Crisis control

Well, I have my $1 Countdown to Infinite Crisis, along with Infinite Crisis #s 1,2, and 3, sitting in a stack next to my keyboard. Here are some random questions and comments:

Overall, I love this comic. Other bloggers have noted the steadily increasing body count in the book (and its periphera) as if this is something that surprises them, but those of us who suffered through the first CRISIS understand that this kind of event is, among other things, a large broom with which DC periodically sweeps all their accumulated continuity detritus away. Last time, the people in charge of deciding what went out with the trash, and what stayed, and what got transmuted into something presumably better, were Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. This time around, apparently, it's Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka, and maybe a few others I'm less thrilled with. Still, I respect Johns' apparent devotion to Silver Age continuity, and so far he and I seem to be in alignment as to what should go on which list.

Still, you can't please everyone; the fan community has already seen a great deal of weeping and wailing and guh-nashing of teeth over the death of Ted "Blue Beetle" Kord, a character who was very nearly the text book definition of extraneous. I don't mind that he's dead at all, although I will note that it is one of Geoff Johns' particular talents, apparently, to take a complete loser of a character, make them likable and even admirable for the first time ever... and then kill them.

Having said all that --

Phil Jiminez's art has been, for the most part, excellent, and in spots it has even transcended excellence and become goddam scarily impressive. However, he simply does not know how to draw the Golden Age Superman. Panel 2, on the next to last page of Infinite Crisis #2, is a horror. I'm not sure who that is, but the closest I can come is Fred Gwynne doing a "What If Elvis Had Never Died?" impersonation. It's certainly not any Kryptonian I've ever seen. Rags Morales wouldn't have done this to us.

Now, I'm moved to ask -- who is this other Luthor? No, I don't mean the Luthor running the Society, who seems to have recently been revealed to be Alexander Luthor from Earth 3 (which revelation I don't believe for a second, but we'll get to that). I mean, who's the guy in the battle armor who apparently can't think when he's in the same room as the guy running the Society? The post CRISIS, Modern Age, Byrne-designed Lex Luthor I knew was a pudgy, leering businessman turned politician, and while he was certainly no dolt, he wasn't a supergenius rogue mad scientist capable of building nuclear powered battlesuits. However, when Superboy-Prime strips the battle armor off this Lex towards the end of IC #3, we briefly see a very slim, buff looking Lex Luthor in skintight purple togs with crisscrossing green chest straps... the spitting image of pre-CRISIS, Silver Age Lex.

I suppose that pudgy snarling Byrne-Luthor could have turned into this guy over the past twenty years and I just wouldn't have known about it, since I've barely glanced in the direction of the SUPERMAN titles long enough to spit for most of that time. But honestly, if this is the Modern Age Luthor, I wish someone would tell me, because, well, my theory is that Alexander Luthor is actually the pre-Crisis, Earth 1 Lex Luthor. Knowing the universe was about to undergo radical quantum revision (c'mon, Lex would just know that; he'd have sensor devices seeded throughout the universe that would tell him), he doubtless killed Alexander Luthor and craftily took his place... and ever since then, he's divided his time between slowly, secretly getting the Society organized down on the new Earth-Alpha, and gradually bringing the Earth-2 Superman, as well as Superboy Prime, under his mental dominance up in their 'crystalline heaven'.

I think it would greatly appeal to the pre-Crisis, Silver Age Lex Luthor to use what would seem to him to be inferior (but still powerful) otherdimensional doppelgangers of his lifelong arch nemesis (Lex was mortal enemy to both the Silver Age Superboy and Superman, after all) to take control of this brand new Earth. And re-organizing the Silver Age Secret Society of Supervillains on this brand new, post CRISIS world would also appeal to the pre-CRISIS Lex.

I don't understand why pre-CRISIS Lex's brainwaves apparently jam the thought processes of post-CRISIS Lex, but I won't argue with it, either. It seems... just.

Other questions -- we've seen many of DC's occult heroes in Days of Vengeance and the related sub plots through IC... but where's Swamp Thing and John Constantine and the rest of the Vertigo crew? Has Vertigo been so resolutely spun off into its own sub-continuity that IC has no effect on those books? If so, that's a little sad.

Beyond that, just a list of comments regarding my favorite moments from IC so far:

Issue #1: The Freedom Fighters open the wrong door. I swear, that double page spread of the Society, with Bizarro saying "Good bye", just chilled me to the bone. Once again, Geoff Johns exhibits his peculiar brilliance, making me like a bunch of useless goobers for the very first time... and then killing them ruthlessly. Except, apparently, for Damage, the one I most want to see dead, whom we find out in #2 is still alive.

At least Dr. Polaris got blown to bits, too. Never liked that guy.

