Crisis On Infinite Earths Graphic Novel by Deffinition
Oh there you are, didn’t see you there. Welcome to my graphic novel read through and review. Here we are at Crisis On Infinite Earths. This is a huge book that at the time (1985) really shook up the DC Universe. There are countless deaths, the canonisation and non-canonisation of thousands of character arcs and just the general ‘oh shit’ moments that you’ve come to expect whenever DC does a Crisis.
This book is massive so it will be difficult to do a plot summary for the entire thing. Instead, I’ll be focusing on the main takeaways from the book. Obviously, this will be extremely spoiler heavy as the graphic novel has been out for about 30 years, you should have read it by now, SO STOP COMPLAINING and let’s jump in.
The book opens brilliantly and from the complete and utter destruction of Earth-Three, you really get the feeling that this is going to be an epic chapter in the DC mythology. It’s one of the best openings of a comic book that I’ve ever seen and it certainly gets you gripped from the outset. Sure it was a bit of a downer seeing the loveable villains ‘The Crime Syndicate‘ go out like chumps but it really got me invested from the start. From there the book carries mystery to it whilst also giving tiny tidbits of revelations and having character introductions that allow you to learn the plot and the players at a manageable speed. We travel from the dawn of man up to present day and back again and it all feels totally balanced, everything throughout has it’s place and adds to the overall plot.
I love the way how almost every page within the opening chapter is connected in double-page panels. It adds to the feeling that this book spans across multiple universes, conceptually it is brilliant and a really creative way of subtly emphasising the span of the story.
We get a brilliant cast of characters throughout the book. From world famous ones like Batman and Superman to D listers like Psycho Pirate. Each one has their own motives and part to play and I found myself heavily invested in all of the character’s early on, whether I’d heard of them or not. This is what a book with such a plethora of heroes required. Each one had to be written in such a way that it would make you want to see them unite and save the universes. Some are selfish, some are thoughtful but all come together to boost the book.
Trapped in time
It’s brilliant watching the heroes (and villains) embark through time trying to stop the destruction, we get a whole span of historical events and locations like World War 2 and the Wild West. Our interactions with Batman and Superman in present day also help to thicken the plot and give explanation and exposition to people who may not be able to keep up. It’s well balanced and allows for everyone to take something from the book.
I love the way that Alexander Luther is used as a McGuffin of the book too. After the destruction of Earth 3, Lex teleported him to Earth 1. Ironically not too dissimilar from Superman’s origin. And the Monitor entombed him and well…monitored him. When his rapid ageing is said to be the answer to stopping anti-matter interacting with matter you get the feeling that the plot has been cleverly thought out and that everything has a purpose. It’s gripping storytelling at it’s best for these few opening chapters.
It’s harrowing just to see how helpless the heroes are. Even selfless ones like Barbara Gordon worry for their own skin and you truly get the sense that this is the end.
The book is a Greek tragedy, operatic in its sorrow and beautifully told. Imagine the explosion at the end of Watchmen but happening to your favourite heroes countless times. Seeing the Monitor betrayed whilst the Pariah watches on as Earth 1 and 2 get destroyed is one of the darkest moments in all of comics. It’s beautifully portrayed whilst totally despairing at the same time.
Whilst I love this, I can also see how some people may have problems with the book, it is very…VERY…unfriendly to newcomers. You pretty much have to have a PHD in DC comics to understand the plot completely. I think first-time readers will really struggle to get into it as it is very inaccessible.
When world’s collide
One of the best chapters in Crisis On Infinite Earths is when Earth 1 and Earth 2 collide. Initially we get a moment when all time exists at once. Neanderthals look on modern man with confusion and there is an excellent heroes vs dinosaur fight (you read that right) that thunders through the panels.
Worth picking up the book for surely.
Whilst this section becomes slightly overwhelming it still showcases the amount of thought that has been put into this book. Everything seems preplanned and is building towards a huge pay off that will rock the DC multiverse to it’s very core.
The Anti Monitor
The Anti Monitor is an excellent villain. He’s mega ugly and hands out the best insults. I love when he says to Psycho pirate ‘you are from a world developed from a single Amoeba and are still it’s lowest lifeform.’
Damn, Anti Monitor has no chill.
The way he is teased through the first four issues adds to his appeal. He’s almost the Darth Vader of the DCU. Totally threatening and sinister, even when he’s trying to be nice.
He’s the perfect villain for the plot. He pits the heroes against each other and we see some of the best conflicts that comics have to offer…and then he makes his grand entrance and we all know how that goes…
The Death Of Supergirl
The death of Supergirl is not only a huge moment in the comic but a huge moment in comic book history. The Anti Monitor is completely decimating Superman, he’s absolutely getting his arse handed to him. Supergirl dives in to save Supes. Narrating how everyone can be a hero should they be selfless enough.
