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Sunday Slugfest - Infinite Crisis #5

Posted: Sunday, March 5, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

ďFaithĒ

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Phil Jiminez, Ivan Reis, Jerry Ordway (p), Andy Lanning, Ivan Reis, Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: DC Comics





Average Rating:

Michael Aronson:
Michael Bailey:
Kevin T. Brown:
Shawn Hill:
Robert Murray:
Dave Wallace:






Michael Aronson

I find it difficult to discuss this series with other people. On one hand, no single comic series has done more than to boost popular opinion of Infinite Crisis than House of M. Thatís right, House of M. If Marvel hadnít so horribly bungled the pacing and plotting of their first major crossover in years, peopleís expectations of Infinite Crisis would likely have been much different. Due to its wall-to-wall action and delivery on the promise of changing the face of the DCU, people seem overjoyed to be reading an event that isnít just a bunch of talking heads.

On the other hand, both the protractors and detractors of Infinite Crisis seem caught up in the hype they themselves have been responsible for generating. Beginning with the Countdown one-shot, Crisis started really low-scale and has been gradually building to the point at which anything seems possible. As a result, the protractors are accused of praising IC more for what it might turn out to be rather than what it is, and the detractors are accused of detesting IC for would it could have been than what it is. It seems to be an impossible task for many to judge it for its own goals and its merits.

One of the goals this series seems to be striving for is the redemption of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. All three started the series at odds with one another, Superman having failed to lead responsibly, Batman having failed to be trusted, and Wonder Woman having failed to uphold the sanctity of life by killing Maxwell Lord. It would seem logical that the three of them would earn redemption throughout IC by leading, being trusted and upholding life again, respectively. Issue #5 features two of these characters in prominent roles, and yet the only test they endure is a physical one which neither challenges nor redeems these characters. The remaining two issues can still address these matters, but this one rather overlooks them.

Another goal of Infinite Crisis seems to be covering the breadth of the DCU and all its characters, or at the very least continuing the ongoing individual plotlines of characters who have been involved with the Crisis since Countdown. This issue does a good job with featuring minor characters like Ragman, Firestorm, the Marvels and the new Blue Beetle while balancing the main act. However, thereís only so much that can fit into one issue and many characters are neglected. This is to be expected, but the lack of balance stands out. What happened to the Joker since issue #2? What are all the Villains doing aside from dropping Chemo from a plane? Wouldnít powerhouses like Zoom and Bizarro cause major interference? Granted, not everyone can grab the spotlight all the time, but it was poor planning to feature more characters than could be juggled.

There are some major timing problems in this issue. We find Earth-2 Superman exactly where IC #4 left him, suggesting that mere seconds passed between this issue and the last. However, the opening scene features a massive funeral being held for those who died and those who mysteriously disappeared. How can they have amassed such a crowd after only seconds? Also, why does Alex delay between creating Earth-2 and creating the others? Why are the earths at first aligned in rows and then, perhaps seconds later, erupting all over the sky? Logic takes a back seat to drama and explosions. While a certain amount of disbelief requires suspension here, the multiple earths concept hinges on very specific continuity logic and the betrayal of any such logic becomes glaring.

Despite the confusion with the multiple earths, it was a joy if only to see Bizarro World stick out among the line-up.

Though itís a minor point, I appreciate Alexís reasoning as to who Breach really is and where he, in addition to other recent controversial characters, would fit into the multiverse.

Iím rather annoyed with the fact that the new Blue Beetle has suddenly become DCís Layla Miller. Not a smart move, guys.

Itís great to see Nightwing get a bit of the spotlight, finally stepping into a role of real significance. I canít wait to see it play out.

The reemergence of the two crucial characters at the end take away from the significance of their previous departures, but as long as issue #6 provides a decent explanation, it might not matter.

This series faces an uphill battle from here on out. Due to One Year Later, we already know who survives the Crisis, so thereís a bit of a drop-off of tension there. And while this issue was a dip in quality from the rest of the series, IC #6 and #7 will have to work extra hard to pick up the slack as well as tie up all the loose ends still up in the air.




Michael Bailey

Plot: Superman fights Superman as the heroes struggle to cope with the sudden appearance of another Earth in the sky. Booster Gold brings the new Blue Beetle to the Batcave in order to assist the group of heroes Batman has assembled to take down Brother Eye. Alexander Luthor launches his ultimate plan, and a former hero returns from imprisonment.

