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Commence Ouroboros: DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 8

Behold, the birth of a super team!

Picture it: Firestorm, Firehawk, Vixen, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg, Red Tornado, and the Atom (if you want a larger team, you can even add on John Stewart and Blue Devil).  The way they come together in Crisis #8 is so great and reads so much like an origin story, that I’m amazed, reading it again after all these years, that it wasn’t an origin story.  Such an interesting cast and, shockingly enough, actually diverse.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad as hell that we ended up getting the Justice League book we got (one of the greatest series of the 80s, no doubt), but I loved how this particularly story went down.  All the sadder that it was ultimately pointless.

Also: Sword of the Atom.  God bless you, pre-Crisis DC, and you’re constant attempts at making your enormous universe of vanilla superheroes somehow different from each other.  The Sword of the Atom series (and special) are some totally random and fun comics with wonderful Gil Kane art.

Okay, Justice League diatribe complete, back to our regularly scheduled review…

This issue features the other big death in the series, the demise of Barry Allen, running off into the great beyond.

I am a fan of Barry as an idea.  Wally West was my Flash.  In fact, he was ultimately most people’s Flash, given his role on every DC related show up until the New 52.  I don’t have the numbers, but I would guess that he easily dwarfs Barry in appearances as the Flash, let alone any appearances at all.  Wally was, in many ways, the epitome of what made DC different than Marvel: legacy.  DC had legacy characters; Marvel did not.

Still, I thought Barry’s death was unbelievably moving, even if over stated.  Seriously, Wolfman, would thought balloons have killed you?  Who talks out loud like that to themselves while they’re dying?

While Barry’s death was clearly the meat of this issue, that last page had resonance, too, assuming you’re familiar with the DCU at all.  The Spectre was the biggest of the big, the kind of powerhouse that put Superman to shame.  The Spectre just showing up meant bad shit was happening.  The Spectre showing up and screaming?  Yeah, that’s not good.

The Tie-Ins

Another issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, another batch of tie-in issues.  But, hey, there’s a legitimately great one in this group!

All-Star Squadron #51

If Infinity, Inc. is Roy Thomas as your father trying to listen to your music, All-Star Squadron is Roy Thomas as your father listening to HIS music.  It’s not that the Monster Society of Evil can’t work, it’s just that it’s incredibly dated.  All-Star Squadron takes place in the 40s and it feels like it.  World War II is such fertile ground that it’s a shame more wasn’t done with this title aside from standard superhero fare.  Even the Crisis tie-in is negligible, the basic “check in with characters who are appearing in Crisis.”

The first half is penciled by Mike Clarke, the second have by Arvell Jones, but the entire book is inked by Vince Colletta, so the whole thing ends up looking the same.

Blue Devil #18

You know, I appreciate the fact that a book like Blue Devil existed.  He’s a C-list character in a humor/adventure book at a time when comics were about to go dark (JLI notwithstanding).  And writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn telling a story involving Blue Devil going to a parallel universe, calling it “The Last Parallel World Story” and throwing the Crisis banner on it is pretty funny.  But it’s still a really goofy book and it’s not surprising that it didn’t last.

It does, however, feature some nice art from Alan Kupperberg and Rick Magyar.

DC Comics Presents #87

Written by Elliot S! Maggin (because nothing says “serious writer” like having an exclamation point after your middle initial) with art by Curt Swan and Al Williamson, DC Comics Presents #87 is, so far, the best Crisis tie-in I’ve read.

It features the first meeting between Earth-1 Superman and Earth-Prime Superboy, decades before Earth-Prime Superboy is turned into a ridiculous character by Geoff Johns.  This Superboy is the only person with powers on his planet, although he doesn’t even know it.  In fact, he discovers his abilities right when Superman shows up.  Insane coincidence?  Sure, but I’ll allow it, because this story is just too sweet not to.

Superman is grieving the loss of his cousin, Supergirl, when he ends up on Earth Prime.  Meeting Superboy is bittersweet, in that it reminds him of a simpler time, but also reminds him of what it was like to have a Kryptonian family.  And Superboy is every bit as much Pleasantville as you would expect.  Here’s Superman, involved in the crossover that will theoretically end these naive, written for a Normal Rockwell audience stories, meeting the epitome of those naive, written for a Normal Rockwell audience stories.  It wonderful in its simplicity and yet hits on larger issues regarding comic book storytelling and society in general.

Williamson is an odd choice to ink Swan, but his loose, scratchy style gives Swan’s pencils a less polished look that works for this story.

