Sunday Slugfest - Infinite Crisis #2

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Jason Sacks, Kelvin Green, John Hays, Shawn Hill, Dave Wallace, Michael Bailey
“The Survivors”

Jason Sacks

“We saved the wrong Earth.”

And with those magic words, Infinite Crisis begins to really rock and roll. Finally, all the darkness and chaos of the DCU of the last 20 years is put into perspective. Finally, the thoughts that so many of us readers have had are coming true. Finally, there’s light at the end of what literally has been a dark tunnel. We can see the end of the grim ‘n’ gritty Batman, who spies on his friends and even alienates Alfred. Finally, Power Girl makes sense, and finally it seems like there was a reason why so many DC heroes have become so dark over the last year. It all makes sense, as the editors promised, all part of a larger plan.

It’s all so cool and exciting and wonderful. It’s a gift to long-time fans (was that the original Huntress, daughter of the Earth-2 Batman, on the last page?) and at the same time gives new readers hope that the DCU will move into a new direction.

The small touches make the book so fun. From the charming family scene with Animal Man’s family on the first page (“Have you seen my space suit?” “It was leaking rocket fuel.” “It was a gift from Adam Strange.”) to Power Girl's memories returning (“I do remember! I’m not alone! I see the extra bedroom with the daisy wallpaper.”) to the return of Booster Gold and Skeets, this book is just absolutely wonderful.

There’s only one scene that doesn’t fit with everything else: the scene where the Joker kills the leader of the Royal Flush Gang leading into a page of great carnage. In a book with such a bright energy, this scene just doesn't fit for me. Though it might lead the way for a return to a more classical fun Joker, the blood and guts just don’t fit the rest of the comic.

But overall, this has exceeded my expectations. What a fun story.

Kelvin Green

This is a major story event, right? So it should be, you know, interesting? So why is this comic so very boring, even for the usually soporific Geoff Johns? I mean, this issue is just page after page of info dumping with really tiny slivers of plot in the spaces between. Granted, this may be essential information for understanding the Crisis, but there are other, better, ways to convey the details; like a simple recap page explaining the concepts so that the actual comic can be dedicated to action (it's deliciously ironic that Superman says “I want to stay and talk, but it's time for ACTION!” and promptly disappears while his double explains the multiverse and Power Girl’s real identity for twenty pages), or perhaps heading off the problem before it develops by trying something crazy and revolutionary like writing a major story event that doesn’t rely on familiarity with concepts from twenty years ago. To be fair, there’s more actual content here than in, for example, House of M’s second issue (actually there’s more content here than in the entirety of House of M), but the fact remains that two issues, sixty pages, and $8 in, the story really hasn’t got started yet. Call me old-fashioned, but I tend to think that a story full of colourful costumed characters facing a universe-shattering threat should be a tad more interesting than an average evening at the Eastbourne Over-60’s Bridge Club.

Bafflingly, this normally very good art team somehow produce one of the most terrible looking comics I’ve seen in a long while (and what exactly did George Perez do?). There’s actually too much detail in Jiminez’s pencils, with the excessive rendering giving everything a grubby, wrinkled appearance; Earth-Two-Superman is supposed to look old and battered, but I’m not entirely sure that Power Girl is. As if that’s not bad enough, four inkers (it’s falling behind schedule already?) with very different personal styles leads to art that’s wildly inconsistent from page to page; there are only two Supermen in this story, but you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking that there are more given the way they’re drawn here. And frankly, any art team that fails to make Power Girl look attractive (I particularly liked her saggy knee-warmers on pages twenty-two and twenty-three) should probably give up and go home.

I know I’m not the right audience for this comic, but I don’t need to have read DC titles from the age of five to be able to recognise a bad comic when I see one. And don’t be fooled; this is a bad comic. I know Marvel and DC compete, but shouldn’t they each be striving to produce better comics than the other?

