And we’re now heading into the home stretch of the massive 1985 maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by George Perez. We last ended with the villains of five universes teaming up under the leadership of Brainiac and Luthor to take over the remaining earths in the multiverse, as everyone believes for the most part that the Anti-Monitor is no longer a threat. Of course that’ll turn out not to be true!
In the final moments of the last issue, Brainiac was suddenly destroyed by Psimon, who wanted to take over this villainous cabal for himself…
This issue is actually two stories, the main one which takes up the top 75% of each page. Because the two stories are not directly tied into each other, I’m going to annotate them separately.
Issue 10 – Death at the Dawn of Time (Main Story)
Pages 1-2 – Turns out Brainiac is aware of Psimon, and he rather quickly destroys the telepathic pretender to the villainous throne, handily dealing with last issue’s cliffhanger.
Pages 3-5 – After a quick cutaway to Anthro (to show that the red skies are still moving through time toward the past) Negative Woman of the Doom Patrol makes short work of Chemo on Earth-4, who becomes the first of several villains to die in this story. Kole also turns Black Adam entirely to crystal, but Dove stops Robotman from destroying him.
Pages 5-7 – The action cuts to Earth-S, where more villains are working together to freeze the planet. J’Onn J’Onzz shows up and reminds everyone why he is the baddest there is, and Phobia stupidly tries to stop Platinum of the Metal Men (a robot) by showing her her greatest fear.
Meanwhile, the Atom (as before, in his Sword of the Atom-gear) removes Billy Batson’s gag, allowing him to cut loose as Captain Marvel. “Now you can call me–Captain Marvel!” Well, at least until DC finally throws in the towel and renames the character “Shazam”.
Page 8 – On Earth X, the heroes continue to make a good showing. Speedy even is able to simply blow up the Shaggy Man with an arrow, something that I don’t think should have been so simple (this guy held off the entire Justice League until he was forced to fight his clone).
Pages 9-10 – The Spectre suddenly breaks into all of this to announce that everyone is missing the point: the Anti-Monitor still lives and is currently heading toward the Dawn of Time to prevent the Multiverse from ever existing.
The Spectre reminds everyone that the Monitor organized things so that heroes and villains would work together to fight the Anti-Monitor, and this is what must happen now or “all life is doomed to non-existence.” The idea is for half the group to travel to the beginning of time, and the other half to Oa, where they must change history (for reasons not yet disclosed).
Incidentally, the Time Trapper seems to be one of those listening to this message. Given that at this point in history, he’s a renegade Controller, and not the living embodiment of entropy, I guess that makes sense.
Page 11-12 – Luthor and Brainiac agree to the Spectre’s requests, and everyone meets in Death Valley on Earth-1 to travel through time using gear provided by Rip Hunter, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Lord of Time. Superman of Earth-2 has an emotional farewell to his Lois Lane (to whom he’s married), which is witnessed by Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, something that will be important later on.
Superman argues that history cannot be changed, which the Spectre counters that it can, but only at the dawn of time. It seems funny then that they are sending half of their team to Oa, well after the dawn of time, to try to change history. As we discover, it’s the villains who are sent on this doomed mission, so maybe this part of things was actually a ploy on the part of the Spectre to just stop the villain rampage that was going on.
Page 13 – As the groups get ready to make their time jump, Wonder Girl asks Kid Flash what is bothering him aside from the Flash’s disappearance. Wally says it’s nothing, but later it’s confirmed that it’s that his super-speed is actually killing him at this point in DC history.
Superboy Prime (ie, Superboy from Earth-Prime, a stand-in for the real world that appeared in a bunch of stories) suddenly shows up, presumably from the pages of a DC Comics Presents issue that is briefly referenced. He’s the last survivor of his universe, and is allowed to join the mission. Just to think, it was only 20 years before Geoff Johns got his hand on the character, and turned him into a murdering psychopath. And then later, into the Time Trapper. Weird.
Page 14 – Uncle Sam says a little prayer before the teams head out. Well, not a prayer, but he gives a small inspirational speech on the subject of freedom, to help remind everyone what they are fighting for.
Pages 15-16 – And off the team goes! Combining the technology of all of DC’s major time travelers with the electricity of a bunch of lightning-based characters (most of whom are named Ranzz) and the power of some magnetic characters (half of which are named Krinn) with the body of Gold of the Metal Men and the speed of the Flashes (past & future), dozens of characters begin to travel thru time to two separate places.
Page 17 – The scene cuts away to space where Brainiac laments his chances for survival, and Aqualad laments the death of Aquagirl from injuries dealt by Chemo.
