Sunday Slugfest - Infinite Crisis #1

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Jim Kingman, John Hays, Shawn Hill, Shaun Manning, James Redington, Jason Sacks, Michael Bailey, Kelvin Green
Jim Kingman

If Infinite Crisis #1 could be reviewed on the basis of anticipation alone, my silver bullet rating would need more ammunition. I have been looking forward to this book for months. I commend DC for their outstanding job in generating interest for the debut of this epic seven issue series. But with great anticipation comes great scrutiny. On its opening day, I have read Infinite Crisis four times, thumbed through it more times than I can count, and studied it panel by panel.

Infinite Crisis is the direct sequel to 1985’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. I recommend perusing Crisis On Infinite Earths #12, closing your eyes for a moment to allow twenty years to pass, and then reading Infinite Crisis #1. After all the infinite crossovers, alternate Elseworlds, retroactive tweaking, major overhauls, and controversial lapses in continuity, DC has returned to the source of its most successful attempt at streamlining its once allegedly convoluted superhero universe to reconstruct its supposedly complicated present for a new generation.

The effects of the countdown to Infinite Crisis has been devastating. Great evil has been unleashed on Earth with the destruction of the Rock of Eternity, a major portion of Earth’s supervillains have united under a secret society banner, an interplanetary war is underway that threatens the destruction of entire alien civilizations, and hundreds of activated OMACs are at large to methodically assassinate Earth’s meta-humans. To make matters worse, the JLA watchtower has been destroyed and Wonder Woman’s murder of Maxwell Lord has been broadcast on television screens around the world. And yet the aforementioned is nothing compared to the mass of destructive antimatter energy that is leaking into our universe.

With all this in mind, Infinite Crisis begins. Issue one congregates, re-caps and continues from the lead-in books (Day of Vengeance, Villains United, The OMAC Project, The Rann-Thanagar War, The Return of Donna Troy, and JLA). It is furiously paced, covering a lot of ground both on Earth and across the universe, at times cutting from action-filled battle to intense conversation in the time it takes to turn a page. It is anchored from beginning to end by the narration of a mysterious, silhouetted figure. When that figure bursts forth in the big reveal on the last page, long-time DC readers will cheer in approval. New readers most likely will scratch their heads and wonder, “Why does this guy look so different?”

By the numbers, there are thirty-two pages of story and art, 194 panels, three two-page spreads, two full-page illustrations (as opposed to pin-ups), two fiercely-fought battles, two heated discussions, dozens of colorfully clad, iconic superheroes, a slew of organized, determined villains, four apparent superhero deaths, four mysterious, silhouetted figures, and one grand entrance.

Numbers aside, what does it all boil down to? A darn good story by Geoff Johns, one that I feel Marv Wolfman, the writer of Crisis On Infinite Earths, will be proud of. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are at odds with one another in the ruins of the JLA watchtower. J’onn J’onzz is missing. Donna Troy, in her role as the new Harbinger, is recruiting superheroes to journey with her into space to combat a threat to the existence of the universe. The OMACS mobilize in Bludhaven and the Seven Deadly Sins of Man descend on Gotham City. Meanwhile, in the Polaris Galaxy, where the destructive threat is moving into our universe through a tear in reality, many alien and Earth-born superheroes are already on hand to meet it. On Earth, the Freedom Fighters are viciously attacked by a society of super-villains. In the watchtower, the powerful Mongul assaults Batman and Wonder Woman. Superman is able to handle Mongul with one punch, but not the cutting remarks of Batman. The three heroes disband and return separately to Earth. All the while a mysterious group of individuals behind ice-like glass walls bear witness to these catastrophic events. One of the figures moves to break free. And when he does, we see all four of them in full view, revealed at last. It’s quite a cliffhanger.

The artwork is spectacular, so good that it should not be taken for granted. This isn’t hyperbole, this is appreciation. When you think of the artwork on Crisis On Infinite Earths, you think of George Perez and the remarkable job he did, arguably his best work. It makes sense to have Phil Jimenez, who really captures the feel of Perez’s style while having his own distinct linework, illustrate this sequel. Jimenez and inker Lanning truly shine on all levels, from wide-screen battles to personal turmoil conveyed in facial expressions.