Other things I liked: the foreshadowing represented by the Bat-signal projecting onto the Spectre's chest. Bruce Wayne as the new Spectre, while Tim Drake becomes Batman for a while? It could work. I'd rather see Dick step up to the Big Eared Cowl, but TITANS continuity says it will be Tim, and I like Tim well enough.

I liked the talk-talk-talk between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the ruins of the JLA Watchtower. I've always hated the Watchtower. Very few writers could get away with page after page of dialogue between DC's three most powerful icons, just standing around doing nothing but yak... and Johns threw in a meaningless battle with Mongul to keep stuff moving... but I don't think he needed it. He could have carried it with just the word balloons. He's that good.

Is anyone else but me wondering if the hole in the universe, among all the other craziness that's going on, has something to do with Krona, and the events in JLA/Avengers? That would be sweeeeeeeet.

Issue #2 -- Booster Gold is back. Why? Oh, well. He looks good.

I enjoyed seeing the Joker torture the entire Royal Flush Gang to death. And it's nice to see that Luthor is sane enough to avoid recruiting the Joker to the Society.

Geoff Johns is the only writer who has ever made me believe that Lois and Superman should actually be married anywhere but in an Imaginary Story.

Conner Kent has always been a big whiney sissyboy, but this is carrying things too far. Lex has to be mind controlling him from a distance.

I don't remember all that pre CRISIS back story for Kara (Power Girl) in the actual Silver Age. Is Lex planting false memories through his Golden Age Lois Lane android? (C'mon, if that's really the Silver Age Lex Luthor, there's no way he really saved the original Lois Lane. She's an artifact he created to help mind control Superman and Superboy. Or she's Harbinger in disguise.)

OMACs fighting Amazons bored the crap out of me, but then, the new OMACs bore the crap out of me anyway, and the Modern Age Amazons have always been pretty tedious, too. Nice to see them gone. I did enjoy Paula's Purple Death Ray, though. That was a brilliantly geeky touch.

Oh, and the opening to issue #2, where Animal Man is frantically searching for the space suit Adam Strange gave him, only to find out his wife threw it out because it was leaking rocket fuel... priceless stuff. Worthy of Moore. In fact, Johns is a lot like Moore, he just doesn't seem to feel the need to paint Silver Age icons with three coats of shit in order to generate drama.

I have no idea who this 'Mick' guy is in Firestorm's head. But he's got a good eye for the female form.

Superman's concept of bringing back Earth 2 to supplant the current, Modern Age DC Earth-Alpha is beautifully portrayed. To us old fanboys, it simultaneously makes you want to cheer... and shudder. It's a brilliant idea... and an utterly megalomaniacal one.

Issue #3 - Batman's near nervous breakdown. A perfect marriage of words and pictures. "This wasn't supposed to happen. ...I can't breathe. Can't... do this anymore. God... I wish... I wish I could just start over." Without the pictures, those words just don't hit hard enough, but with them, it's a devastating page. And then, Superman shows up... but is that really him? Am I the only one who noticed that this is the only sequence with Superman-2 which isn't accompanied by Superman's own narrative? The whole thing is so fabulously, sneakily manipulative... if the Silver Age Lex Luthor can cast an illusion that he's Alexander Luthor, certainly he can look like the Golden Age Superman, too.

The only thing that rings wrong there is Superman's shame faced looking away as he admits that the Earth-2 Robin wasn't any better than the current, Modern Age Dick Grayson. Lex would certainly have fed Batman the answer he wanted to hear... but... then again... what answer would that have been?

Anyone else get the sideways reference to an old Tommy Tomorrow strip? When Animal Man channels a beast that 'shoots lightning out of its face', that's straight out of a really bad Tommy Tomorrow story where Tommy constructed a kite to get a lightning-eagle from deep space to inadvertently recharge his cosmic radio, or some such horseshit. Terrible, terrible story... but it's that kind of devotion to Silver Age trivia, combined with an ability to do wonderful characterization and excellent plotting, that makes me love Geoff Johns' work.

Luthor building his machine out of the bones of the Anti Monitor is ever reminiscent of Kronos' building his citadel out of the bones of Galactus, in JLA/Avengers. Tribute... or hint that 'Alexander Luthor' is actually a new Kronos, reborn from his infant universe?

I should note that I don't expect anyone to answer all these questions, or even any of them, since my constant, well deserved abuse of Modern Age fans has no doubt driven any and all of them who used to drive by this blog shrieking away into the nether void. But that's okay. The nether void is where they all belong... and anyway, from what I can see, they may as well get comfortable there, because the Silver Age is making a big comeback at DC.

And I couldn't be happier about it.

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