SUNDAY CLASSICS: Crisis on Infinite Earths
When a crisis of tremendous proportions sweeps through the multiverse, destroying everything in its path, The Monitor must gather heroes and villains from multiple Earths to prevent the complete annihilation of all life! Worlds will die, heroes will fall, and in the end, the DC Universe will be forever changed!
Crisis on Infinite Earths was an event unlike any seen before and had an undeniable impact not only at DC Comics but for the comics industry as a whole. A twelve-issue maxi-series, CoiE rewrote the book on DC’s rapidly decaying continuity, taking the worlds occupied by the acquired properties from Quality (the Freedom Fighters), Fawcett (the Marvel family), Charlton (Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom, et al), and DC’s own older generation of superheroes (the Justice Society of America) and blended them into a single, cohesive and comprehensive timeline and structure. This unprecedented move was not without its faults, as we would see given the multiple follow-up crises over the next thirty years but the sheer audacity to even attempt a series like this remains remarkable, even to this day.
Marv Wolfman and George Perez took the reins on this project, assisted by a cadre of extremely talented inkers and colorists. 1985 was the height of the Perez/Wolfman era and both creators were at the top of their respective games. The power and impact of their “Judas Contract” was still fresh in the minds of fandom and here they were, these two stalwart warriors, taking the entirety of the DC Universe into their hands. They would not disappoint.
CoiE simultaneously withstands the test of time and is also very much a product of its own time. Wrought with overwriting and heavy exposition, it takes no time to understand that what a reader today holds in their hand comes from a very different place in comics history. That difference, however, is as much a strength of the book as it is a weakness. In those over-written moments, in these many and varied gutters between panels, is some of the greatest character work in the history of the medium. Some moments fall flat, to be sure, but they are outweighed by the shining moments. Take, for example, the moment between Batgirl and Supergirl. Despite strong sales and a heavy popularity, Batgirl finds herself humbled in this moment, awash in despair as she sits without the power necessary to combat the growing anti-matter wave. In her final moments with her friend before courageously taking the fight to the Anti-Monitor, Supergirl takes the time to bring reassurance and hope to Batgirl– a defining moment for the character, representative of all she stood for. This example is but one among a full tapestry of like moments that help keep such a grandiose story firmly grounded in spite of itself.
The artwork is flawless. Perez and company give an absolute masterclass on every subject imaginable, including ensemble casts, emotion, and layouts. The detail work borders on obscene in its precision. The character design for the Anti-Monitor is grotesque while the new Dr. Light design is full of grace and motion. The slow deterioration of Barry Allen is an image burned in the minds of countless fans and none of these moments even broach the topic of the numerous iconic covers provided by Perez.
Crisis on Infinite Earths may have been very much about destruction– of the multiverse but also the status quo in comics– but it was also very much a tale of creation. It was a love letter to the storied history of the DCU, including characters from far and wide. The Losers, Haunted Tank, Jonah Hex, Shining Knight, Anthro and Kamandi, Dr. Occult, The Phantom Stranger– it was a complete “all hands on deck” scenario. And each of these characters were given their moment in the sun. That is yet another remarkable feat of this series. If only for a single panel, no moment was wasted and every opportunity to show the majesty of what DC had built was seized.
That does also come as a blessing and a curse, however. For the new reader, CoiE is intimidating, bordering on hostile. While many of these inclusions were fresh in the minds of the 1985 reader, a number of them have been banished to the realm of “deep cuts” in the modern era, occasionally dusted off for a few issues before being placed back in the toy chest for decades at a time in some instances. For that reason, while I am still inclined to call CoiE a must-read book for comics fans, where in your personal journey you read it is certainly flexible.
In the end, this groundbreaking event continues to influence comics culture even today. As I write this review, The CW television network prepares to embark on a 5-part crossover event of the same name, a testament to the importance of CoiE in the grand scheme of comics. Whether or not it will be able to live up to the power of the original remains to be seen but from all indications, with the growing list of guest stars and cameos, the potential destruction and death, and the birth of some new heroes, it appears to be certain to capture the spirit of the original.
As we prepare to embark on the CW's 5-episode crossover event of 2019, take a look back with Comic Watch at the 1985 epic event, Crisis on Infinite Earths.
SUNDAY CLASSICS: Crisis on Infinite Earths
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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