Reprints Infinite Crisis #1-7
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Phil Jimenez, George Perez, Ivan Reis, and Joe Bennett
Since Identity Crisis, the DC Universe had been caught up in building momentum towards the 20th-anniversary celebration of their landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths. Through side plots in monthly books and mini-series, everything was building towards this moment. You could arguably go back to Mark Waid’s The Kingdom which teased the return of the Golden Age Superman as hype for this future storyline. Ten years earlier, DC did a similar celebration of Crisis with the Zero Hour event, which I reviewed last summer. The hype for Infinite Crisis far outshines anything Zero Hour did, which stands as a quaint event in terms of breadth. If you didn’t read at least three of the four lead-in mini-series, you could be a bit lost here because issue one jumps right into the fray.
The villains have been organized by Lex Luthor and finally execute their attack across the globe. The Justice League is in tatters after the revelations of Identity Crisis and the fallout from The OMAC Project. This leads to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman having a verbal confrontation in the ruins of the League’s headquarters The Watchtower. By the end of the first issue, it’s revealed that four people thought to be lost in the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths are alive: Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, and Superboy of Earth-Prime. As the event progresses we learn that these four, trapped inside a pocket dimension, have watched the DC Universe as it has sunk into darkness, heroes becoming more violent and betraying the virtues expected of them.
Geoff Johns is no stranger to centering his work around nostalgia. His arguably best work was on JSA, a series about the legacies of superheroes dating back to the 1930s. That title featured characters who didn’t have solo series and therefore had lots of room for character development and relationship building. Johns also had co-writer David Goyer for the first few years of the book to lay a foundation. Infinite Crisis is all about restoring the Multiverse to the DCU, a fun concept invented in the 1960s that essentially allowed for parallel realities to exist alongside the mainline continuity. In 1985 everything was compressed into a single reality. While the Multiverse allows for silly and sometimes exciting stories, I honestly preferred having the Golden Age heroes as the foundation for the heroes that would come later in the modern era. However, the primary purpose of Infinite Crisis, if we cut away all the extra and superfluous content, is to bring the Multiverse back. But why?
Having the benefit of hindsight, we can look at the result of bringing back the Multiverse, and it has pretty much sat there unused. There were five years between the conclusion of Infinite Crisis and the New 52 reboot and the Multiverse never really amounted to much. There was an attempt in New 52 to use Earth-2, but that ended up being an incredibly disappointing series and a huge missed opportunity. This leads me to believe there wasn’t a game plan post-Infinite Crisis to do anything with the status quo established. The most significant use of the Multiverse has been by Grant Morrison (Multiversity), and Scott Snyder (DC Metal & Justice League) and those uses feel divorced from anything Infinite Crisis did.
Johns also continues his disdain of Batman, writing the character as almost comically arrogant and inconsistent. It’s clear that Johns falls in the Superman camp in that debate and he never misses a chance to display his dislike of Batman. There was originally a plan to kill off Nightwing, the first Robin, in these pages but it was changed to Superboy. I would argue this isn’t a slight towards the Superman family, but it gives those characters a bigger spotlight over Batman. With the pending publication of Batman: The Three Jokers by Johns in 2020 it will be interesting to see how he approaches the character now. You can see his reimagining in the pages of Batman: Earth-One which presents the Caped Crusader in a very different light.
Infinite Crisis is deeply muddled and confusing, even after reading the lead-in material, I still struggled to follow the multiple threads. There’s no central character to support or even a core consistent group. Each issue dramatically whips the reader around, and so those four prologue mini-series end up feeling meaningless and entirely peripheral. There are lengthy asides centered around The Flash and the new Blue Beetle that don’t add to the story, other than to act as marketing for follow up projects. The big finale centers around the battle between the two Supermen and Superboy-Prime and is very much like the contemporary DC films, sound & fury with little substance. The argument made by the Golden Age Superman is about how dark and violent the DC Universe has become yet the event is filled with gore and violence. I don’t get what the thesis statement here is. There were some plot points to be hit and pieces to be set up, but there’s no sense of an overall theme or point to the whole affair.