Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 6 (of 9)
Reviewing stories found in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, DC Comics Presents #88, Justice League of America Annual #3, Green Lantern #195, and Superman #415
Written by Marv Wolfman, Steve Englehart, Dan Mishkin, Cary Bates
Art by George Perez, Keith Giffen, Rick Hoberg, Joe Staton, Curt Swan
Still reeling from the death of Supergirl, fans were hit with another significant death that would have some long-term effects on the DC Universe for decades. It must be noted that eight issues into these events and the heroes of the Multiverse have just really gotten their bearings on what is happening to all of reality. They even believe the Anti-Monitor was defeated at this point due to what happened in the previous issue. The surviving Earths are still a mess, and they are trying to sort that out while having no idea that the antagonist is still alive and recharging his batteries.
Crisis #8 addressed a question DC fans were having: Where is Darkseid in all of this? He was one of the premier villains of the company, and it seemed like he certainly would have been involved. The answer to that question is so cleverly done and something I had forgotten from previous readings. Desaad inquires if Darkseid will intervene, and the tyrant responds that if the heroes win, then the status quo is preserved, so no big whoop. However, if the Anti-Monitor wins, he will be so weakened that Darkseid will strike and usurp him right away. It’s a perfectly appropriate answer for this character.
The big moment from Crisis #8 is, of course, centered around The Flash (Barry Allen); he’s been teleporting through time & space since the first issue and has ended up in the clutches of the Anti-Monitor. Psycho-Pirate has been emotionally manipulating him to keep the hero under control. So, of course, Barry uses his powers to break the Pirate’s grasp and shatter the Anti-Monitor’s latest invention. The cost is Barry’s life, running so fast that he causes himself to lose physical cohesion and dies. His costume and signature lightning bolt ring are left behind, and his sacrifice (for now) is unknown to the heroes he has served alongside.
I would love to be able to read what people thought when they read this. At the time, the deaths of major heroes were not a thing that happened, though now they are so commonplace it’s a joke when it happens. However, there’s some powerful emotional resonance to how The Flash sacrifices himself. His series had been canceled a year or so earlier, and he’d relocated to the 31st Century with his bride Iris. Barry had retired as The Flash and was going to live a regular life. However, the Crisis pulled him back into action and brought about the end of his life. Frustratingly DC Comics brought Barry back for 2008’s Final Crisis, a move I still don’t understand. I grew up reading the stories of Wally West as The Flash and Barry as a dead hero that inspired Wally worked much better for me than the current iteration of Barry running around.
In Crisis #8 and Justice League of America Annual #3, we get a storyline that sets android hero Red Tornado up for a post-Crisis reboot. Red Tornado was an invention of the League villain Dr. Thomas O. Morrow. I’ve not read the stories first-hand, but from my reading of Who’s Who entries and online wikis, Red Tornado feels exceptionally close to being DC Comics’ answer to Marvel’s The Vision with the character-centered around ideas of identity and humanity. Red Tornado was actually a merger of a robotic body and the elemental being Ulthoon who lived on Rann (see Adam Strange).
This particular story in the JLA Annual has him losing control of that Ulthoon part of his personality and becoming a danger to the planet. Red Tornado kept popping up in Crisis, hinting that he had some importance, but it really feels more like Dan Mishkin wanted a clean slate with the character and pushed for his inclusion with Crisis so that it could be tangentially connected to the event. As much as I have wanted to love Red Tornado over the years, I think he has a fantastic-looking costume; when you hold him up to the development done with The Vision, there is simply no comparison.
Over in Green Lantern, there is a similar instance of a storyline playing out that doesn’t lean too hard into the events of Crisis but is happening because of the crossover. At this point, Hal Jordan was retired as Green Lantern, with John Stewart serving as the Earth GL with his partner Katma Tui. Writer Steve Englehart decided to create conflict by bringing back a lesser-known character, Guy Gardner. Guy had been the first choice by the dying alien Abin Sur as he searched for a replacement.
Complications led to Hal Jordan as the one to bear the ring. At one point, Guy did get to be a Green Lantern, but an accident left him in a coma. When he came out, his personality had changed from a do-gooder to a real bastard, which the Guy we have here. The Guardians of the Universe have chosen him to do what no other Green Lantern can do during this time. That, of course, puts Guy into immediate conflict with Hal, which would become a regular feature of the Green Lantern and Justice League comics into the 1990s.