Sunday Slugfest - Infinite Crisis #6

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Michael Aronson, Kevin T. Brown, Kelvin Green, Shawn Hill, Shaun Manning, Jason Sacks, Jonathan Larsen

Michael Aronson

I have this nagging feeling in the back of my head that there are more problems with this issue than I’m realizing. The Joker and the rest of the villains are still nowhere to be found. The pseudo science involving the stability of the multiple earths is still rather hokey. I’m not really sure why Green Arrow is involved at all. But aside from these minor points, issue six takes one glance at all the pins set up in the previous five issues and knocks them all down with its eyes closed.

As “One Year Later” commenced last month, I feared that knowing which characters survived the Crisis would take away from any tension and suspense of the last couple issues, as well as from 52. I was wrong. Instead, Infinite Crisis becomes the only source of development for these characters at this moment in time, and as such, all their actions become that much more compelling and significant.

And speaking of the compelling and significant, this issue is full of it.

For all the poor juggling of the last couple issues, just about everything comes to a head and just about everyone gets a stand-out moment. Firestorm, Spectre, Blue Beetle, Mister Terrific, Klarion, Martian Manhunter, Hal Jordan, Psycho Pirate, Superboy, Black Adam and more. Batman finally gets to shine, and though he works in two rather awkward roles – those of a leader and technician – he nevertheless gets to put an end to the mess he was responsible for instigating a year ago. In the context of the series, it’s a clear victory.

The cameos here make me want to cry. My knowledge of DC history only goes back to the last decade, if that far, but seeing the previous incarnation of the Legion, the underrated and underused Tangent universe characters and Starman’s Prince Gavyn give me that tingle of longing that only sympathetic fan service can provide. Will the uninitiated be lost? Well, I didn’t really understand a few of the Elseworlds references, but they weren’t alienating either.

I’m not usually a fan of multiple fill-in artists, but who can say no to this line-up? Ivan Reis particularly draws a great Batman. Speaking of Reis, in the past year the guy’s done six issues of Rann/Thanagar War (with fill-ins), the double-sized Rann/Thanagar War Special, fill-ins on most of Infinite Crisis, an issue of Green Lantern and, I believe, a few pages in February’s Superman books. I think this guy had the chops to carry IC all by himself, but if he had, would we have still seen Perez’ s glimmers of alternate earths and Jimenez’s lush splash pages? I guess it doesn’t matter, it’s a win-win situation.

Infinite Crisis may not go down as the greatest event story of all time, but it’s probably been the most explosive, dynamic and surprising event of the last year. The fruits of the Countdown are in full bloom.

Kevin T. Brown

Do you remember when you were a kid and you made a go-cart? You know the ones I’m talking about… Put together with whatever scraps of wood you could find, the wheels from an old skate board, the steering wheel or stick made from what you could grab. You finally get it done, you take it to the top of the tallest hill you could find, get in and head on down the hill. It’s then you realize you forgot one thing: Brakes. So you’re heading down the hill with no way to stop, but you’re loving every freakin’ second of the ride. Of course, the ride usually comes to a stop when you hit something and tumble over in a heap of wreckage…. But, man, what a ride!

So if you’re the kind of person who can’t get enough of that ride, welcome to Infinite Crisis #6!

Geoff Johns is obviously not a fan of decompressed story telling. You can tell that by how he constructs his stories. More importantly, you can tell that by how he’s constructing this particular story. It’s the quintessential page-turner. There is so much that goes on in this issue that it’ll be impossible to relate it all within a mere review. At best, one can hope to go over the highlights. And there are many.

*Batman and a select group of heroes track down the ever-elusive Brother Eye satellite. *Numerous classic scenes, both verbal and pictorial.
*Superman and Superman come to an understanding.
*We get glimpses of various Earths (S, 0, 97, 154, 247, 462, 898, as well as some unlabeled ones). Some of those glimpses will cause quite a few fans to “geek out.”
*The magical heroes gather at Stonehenge in an effort to lend assistance and to call forth the Spectre. Not a good thing when one of your number is a murderess.
*Donna Troy’s space group finally gets to do something.
*Alex Luthor playing God with the multiple Earths.
*The tower prisoners get free and come out pissed. Poor Psycho Pirate.
*A final battle between both Superboys. And I do mean FINAL.
*Most important of all, the destruction of all the Earths and the many shards of the those Earths collapsing into one New Earth.