Wow, what a send-off!
It’s a brilliant way to go out and you truly feel that the character’s death meant something. This is like Jason Todd times two. In their final moments, we see everything that the character could be and feel the tragic robbery because of it.
Of course, no one stays dead in comic books so it’s hard to truly feel the impact of this loss knowing she returns. In its context though it’s definitely a landmark moment that may be worth picking the book up for alone.
The Death of Barry Allen
Just as you’re getting over the death of Supergirl the writers follow it up with the death of The Flash. Another huge moment that, whilst I prefer the Flash to Supergirl, doesn’t feel as impactful. He fades to nothing and we don’t get the mourning from the other character’s as they aren’t present. Whether this was intentional or not it’s like the writer and artists have built up such a book of despair that you feel like anyone could die.
Barry’s sacrifice feels a lot more selfless and we get flashes, pun not intended, of his other appearances through the book. Explaining his travelling through time. The art is unforgettable in this moment and it feels like a brutal, horrific death. The panel will stick with you!
The Death of The Guardians
Yeah no one cares
It’s from here on that the book slowly starts to go downhill. With the Anti Monitor gone (for the time being) the super villains of the Five Earths decide that now is the best time to take over. A lot of it feels like political filler and we are so overwhelmed with the cast of characters now, who are involved in a boring part of the conflict, that it drags the book down. Gone are the action scenes, drama and sense of peril. Replaced with what is a bit of a waste of time.
There are mass fights between heroes and villains but they are so stacked with characters that it’s difficult to tell what is really going on or gain an attachment to anyone in particular.
We get talks of defectors from the KGB, oceanic pollution and it really doesn’t help the book to retain it’s timeless feel or validity.
So THANK GOD when The Spectre shows back up, informing all the members of the Five Earths that the Anti Monitor has travelled back in time to destroy life at its inception. After two issues of what almost bored me to tears the story finally felt like it had purpose again.
Defeating The Anti Climax
The next chapter really highlighted the problems of the book. The heroes defeat the anti Monitor and he still comes back. It would have been a nice climax, unfortunately, DC (or the writer) have felt the need to drag the story out further.
The book contains too many repetitions and arcs that, whilst exciting during their primary reading, ultimately really have no impact on the story as the villains and heroes eventually return. This would have been a near-perfect book had it been focused on a tight group in a six-part arc. Ultimately this is quite draining and often at points I would have been happy to accept an issue as a finale.
Erased from memory
We wrap up the storyline with all Earths merging as one, some heroes from their separate Earths are now without a home some have seven wives etc etc. It adds a real touch of humanity amongst the constant battles when the older Superman realises that he no longer has a world. It’s an interesting subplot that helps to tie up all of the DC continuity in a dramatic fashion that hasn’t really been explored in the creation of The New 52 or Rebirth.
All characters stand on a united front and go against the Anti Monitor. Z-listers get wiped out left right and centre which is normally great. However, it all feels like a retread of the earlier chapters.
Speaking of repetition, here is me, moaning about repetition again. The final chapter is a slightly dull one that I feel would have been better had the Anti Monitor had a psychological fight with the heroes but it isn’t the case. The heroes fight The Anti Monitor till he is defeated, they go to leave, he comes back, they defeat him…they go to leave again and he comes back. I’m not even joking. At the end he becomes like an 80’s horror villain. More Jason Vorhees that DC villain.
Don’t worry, I won’t moan on about how repetitive it was again. You’re off the hook.
Crisis on Infinite Earths is very difficult to review and rate. At points, I felt like it hit the highs of classics like Watchmen and The Dark Knight returns…but…it hasn’t aged as well as the aforementioned titles.
If you can slog through the repetitive elements and overwhelming fights then you are in for an enjoyable ride. However, I would really only recommend this to seasoned DC fans as a lot of prior knowledge is expected. To its detriment there are several characters that have been written out of continuity (and for good reason) that take up vast portions of the book. Missing are large scenes based around characters like Batman or Wonder Woman and whilst they make appearances I doubt it will be enough to wet your appetite.
So…overall I did enjoy Crisis On Infinite Earths but perhaps it is a book that is best left on the shelf if you aren’t a massive DC Fan. I’m looking at you Marvel Fan boy!
It’s a nice stroll through memory lane to demonstrate what comics were like in the 80’s but it’s not something that I think will bring any new readers to the genre. The sum of it’s parts are better than the overall book and whilst it is nice revisiting the death of Super Girl and Barry Allen you should probably wait till this drops in price.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.