Granted, Infinite Crisis #1 is by no means a self-contained story. New readers and speculators alike may be confused or put off. I do wish there had been a synopsis of some kind to bring everyone up to speed on what is happening in the book. References and footnotes to other involved titles would have enhanced the epic feel. But as far as epic superhero storytelling is concerned, Infinite Crisis #1 delivers the goods, and is well worth the anticipation. Is it potentially the greatest superhero epic since Crisis On Infinite Earths? Could be. It is a commendable start.

John Hays

The big three definitely do not see eye to eye. Each character seems to be acting just a bit “off,” and none of them can understand why. Meanwhile, other heroes try to figure out what is causing all the current troubles, while four mysterious figures look on and watch.

There’s never a dull moment in this issue, that’s for sure. While the big three are obviously being written off-character, I’m thinking that Geoff is purposely doing this as a way to lead into larger surprises later in the mini series. I believe the same thing can be said for the way Conner is acting. I think that the four mysterious people will play a major role in shifting the attitudes of all of these heroes into a brighter future (at least I hope that’s what happens!) One other clever nod to a great past story that I wanted to mention is the fight with Mongul. This definitely reminded me of Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” story, including Superman’s intense use of heat vision on Mongul in anger. Great stuff.

Jimenez’s art is really top notch this time out. I really believe that Phil was the ideal choice to succeed George Perez in Crisis art duties. Their styles are very similar, and it provides a smooth transition from the old Crisis to the new one. Some scenes of particular enjoyment would be the big three’s encounter, the massing of OMACs, the great Spectre splash page, and of course, the last splash page. The coloring was also phenomenal. It’s hard to believe how far that medium has come since the original Crisis.

I love how this mini series has started, and can’t wait to see where it goes. It’s icing on the cake to know that, as the mini series goes on, we’ll be getting specials to wrap up the four mini series leading up to this, as well as getting a weekly series, 52, out of it all in the end, written by an all star team. As I said before, I can’t wait!

Shawn Hill

Plot: Whooo boy. Omacs. Secret Societies of Super Villains. Rann-Thanagar War. Crazy gods. Take all the disparate Countdown series, stir them into a pot, and then make sure Jimenez is present to compose this gumbo so that every flavor comes through with pungent clarity. With lotsa splash pages and spaceships!

Proviso: There’s one thing that worries me about this Infinite Crisis. It’s tallying a death toll, and it’s so far been heavily weighted towards characters DC acquired from other companies. Countdown offed or damaged many of the Charlton characters (whom Giffen et al. were simultaneously busy reviving in some alternate universe); this issue takes care of the stable of Quality characters represented by the Freedom Fighters. Why are only the immigrant properties expendable? DC’s story as a metaphor for an industry-wide monopoly is not one I particular find tasteful or enjoyable.

It’s enough to make one wonder why anyone sells their properties to DC. I.E., it may be lucrative, but it seems to be a one-way trip to annihilation (far beyond the simple absorption and defanging of olden days). Wildstorm is on the chopping block as well; let’s hope Alan Moore has a better contract for the ABC-world.

Interesting: That said, this was a decent issue, surprisingly coherent given its epic scope. And, happily, that epic scope was actually convincing, with sequences like Nightwing witnessing a horrifying swarm of Omacs (and wondering why Donna had other priorities than Earth); the combined Starmen, Lanterns, Rannians, Hawks, Khunds, Coluans and Tamaranians taking on the latest galaxy-eating void; and vicious attacks by coordinated nightmarish foes.

Less interesting: I still don’t buy a petulant Superman, a dismissive Batman, or a knife-happy Wonder Woman, so the central conflict (so beautifully portrayed on the Perez cover) rings completely hollow for me.

Saving grace: But man, that final page reveal is the way it’s done! I may end up having the same problems with this series I had with the original Crisis (flashy, but not worth the cost; what fun is it to see so many old friends if it’s for the last time?), but at least for this issue I love all the riffs on that original industry-defining Crisis.

Shaun Manning

“We’ve made a horrible miscalculation.”

With the combined effects of Villains United, OMAC Project, and Day of Vengeance, the planet Earth is in serious trouble; add to that the rift in space opened during the Rann/Thanagar War, and it starts to look like the whole of reality is unravelling. Unparalleled violence and panic have erupted in the streets as mankind prepares for the end. The Spectre has killed the wizard Shazam, source of Captain Marvel’s powers, and unleashed the Seven Deadly Sins into the world. OMACs stalk the skies. Earth’s protectors, the JLA, have been battered on all sides, but it is the internal struggles that finally rip the team apart. With Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman rendered ineffectual, it’s up to the Freedom Fighters to defend against the allied villains. They don’t stand a chance...