Now I glossed over many, many story points, hitting only what I consider the key points. There’s so much more that happens, especially with the dialogue. Johns just knows how to get a lot said with so few words. And for an issue that’s as loaded as this one is, it’s incredibly important to keep the wordiness to a minimum. Trust me, there are no people sitting around a table talking for an entire issue in this book.

The most amazing thing about this book is that it’s not confusing in the least. As much as Johns puts into it, you’re able to follow along. It’s the artwork that’s really jam-packed. Lots of little “Easter eggs” hidden for the readers to find among the multiple Earths, as well as when Luthor tries to merge not only planets but also heroes. All the artists involved in this issue outdid themselves. And while you can tell that the artists are trying to outdo one another on every page, it’s the last one that has the most impact. No words are said, it’s pure emotion.

Overall, IC #6 is the best issue to date. It’s also the toughest one to review. I felt after issue #4 that Geoff Johns had hit the pinnacle of the series. This issue proved that wrong. While that issue and this both have received the highest bullet rating we can give, I would have loved to go much higher. Right now I feel like Nigel Tufnel saying we should go one louder. Heck with it, this review goes to 6 Bullets. One louder. This issue is deserving of it. Man, what a ride!

Kelvin Green

This doesn’t even resemble a story any more. It’s just an ugly mess of jumbled parts and loose ends bolted onto what once may have been a workable and entertaining tale, and I feel like if I could just reach through the clutter, back to that original story, things might make sense. But obviously I can’t (although perhaps that’s what Alex Luthor’s trying to do?), and I’d be very surprised if anyone truly thinks there’s a coherent narrative in among this mess, because I really don’t see it. What I do see is an inexperienced (in terms of this kind of event-based writing) writer trying to resolve three years worth of plot threads from many disparate titles, deliver a whole new story, and strive for some kind of “post-modern” literary relevance, all at the same time, and all with the same lack of success.

It all feels so shallow and half-hearted. Oh look! Alex Luthor is looking out of the page at us! But why? What’s the point? How does it serve the story? Oh look! Black Lightning explains why he’s a black superhero with the word “black” in his name! Why the heck are we wasting half a page on that? Oh look! Superboy-Prime (blech) is wearing the Anti-Monitor’s armour! But why? What’s the significance in drawing parallels with Crisis on Infinite Earths? Oh look! Superboy-not-Prime is killed fighting the “Anti-Monitor”! But why? What is the point of mirroring the Supergirl/Anti-Monitor fight from the aforementioned series? What is all this stuff actually for? Is it all just cheap flash to distract from the overall weakness of the tale being told? None of the answers are forthcoming, as if it’s enough to throw in these little tidbits and hope that the reader is so excited about their mere presence that they’ll overlook their complete lack of integration into the narrative. I don’t know if Johns is lazy, unable to do the work needed, or just has utter contempt for his audience’s ability to notice, but he’s not delivering a competent and coherent story here. Which would be fine, if disappointing, if only he wasn’t clearly aiming so high in the first place. Similarly, characterisation is all over the place, with, in particular, Anti-Superboy-Monitor-Prime and Alex Luthor discarding any sympathetic qualities in favour of cackling Silver Age villainy, which again would be fine if (a) they hadn’t been portrayed up until now as noble but misguided and (b) there had been any reason for the change. Instead it’s just turn the page to see good guys go nutso. Which is clearly so much more interesting. Gah.

It doesn’t look too bad though. DC harness what looks like every penciller and inker they have in their address books to get this book done, and there’s a surprising consistency throughout. There are a couple of odd moments, mostly involving characters pulling strange expressions that are at odds with the context, but it’s generally a decent looking art job, especially since it’s now become clear that most of the narrative confusions are script-based.

This series started off in something of a wretched state and as it’s gone on, it’s shaken itself apart like a Trabant doing the Paris-Dakar Rally. Except that would be more interesting than this pretentious and unwieldy mess. Ignore this and just hope that the 52 and “One Year Later” stuff is better.

Shawn Hill

Plot mechanics: Batman battles Brother Eye. Some wizards seek the aid of the Spectre. The Titans free Alexander’s prisoners. And somebody familiar defames a Superman suit with heretical upgrades.

