait, Raven?  Anyway, much ass is kicked, but Superboy-Prime goes a bit squirrelly because he doesn’t want this Earth.  “This Earth still smells like Conner Kent, Alex!” says Superboy-Prime.  “It’s like spilling Chinese food in the car – it never goes away!”  Bart shows up looking like the Flash (again, I assume this is explained in his own book, because wasn’t Johns writing that at the same time?) and Superboy decides to destroy the universe.  Can’t these bad guys come up with something original for a change?  Superboy blasts Zauriel’s wing off and does something to Breach, which causes the “real” Captain Atom to return (I actually bought the entire Breach series recently, so this might make sense when I read them, and I assume Captain Atom popped back from the Wildstorm Universe – where does that fit in to this whole thing?).  Speaking of which, where did that Phantom Lady come from?  The Green Lanterns try to stop Superboy, but their kung fu is weak!  He kills a bunch of them, but they were only trying to slow him down anyway.  Meanwhile, Batman pulls a gun on Alexander Luthor because he thinks Nightwing is dead.  Diana convinces him to put the gun down just before a building falls on Luthor.  The Supermans grab Superboy and fly him through Krypton’s sun – that’s kind of cool – and onto everyone’s favorite Green Lantern, Mogo.  Any crossover, no matter how bloated, that has a cameo by Mogo can’t be all bad!  Flying Superboy through the red sun of Krypton means that he loses all his powers.  Superman loses his powers because of the Kryptonite, right?  Did E-2 Superman lose his powers because of the red sun too?  I’m going to assume it.  Anyway, they all beat each other bloody, but Superman wins in the end.  Well, shit, of course he does!  He’s fuckin’ Superman!  And then E-2 Superman dies.  Yeah, well, he kind of had to, didn’t he?

And so we come to the end.  Ah, the end!  There’s a panel of heroes that are still missing.  Animal Man, Cyborg, Adam Strange, and some others who were in deep space are on the wall.  Couldn’t they put the ones who are actually dead up there?  We know those three aren’t dead.  Sigh.  The Spectre has blood on his hands as he wanders through a city, and some kids find something in the surf.  What is that?  Something magical, obviously.  It looks like a curly staff and either a tall hat or a weird-looking glove.  Help me, DC nerds!  Bart says he spent a few years somewhere, possibly with Wally, Linda, and his kids, but he can’t run anymore, which means Jay Garrick is back to being the Flash.  I haven’t read the new series, but it’s not Jay, is it?  Oh well.  And then the Joker kills Alexander Luthor because Alex didn’t include him in his plan.  Man, that’s gotta suck.  Lex Luthor watches with some satisfaction.  So, is Lex crazy or not?  Man, it’s hard to keep up.  Clark, Bruce, and Diana decide to take a year off – perhaps the DC books will somehow jump forward a year and show us what has happened while a weekly mini-series keeps up with what is going on in the DCU!  DiDio wouldn’t resort to a cheap marketing ploy like that, would he?  Nah.  How long does this new “perspective” last, anyway?  Any guesses?  And I guess I’m the last person in the world to notice this, but on the big double-page spread showing all the heroes and how wonderful the world will be even though the Trinity is taking a break, there are some weird inclusions.  There’s an OMAC.  There’s Lobo.  When the hell has Lobo ever been a hero, much less concerned with Earth?  Who’s the dude with the Christian cross on his chest?  Back to Seven Soldiers, Mister Miracle is significantly missing, but so is Beatriz DaCosta.  And she ain’t dead!  Black Adam is there.  Deathstroke is there – another guy who is not heroic in the least.  Catman is there, but he’s a tad more heroic than Slade Wilson.  And, of course, there’s lesbian Batwoman.  So … is this just an advertisement?  Shocking!

And because DC can’t leave well enough alone, Superboy-Prime is in prison, carving an “S” on his chest with his own finger (I thought he didn’t have any powers?) and promising to return.  We’ll see you in 20 years, Superboy, when DC decides to reboot again!

Body count: Bane snaps some Asian-looking dude like a twig; Prometheus shoots some guy in the back; Sir Justin hits the Riddler with a mace, which should kill him but won’t; Black Adam “kills” Amazo; Superboy casually rips apart some insect-looking thing; Green Lanterns 885, 3544, 34; Earth-2 Superman; Alexander Luthor. 

Mogo is cool. You know it to be true!

What have we learned and who is to blame?

That’s a bit harsh, I suppose.  Maybe it should be “who gets the credit?”  However, even with decent “event” comics, there has to be blame, because their nature is such that they lead to even more “event” comics, and the law of diminishing returns kicks in.  There is a lot that is quite good about this monster crossover, but in the end, we have to point fingers.

