Re-reading Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 & #3

And so we continue a retread through the classic magnum opus miniseries of 1985-1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths, by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez (which we began last time here).  Today, we start with Issue #2, but there’s not as much to say beyond general plot summaries, so we’ll cover #3 as well.

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Issue 2 – Time and Time Again

Page 1 – The series continues to make sure it touches every weird corner of the DC Universe, this time with an opening about Anthro, “the first boy”.  Soon, we’ll also visit the 30th Century and the Legion of Super-Heroes, as well as Kamandi, “The Last Boy.”

Page 6 – We’re back in the “present”, which like last issue is happening in July 1985.  Here we see the era’s current Batman & the Joker, who are both a bit jarring compared to what we are used to in the modern era.  The Joker here is still murderous, but basically after money, which seems like an odd motive now, where we are used to thinking of the Joker as some sort of avatar for mayhem.  And Batman has got that self-righteous anger thing going, but not nearly as dark or isolated as we’re used to thinking of him.

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Page 7-8 – The Flash appears in a manner a little reminiscent of his recent cameo in the Batman v. Superman movie, appearing to Batman only to give strange hints about events to come.

Page 9 – Finally, we’re back to “the Summoned”, as the Monitor gives a bit of exposition.  He mentions here that the last world that was lost was Earth 3, but that seems to contradict what he said last issue where he mentioned that some other universe had died while Harbinger was collecting everyone.  Maybe he’s just not mentioning it to avoid confusing everyone.

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Solovar again brings up the issue of why other, more powerful heroes have not been summoned, which again the Monitor does not give a satisfactory answer for.

On Page 12, the Summoned find out their jobs:  to guard a series of five machines that have been placed throughout time in order to halt the wave of anti-matter.

Page 13 & 14 – We get brief cutaways to Oa, where we see that the Guardians of the Universe are not doing too well, and to Metropolis on Earth 1, where Pariah momentarily appears before Superman and Batman with his dire warnings.

Page 15 – We see the first of the Monitor’s machines, which is right next to the remains of the Statue of Liberty in the time of Kamandi, during the Great Disaster.  Superman of Earth 2, Solovar and Dawnstar are the team sent to guard this machine, and they battle the shadow demons alongside Kamandi, the last boy.

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Page 18 – Alex Luthor starts his unnatural aging.

Page 19 – The story shifts to the second of the forks, in Atlantis of Arion’s time.  Arion, Psycho Pirate and Obsidian are the guarding team, but things go wrong when Psycho Pirate starts torturing Pariah.  Psycho Pirate is taken by the as yet unseen, unnamed enemy of the Monitor and becomes his pawn instead.  The Monitor, for his part, decides to skip the whole emotion-controlling avenue of fighting this battle (since Raven of the Titans is missing currently) and to create a new Dr. Light.

Page 24 – Harbinger, who is deep in the thrall of the Monitor’s enemy, gives a report of the Monitor’s activities.  The Monitor, for his part, seems to ponder that maybe he can avoid dying if only Lyla can remember to hope as he has taught her.  He states for the first time that his ultimate victory will come through her, as well as Pariah and Alex Luthor.  This is pretty much the only time he indicates that there might have been a possibility of him avoiding death in this story.

Issue 3 – Oblivion Upon Us

This issue is the third straight one to feature Firebrand on the cover, a character I’d never heard of before this series and I haven’t seen in anything since.  It also features Kid Psycho, who I’m pretty sure we hadn’t seen in action since his debut in 1965!

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Page 1 – Alexander Luthor is being examined by the Monitor, who is astounded to learn that somehow both Positive and Negative matter exist within him at the same time.  Harbinger continues to report to the enemy, who seems to be waiting for now particular reason to order her to slay the Monitor.

Page 4 – Barry Allen enters the story properly.  Living in earth’s future since the end of his series, Barry is the older, married hero that DC hasn’t given us for a while, certainly not on the TV series.  Barry ends up going back to the 20th century before some unknown menace grabs him out of the timestream.

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Page 5 – In the 20th Century, Superman, Batman, the Titans and the Outsiders all join together to stop some disasters.  Amongst all the other characters is a Titan called Kole who has the ability to spin crystal.  The character was apparently created specifically so that Crisis on Infinite Earth could kill her off–it seems that Marv Wolfman felt that if he was asking so many other creators to make such drastic changes to their books, he ought to show he was willing to kill somebody off too.

Page 8 – In talking to Starfire, Superman gets to point out for the first of at least two times in the series how he actually does understand what it’s look to lose a home planet.  Really, you’d think Starfire should know better.

Page 10 – Braniac, in his then-current super-computerized form, makes a debut, seeding a plot twist that won’t fully pay off for another 6 issues.

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Page 11 – The setting changes to Markovia of Earth 1 during World War II, and the third of the Monitor’s machines.  This time, the guarding team is Geo Force (reasonable, since this is his home country), Dr. Polaris, and Blue Beetle.  Also, the vast majority of DC’s World War II army characters are present:  Sgt. Rock and Easy co., Jeb Stuart and the haunted tank, and the Losers.

This was the first time I ever ever read a story with the Losers, and after they got killed off by the shadow demons, it seemed that every time I saw them in a book, they were dying.  There was a Losers special that came out after the regular Crisis was over, and then there was there was their spectacular appearance in Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier.  Then, inexplicably, they turned out to have survived the war in DC: Legacies.

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Pages 18-19 – The Monitor sends both Blue Beetle and Solovar home, because they were injured.  It really seems like the Monitor could quite easily send all sorts of heroes both to and away from these battles.  Again, it’s hard to imagine why he doesn’t have a much larger army of super-powered beings defending these giant tuning forks.

Page 20 – And now we visit DC’s Old West heroes, including stalwarts Jonah Hex and Bat Lash.  This time, there are four heroes there to guard the machine–Cyborg, Green Lantern John Stewart, Firehawk and Psimon.  It’s the first time that there are four guards instead of three, and later we’ll see that it’s Firestorm and Killer Frost who are off by themselves.  One can imagine that one of the four in this scene just couldn’t stand going with them in their “lovey-dovey” mode.

Scalphunter and Nighthawk talk about how the names of the other Western characters just “came” to them.  This odd detail is never explained.

Also unexplained is why Cyborg’s sonic attacks are suddenly so much more effective against the shadow demons than they were the first time, back in Issue #1.

Incidentally, at this point in comic history, John Stewart was Hal Jordan’s replacement and had been the earth’s “main” Green Lantern for just a short time.  Almost nothing that many fans know about the character now was true then:  he didn’t have a backstory as a Marine (the Justice League cartoon introduced that), he wasn’t carrying the guilt of the destruction of Xanshi (still to come in Cosmic Odyssey), he hadn’t overseen the Mosaic world (in the underrated Green Lantern Mosaic series), and he hadn’t got romantically involved with Katma Tui, Hawkgirl, Rose Hardin, or anyone else.  All this to say that John really doesn’t feel like the character that we have now.

Green Lantern’s ring fails to work, presumably because of the attack on the Guardians an issue earlier.

Page 23-25 – The issue ends with the death of various characters as the anti-matter wall overwhelms the hero’s attempts to stop it:  Nighthawk (in the old west), Kid Psycho (in the 30th Century) and apparently, the Monitor himself…although this moment takes the whole next issue to build up to again.

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And we’ll look at that next issue next time.  It’s a big one!

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