Comments: Maybe I’ve just been worn down. I enjoyed this issue. It made sense. It took the coherent plot of the last issue, and added it to Johns’ attempts to jump from scene to scene dramatically in earlier issues.

This time, maybe just due to familiarity, the transitions work and aren’t too jarring. Well, there aren’t really transitions still, but each setting at least gets equal time, comparable art, and a reasonable amount of drama parceled out on all fronts. There’s almost a rhythm to this issue, and there’s a coherent story, as several building climaxes are reached, a few wrongs are righted, and payback is a bitch (especially if you’ve pissed off Black Adam).

It’s nice to see Ivan Reis step up his game to add some wit and character to his sections on the Brother Eye satellite. His Bat reminds me of the 80s Alan Davis depiction, definitely a good thing. Ordway polishes up the Superman (as he usually does), and Jiminez and Perez make good use of their similarities.

Johns evokes a sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey as Batman faces the Eye, while crucial sacrifices in COIE are evoked back on Earth. The explanation that all of these Earths Alexander is sorting through have somehow been unfolded from the one that has existed since COIE makes a bit more sense than all the crude religious imagery of giant Creator hands shaping the Earths like clay, and each major player does stay in character, speaking few but important lines along the way.

Bad things happen this issue. But this time they’re earned, and appropriately devastating.

Shaun Manning

Questions start getting answered as Infinite Crisis speeds toward its conclusion. The multiverse divides, and the heroes are banished to disparate worlds, some strange and some familiar. As Supermen of two Earths form an alliance on a doomed world, Nightwing, Superboy, and Wonder Girl fight Alex Luthor and Superboy-Prime for the fate of reality. On other fronts, Batman’s team works to dismantle the OMAC-controlling spy satellite, Brother Eye, and Donna Troy commands her alliance to fight against the further splitting of the multiple Earths. When the dust settles, the heroes scratch out some victories, but not everyone survives to drink the champagne.

The charm and power of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths was the depth and breadth of the action. An incredible amount of story was packed into those pages. Infinite Crisis is a worthy successor to that legacy, as another knockout issue storms by with its myriad plot threads building to deliciously satisfying conclusions. So much happens, yet so much is left still to see, that it can be difficult taking everything in; but that’s half the fun. This issue gives possible explanations for Batman’s year of exile, shoots Blue Beetle off to uncharted territory, and congeals all possible realities into an uncertain future (and past) for the entire DC Universe. As much as internet speculation has focused on the “reality shards,” there is something far more intriguing going on with the last page: E2 Superman is still standing. What this spells for the final issue of Infinite Crisis and upcoming episodes of the Superman ongoing series is anybody’s guess.

For longtime fans of DC and its apocrypha, there are plenty of Easter Eggs in Infinite Crisis #6. A multitude of never-before-seen Earths get subtly significant numbers (Earth-97 houses the Tangent heroes, named for their 1997 debut, while Earth-247 features the return of the most recently retconned Legion), and Alan Moore’s celebrated project-that-never-was, “Twilight of the Superheroes,” makes its first in-continuity appearance.

Another interesting development, and one that has already received some play in the new Blue Beetle series, is that the source of the new hero’s powers appears to be tied in somehow to the Green Lanterns. Beetle’s new powers are of a magical nature, and perhaps it’s only because GLs are the only magic-based beings he’s been around since his debut, but the specificity of the repetition (both Guy and John mention their rings are “afraid of him“) combined with the fact that the mystical Scarab seems to share the rings’ distrust suggests more than a casual relationship.

For the first time in recent memory, a mega-event lives up to the hype, and the cascading effects generate new excitement. Infinite Crisis succeeds on every level.

Jason Sacks

Yeah, it took eleven artists to draw this comic. But it only took one writer, and he’s delivered a huge, widescreen experience, literally spanning the stars to deliver an enormous, omniverse-spanning adventure. If it has some aspects of it that are dull or frustrating, and it does for me, this comic still delivers on what it was intended to deliver. This comic’s big, it’s fun, and it’s got a whole bunch of characters in colorful costumes all doing various different things.

It’s the “various different things” that I’m sure will draw the dislike of many readers. There are scenes all over the place in this comic - from Stonehenge to several alternate earths, from the OMAC satellite to wherever the hell the Monitor’s tower is (Antarctica? the comic never actually says). And I can appreciate that criticism. I’m still not really clear on whose tower Superboy has been staying, nor why the Spectre singles out Star Sapphire out for destruction instead of helping the supernatural heroes, or, really, why the Earth-Prime Superboy is on the rampage in the first place. Those plot points might bother some people, and those are valid criticisms.