“Everywhere I look, darkness grows.”

Infinite Crisis #1 delivers on its promise of nonstop carnage, as each page is littered with characters fighting melee-style battles. There is some indication that second-string or less prominent heroes will play significant roles, as Guy Gardner takes charge of the Green Lantern Corps, and the Ray is abducted for nefarious purposes. Of course, the Freedom Fighters’ prominence in issue one is remarkable in itself for putting the spotlight on characters that have been seen infrequently, if at all, in the last few years. The tension between the Major Players on the moon is superbly done, as well, with Batman earning quote of the year—Superman gets completely owned.

Although... there is a strange dynamic with Superman, here. As evidenced by this issue’s surprise guest stars (now spoiled all over the internet), Superman’s idealism is clearly meant to be the proper perspective on heroism. Yet, in the Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman conflict, Supes is the least sympathetic character. Batman’s decision to create the Brother Eye satellite was questionable, but understandable; Wonder Woman’s decision to kill (not “murder”) Maxwell Lord was arguable, but justifiable. All Superman can do is complain about lines being crossed, backed up by the privileged perspective that his teammates’ choices didn’t turn out too well. But maybe that’s why Batman’s barb rings so true: for all his rhetoric, Superman doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t make hard decisions; he never has to admit he’s wrong, because he doesn’t allow himself to become enmeshed in controversy. Even during the President Luthor storylines of a few years back, Superman put his love of law above his love of justice, and thus kept himself out of trouble.

Other highlights of this issue included a shocking revelation about the Guardians of the Universe, Superboy’s dilemma, and the big reveal of the mystery narrators, and the implications their vigilance carries the past, present, and future of the DCU.

Phil Jimenez on art... man, he’s earning his place as a new George Pérez. Granted, the original Mr. Pérez is doing a fine job on covers, but Jimenez is working to match him on sheer volume of characters per page, and each hero and villain looks incredible.

“We’ve given them a gift they’ve thrown away. We sacrificed everything for them.”

DC has described Infinite Crisis as its universes’s darkest day, and they weren’t exaggerating. But the publisher has just as loudly proclaimed that a good day is coming, and there are moments in this issue to inspire hope. With stakes set so high in only the first issue, Infinite Crisis is that rare event that cannot help but live up to its hype.

James Redington

I was too young when the crisis hit the DC Universe the first time, so I'm excited for this event. The build up has been long and damn expensive, but with all that in mind, I can safety say it has been worth it.

Infinite Crisis #1 delivers a good start to a series that has the potential to shake up a DC universe that has been getting quite stale these past years. That's not to say everything has been dull, but something has been missing from DC for some time; My hope is this
series will deliver its promise and set the ball rolling again and put my much loved DC back on top of the industry.

Now onto the issue: Geoff Johns delivers an exciting story driven by Character and Plot points. This already is a much needed improvement on the build up titles. There is a frightening fight with Luthor's Society of Villains as they tear apart the Freedom Fighters. It's about time we see the ruthless side of these villains. This is how they would act, with no mercy. I feel bad that some of these characters are clearly dead, but I think this type of cleaning house is long over due. There's that old saying “that too many cooks...,” and the DC universe is full of too many heroes. It's about time a few were knocked off.

The ending is a classic: the return of a much loved hero who looks a little like another hero we know and love. I wait with baited breath to see what happens next.

I had a slight problem with Phil Jimenez’s art. It’s almost too close to the art of Pérez, but that aside, it was bloody beautiful. All the action scenes were brutal and looked like they should. What I mean is they looked like super powered fights. This is what I expect, NOT just aimless punches but clever attacks and resolutions.

I had a slight worry about Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman against Mongul Jr. Superman has already kicked this guy's arse on his own, BUT with Wonder Woman and her new Warrior attitude, this shouldn't have been so hard.

Its hard to judge just how good this series will be without comparing it to the original Crisis – and also by looking at just one issue; One thing is sure though, this is a fine start and an exciting one as well!