John Hays

Look! It’s Mimic, I mean Animal Man! Great to see Buddy again….let’s not kill him in this, please?

So, yeah, we basically knew that this issue would feature the Earth 2 Superman, and that Geoff would supposedly be catching everyone up by the end of this issue, but there were still a few surprises in store.

While one Luthor is collecting people for some nefarious scheme, the other Luthor finds himself in a polar region not knowing what he’s doing there. However, let’s get back to that first Luthor. Let’s see…here’s a list of who he’s captured or is trying to capture so far:

Power Girl – Earth 2
The Ray – pre-Crisis ties to Earth X (through his dad having moved there with the other Freedom Fighters)
A member of the Marvel family – formerly of Earth S in pre-Crisis days
Lady Quark – some other Earth not specifically named in the original Crisis
Pariah – similar story as Lady Quark

Oh, and we’re not even sure where THIS Luthor is from…but he’s definitely planning something big here!

As Clark looks on at the images of his death at the hands of Doomsday, I can’t help but recall DC mentioning that old story would come up again in this…is this it? Looking at pictures? I hope there’s more to that link than just that.

The look back on the last twenty years was a great way to update new readers, as well as allow old readers to look back on some of the more interesting moments in DC’s history. I have to wonder if the moments picked will play a role in the story later on, or if they were just picked to showcase the past.

The art was good, especially the images of the past and the cool splash page of the Amazon war, but I do have a few nitpicks this time out. Clark’s change into Superman looks more like “change, change, gorilla face, change, fly off,” and Power Girl looked too manly with all the rippling muscles, as well as suddenly developing a few too many facial wrinkles for someone with the word “girl” on her name once she regained all her memories.

While I’m still looking forward to seeing where this is going, Earth 2 Superman’s words are reminding me a bit too much of Parallax or the JSA in “DC2000,” and I just hope we’re not going down that road once again, and that Geoff has other surprises up his sleeve.

Shawn Hill

Plot: At long last, Kara receives some good news. Just like me, however, she is probably fated never to know unalloyed happiness in a comic book.

Comments: What was the last of these big crossover events I really enjoyed? The best I can say about some of them is that they did no harm. They’re too big, too broad to do much good for individual characters, especially supporting ones. Zero Hour was wretched and incomprehensible, though it did manage to justify the JSA opening up shop again. Armageddon? Don’t make me laugh. Millennium was largely harmless; well, except for Laurel Kent. Crisis on Infinite Earths itself mucked everything up despite its immediate entertainment value, and was gone too quick. DC One Million was intermittently charming, if rather fluffy.

Final Night. That was one I liked. It seemed to have its heart in the right place, and laid the groundwork for Hal’s redemption.

Anyway, I’m loving the trip down memory lane as much as Kal-L. Earth 2 always seemed like a cleverly preserved fount of history to me as a kid, one that could still be mined for stories but didn’t have to get in the way of anything. I don’t think it or any of the other Earths needed to go, and I’ve been enjoying watching them all creep back in one form or another ever since. But seeing Kal, and Superboy, and knowing that they know what I know isn’t going to be enough to keep me happy to judge from this issue. Because Johns has chosen a rather unexpected influence for this story. In a veritable echo of Busiek’s JLA/Avengers, we have the heroes of one world looking at another and finding it lacking. But now it’s not the DC-Heroes finding the Marvel Universe a very grim place indeed (which made a witty sort of sense). It’s the old fogies from Earth-2 calling for a conservative clock rollback, unable to accept the horrors of Earth-1 over the last twenty years (and, by extension, of comics since 1980).

By re-creating Kal-L as a retrogressive voice, Johns makes him look selfish, inflexible and out of touch. What does he want? He wants HIS world returned. And his wife, too, if he can get rid of the corruption that infests everything that has come since his retirement. This is Johns using continuity as he is lauded for doing it, and it’s also Johns twisting old continuity bizarrely out of shape to satisfy whatever immediate plot demand he has. Kal as bad, out of touch patriarch is a clichéd story; I was hoping for better.

