And we’re at the conclusion of the massive 1985 maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by George Perez. We last ended with the Anti-Monitor taking the newly reformed earth (the one that existed when the universe was never split into the multiverse) to his anti-matter universe, and proclaiming all sorts of evil villainy…
Issue 12 – Final Crisis
This issue, alone out of all the ones reprinted in my Absolute Edition of this story, does not have page numbers. But I can extrapolate. And count.
It’s interesting, by the way, that the story is called Final Crisis, which is of course is also the name of the crossover event that would come many years later, ostensibly the third part of a trilogy that began with Crisis on Infinite Earths, but which in reality had very little to do with this title (except for the presence of some Monitors, I guess).
pp 1-3 – Captain Comet, Animal Man, Dolphin, Rip Hunter, Adam Strange and Atomic Knight find Brainiac. That’s six really random heroes, but I guess we’ve already commented on that. The heroes remember what’s going on, and so I guess were involved at the beginning of time. Brainiac does not, so I guess he wasn’t. Brainiac he lacks the power to help with the universal threat, but knows where to go to find it.
Pages 4-6 – The Anti-Monitor speaks his poisonous drivel to the earth, about how after ten billion years he has never known such defeat, and how it’s this earth that has fought back and made his victories meaningless. But, he boasts of killing Supergirl and the Flash and fills the earth with darkness.
Page 7-8 – Harbinger begins to again gather heroes for the final battle, including both Supermen and Dr. Light. She also tells Dr. Light that Supergirl was already dying when Dr. Light distracted her, absolving her of responsibility in her death. We see that Sueprgirl’s sacrifice is inspiring Dr. Light to be a different type of person.
Page 8-9 – The darkness turns out to be the Shadow Demons, who break apart and start to attack and kill people indiscriminately.
Pages 10-11 – All sorts of heroes are seen fighting back, including such luminaries as B’Wana Beast and Uncle Marvel. The story takes us on a bit of a tour around the world to show the battle in places like Japan, Russia, Ireland, Vietnam, Markovia (the only fictional example here) and Brazil.
Page 12-13 – Harbinger’s team of heroes meet up by the comatose Spectre. Once again, we have this thing where according to the Monitor’s instructions, we have only gathered a specific set of heroes to do battle, rather than just everybody. This includes Martian Manhunter, Captain Atom, Negative Woman, both Supermen, both Wonder Woman’s, Fury, Lady Quark, Power Girl, the Ray, Firestorm, Dr. Light, Firehawk, Superboy of Earth Prime, and Jade. These guys are all heavy hitters with mostly energy powers, which makes sense given what’s coming. I think the two Wonder Women are the most out of place, but I guess they are just really really powerful and it doesn’t hurt to have them helping. Pariah, Harbinger, and Alexander Luthor are also around. Luthor uses uses his power to take them to Qward, and at the last second, someone joins them at super-speed.
It’s interesting to note that there are no longer characters from other times – no LSH members, no Arion, no World War II-era JSA’ers. We’re now dealing, supposedly, with the ongoing present-day of the DC Universe (or, at least as that was imagined at the time).
Page 14 – Turns out that Brainiac has taken Adam Strange and the others to Apokolips, where Darkseid greets them fairly courteously.
Page 15 – Back on earth, Lana Lang and Lois Lane report on the battle with the Shadow Demons, including the death of Dove.
Page 16 – At Dr. Fate’s place, Alan Scott and all the magic-y heroes are pouring their power together to do…something…to the Shadow Demons.
Page 17-19 – The heroes arrive on Qward, where they see that it was Kid Flash who joined them. Just then, the Flash appears, in one of his glimpses through time before his death. This sets Kid Flash off on a run across Qward to look for him, until he finds a broken Psycho Pirate pleading with Flash’s empty costume to save him–one of the series’ most memorable images.
Page 20 – The Anti-Monitor gets his last big splash page – a huge boast about the imminent death of the universe.
Page 21 – Meanwhile the battle rages in Atlantis, and Lori Lemaris is killed.
Page 22-24 – The battle goes on all over the earth, while the magicians work to gather all the Shadow Demons away. They succeed, but not before Green Arrow of earth 2, Prince Ra-Man, Kole, Robin of Earth 2 and Huntress are all killed. Also, some villains.
Page 25-26 – The climax begins, with the heroes attacking the Anti-Monitor to distract him. Harbinger reveals why Dr. Light was created, to absorb the energy of one of Qward’s suns. In spite of her doubts, Dr. Light is able to do this, which drains the Anti-Monitor’s power. Alexander Luthor then attacks him directly, draining more of his anti-energy.
Page 27 – Negative Woman then attacks the Anti-Monitor, burning him with her touch.
Page 28 – Dr. Light focuses the solar power she absorbed back on the Anti-Monitor, downing him for the first time.
Page 29-30 – Alex Luthor opens up a portal back to the positive-matter universe, and earth is returned home. But the Anti-Monitor awakes, and draws the Shadow Demons that are sealed up in Alan Scott’s Green Lantern-energy to him, re-animating his body, and killing Wonder Woman.
Page 31 – Firestorm takes the injured Kid Flash and Psycho Pirate through the portal (most of the other heroes having already left). Superman of Earth 2 knocks out the other Superman and Lady Quark and insists that Superboy take them home, as they have something to live for but he doesn’t (since his Lois doesn’t exist, etc.)