Jason Sacks

It’s here. It’s finally here. After all the months of hype and anticipation, it’s finally here. And it’s big and bold and bright and flashy. Guys in bright costumes fighting amazing menaces. Breath-taking action scenes and deaths and last page revelations. It’s Infinite Crisis. It’s here. And it’s just what you want it to be. Infinite Crisis has slick art and a story that zips along. It’s the antidote to decompressed storytelling, and a true successor to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

This is exactly what most fans were hoping for, 'nuff said.

Michael Bailey

Plot: The Watchtower is in ruins. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman can do nothing but argue as the world descends into chaos. Superboy sits in the Kent house and does nothing but stare at the television. Donna Troy, Starfire and Supergirl join other heroes to journey into space and face a force that threatens everything they care about. The O.M.A.C.s gather en masse to carry out a protocol known as Truth and Justice. A singularity appears in the Polaris System that defies the analysis of even Vril Dox of L.E.G.I.O.N. and the ring of the Green Lantern known as Kyle Rayner. High above Gotham the Rock of Eternity explodes as the image of the Spectre looms over the city. The Freedom Fighters investigate an abandoned refinery only to be attacked by members of the Society. All of these events are witnessed by those from another time and place and lead to a hero from the past taking flight once more.

Commentary: Look, I’m going to be completely honest with you. If you haven’t read the first issue of Infinite Crisis I suggest you skip this next review because I am going to write in detail about the events that transpired in the issue. You’ve been forewarned…

It is tough to know where to start when it comes to discussing this book. This isn’t your normal comic book. This is an event bigger than anything else since the first Crisis on Infinite Earths. Bigger than the “Death of Superman.” Bigger than “Knightfall.” Bigger than Zero Hour. Bigger than Kingdom Come. Bigger than Identity Crisis. Those were epic stories to be sure and each had its own merits, but from the looks of this issue this story is going to be beyond epic. I’m not naïve enough to believe that the events set in motion with this series will have any permanent ramifications, but for the moment it looks like this could be one of the best stories that DC has ever published.

I’m finding it difficult to remain objective in my assessment of the book. I’ve been collecting comics for well over twenty years now and have been reading DC books heavily for at least eighteen of those years. I have literally read thousands of comics from DC and in doing so crammed my head so full of useless knowledge that sometimes it depresses me. So in reading this issue I found myself with so many “oh man, that is freaking cool,” moments that it is could have been difficult to see the forest for the trees. Luckily for me, those moments were part of the overall story and when you piece them together you have a great read that is exciting, engaging and, for once, lives up to the hype and is well worth the sixty-one dollars I paid out for the Countdown special and the four follow-up mini-series.

The one thing I will not do is compare this series to Crisis on Infinite Earths. It would be unfair. Crisis was the first of its type. Before that there was never a comic that had that kind of scope. You could argue that Secret Wars was the first company wide crossover, but Marvel throwing a bunch of heroes together against an unseen foe where the only lasting impact was Spider-Man meeting the entity that would become Venom pales in comparison to the scope Crisis had. Worlds did live, worlds did die and the DC Universe was never the same.

The only thing Crisis lacked was emotional context. This is not a slam against the book. I love the series, but outside of Supergirl and the Flash dying and the turmoil that the Earth-2 Superman felt when he thought he had lost his wife there wasn’t a whole lot of human drama to the story. It was cosmic on the grandest scale and entertaining with lots of action and excitement, but the human element was largely missing from it. I let all of that go, though, when I consider that this series was the trendsetter for the company crossover. It had no series to look back to as a guide. Marv Wolfman and the other architects were laying the ground work for writers, artists and editors to follow.

The heart and soul of this book is the fact that Geoff Johns has taken all of the pieces from the four prelude mini-series and written a story in such a way that you care about what happens to the characters. I care about the fact that Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman were not getting along. I cared about Nightwing and the feeling he had as he watched Starfire and the others fly off into space. I felt for the Freedom Fighters as they were lured into a trap that there was little hope of escaping from. I cared about Conner and the emotional whirlwind he’s going through. Without the characterization and the Johns careful handling of the characters, this would have been just another excuse for a bunch of guys in funny costumes getting together and fighting each other.

More than anything the pacing of this issue made it work. Everything played out as it should have and the scenes rolled into each other organically. Each sequence had its own feel, but the emotional highs and lows didn’t leave for sudden and forced transitions. The first scene on the Watchtower between Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman went right into the short segment with Superboy. The thousands of O.M.A.C.s converging led right into all of the ships converging in the Polaris system. The fight between the Freedom Fighters worked well with the fight Superman and crew had with Mongul. The script and storytelling was tight, which is nice to see in a book like this.