Green Lantern #194

Steve Englehart, Joe Staten, and Bruce Patterson give us another “here’s a version of events from Crisis from X character point of view,” which is only moderately more interesting this time around because said character is John Stewart, the official Green Lantern of Earth at this point.  But while John is off in space, Hal Jordan (no longer a GL) is having an identity crisis, one which leads him to Abin Sur’s grave, where he find Guy Gardner, recently revived from a coma and looking for some GL juice.

This issue is called “5” and next issue is listed as “4” which means this arc is counting down to what is probably Hal Jordan becoming a Green Lantern again.  That’s too bad, as I find Hal Jordan boring as hell.  The fact that he keeps losing his powers/dying/whatever should be a good indication that no one really likes him.  In fact, Crisis would have been an excellent opportunity to establish John Stewart as the one, true Green Lantern by sending Hal the way of Barry Allen.

If only.

Infinity, Inc. #20

Todd McFarlane only pencils the first 5 pages of this issue and Helix is no where in site, so this doesn’t feel quite as bizarre as last issue.  Roy Thomas focuses on the actual fallout from Crisis as it’s happening aka the massive destruction happening all over the world.  This issue also ties into Crisis in that it moves forward the “next generation” idea that began with the introduction of the new Wildcat.  Here we see the new Dr. Midnite.  Credit where it’s due, the new Dr. Midnite is a black woman, so at least Roy Thomas was trying to diversify a very white line-up.

Inks are by Steve Montano and pencils for the remainder of the issue are by Mike Hernandez, but I would bet fat stacks of cash that “Mike Hernandez” is actually Michael Bair, a guy who doesn’t get a lot of credit, but whose work I’ve always enjoyed.

Justice League of America #244

When it comes right down to it, there are basically three panels in this comic that really have anything to do with Crisis.

You could say it’s a thematic tie-in of sorts as it features a cross over between the Justice League (Detroit version), Infinity, Inc., and the Justice Society of America, the latter two coming from Earth-2.  Not unlike Blue Devil, this is a last hurrah of sorts for this type of story.

It’s written by Gerry Conway with some rushed looking pencils by Joe Staten and inks my Mike Machlan.  What ever happened to Machlan, anyway?  He inked an awful lot of great superhero comics in his day.

Legion of Superheroes #16*

There’s an asterisk next to this issue because it doesn’t have the Crisis banner on it, so it’s not officially a tie-in, which makes sense, as it takes place a thousand years in the future.

This is the story of Brainiac 5 marking the anniversary of Kara’s death.  Now, this is somewhat problematic because he has never done this before, even though the book has been around for a long, long time.  They had to have passed this date at least once before now (time actually progressed in the Legion, so this had to be the case).  But, of course, it hadn’t happened before now.  Thus, the difficulty with having a title that takes place a thousand years in the future reflecting events in the present.

Still, it’s a nice issue and a welcome reminder of what an important role Supergirl played to the Legion.  It’s written by the greatest Legion writer ever, Paul Levitz, and drawn by Steve Lightle and Bob Smith, so it looks great, too.

New Teen Titans #14

This was actually one of the first issues of the New Teen Titans that I ever read.  The beautiful art from Eduardo Barreto and Romeo Tanghal is what convinced me to buy it, because even at 10 I knew great art when I saw it.  The story was also great because it was mostly set up, establishing a trio of different story lines, each completely different than the next.  Raven is missing (she seems to do that a lot) and her mom is looking for her.  Nightwing and Jericho decide to go with Starfire back to her home world.  The rest of the remaining Titans face off against Changeling’s step-dad, Mento, who has gone more or less insane.  There’s even a brief interlude setting up a future Brother Blood story.  It was an awful lot for a young kid to take in, but it all seemed really cool.

You’ll also notice that I never mentioned anything having to do with Crisis.  Aside from red skies, Marv Wolfman left his other book out of this one.

Fury of Firestorm #41

And speaking of great art, this issue features the work of Rafael Kayanan, who is always great.  He’s inked by “Akin & Garvey” whose work I’ve seen elsewhere (one of them is named Ian, I believe).  They’ve got a heavy hand, but they’ve only ever made the pencils they’ve inked better.  Kayanan certainly doesn’t need any help, but it’s a dynamic new look for him.

This is actually a fairly well done tie-in, showing us how Harbinger recruited Firestorm, but also throwing Psycho Pirate into the mix to complicate the situation.  Having both sides trying to manipulate a guy made up of two people is a nice touch.

Next: More tie-ins that are only vaguely connected!  The Creeper! And Firehawk’s new costume!

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