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Crisis of Confidence

 

Infinite Crisis

Geoff Johns, Phil Jiminez

DC, 2006

Rating: 3.0

 

Posted: December 21, 2006

By The Gentleman (exclusive to Shaking Through)

It's all been building to this. 2004's status quo-shaking limited series Identity Crisis set the stage, and the powers that be at DC Comics chose to use that foundation as nothing less than a springboard to shatter that status quo into innumerable shards. No less than four six-issue miniseries -- Day of Vengeance, Villains United, Rann/Thanagar War and The OMAC Project -- were required to plunge the DC Universe into chaos, with the much-ballyhooed Infinite Crisis serving as the climax that would tie it all together and deliver the knockout punch.

If only. Like its predecessor, the mid-'80s landmark maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which compacted the DC "multiverse" into one more-or-less cohesive world, Infinite Crisis -- now collected in hardcover -- is one of those packed-to-the-gills mainstream comics "events" in which some characters appear for as long as a panel or two, just enough time to utter a nugget of expository dialogue and buzz off back to their own book. No doubt writer Geoff Johns and the editorial staff spent many hours mapping out the logistics of the whole thing, but if Infinite Crisis represents something of a technical triumph, as a feat of storytelling -- even mainstream superhero storytelling (a field for which the bar isn't set too terribly high) -- it proves lacking.

If you haven't done the required pre-reading (the aforementioned miniseries, plus the Infinite Crisis Companion and, for extra credit, Superman: Infinite Crisis), here's an impossibly brief attempt to encapsulate some of the set-up: Batman, after the mind-wiping events of Identity Crisis, constructed the Brother Eye satellite to keep tabs on his allies; it's somehow achieved sentience and is dispatching entities known as OMACs ("Omni Mind and Community") for some diabolical purpose. Maxwell Lord, head of a covert organization known as Checkmate, killed the Blue Beetle and attempted to mind-control Superman before Wonder Woman decided killing him was the best course of action. Needless to say, DC's "trinity" -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- are at odds, and bicker with each other as all hell breaks loose. Civil war wages out in space; the Spectre has waged his own war on all the universe's magic-wielding characters; and a good number of heavyweight supervillains have formed a united front and are decimating heroes left and right.

Got all that? That's just where Infinite Crisis picks up, and things don't get too much clearer than that. Actually, that's not entirely true: The primary conflict is easy enough to understand. A group of characters who survived the earlier Crisis -- including Alexander Luthor (the heir of a good Lex Luthor from a now-destroyed alternate universe), the Superman of a parallel world called Earth-Two, and Superboy Prime (the only super-powered being from "our" "real" world) -- blame Earth's heroes, especially the Big Three, for allowing this mess to happen, and have hatched a plan to restore order and create a perfect world from the pieces of some of those previously erased universes. (As it happens, Alexander Luthor and Superboy Prime have apparently gone bat-shit crazy, as well.)

That conflict stands at the core of Infinite Crisis, and when the series is focused on it, things are more or less possible to follow. But this Crisis simply has too many threads to keep track of and too little space in which to do it. Key events whiz by without a clear understanding of just what happened. (What's the deal with all the Flashes getting sucked into the Speed Force? What role, exactly, did the sentient Green Lantern planet Mogo play in helping Superman subdue Superboy Prime?) Nobly, and Quixotically, Johns and his co-conspirators attempt to introduce a new character (the new Blue Beetle) amidst all this madness -- needless to say, it's a less-than-satisfying debut.

All of this would be easy enough to brush aside if Infinite Crisis hadn't gotten attention from the mainstream press, and if this collection weren't being sold in mass-market retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble. As it is, not only is it hopelessly convoluted, it's lurking out there waiting to waylay readers who might've read that it's "important" but have no idea who's who and what's what. This collection doesn't even offer a "what's gone before" summary to try to bring people up to speed -- the only way newcomers will even hope to follow, let alone enjoy, this Crisis is to do the required reading beforehand. And that's practically unforgivable. (By comparison, mainstream comicdom's other world-shattering "event" -- Marvel's Civil War, which is still unfolding and may be collected sometime next year -- looks to register as a "done in one" with only a modicum of prior knowledge required to get the most out of the experience.)

If you're a follower of DC Comics, you'll want to pick up Infinite Crisis just to see what's going on, and chances are you'll enjoy the nuances (at least the ones you're able to get). You'll also likely appreciate the artwork by Phil Jiminez (this generation's George Perez), assisted by Perez himself (the pre-eminent '80s superhero artist, who did Crisis on Infinite Earths) and Jerry Ordway. Even so, you'll need a road map (or four, or five, or six) to fully appreciate it all. If you're a newcomer, this can only confirm your suspicions that superhero comics is an insular world impenetrable to non-comics-geeks. I suspect that's not the effect the DC brass are aiming for.

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 Ratings Key:
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 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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