Of course, the writing would not have had as much impact without the art. Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning have assembled a massively complicated cast of characters and the characters have each kept a distinctive style and look. Jimenez is often compared to George Perez and not without reason, though he still maintains his own look and feel that separates him from Perez. Jimenez packs a lot more on the page, if that is possible. His panel layouts are innovative and really draw the reader’s eye. I don’t know how specific Johns’ script was, but between the two they knew when to focus in and when to pull back.

The scene involving the Freedom Fighters and the Society was especially well done. The violence only worked because of the drama it created. The fight had real impact and it felt more like watching a movie than reading a comic. I was especially taken with the beating the Human Bomb took. It was sad and disturbing and from the look on Bizarro’s face I got the feeling that he didn’t quite understand what he was doing or why he was covered with blood. I also liked the fight with Mongul. Not only did it have that cute little homage to Dave Gibbons’ art from the “For the Man Who Has Everything” story that Alan Moore wrote, but it also showed that sometimes you shouldn’t pick with Superman when his blood is up.

For me though, it all comes down to those last two pages and what they mean, not only to the rest of the series but also to how the DCU will operate for the foreseeable future.

Nothing pleased me more than seeing the Earth-2 Superman, the Earth-2 Lois Lane, the Earth Prime Superboy and Alexander Luthor from Earth-3. It was one of those pure fan boy moments where all sense of reality goes out the window and you just thank God you read comic books. I had hoped for it. I had guessed at it in my review for JLA #119, but I wasn’t sure until I saw it on that final page. My favorite incarnation of Superman is back and it had to be one of the best endings Geoff Johns has ever written from a purely emotional stand point.

In The End: This was an incredible start to an exciting story. So far it has lived up to all of the hype. Geoff Johns has written a solid story where nothing is wasted and both the action and drama run high. Jimenez and Lanning (outside of Lois Lane on the last page) have turned in a wonderful art job that really lives up to the epic feel of the story. Infinite Crisis is here, and I have the feeling it is going to be a wild seven months.

Kelvin Green

I'm sorry. I Don't Normally Do DC, but looking at this Slugfest, I had to respond, as my esteemed colleagues appear to be afflicted with Crisis Blindness, and someone needs to set the record straight. Everyone who’s interested has already bought it, most likely, but I couldn’t let all those four and five bullet ratings go unchallenged.

This comic gets two bullets, one for some nice art here and there, although it's terribly overdone in places, with far too much "texturing" going on; and another for bringing a new reader (me) up to speed on recent DCU events in an efficient way. If I had bought all the miniseries that get synopsised here, I might feel a bit cheated by how each set of six issues gets wrapped up in two or three pages, but I didn't, and those that have don't seem too bothered. Which means they're either lunatics or rich. Or rich lunatics.

It's all downhill from there though. So much of the issue deals with wrapping up what has gone before that there's little room for the actual story to get going, and you'd be better off skipping this issue and just getting some photocopies or scans of the last couple of pages, as they're the only new content worth reading.

There's other new content, but it's not worth reading, as it's idiot writing of the worst sort; almost everything that happens in this comic happens not because it makes any kind of sense in terms of story logic, but because the writers have decided it should happen For Effect. So we have the DC Trinity acting bizarrely out of character and being shitty to each other for no good reason, we have Mongul turning up for a fight again for no reason other than the editor apparently telling Johns that all this talking is getting boring (it is) and needs some pepping up with some fisticuffs (it doesn’t). We get the violent rapekill of Phantom Lady and an unpalatably graphic representation of a comedy character (Bizarro) pummelling a prone character bloodily to death, neither of which have any point to them other than to illustrate how "serious" and "dark" everything has become; the problem being that it's hard to attach any kind of emotional resonance to a moment that's as brazenly artificial as these. It's Spielberg-type emoting, except with none of the competence Spielberg occasionally displays. It's artificial and transparently so.

Now I know this is a big event, and the DCheads are excited about it, but my gosh it's absolutely packed full of terrible writing. Big doesn't necessarily mean better, and a turd with a picture of the Golden Age Superman stapled to it is still a turd.

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