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Thursday, November 10, 2005

This is a job for Super-Geoff

26 October 2005 08:32 EDT Posted by Highlander

I can't imagine the world really needs yet another fanboy blogging about Infinity Crisis#1, but, well, it's not like anyone pays any attention to this thing anyway.

Given that, let me say this: what a difference a writer makes.

Infinity Crisis has been being billed for over a year now as a direct sequel to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, a 12 issue crossover miniseries that finally threw the last spadeful of dirt on DC's Silver Age, back in 1985. DC's Silver Age had been in Cheyne-Stokes respiration for about, I don't know, 5 to 10 years before that, as clueless editors frantically flailed their arms and legs in a desperate and never successful attempt to somehow transform what was once the greatest 2 dimensional superhero universe in existence into a 3 dimensional metareality like that depicted by their chief competitor, Marvel Comics.

Yet no matter how grim n' gritty DC got, no matter how many times Superman accidentally destroyed an entire planet full of Luthor worshippers or took Lois Lane off to 19th Century Paris for a long weekend of red sun light bulb powered, silk sheeted debauchery, or how often Barry Allen had to use lethal force to stop Professor Zoom and then go to jail, it just wasn't getting there. You could make the heroes and villains act darker, but lurking in the background there was always the knowledge that once upon a time (not too long ago) Superman had been exposed to Red Kryptonite and turned 200 feet tall, and Jimmy Olsen still had a souvenir collection full of magical and/or futuristic artifacts that could have turned him into a god if he hadn't been too stupid to deploy them competently.

In a universe that encompassed the likes of Bat-Mite, just how seriously could you take the characters?

To get around that, DC buried its Silver Age continuity and started anew, and for the past 20 years, the so called Original Universe has shambled stuporously through an evershifting mulligan stew of constant continuity improvisation.

THE HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE was a nice 2 volume Prestige set that came out right after Crisis; it was supposed to be the Bible for the new continuity, and various writers and editors had contradicted it in its entirety before the ink was even dry on it. A new SECRET ORIGINS series was rolled out to explain all the new origins of the entirely revised characters, yet Roy Thomas chose to waste the first several issues of the series doing 'secret origins' of Golden Age characters who, in the new continuity, no longer existed and never had.

From those blundering missteps the DC Universe never really recovered, despite the best efforts of many people, a few of whom actually had writing talent, to do otherwise. Every once in a while someone like Alan Brennert or Roger Stern would come along and temporarily erect a small pup-tent of sensible continuity somewhere in the chaos of fourteen different entirely mutually contradictory LEGION reboots and a long period when JUSTICE LEAGUE was a comedy comic whose editors were advising Batman fans on the letters page that they could 'regard the JLA Batman as out of continuity if it made them feel better', and Hawkman never, never, NEVER made sense. But then some hack (often Keith Giffen) would come along and wipe it all out with yet another poorly conceived miniseries, and we were back at zero again.
And through it all, however hard they tried, DC still couldn't really, fully get the 2 dimensional stink off their characters. It's tough to make someone like Superman grim n' gritty. I mean, it's just hard. And Wonder Woman... it's going to take more than a massive infusion of Greek mythology to make that profoundly disturbed concept work in the Modern Age, trust me.
However, if CRISIS was doomed from the start, it was only because it was handled with the utter ineptitude any sane person could but expect from the likes of Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. CRISIS had, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful artwork George Perez has ever done, but the story simply made no sense from start to finish, and every single creative decision that was made in the book, from the big ones (let's kill off Flash and Supergirl) to the minor ones (let's turn Kamandi into Tommy Tomorrow) were all such egregiously rotten ideas as to make nearly any long time fan's head spin.

Infinite Crisis, on the other hand, is being written by Geoff Johns.

And that, my friend, has made the difference.

There's been a breath... well, really, a gale force wind verging on hurricane status... of fresh air blowing through the DC Universe for the last couple of years. Suddenly, comics that I never in my life thought I'd ever read are not only being beautifully written in terms of plot and characterization, but the continuity is making sense, too. Who was doing it? Some guy named Geoff Johns. Johns managed to seemingly effortlessly untangle the mess lesser writers had made of the Justice Society, which is a pretty major accomplishment, yet it paled beside perhaps Johns' greatest pre-IC triumph... he actually made coherent sense out of the fucked up mass of incoherent crap various lousy editors had turned Hawkman into.

Now he's writing Infinite Crisis, and, well, it's a treat... but what's surprised me most is not simply that Johns is using the book to try desperately to untangle a lot of the overall continuity messes that have sprung up in the DCU since the original CRISIS, but he's directly tying IC to the original CRISIS plot... and he's making what I would have sworn was a recipe for disaster actually work again, too.

Is Power Girl actually, really, truly the genuine, authentic Earth-2 Supergirl, somehow survived through the cosmic reboot from one universe to the next? So Johns seems to be hinting; wouldn't it be great if it were true? Is that really the Golden Age Superman... the original Man of Steel... come back after 20 years in limbo to save the day, along with the Earth-3 Luthor and the Superboy of Earth-Prime? Is Johns really going to pick up the plot threads from CRISIS and do something with them, where lesser writers and editors (Wolfman and Wein, specifically) simply intended them to be tossed away and never mentioned again?

I'll tell you, simply the scene where the Freedom Fighters (dweebs though they are) walk down a hall in a supposedly abandoned warehouse, turn a corner... and confront Dr. Light, Dr. Polaris, Deathstroke, Black Adam, Sinestro, Bizarro, the Reverse Flash, the Psycho Pirate, and the Cheetah... and Bizarro says "Good bye" instead of hello... man, that hit me right in the spine. As with Blue Beetle, Johns took characters I never cared a bit about, made them, briefly, very human... and then killed them ruthlessly, just to show us that, yeah, this really IS a realistic superhero universe right now, and even heroes can die when they're overmatched. (And my God, weren't they overmatched? Just Black Adam or Sinestro would have been enough to make the entire team shit their drawers. Throw in Bizarro and, well, it's just over. The rest of the bad guys might as well have been out for popcorn, although they all got their sadistic licks in.)

(I can't quite tell, though... did Dr. Polaris die when the Human Bomb exploded in his face? I hope so. He's a yutz. Or he was.)

I enjoyed the four miniseries that led up to IC, and now it looks like I'm going to really enjoy IC, too. I just hope when it's over that Johns picks up at least JSA again. I've gotten really hooked on that book, and I'd hate to drop it... but I will if Johns doesn't come back to it after IC.

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