First, what have we learned?  Well, in the world of comic books and really all entertainment, it is clear that comics by fiat simply don’t work.  Exactly why was this mini-series conceived?  We can look back at Identity Crisis, and although that was not technically part of the crossover, it provided the impetus for this sprawling mess.  I imagine that Meltzer pitched the idea to DC, and, as I mentioned, it’s not a bad idea.  The execution falls apart in the end, but the idea is sound.  However, Meltzer blew by having Dr. Light rape Sue Dibny.  Again, it’s not the rape that I object to (it’s awful storytelling, but the objections to raping women have been hashed out ad infinitum, so I don’t want to go into it here), it’s that it’s a red herring.  The presence of red herrings is certainly necessary in murder mysteries, but this brings about such a fundamental change in the status quo of the heroes that DC had to deal with it.  You can argue that Identity Crisis is as much about the mindwiping of Dr. Light and, more specifically, Batman as it was about Sue Dibny’s murder, but if it is, then Meltzer does a poor job addressing it and pretty much guarantees that this “self-contained” mini-series will have to spawn something like Infinite Crisis.  It’s frustrating because Identity Crisis, ultimately, didn’t need the rape of Sue Dibny.

Once the mindwiping was out of the box, the committee took over.  Dan DiDio and his cabal decided that something needed to be done about the “dark” tone the DCU was taking.  Once again, they allowed the dark tone to occur, but for some reason, they suddenly decided it was wrong.  Was it the fan reaction to Sue Dibny’s rape and subsequent murder?  Was it Ray Palmer’s cavalier treatment of his wife when he finds out she is insane?  I’m not entirely sure.  Until Dan DiDio comes out with a tell-all book about his years at DC, we may never know why this crossover, beginning with the only truly horrible book in this mess, Countdown to Infinite Crisis, was green-lit.  Did the fans’ reaction precipitate it?  Or did JoRucknick and DiDio remember that Alexander Luthor, Superboy-Prime, and E-2 Superman were still around somewhere?  Or was the cabal made up of young comic book fans when Crisis on Infinite Earths come out and they wanted to create their own mega-crossover?  I will not rely on press releases for my information, so I don’t know the answers to these questions.

The other problem is, of course, that the “event” in this event comic is rather lame.  Let’s look at big-time crossovers in the past.  Crisis on Infinite Earths, possibly the grandfather of them all, “corrected” a “problem,” as people saw it, in the DC stable.  We can argue until doomsday whether the existence of multiple earths was actually a problem or not, but at least the series addressed an existing situation.  Other crossovers have introduced mega-threats and then dealt with them.  Currently, Civil War is addressing a problem that has always lingered with regard to masked superheroes – the fine line between heroism and vigilantism.  Marvel may have hyped the problem, but it has always been there.  Infinite Crisis, however, addresses a problem that doesn’t really exist: why are heroes not acting like heroes anymore?  Well, if these people were real, it might be a problem, but the simple answer is: because writers write them that way and fans buy the books.  In the past fifteen years – when things, I suppose, really got bad – DC has published several “lighter” books – Major Bummer, Young Heroes in Love, The Heckler – while Marvel gave us ClanDestine, at least.  I’m sure there are others, but those are just the ones that I can think of sitting here at the keyboard.  Guess what?  Either through poor marketing or the fact that fans just didn’t care, all those books died quickly.  Very quickly.  Superheroes are dark because people want them dark.  If they didn’t, no one would have fallen for Bane breaking Batman’s back after they watched DC kill Superman.  The marketplace drives the stories, and DC responded.  So why change now?

That question is at the heart of why this crossover was published.  Why change now?  Decreasing sales?  An attempt to gain new readership (meaning kids)?  An attempt to regain old readership (people nostalgic for “goofy” superhero comics)?  I don’t know.  It seems to me, however, that, as I’ve mentioned before, that if DC didn’t want to publish “dark” superhero books anymore, the simple solution is don’t do it.  The fact that this event forces Bruce to admit he’s been a complete and total bastard to certain people is weird.  Jason Todd’s murder didn’t convince him?  Barbara Gordon’s crippling didn’t convince him?  Sarah Essen’s murder didn’t convince him?  Vesper Fairchild’s murder didn’t convince him?  Why this event?  The idea of this series is misguided, because nothing DC can do now is any more traumatic to Bruce than what has already been done to him.  If DC wanted him to be nicer, they could have just told their writers to stop writing such horribly depressing stories.  He could simply come to the conclusion on his own.  But that’s not cool enough, I guess.