Sexism watch: Perez trots out a very old concept (one he’s memorably used for Scarlet Witch in the past); Kara confronted by a fractured crystal of shards of life remembered and never-known, an apt visual metaphor for her distressed mental state. Setting that up in front of her, her back to us, achieves the exact sense of wonder the story inside is straining for.

However, inside Jiminez carries his Perez-imitation too far, making the same mistake with PG that Perez always makes with She-Hulk; depicting her as Arnold Schwarzenegger with boobs. Note to both men: Kara and Jennifer are babes. They don’t have to be muscle-y. All their curvaceousness is enough to magically house their amazing super strength. Buffy kicked butt in stiletto heels and halter-tops, and we bought it because the actress sold us on her fierce skill. Byrne’s She-Hulk knows this, and so does Wally Wood’s Power Girl. Not to mention Amanda Conner’s recent spot-on rendition. It’s interesting that Kara’s memories are returned through the agency of Lois, her ailing human “mother.” That’s a female-to-female legacy, and an echo of the important scene from Crisis where Lyta and her Diana realize their Paradise Island is forever lost.

The eyes have it: Otherwise, however, Jiminez is stellar, pulling off a grand scale that easily matches whatever the script calls for. Especially chilling is his OMAC invasion of Themyscira, where he contrasts the Amazons’ martial ferocity with the hovering and indifferent robots.

Dave Wallace

After being completely overwhelmed by last issue as someone not hugely knowledgeable about the DC Universe, it’s a pleasure to see this second installment of the company’s huge Infinite Crisis event slow down a little and take some time to familiarise non-DC-heads with the whole concept of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths which has spawned this sequel 20 years on. Feeding us this information in the first issue would have come off as dry exposition and a very dull way to start a crossover, but the presentation of this information after issue #1’s cliffhanger gives it a contemporary relevance and context, rendering the backstory crucial information that I was keen to absorb. Of course, 95% of the readership of the title may well find that this lengthy recap is simply going over old ground, but it should at least evoke a feeling of nostalgia to see penciller Jimenez recreate some of the key moments from that series, and to see the Golden Age Superman retelling the story.

Oddly enough, this second issue feels more accessible all round, with less of an emphasis on introducing a myriad of minor DC heroes (only to kill them off within a few pages) and more of a focus on telling an interesting story about smaller groups of characters. The Earth-2 heroes get a lot of space dedicated to their story here, and it works to give the reader a certain sympathy with their plight and their outlook on the world. Johns even manages to inject a fair bit of levity into the telling of the Earth-2 characters’ cosmic story (I enjoyed the aside about how politely the Golden Age heroes accepted the secondary classification of their dimension), and cannily presents the recap of the multiverse’s history through the wide eyes of a character who will be key to the overall plot of the series but begins this issue as in-the-dark about what’s going on as any new readers will be. Taking advantage of Power Girl’s personal involvement with the Golden Age group of heroes is a smart move, enhancing as it does the emotional power of a story which will already be over-familiar to many DC fans, and giving the sprawling crossover a very human focus.

That isn’t to say that Johns ignores the more epic aspects of the story this time round though, as there are frequent allusions to the many lead-in miniseries and tie-in storylines, and a strong sense of events building to a head. We see the OMACs descend on Wonder Woman’s home, the reaction of the media to last issue’s killings, an intriguing gathering of heroes in space and the arrival of Booster Gold on a crucial mission to prevent future disaster. Phil Jimenez proves an asset to these many and varied scenes, as his artwork – whilst a little generic and old-fashioned for my tastes – depicts events clearly and colourfully, in a deceptively rich amount of detail. He captures the grand nature of a plot of the bigger moments with ease, with a particular standout being the OMAC invasion of Paradise Island. However, it’s two smaller scenes towards the end of the issue which grabbed my attention, as Bruce ponders his recent failure in the Batcave and withdraws further into himself – even pushing Alfred out of his life – and the Joker shows his distaste for being left out of the villains’ plans in a display of ruthless carnage which feels very true to the character. This juxtaposition of the hero’s desire to control events to the nth degree and the villain’s desire to create chaos plays well into the overall themes of the series so far, and it’ll be interesting to see what role these two characters play in the climax of the book.