Commentary: This is the first issue that didnít blow me away from cover to cover. That is not to say that I didnít enjoy this installment. I did. There was a lot to like about the book, but in this chapter I found my first sense of disappointment.

For a fifth issue in a seven part series, this had a very strong beginning. Johns had the characters in church and no matter what your faith is (or in Mister Terrificís case, a lack of faith in a higher power) there is something about everyone gathering together to take a time for reflection that is appealing. Johnsí choice of the characters to lead the ďservicesĒ was nice, especially in Blue Devilís case. I guess you can put the devil into a Catholic, but you can't take the Catholic out of the devil. Also the little bit at the end with the Huntress was more than appropriate given the characterís religious orientation.

Johns also gave us our first look (outside of the preview pages and such) at the new Blue Beetle. When I first saw the characterís design, my feelings for it were lukewarm at best, but as the character developed and as I get used to how it looks, my opinion changed. The assault on Brother Eye was something I didnít see coming, but given the line-up of heroes and the involvement of the new Blue Beetle, Iím really looking forward to seeing how this particular sub-plot plays out.

There were a lot of little things that made the issue worthwhile. Lex Luthor was back in the Bronze Age/Challenge of the Super Friends (take your pick) outfit. Awesome. This was a neat little scene, and in one page Johns showed what a complex character Lex Luthor could be. The return of the Earth-Two Wonder Woman was another highlight, and Johns did a wonderful job of using her to show the current Wonder Woman what she has been missing in the past few months. Thereís nothing like a former version of yourself to act as that mirror to get your head together. I also dug the revelation that Breach (I really should have paid attention to that series when it came out) was the Captain Atom of Earth-8 and that Kyle Rayner, Helena Bertinelli (or as Peter Griffin would say Helena Bertandernie) and Jason Rusch would have lived there too. There is something appealing about the concept that those characters would have still been created even if the first Crisis had never happened.

Then there was the Superman fight. This is where I am really conflicted because the lead up to the melee was great, and the aftermath was great, itís just that middle Iím having problems with.

Loisís history and her death were extremely well done. Geoff Johns has done an excellent job in letting readers who werenít around or familiar with the Earth-Two characters, in this case Superman and Lois Lane, get a feel of who these people were and why they were important. The flashbacks presented here while brief were poignant and not only gave Loisís death more emotional weight but also reaffirmed why Superman would be attracted to her. Kal-Lís reaction to her dying was so sad because everything he had been doing with Alexander Luthor was for Lois. His entire reason for being at the moment was wrapped up in his desire to save her and get the life they had together back. Lois understood that while her time was done, life was going to go on. This is where Jerry Ordway shines as an artist because after sheís gone he draws a final panelof Superman cradling Lois against a white background, so all you focus on is them.

It was also interesting that it was Kal-Lís grief that brought the two Supermen together. Kal-El seemed genuinely concerned, and it is fitting that since both versions married their Lois Lane that she would be the reason they finally meet. The grief and misplaced rage was palpable, and the fight should have been angry and emotional and it was, but not in the pages of this book. All of that happened in the Superman titles from last month. Iím all for the crossovers having some bite (in fact I kind of expect it) but it should be in the main book as well. The reason that the Superboy versus Superboy Prime fight worked as well as it did was that you got to see the vast majority of both charactersí reactions and actions in the main book and then you got to see the same events from a different perspective in the Teen Titans crossover, which brought more depth to the fight. With this fight, which should have been much bigger than that one considering the characters involved, we get a sense of what happened but unless you read those three Superman books there is very little emotional context. Johns makes up for this by playing out the resolution the way he did. In three panels Kal-L realizes the folly of his actions even though they came from the best of intentions.

In The End: Despite my misgivings at how the Kal-L versus Kal-El battle went down, this was still a very good issue. The story didnít slow down a bit, and Johns complicated matters even further by bringing in all of the multiple Earths and an armored up Superboy Prime. My favorite moment, though, had to be when Alexander admitted that for whatever reason everything had to come from the Superman of Earth-Two. It was one of those moments where I realized that the writer knew exactly what he was doing. Of course everything came from that Superman. He was the first. All of the other heroes, both in and out of the comics, to one extent or another, take their cue from him. Combine that with the awesome spread of the different versions of Superman (including the Tangent version, which I was very happy to see) and you have one of the best moments in the series so far.