Another reason why this crossover seems to exist is to overhaul the DC line.  This is rather strange.  Is it easier for fans to accept new characters when they are introduced in a universe-changing epic?  I don’t know.  In this series, we get a new Blue Beetle, a new Spectre, a new Flash, and a new Wonder Woman.  The “One Year Later” books have brought about changes for almost every title, and fans seem to accept them.  Are they accepting them only because of the events of Infinite Crisis?  Or if DC simply said, “You know what?  Our books are stale.  We’re throwing everything ahead one year and we’ll see what we get.”  Imagine this new Wonder Woman without the benefit of having Infinite Crisis.  Would that be a harder sell?  This comes back to continuity, the elephant in the room when we talk Big Two superhero comics.  Like it or not, the fans obsess about it, and so do the companies.  In his column on Friday, Greg brought up some examples of non-continuity titles, and they will always exist, but let’s face it: they’re niche titles.  Even the Ultimate line now has continuity, so don’t throw that at me!  Mainstream superhero titles have continuity, like it or not.  Now, they don’t have to strictly adhere to continuity, but it still exists.  And this means that DC simply can’t change the identities of their heroes that easily without a big mega-crossover like this.  Well, they could, but they would piss off a large section of their fan base.  For some reason, fans are more accepting of big changes when they come in a big crossover like this.  But that’s a dangerous game, because a big crossover like this brings out all the obsessive fans (who knew anyone actually cared about Ted Kord?) and it also means that these new titles have a spotlight’s glare on them, and they have to succeed quickly or we get the inevitable retcon.  That’s unfortunate, because it’s always interesting to see what a writer can do if he or she is freed from the constraints of continuity and is able to write a story that works, with perhaps nods to whatever history they see fit.  I’m not reading the new Blue Beetle, because I’m just not interested, but how long will it be before Ted Kord returns?  And he, I’ll point out, isn’t even the original Beetle.  If DC had simply brought out a new Blue Beetle series with little fanfare (or less than they did with this one), maybe Giffen and Rogers could be a little more creative and deal with the history when it’s pertinent.  Again, I’m not reading it, so maybe they are writing a good book, but the spotlight on the book can’t help – if they are doing a good job, it’s despite the expectations.

So why can’t DC (and Marvel) change unless it’s cataclysmic?  Again, it has to do with the fans.  We accept the death of Conner Kent because it “meant” something.  And, he died a hero.  But let’s be honest – Conner Kent was never a really big player in the DCU, and it’s interesting to note that as the cycle of these crossovers becomes tighter, DC has to find lesser and lesser heroes to kill.  In the first Crisis, Supergirl’s and Barry Allen’s death were events because both characters had been around for a long time.  Now, the old characters are so iconic that there is no way DC would kill off someone of Barry Allen’s stature – and if they did, the fans would go through the roof – and the new characters just don’t have the same impact as the older ones would.  It’s a strange dilemma.  Who will DC kill off next - Jim Rook?  NOOOOOO!

The biggest problem I have with Infinite Crisis and all the mega-crossovers is that they promise things they simply can’t deliver.  I know that most of us don’t fall for it when the Big Two promise “real change,” and I don’t even care about that too much.  If Grant Morrison, in the course of writing about Batman, decides to write an ultra-bleak story in which Batman is a dick, DC won’t say no.  Whatever sells, after all.  The thing that bothers me is that they think we will believe it.  We know that this is a business, and that any character who is no longer viable as a selling point is vulnerable, and that any character who, for whatever reason, suddenly becomes viable can be resurrected.  “Real change” in superhero comics cannot be editorially mandated, and that’s the most egregious thing about IC.  If the reading public wants our superheroes to be like Batman in the 1950s, when he strolled down the street and helped old ladies cross and got cats out of trees and fought villains with giant foam fingers of doom, then we won’t read Batman until DC gives that to us.  At least I hope so.  The other option, that we bought Infinite Crisis and its vast ancillary titles simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it and we hope that things will get better, is too depressing to contemplate.  I have read a lot of people gnash their teeth over the events in Infinite Crisis.  And yet they’re buying 52, and the new Blue Beetle, and the new Wonder Woman, and James Robinson’s Batman story, and Shadowpact, and Secret Six, and Ion, and Holly-as-Catwoman.  Those are the kinds of fans who drive me insane.  “Well, Infinite Crisis sucked, but I really like the concept of Blue Beetle, so I’m going to keep giving my money to DC.  It has to get better, right?”  Superhero comics rely on people like that, and it’s frustrating.  Because if you want books to be better, the only way – the only way! – that DC (or Marvel) will do it is if you vote with your pocket books.  They don’t care about online petitions or fan clubs (Manhunter‘s lease on life notwithstanding).  If you want your superheroes to act like superheroes again, then don’t buy comics in which they act like dicks.  We shall see if this brave new era of DC heroics lasts, or if we revert to the grim-‘n’-gritty template.  Because if we do, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.  Me, I like good stories, whether or not someone gets shot in the head.  And I hope that I buy books that reflect that and drop them when they start to suck.  Comics should be good, after all, to coin a phrase.

Final body count, by the way: 45 confirmed individual deaths, plus a bunch of others that appear to be fatalities but haven’t been confirmed, and finally a bunch of random people like Amazons and Atlanteans.  That’s in 44 issues!  Wow, good job, DC.  Let me know if I’ve missed some! 

“Let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”  Amen to that.  Who sings these lyrics and the lyrics at the top of the post?  It’s the perfect sentiment for my feelings about Infinite Crisis!

Sorry for the length of the post.  Man, this was a fun bunch of comics, weren’t they?  I have to decompress, like George Constanza in the Summer of George.  Reading comics shouldn’t be such a chore!  Thanks for putting up with me while I did this, and always remember:

 

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