Although those more familiar with the events surrounding the original Crisis may have a better idea than me where this is all going, I was intrigued by the portentous nature of Golden-Age Superman’s closing speech this issue, and I like that Johns has muddied the water as to the true nature of his motivation to return to Earth-1. The character’s critique of the DCU’s degeneration addresses some of the changes made in comics since the 1980s, and reflects a lot of the concerns that readers have today about the unnecessary darkening of their favourite four-colour heroes. Yet there’s still a niggling feeling that the Earth-2 Superman may have more selfish reasons for coming to Earth-1 after all this time, and I’m eager to see what happens when he inevitably clashes with the heroes of today’s DCU somewhere down the line.

After a first issue which came close to turning me off the whole project, I’m glad I gave this second installment a try as – whilst I don’t think I’ll ever grasp some of the finer plot points or understand who all of the characters in the series are, let alone the reasons for their actions – I’m finding myself quite enjoying the book as an old-school colourful and high-stakes crossover which is making more concessions to new readers than I expected.

Michael Bailey

Plot: As the universe descends further into chaos, Power Girl finds herself under attack from the Society. After lending her a hand with the villains, Kal-L brings her back to his base of operations to re-introduce her to Superboy Prime and Alexander Luthor and reveal the history of the multiverse. After regaining her memories with the help of the Earth-2 Lois, Power Girl listens as Superman reveals his true purpose for returning from the dimension he and the others had been living in since the end of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Commentary: Part of me feels like I shouldn't have to write this, but for those who think it politic to do so I am now declaring a spoiler alert. You know the drill; if you haven't read Infinite Crisis #2 and don’t want it ruined turn back now. Thanks.

Infinite Crisis continues along at a good pace. While this issue had a lot of exposition, it didn't slow the overall story down at all. The sub-plots flowed through the story nicely, giving hints at what is to come and enticing the reader (i.e. me) into wondering what is going to happen next. With the way things are going, just about anything is possible, which is neat.

There were a lot of really great moments in this issue. The Animal Man scene at the beginning was a lot of fun and showed a bit of levity amidst the darkness. The sequence at the Daily Planet worked on several different levels. Perry White’s anger at the deaths of Black Condor, Phantom Lady and the Human Bomb was great as was the scene of Clark changing into Superman. I can’t say for sure, but it seems as if the Man of Steel is finally stepping up to the plate, and I thought it was nice to introduce Clark into the story by having him stare at the headline from when he died fighting Doomsday. I got a big kick out of the art for the panel where Clark changes to Superman. If my memory isn’t totally screwed up, this was Jimenez paying homage to a piece of art that used to appear on a lot of the Superman merchandise that came out in the late seventies and early eighties. I am almost sure that the original piece of art was drawn by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez as he did a lot of DC's promotional art around that time, but I can't be sure.

The Society sub-plot is shaping up nicely. I have to wonder if “Luthor” is really planning a mind wiping machine or something far worse. The fact that he is willing to turn on Black Adam is interesting, and I can't wait to see how that little bit of treachery is going to play out. Let's face it, Black Adam has been developed into a very powerful character, so if “Luthor” is going to turn on him then there is going to be some fallout.

There were other great one to two page scenes. The Booster Gold page raised some interesting questions and pointed to something big happening in regards to him and the Blue Beetle. The Joker scene was fantastic and explained why the Joker had not been asked to be part of the Society. It’s kind of obvious given the character’s history, but it was well worth the telling. This issue also had further proof that if Alfred is mad at Bruce then Bruce is messing up big time. I enjoyed the conversation with Brother Eye and how it led right to the scene of the assault on Themyscira.

