Shiny Shelf

Infinite Crisis #1

By Lance Parkin on 16 October 2005

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

After months and months of the set up burbling away in the background, much of it rather humdrum and offputting, the first actual issue of ‘Infinite Crisis’ is here.

I like it.

It’s a weird mix … it’s a clever pastiche of a stupid DC crossover, so it bears a striking resemblance to a stupid DC crossover in places. The overarching story of the issue is that the sky has gone a funny colour and characters (ranging from household names to ones you weren’t sure ever existed in the current continuity) pop up at random, point to the sky and say ‘the sky’s gone a funny colour, and that’s a bit worrying’.

As is standard in such things, the Guardians of the Universe hover about saying how terrible and unprecedented it all is, and try very hard to look like gods and not Smurfs.

It’s based on making all the main heroes act out of character, so … all the main characters are acting out of character. Superman has decided to stop helping people, Batman’s talking about how heroes should be inspirational figures, and Wonder Woman’s killed someone in (an absolutely clear cut, no court would convict her, and anyway shouldn’t she have diplomatic immunity, case of) self defence, and now apparently thinks she should kill all her enemies.

The Big Idea of the series is that everything that could go wrong goes wrong at the same time – the Big Three Heroes and the Justice League have fallen apart at just the point that the villains have formed a big team. The magical realm is in turmoil. The rest of the galaxy has fallen to interstellar war. The new generation of heroes is faltering, unready to step into the void left by the big guys.

The resolution of the story, at this stage, seems to be almost painfully obvious. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman agree to put aside their differences, they rally their various pals (conveniently grouped on the Perez version of the cover) beat the bad guys and then kiss and make up, losing a member of their supporting cast and half a dozen minor heroes as the price of being so silly. We’ll see.

There’s some … odd storytelling. I can’t for the life of me work out what the supervillains were doing hiding in a shed, all lined up ready for a fight. They must have been a bit annoyed who showed up – er, I think it’s the Freedom Fighters. It might be the Liberty Legion, but I think they’re Marvel. Anyway, it means the villains can kill them and literally *no-one* will care. Rip Sue Dibney’s tights, and you get a laser lobotomy and a ten year multibook conspiracy of silence. Kill Condor, and his mum could show up in issue three and not think the death’s worth mentioning. The not-originally-DC characters never quite fit in, they’re always second cousins, the originals have always resented them a little, and they’re always the first to get killed in this sort of thing (Phantom Lady, RIP, was a Quality Comics character). If Captain Atom started dating Lucy Lane, it would be the DCU equivalent of ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ Except he’d probably die before getting to eat.

This comic should have a caption on the cover ‘anyone who hasn’t been reading DC comics for twenty years needn’t bother’. But, frankly, if you haven’t been reading DC comics for twenty years, there’s something wrong with you anyway, so that’s not actually a problem. If you understand, or can make a good fist at parsing, the sentence ‘it is, at both the narrative and meta level, a sequel to and anniversary celebration of, Crisis on Infinite Earths, with the multigeneration aspects of the DC Universe to the fore, so it’s almost perfect that Jiminez is standing in for Perez’, then you’ll enjoy it. The comic is full of little nods and winks and quotes, like it’s expecting to be annotated online.

One of the strengths of the DC Universe is that people do, however slowly, grow and change. They rarely change back. Robin became Nightwing. Superman’s married. There’s a sense of history. A sense of heritage and power that makes the DC Universe a far richer place than the Marvel Universe, which operates on storytelling cycles that reset at the end and where Spider-Man is always going to be an inexperienced outsider, even though he made his debut about the same time Bob Dylan did and has, by now, teamed up with every single inhabitant of New York, superhuman and otherwise. The centre, the lynchpin, of the DC universe has always been Superman. The archetype, the most powerful, the one with the richest history. For years, the people at DC have fallen into the trap of thinking that Batman is more interesting because he snarls more. Superman has been defined not by his great power but by his losing his powers or refusing to accept just how powerful and important and shaping those powers are. Superman is, and always has been, a perfect metaphor for comics in particular and America in general. He’s it.

So it’s quite right that the last page is, quite literally, super. The first issue is flawed, but it hints that we’re heading somewhere big and clever, where there’s a point worth making. We’ll see.

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By Lance Parkin

Lance Parkin writes lots of things, including a biography of Alan Moore that's due out late next year. Find out more at his website.

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