Page 18 – Alexander Luthor opens a door for the time-traveling heroes to cross into the anti-matter universe, where the Anti-Monitor awaits them.
He expresses disappointment that it has taken them so long to arrive, which is a funny thing to say when you are standing at the “dawn of time.” Is the “dawn of time” a period that lasted a long time? Was there the movement of time at all? How long does it take for the sun to come up at the dawn of time?
Page 19 – Pariah is there, captured by the Anti-Monitor. He’s obviously a bit befuddled, because in one moment he’s telling everyone to run away, and only two panels later he’s telling them destroy the Anti-Monitor even if he’s killed in the process. Then there’s this awkward dialogue where it’s revealed that Pariah didn’t actually destroy his own universe, he simply provided the Anti-Monitor with the means to do so. Somehow, that makes Pariah feel better about the whole situation, and even Lady Quark, who up to this point has been angry at Pariah for her family’s death, begins to see things differently.
Page 20 – Superman has had enough talking, and so he orders the attack! In one panel we see all the energy-based characters blasting at the Anti-Monitor, while in another all the punchy superheroes hitting him. Meanwhile, a bunch of non-powered heroes stand around and “give them hope.”
Page 21-22 – The story cuts to Oa, ten billion years ago, as Luthor leads the villains on a battle to kill Krona before he can look back to the beginning of time and accidentally create the multiverse. The early Oans make short work of most of the villains, but Maaldor, Mirror Master, and Icicle manage to break through to Krona’s screen. Unfortunately, they stand around arguing about who should deal the killing blow, and Krona kills them all from behind. For some reason, I found Mirror Master’s death to be one of the most effecting in the whole series. I guess I was attached to the character as a mainstay of Flash villains.
Page 23-26 – Turns out the Anti-Monitor actually led the heroes to the dawn of creation because he needs their life energies to complete his plans, which is to become the hand that Krona sees in this time viewer and to use the opportunity to destroy the multiverse forever. But just then, someone resists the Anti-Monitor. “Who dares?” he cries. And we see…it’s the Spectre: “I dare, cruel one!” he cries, which let’s face it, is an epic line of dialogue. With the energies of a bunch of magic-based characters at his disposal, he fights back in an massive struggle. The resulting battle causes an explosion that shatters all existence as Krona looks back in time.
The narration tells us, “The Spectre screams in pain…he is a funnel, a conduit…more energy pours into him..more power funnels through him! He sees worlds that have never existed and never will! He sees shapes and colors and patters and concepts undreamt-of even by his Master! (So I guess, the Spectre doesn’t actually serve a genuinely Omnipresent / Omniscient God?) And the Spectre screams again! And the universe explodes around him. And from the dawn of creation…comes death…it is the end of all that was.”
Pretty heady stuff.
The Monitor Tapes (Second Story)
The conceit of The Monitor Tapes is that Lyla, former Harbinger, is recording a message for posterity about the state of the universe, completing the records assembled by the Monitor before his death. Each page of the issue (except for the last one) had 1-3 panels in this story that all ran along the bottom 25% of the page.
Page 2 – Lyla has learned that the Monitor transferred his extensive research files on the history of the multiverse to earth prior to dying, so they weren’t lost when his satellite was destroyed. For some reason, “Earth” is in italics, like it’s the name of a ship or a movie or something.
Page 3- Lyla begins to address the Monitor as she writes about how difficult this work is.
Page 4 – Lyla references four people who are the last survivors of their universes: Pariah, Alexander Luthor, Lady Quark and Superboy Prime. This is nine pages before Superboy Prime enters the main story, so if people were reading in strict page order this served as a bit of a reminder of the character before he showed up.
Pages 5-6 – Various planets impacted by the Crisis are mentioned. Some of them are original to this work (the peaceful sentient methane creatures of Mibrannu and the murderous Kallidrane), while another, Thanagar is a mainstay of the DC universe (and the homeworld of Hawkman).
Pages 7-8 – Apparently, the Anti-Monitor also destroyed Takron-Galtos, the 30th century prison planet, releasing a lot of classic Legion of Super-Heroes villains like Lightning Lord and the Fatal Five before they were transported to Brainiac’s ship.
Pages 9-14 – Other cosmic characters effected by the Crisis are referenced: Starman (Prince Gavyn), the Omega Men, Tommy Tomorrow, the Forever People, Amethyst and Olympus.
Page 15-19 – Lyla’s attention shifts to how the Crisis has effected people on earth: Immortal Man (who is destroyed), Swamp Thing (who survives) and Hawkman of Earth 2 (who is still injured from a previous issue).