Kevin T. Brown

Oneís faith can be tenuous at best sometimes. When it gets tested, we either use it to gain strength by praying at a place of worship or sink into despair and call into question everything. Then there are those who just accept what is going on around them, faith or not, and deal with the situation head on. We rarely think of our heroes as those who are anything but the third option. But how would you react when you see another Earth on the horizon? Geoff Johns opens this issue up with the answer: For our heroes, it's all the above.

It was a stroke of genius to begin this issue that way it did. So much has been talked about in terms of the purity of the heroes, especially from the Golden Age Superman, in this series. To show these characters in such a way, during this Crisis, at their most human and not at their most powerful. It sets the tone of what's to come in this issueÖ

Expect major spoilers to follow.

Since the first issue, everyone has been anticipating the confrontation between both Supermen. We finally get it in this issue. Beautifully drawn by Jerry Ordway nonetheless. Before the confrontation occurs, weíre able to see the pure joy and elation of Superman (Kal-L) and Lois Lane returning home at last. But unfortunately, the happiness is short-lived as Lois dies in his arms. Her age catches up with her, and she realizes it. It's a powerfully written and drawn scene as Superman holds on to his true love as her life slips away. He cannot help but cry out her name through the tears. And what does Superman do when he hears Loisís name cried out as is was? He rushes to her rescue. Which is what the current Superman (Kal-El) does and encounters an angry and despondent Kal-L still holding on to Lois.

Kal-L's response to seeing ďthat other SupermanĒ on Earth-Two is immediate: It's one of pure rage. He blames him for his Loisís death, for bringing corruption to his Earth. The fight is quick and powerful. The only things destroyed in its path are buildings. No one wins, no one loses. But this is not a fight in which to determine who would beat whom. This is a fight that Kal-L needs to get out of his system. And it's only the timely appearance of Wonder Woman that he realizes, finally, the folly of what has occurred and that it was quite possibly a mistake. That the perfect world he so desperately wanted to live on would not include him.

Getting back to Wonder Woman for a moment, we also get the opportunity to see the Golden Age Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) for what looks to be the final time. Appearing in front of the current Wonder Woman, whom Diana initially thinks is her mother, Ms. Prince comes to Diana because ďthe fate of the universe is at hand,Ē as well as to remind her to not forget her humanity. It's a gorgeous few pages drawn by Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning.

While the main part of the issue present the fight between the two Supermen, there are also many other plots unfolding. The least of which is Alexander Luthorís plot to find his perfect Earth. We finally get to see exactly what it is heís been planning, on why Kal-L was so important to him, why he needed to have Earth-Two returned first. He needed the distraction in order to finish his machine first and foremost; he also needs Kal-L alive because heís the key to the return of the multiverse. Iím also waiting for Luthor to realize that heís not recreating the multiverse, that all heís doing is creating multiple Earths in ďourĒ universe. And while Luthor is apparently having his plans unfold, the rest of the heroes are beginning to come together. Still confused, still unsure of what exactly is going on, but ready to battle whatever crisis is before them.

My two major complaints about this book, and the main reasons as to why I gave it the rating I did, are the explanations of the ďEarth-8Ē heroes and the ending. I think itís treading very dangerous ground to even throw it out there that characters such as Kyle Rayner, Jason Rusch and Helena Bertinelli would have been that Earthís heroes. My personal feelings aside, I donít like knowing that these heroes are somehow separate and unto themselves. Thereís enough division among the fanbase, we donít need yet another reason for arguments. And as for the ending, I was really hoping we were done with Superboy-Prime, even though I knew we werenít. Whereas the ending of the other four issues had me excited about whatís to come, this one had me rolling my eyes. I think the issue would have ended perfectly with Nightwing saying his line with a more dramatic background. Though I am wondering why it is that itís Barry Allen that appeared out of the speed force to warn Dr. Light II.

Now while the story is running at a breakneck pace, the artwork is up for the challenge. No less than five artists provide work for this issue. Jerry Ordway was really the only choice to draw the Superman vs. Superman scenes. It was a joy to see him drawing Superman again, and I hope itís not the last time. Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning were the obvious choices to draw the Wonder Women scenes, as well as a few other select pages. Though itís a shame he wasnít able to provide more artwork for this issue. The rest of the book by Ivan Reis & Art Thibert was seamless. I may have ripped Reis in a previous review of a different book for rushed artwork, but that is not the case in this issue. He shows here why heís a star on the rise, and why I consider him among my favorite artists. There is not one weak page in this book. While too many artists drawing one issue can be confusing at times, each artist had a specific section to draw and each was picked perfectly.