But, what can I say, I liked the comic. I liked it in part because of its lack of coherence. Okay, not the lack of coherence as much as the feeling that everything was thrown into this comic, including the kitchen sink. This issue presents Klarion the Witch Boy, and Steve Ditko’s the Odd Man, and the Legion of Super-Heroes of Earth-247 (clever in-joke there for Legion fans) and Earth-97, where DC’s long-forgotten Tangent comics heroes live, and dozens if not hundreds of obscure and wonderful characters in the margins. We see giant ghostly hands rearrange the Earths like so many puzzle pieces, and more shocked reactions than may have ever appeared in a comic book in history.

Sure, you can compare this comic with Crisis on Infinite Earths and find this comic lacking. Of course, the first Crisis has passed into the realm of being a legendary comic, and its flaws are pretty much ignored today. Does anyone remember how stupid the idea is of an Anti-Monitor, or remember the villain war that was big and flashy but never really went anywhere in the first Crisis? The first Crisis is a wonderful comic, but it was not without its flaws.

Infinite Crisis is a big, giant, incoherent, wonderful, silly mess. I can’t help myself, my fanboy passion kicks in whenever I look at this comic. It needed eleven artists because this comic would have killed only one. Infinite Crisis is truly the spectacle so large that even George Perez, the Hercules of crowd scenes, needs ten collaborators to illustrate this book. I love InC for that.

Jonathan Larsen

One of the things I enjoyed most about the previous issue turned out to have a seriously detrimental effect on this issue. And yet, oddly, I liked this one better. Let me try to explain.

In my review of Infinite Crisis #5, I commented on how Johns has mastered the meta-moment, in which a story point (more specifically, a character's dialogue) reflects not just on events in the narrative, but on the nature of the fiction in which that character has appeared. It’s a trick that can have some genuine power, playing on our emotional ties to the stories of the past. Johns pulled it off well in the previous issue with the line, “Superman always saves Lois Lane.”

In issue #6? Not so much. This time around, Batman tells Green Arrow he summoned him for a mission just to see if he’d show. Green Arrow replies, “Brave and the bold, huh? You got me all misty.” Um, but, why? Did Green Arrow and Batman ever refer to themselves as brave and/or bold? Did anyone else in DC continuity? The problem with this dialogue is that, unlike Superman’s remark, it makes no sense within the story, having only the sole meaning of commenting on their publishing history. It would be like a Batman story in which Nightwing teased him about turning 27, cuz, y'know, he’s a detective. Detective 27? Get it?

It pops you out of the story. And that’s the ironic part, because the story itself -- possibly benefiting from the cohering effect of Infinite Crisis Secret Files and Origins -- comes together pretty nicely. The conflicts are relatively understandable and clear. The character interactions are, for the most part, too (though not having read Day of Vengeance clearly put me out of the loop on the Spectre).

I know some folks were griping about all the computerized Earths eating up art space in the previous issue. I didn’t mind it so much, actually. And although the credits betray this issue’s deadline-by-committee nature, I think it holds up pretty well, especially for a massive crossover event involving a bajillion characters and a googol iterations on a bajillion characters. In fact, I thought there were several flashes of pretty creative, interpretive work to be found.

The story really kicks in toward the end, with a showdown involving Lex-3, Black Adam, Nightwing, Power Girl and Superboys (others, too, of course). There are several fine moments. And, bloodthirsty freak that I am, I especially enjoyed Black Adam’s method for dispatching a certain villain (whose return I’d actually like to see). Johns does a nice job of keeping character at the forefront even during slam-bang match-ups.

Unfortunately, he uses one more meta-moment (Superboy says, “it tickles”) that would’ve been fine at a different point in the story, but here serves primarily to remind the reader (well, me, anyway) of the previous meta-moment and pop me out of the story once again. And the reason that’s a particular shame is that it undercuts the climax of the issue.

Fortunately, Johns plays it straight on the last two pages. The humor is poignant rather than self-reflexive. It works. Well enough for me to like this issue better than the previous one -- and well enough that I’m pretty stoked for the climax. But not as well as it should have.

You can find Jonathan Larsen's blog here

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