Page 21-25 – Lyla gives a bit of speech about struggle and survival. Along the way, she mentions the Losers, who died way earlier in this series, the Amazons, and the teaming up of the heroes and villains in this issue. She also mentions, in big capital letters, ‘HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE, which is basically the name of a two issue series that Wolfman and Perez created after Crisis was over to outline the new status quo of the DC Universe, and which was supposedly a transcript of these Monitor tapes.
Issue 11 – Aftershock
Page 1 – The story opens with the same panel layout as the first issue, except that instead of a multiverse being created at the dawn of time, a single universe came into existence. This is notable, because in future references to this story (including in Infinite Crisis, which served as a direct sequel of sorts) it would often to be stated that the reborn earth that comes into existence here is a blending of the five remaining earths (1, 2, 4, S, & X). But here, it’s pretty clearly stated that the new earth is what the world would have been if the multiverse had never been created in the first place.
Pages 2-3 – Clark Kent from Earth-2 wakes up, not realizing what’s happened or that anything is wrong until he arrives at the Daily Planet.
The Superman supporting cast that we see here, especially Lois Lane, are nothing like what would eventually be established for the rebooted Superman. This is one of many things about this reborn earth that don’t match up to the later DC Universe as it will be established. The real reasons for this are obvious–a lot of those decisions were made later by other creators–but as far as I know there was never an in-universe explanation for it.
Pages 4-5 – The Supermen of both Earth-1 & 2 investigate the world around them, finding little evidence of the Crisis, and only confused references to the death of Supergirl. The first real implication that the new earth is neither Earth-1 nor Earth-2 comes when they realize that here Central City and Keystone City exist side by side as twin cities. When they meet Jay Garrick (the Earth-2 Flash), he recognizes the Earth-2 Superman, but his wife Joan does not.
Pages 6-9 – The two Supermen, Jay Garrick and Wally West use the Cosmic Treadmill to discover that there is no longer an Earth-2, which jibes up with what Jay has learned, that he’s “always” lived on the same earth as Barry Allen.
Pages 9-10 – A kind-of random group of heroes–Adam Strange, Dolphin, Animal Man, Captain Comet, and Atomic Knight travel with Rip Hunter in his time-sphere, trying to understand what is happening to the universe. They discover Brainiac’s ship, floating derelict in space.
Actually, this whole scene looks like a precursor to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Pages 11-13 – All the heroes gather at the Titans Tower–including heroes from Earth’s-1, 2, 4, X, S, 6 & Prime, and meet up with Harbinger. Lyla explains that she is Harbinger again because of the changes to history, and that all the various heroes are still there because they were there at the dawn of time. Earth-2’s Helena Wayne and Dick Grayson share the story of discovering that they no longer exist in this new earth. The “main” Dick Grayson, it is established, is 19 years old.
Pages 14-16 – Harbinger explains what has happened, again stating that there is and only ever was just one earth–not 1000, and not 5. So the idea is that heroes of 5 earths (more really) remember what has happened, but the universe is not a mixture of those 5 earths, it’s the original “intended” version of earth which was split into many when the multiverse was formed. Superman of Earth-2 doesn’t too kindly to the news that his wife doesn’t exist anymore.
Page 17-20 – The story cuts away to the Spectre, who is comatose since the battle with the Anti-Monitor, much to the distress of the Phantom Stranger and Deadman.
Meanwhile, at a detective convention, a bunch of detectives discover the death of Angle Man, a Wonder Woman villain, that is never touched on again in the story.
Then a bunch of other mystical characters suddenly find themselves in a fight with shadow demons, making their first appearance in the series for quite some time. This all culminates in Dr. Fate taking Amethyst back to Gemworld for reasons which are presumably explained in a tie-in issue somewhere.
Pages 21-22 – Earth-1 Superman calms down his Earth-2 counterpart, while Donna Troy tells the heroes at the Titans Tower how the Earth-2 Wonder Woman (and her daughter Fury) had a similar experience. Power Girl brings up the question of why she still exists if her Superman doesn’t, which is a question that DC continued to try to answer all the way up until Infinite Crisis was released about 20 years later. Then Batman shows up and talks about how he visited Lex Luthor in prison, which also contradicts the idea that this universe is the same as the eventual “post-crisis” DC universe.
Page 23-25 – Red skies and shadow demons show up in Gorilla City (with a brief cameo by Solovar) and also underground where Cave Carson and the Challengers of the Unknown are looking around. Finally, the Anti-Monitor pulls the whole earth into the Anti-Matter universe, and we conclude this series’ penultimate issue.