So while this is an artistic ďmasterpiece,Ē the story had its flaws. Instead of the powerful ending I believe Johns was shooting for, he got an apathetic reaction from me. It pretty much sapped a good portion of the excitement the previous 31 pages had elicited. It also knocked half a bullet off of my review. I'm still excited and eager to see how everything plays out, but the ending muted some of that feeling.




Shawn Hill

Plot: The second Earth has returned. But itís strangely lifeless and empty. Seems some of the heroes havenít been transported across dimensions, but simply through space, as the second Earth now floats harmlessly next to ours. This is perturbing to Superboy-Primeís many victims.

Comments: This is the best issue thus far of this series. It forgoes the ultra-violence of installments one and four, and sidesteps (largely) the dense confusion of parts 2 and 3. Johns actually stops to have a character develop in the midst of his patchwork plotting, and the artists have gotten the hang of things too.

Or to put it another way, Reis and Jiminez each only draw the pages theyíre suited to, and Ordway steps in to save all the rest. I realize, in reading other online reviews, that Iím not looking for (and certainly not enjoying) the things other readers are getting out of this (i.e. the senseless fights that pass for entertainment). For me, this issue gains a bullet for the mere presence of old-school Ordway, whose clarity and storytelling skills make time for an actual story (for the first time since issue two) to be told.

He also brings iconic wisdom, as the perversion of Supes-2 wielding an old-fashioned car to brain Supes-1 is both witty homage and purposeful travesty all at once. Along the way we get plotting afoot from Batman, new character cameo for the clueless new Blue Beetle, closure anew for Wonder Women and Lois Lane, and some special effects that mostly come off, if in a gonzo sort of goofy DC manner.

Flawed gem: However, if the issueís concept is faith, that plays out only in the first scene, as Zauriel leads a mass to comfort troubled souls right out of War of The Worlds. Superman vs. Superman takes up most of the rest of the issue, but faith isnít really their problem so much as confusion and the anguish of love. You might describe Superboy-Primeís problem is a complete absence of faith, but thatís stretching it.

Summation: Still, Iíll settle for a coherent story that makes sense even without thematic consistency, especially if it looks as good as this one does. While ďOne Year LaterĒ may turn out to be nothing but a marketing gimmick across the line, Infinite Crisis does actually seem to be making some changes after all.




Robert Murray

More showiness from DC in this issue, which mainly features a fight between the two Supermen (Supermen or Supermans?) and heroes dealing with the disappearance of their comrades. I read through this issue twice in quick succession, and I have to say that I was not impressed by any of it. Even the ending splash-page was a letdown, finishing the issue with an event that I was probably expecting if I really cared. No, thatís harsh! My little fanboy heart cares about this shakeup of the DC Universe! However, there is a lot in Infinite Crisis that is meant to shock, but really doesnít affect me at all. Have I been in the reviewing game too long or have I simply grown apathetic to all of these universe-shattering miniseries? I hope itís the latter, since I love my weekly escape from the cares of the real world, and a series like Infinite Crisis is the kind of diversion I seek out.

Anyway, back to the review at hand! This issue also introduces the new Blue Beetle, due to have a new ongoing series this month. So far, so good, in my opinion. I think itís kind of funny that the new Beetle is some punk kid who knows heroes from the media coverage he has seen all around him and is star-struck by being in their presences. I think he should be a good successor for the old Beetle, and Iíll probably check out the new series. In regards to the art in this issue, there are some spectacular panels that deserve mentioning, particularly the splash-page homage to Action Comics #1 that features Earth-2 Superman smashing a familiar car into Earth-1 Superman. However, there seems to be a lot of multiple earth scanned images being shown instead of continuing with the actual story. I know these are supposed to be ďwowĒ scenes, but Iím not very thrilled by the spectacle. I want revelation, not scenery. Thereís that apathy again!

