The Bookshelf: Crisis on Infinite Earths
The 12-issue Maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in 1985 was developed in order to simplify the 50 years of increasingly complex continuity. Origins, power levels and sliding timescales were becoming too convoluted, and previous attempts to rectify these problems essentially boiled down to creating an ever-expanding multi-verse of different Earths in order to credibly explain away any inconsistencies. This in itself slowly started to become the problem, as various crossovers between the Earths dragged the DC line into a mire of multiple Supermen and Batman, Legacy characters standing side-by-side with their modern counterparts, until eventually DC decided a Crisis was in order.
Every alternate universe version of Earth – Earth 1 (or current DC Earth), Earth 2 (Golden-age earth), Earth 3 (opposite Earth where heroes are villains) and Earth Prime (basically the “real-world”) to name but a few – are facing destruction at the hands of the Anti-Monitor, a near omnipotent being that’s slowly devouring the multiverse – which ironically was created in the same experiment that birthed him and his ‘good’ alternate, the Monitor. The Monitor calls on all the known heroes in DC comics at the time in order to merge all remaining Earths into one and protect them from further destruction from the anti-matter that’s sweeping across the Multiverse.
Well, I think it’s safe to say this was a tough book to read. I’ll preface this by saying I definitely enjoyed reading it, and can respect the talent on display in both the narrative and in the art (always been a fan of Perez). Saying that I’m reviewing this from the vantage point of the brand spanking new reader that I am, and as such…it was a tough read.
First off there are a lot of characters, and I mean a LOT, which is the point really; every DC character across the multiverse pulls together to defeat the anti-monitor. On the plus side it’s a great baptism of fire – in one form or another I’ve been exposed to so many characters I’ve never heard of before. The downside to that was I was exposed to so many characters I’ve never heard of before. A lot of the character nuance went straight over my head. Entire conversations were effectively gibberish, story beats were meaningless and when the narrative started reeling off update son all the various worlds my mind started to drift. I’ve no doubt that once I’m further into the universe and start to get a greater appreciation of all these characters I’ll revisit this story and pick up on a whole bunch of stuff I missed this first time.
During the first few issues my ignorance of all the myriad characters didn’t seem to matter; if anything a lot of the characters were in the same boat, having been brought together with heroes and villains from other worlds they may not have heard of before. As the story progressed though there were arguments, in-fighting, in-jokes and sacrifices that, while I understood on a basic comic-book level, sort of lost any impact due to be coming into the world fresh.
Still there were many things I did love – the book introduced me to the world of Earth 3, where heroes are villains and everything is opposite, and that’s a world I definitely want to explore more of. I loved Barry Allen’s sacrifice; it was paced really well and made a lasting impression despite my relatively new introduction to the characters. The character arc of the Superman of Earth 2 was poignant and effective, and overall the storyline was grand and ambitious with high stakes and near-impossible odds – just the kind of event book I like to read.
So as a new reader, Crisis on Infinite Earths may not have been the best place to jump into the DC universe, and maybe if I had to do it again I’d probably do a bit more of a Wikipedia search in order to prep myself, but otherwise it was a fun baptism of fire.
The reason I chose this book was because of the near-seminal nature of the series, mixed with the drastic reboot of the entire DC line that followed. If I was to move into the rest of the DC universe I would need to have read this book to see where the changes began and for that I’m very happy with the series. It’s encouraged me to branch out to other books and as such I’m looking forward to my next DC adventure!