The focus of this issue was obviously Power Girl and the Earth-2 Superman. I really enjoyed the “Power Trip” storyline over in JSA: Classified, and this issue was a great pay off to that story. I also thoroughly enjoyed Kal-L's introduction into the story. What better way to show that the character is back than to show him whupping up on a bunch of super-villains?

Johns neatly worked the history of the multiverse into the story. Exposition is always tough because you want to get the information to the reader without slowing the story down. Johns was smart to keep it brief and the art by George Perez and Jerry Ordway really made those five pages sing. For the readers like me (you know, the ones that spend way too much time reading comics and obsessively learning every bit of trivia that we can) it wasn't boring and I can see how it caught new readers up to speed without drowning them in minutia. Despite what some people seem to think, the Pre-Crisis DC Universe was not all that complicated a place. Sure there were some weird bits and pieces, but for the most part it didn't take too long to get up to speed.

After getting over the utter fanboy frenzy that made up the bulk of the Power Girl/Kal-L scenes, I really started to think about what actually happened and separate the fannish continuity quibbles from the story points that really mattered such as whether or not Kal-L and Power Girl are being played by a larger force. The more I see these characters interact the more I get that sinking feeling that something really ominous is going on. Of course, that is probably the feeling I am supposed to have as a reader, but that is beside the point.

I get the feeling that something or someone is manipulating Kal-L, Power Girl and probably Superboy Prime as well. I can't say for sure if Alexander Luthor is involved or just a pawn, so I'm going to leave him out of it for the time being. Superboy Prime is going to take his cue from Kal-L. After all their time together and from his comments regarding what Kal-L went through to get them out of their dimension, it is obvious that Superboy is devoted to him, so where Kal-L goes, Superboy will follow. With Kal-L the easy button to push is Lois. Put her in danger and he will do anything to save her. Power Girl's need for a past as well as her wanting to have a family (at least that is the way I saw it) make her easy to maneuver as well. Add these three pieces together and you have a lot of raw power to get what you want accomplished.

It's just too easy for me. In the previous issue Johns lulled us into a false sense of security by bringing back Kal-L and friends. Everything should be great, right? The original is back and he's going to save us all. But wait a minute, why is Superman suggesting that the wrong Earth was saved during the Crisis? What does he mean by saying that the dark, corrupted Earth must be forgotten so that the right Earth can return? That sounds a bit odd coming from Superman, so something must be up, especially since he is asking Power Girl for help.

So what does it all mean? I have no idea, but it is going to be a lot of fun finding out.

I remain pleased with the art on this series. Jimenez continues to pack as many characters and as much detail into the page as possible while still telling a strong story. The art was not as consistent as it was in the last issue, but the fact that there four inkers working on the book probably had a lot to do with it. I would prefer a single art team, but the fact is that this is a huge book and to keep it on time, I'm sure it is easier to split up the art among four people than rely on just one.

In The End: This book continues to impress and entertain me. The twists and turns Geoff Johns is providing makes this an interesting series as well as a payoff for those who have been following DC for any length of time. It was great to see George Perez and Jerry Ordway's hands on this story considering their history with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. As with the last issue Johns doesn't miss a beat and he doesn't waste any time. The story is tight and the art continues to be superb. So far, this series is exceeding my expectations, and I hope this trend continues.

Quick aside: if you are the type of person who because of personal opinion or due to financial constraints will only be picking up one of the covers to this issue I would definitely pick up the George Perez cover over the Jim Lee cover. The Jim Lee cover is great (even if he screwed up the Earth-2 Superman symbol), but as far as getting the best bang for your comic buck, the detail on the Perez cover has the Lee cover beat hands down. As much as I enjoy Lee's artwork, the shattered image of the DC multiverse works a lot nicer than five people posing for a photo-op.

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