Incidentally, before Superman of Earth 1 is knocked out, he delivers some dialogue which is good evidence that after 12 issues of this, Marv Wolfman was getting tired: “Great Krypton! He’s killed her. Just like he killed Kara. I–I don’t care about my life. I don’t care about anything other than stopping him…and destroying him!” Just imagine someone trying to say that. I don’t care if the actor is George Reeves or Christopher Reeve or Tom Welling or Henry Cavill, it’s going to sound stupid.
Page 32 – The Shadow Demons have been changed by the magicians, so they start destroying the Anti-Monitor from the inside.
Superman (of Earth 2, the only one left) says this was part of their plan all along…but that seems a clear contradiction to how everyone reacted a couple of pages ago when the Shadow Demons first started to come back to life again.
Meanwhile, Superboy decides that he doesn’t have anything to live for either, so he chucks Superman of Earth 1 and Lady Quark through the rift and returns to help his older doppelganger.
If you read ahead, you’ll see that Superboy basically doesn’t add anything to the battle against the Anti-Monitor. If he’d just stayed with Earth-1 Superman, maybe he could have had some better guidance growing up and avoided turning into a rage-fueled psychopath. Oh well.
Page 33 – Superman keeps trying to fight the Anti-Monitor. Superboy tries to help, but just gets blasted for his troubles. Meanwhile, Darkseid is watching all this through Alexander Luthor’s eyes, and still talking in unnecessary quotation marks: “You humans were ‘right’ to come to me,” and “Your Alex Luthor is a ‘conduit’ between universes.” Weird.
Page 34 – Superman downs the Anti-Monitor for the second time, but only briefly.
Page 35 – Anti-Monitor rises up and keeps fighting back, absorbing all the energy his universe provides to do this. Actually, the Anti-Monitor has already done this, back in Issue #8, but maybe it all got restored after history reset itself at the battle at the dawn of time. But Darkseid attacks him through Alex Luthor, downing him for the third time in the heart of Qward’s other star (the one that Dr. Light didn’t absorb).
Page 36-37 – Darkseid graciously lets the heroes (and Brainiac, one presumes, although he’s not pictured) leave, telling them not to thank him. “You owe me nothing,” he says, “but one day you will ‘pay.'” Presumably, they will “pay” in extra quotation marks, since Darkseid is using his up at an astonishing rate.
The Anti-Monitor returns yet again, this time as a big ball of energy with a face, and Superman, who has had enough, punches him into oblivion. He falls into the sun, causing an explosion that ripples outward destroying everything for a million miles in all directions.
Page 38 – Superman laments that there’s no way for them to get away, but actually, the earth is over 92 million miles from the sun, so you’d think getting a million miles would be small potatoes to people like Superman and Superboy. I guess Alex Luthor was just speaking in general terms. Anyway, it turns out that Alex is also a channel to some other, vaguely-described but beautiful place, and he’s been holding his Lois Lane in there since before the dawn of time battle. He takes Lois, Superman and Superboy back there, where “there will be no fear…only peace..everlasting peace.”
(Everlasting, or a about two-decades-lasting, until DC decides to do Infinite Crisis, have all these guys come back with a deep dissatisfaction of the state of comics, and threaten all reality again.)
Page 39 – A quick series of codas begins. First, it turns out Wonder Woman didn’t die, but just got herself ready to be rebooted.
Earth 2 Wonder Woman was able to get married to Steve Trevor and live in Olympus, happily ever after. Or at least for 20 years, until Infinite Crisis, when…oh well, you know.
Page 40 – People mourn Kole, Huntress, the older Robin, Lori Lemaris, Supergirl, Sunburst (who died off panel, I think), Dove, and Green Arrow.
But meanwhile, Wally West finds that the condition that was causing his speed to kill him has been reversed, and he vows to become the Flash in his uncle Barry’s stead–a strong contender for this series’ most significant legacy.
Lyla (Harbinger) records all this standing in some snowy place for some reason, wearing a purple parka. I’m pretty sure this is how we see her in the two part History of the DC Universe that Wolfman and Perez did as a bit of an explanation / follow-up to this series.
Page 41 – We get hints of the future, of how Kamandi basically becomes Tommy Tomorrow, Jonah Hex is mysteriously transported to the future, and the Green Lantern Corp is going through some difficulties. Lyla agrees to go with Lady Quark and Pariah to explore the new world, guided by the legacy of the Monitor.
Page 42 – The series ends, of all places, with the Psycho Pirate, locked in a mental asylum, perhaps mirroring how Marv Wolfman felt writing this thing and dealing with the backlash. It seems that Psycho Pirate alone out of everyone remembers the multiverse (an idea that was played with later, though actually all of the heroes who were at the dawn of time should remember the multiverse)
The series ends with some very apt words, “These days…y-you just never know who’s going to die…and who’s going to live.” Certainly, none of us expected the Psycho Pirate to be one of the ones to make it out of this series alive, and to be the last one we’d hear from before it was over.
And that’s it! 12 massive issues which had a pretty serious impact on DC for quite some time. It’s got a lot of clunks, for sure, as well as some dated dialogue, but considering what it set out to accomplish, I think it holds up amazingly well.