From my fanboy perspective, itís good to see that Wonder Woman might start acting less like a homicidal maniac, due to the visit by her Earth-2 version. I really havenít been into her antics lately. Itís cheesy that her Earth-2 self tells her to simply act human and she does (like she hasnít thought of this already), but hopefully it leads to her acting more like a hero. I guess heroes acting like heroes is the purpose of this series (besides overall housecleaning), but I canít get past a lot of the stale story elements that have haunted the first five issues. One of the only elements I have truly enjoyed is Alex Luthorís depiction as a major league villain. He truly is a single-minded man who doesnít care about the people involved in his plan, but rather where they are on his giant chessboard. Very Luthor-like! One problem, though: Alex has figured out this elaborate plan and all the workings of the universe, yet he canít figure out why ďeverything comes from Superman.Ē I donít know... Johns could have come up with something a little better than that.




Dave Wallace

After the last couple of issues, I wasnít sure that Infinite Crisis could get much more fractured and complicated. I was wrong. Johns continues his epic story here, sacrificing a strong and cohesive narrative in favour of a universe-wide scope and myriad parallel plot threads, with the result that no one story element ever receives enough attention or development to really build any tension or keep me hooked.

In fact, itís getting to the point where Infinite Crisis is beginning to feel like a companion series to the main event, rather than the core title itself. So many of the bookís big moments are played out off-page or in other titles that IC itself is starting to look like little more than an extended series of trailers for other Crisis-related miniseries and tie-ins - and the extended advertisements for DCís ďOne Year LaterĒ line in the back of the book would seem to support this view. This issue alone devotes a mere five pages to the fight between the Supermen of Earth-1 and Earth-2, a scene which is important enough to be featured on one of the issueís two covers but is (apparently) only fully explored in a three-part crossover arc in DCís Superman titles. The other cover alludes to the teaming-up of Booster Gold, Batman and the new Blue Beetle (as well as some other heroes whose names donít begin with ďBĒ) with the intention of taking out the cheeky Brother Eye satellite, which again seems to be a major plot point but warrants only a few pages of set-up here: letís just hope we get to see the attack itself in the pages of IC and not some Batman spin-off comic. Even the mystery appearance of a second Wonder Woman amounts to little more than a few pages of sub-Obi-Wan-Kenobi mentor-speak before the second Diana buggers off into the ether in her invisible Memphis Belle. Still, at least these segments do offer up some backstory and explanation for themselves, as countless other scenes donít even manage that.

Yet in amongst all of this patchwork of Crisis-related moments from across the DCU, there are still plot points that rest frustratingly unaddressed. The Joker remains completely absent from the book after his appearance a few issues ago, and if Johns is setting up a late scene-stealing appearance from him then I have a feeling that itís going to appear very out-of-the-blue and jarring. Then again, maybe this is to be expected from a writer who undoes his Deus Ex Machina conclusion to the last issue with another one here, as one of the Flashes (does it matter which one? Apparently not) shows up out of nowhere to announce the return of Superboy Prime - now eeeevil and dressed in chunky new armour (the Speed Force must contain a gentís outfitters). Weíll have to wait until next issue to see if weíre due a reprise of his Super-Head-Punching Actionô, but suffice it to say, I donít think any C-list DC characters are going to be buying new hats any time soon.

Personally, the word ďMehĒ could have been coined for Infinite Crisis as far as Iím concerned. It really means nothing to me, and the lack of continuity within the miniseries itself is really getting on my nerves - as many things appear to be happening to various characters between issues (presumably in other comic titles), which you don't get to see if you're not buying those other series. Unfortunately, DC isnít doing anything to convince me that these other titles are worth looking into Ė I think I can live without reading the story which shows how and why Connor Kent ends up in a bacta tank in the laboratory of the campest-looking Lex Luthor ever to grace a comicbook page Ė but to be honest, I wouldnít know where to look even if I wanted to, as explanatory footnotes (or even endnotes?) remain conspicuous by their absence.

The occasional glimpses of stronger material are frustratingly brief, as although I enjoyed the thinking behind the religious gathering of heroes at the start of the issue (the conversation between Mr. Terrific and Ragman is one of the issueís best), the powerful shot of Nightwing alone at Titans Tower, the realisation that ďa perfect earth doesnít need a Superman,Ē or the multiple alternate echoes of Supes who appear as thousands of other earths are called into existence, such nuggets are all too fleeting in their appearance before other elements conspire to push them off the stage.

You might well say that Iím not the target market for the book, and Iíd probably agree Ė but I still canít believe that this is the best way DC could think of to frame their Universe-spanning event. However, Iím sure DC fans will love it, as theyíll have a completely different take on the book than I do.



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