The lead up to Infinite Crisis could have been an event in and of itself. Theoretically, it all began with Identity Crisis (but Jeph Loeb would probably want you to believe that it began with one line from Lex Luthor in Superman/Batman, but that’s all crap). With the death of the Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), everything was set into motion for Infinite Crisis to begin. Ted Kord’s death was a powerful moment because it was the first time I ever cared about the character. It was an incredibly well-written story that gave insight into what it would be like to be the biggest goof in the DCU and it resonated with readers because Ted’s struggle to be taken seriously comes from a place we’ve all experienced.
Four mini-series were born from Ted’s death: OMAC Project, Villains United, Rann/Thanagar War, and Day of Vengeance. Explaining and setting up these four minis could constitute an essay in and of themselves, but all four of these minis enriched the overall experience of Infinite Crisis.
Geoff Johns expertly crafts a story that takes the best parts of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Identity Crisis and weaves them all together in one massive story that has both great action and lots of emotion. It’s probably the best mega event crossover because of the overall scope of the event and how many great character moments are included within.
#1 – Memorable Deaths – Superboy’s death is the most powerful of all the deaths in the series. Johns has stated time and again that Superboy was his favorite Teen Titan and it was difficult to lay him to rest. Superboy’s death generated some controversy as many speculated his death was due to the Siegel family’s lawsuit against DC comics for the rights to Superboy’s name. His death was viewed as a result of legalities rather than an actual story choice, but regardless of the situation, his death was powerful. When I started reading comics, I wanted to be Superboy. He had attitude, a leather jacket and he lived in Hawaii, what was not to love? Once he came to the Teen Titans, he showed more personality due to his struggle with being created from half of Superman’s DNA and half of Lex Luthor’s.
The brutal slaying of the Freedom Fighters in the first issue of the series is another highlight. Uncle Sam and company are ambushed and slaughtered by the DCU’s most vicious villains. There is probably nothing more creepy than when Bizarro gleefully beats the Human Bomb to death only to be disappointed when the hero stops activating his bomb powers against the monster.
Earth-2 Superman’s death at the hands of Superboy Prime wasn’t quite as epic, but the shot of a classic Superman facing a classically drawn Lois Lane in the sky was certainly a beautiful and fitting tribute.
#2 – Powerful villains – In a strange twist, the villains of Infinite Crisis are actually the heroes that disappeared at the end of CoIE. Alexander Luthor and Superboy Prime have united and returned to Earth in order to remake the world to be perfect. Both villains have pathos, however, because they were victims of circumstance rather than evil for the sake of evil. Each merely wants to return home to their worlds. They want to build the perfect world – one devoid of crime and corruption. It just so happens that by doing so, they will be erasing the memories and the lives of everyone in the universe.
Standing behind Alex and Prime are an army of OMAC robots (who are actually pretty cool as far as generic robots go) controlled by the cold and calculating Brother Eye, the entire roster of villains (minus six) from the DCU, and the wrath of God himself, the Spectre. The odds are certainly stacked against the heroes, and at times, it feels overwhelming at just how much the heroes will have to fight.
#3 – Everyone gets involved – One thing that is admirable is how the four minis set up four very different aspects of the DCU and then integrated them into the narrative of Infinite Crisis. OMAC was sort of the main book that brought all of the major heroes together. Rann/Thanagar was a massive space epic. Day of Vengeance tackled the supernatural with every magic-based hero and villain. And finally, Villains United showed the other side of things. Each of these minis worked into the series and showed every aspect of the fight.
Crisis on Infinite Earths somehow was able to put Jonah Hex and the Legion of Superheroes into the book and while Infinite Crisis doesn’t go quite that far, it still starts off with the Freedom Fighters getting beaten to death and if they are in a major event, I’d say that everyone was involved in some way.
#4 – Memorable Showdowns – The first issue begins with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in the ruins of the JLA Watchtower. It’s a tense confrontation as each character blames the others for the world’s problems. Eventually, all three of them face off against Mongul in a scene that is reminiscent of Alan Moore’s “For the man who has everything.” Batman has a particularly powerful line when he tells Superman, “the last time you really inspired anyone was when you were dead.” With this line, Batman calls to the reader’s attention how Superman really hasn’t been the symbol he once was.
In issue three, Batman realizes that OMAC has been his fault and his paranoia has caused many people to die. He falls to his knees and sees all of the failures in his life and whispers, “I just wish I could start over” when he sees Superman of Earth-2 appear. Batman is at his most vulnerable here and it really strikes an emotional chord with readers because he is never shown to be this way.
Later in issue three, Alexander Luthor’s machine is revealed. Seeing the Anti-Monitor’s husk as part of Alexander Luthor’s multiverse machine is a haunting image and is far more useful in evoking fear than the Anti-monitor had ever been while he was alive.
While all of these scenes are powerful, issue four holds the biggest moments. Superboy Prime faces off against clone Superboy and the two slug it out all over Metropolis. Eventually, the Teen Titans and the JSA only for at least four Titans to be murdered and one with his arm ripped off. Eventually, all three Flashes (Wally, Jay and Bart) tackle Prime and trap him in the Speed Force with the help of Barry Allen.
I can remember when this comic came out, my wife was on the computer and I knew she was a Flash fan, but she didn’t read IC, so I decided to explain the scene to her. As I explained the moment where Wally sends his consciousness to his wife, Linda, as he says, “you’ve always been my lightning rod” I see that my wife is crying. Then, I started crying and the two of us continued crying all over Wally and Linda disappearing together. To this day, I’ve never been effected by a comic book like that and it’s such an incredible thing to think about.
(Side note: My wife’s wedding ring looks like a lightning bolt and my ring has the inscription of “Lightning Rod” on the inside).
In issue six, there is an excellent moment between Hal and Ollie where they talk about old times. It’s a great character moment that doesn’t move along the plot, but it shows the reader a little humor and heart in the midst of all the destruction.
The final issue of the series does not disappoint as (in the extended edition hardcover) Batman, Robin, and Nightwing fight alongside one another to take down Deathstroke. It’s not a normal action sequence, however, as the heroes work together, there is a sense of family amongst them.
Also, as Batman holds a pistol to Alexander Luthor’s head, the reader is left wondering just how far Batman will go. In the original issue there is a sound effect that suggests that Batman pulled the trigger to find that the clip of the gun was empty. In the hardcover, the sound effect was left out to avoid controversy. Personally, at the time, I preferred Batman pulling the trigger because it would solidify his descent into darkness. Today, I realize that this was a story of redemption for Batman and it was necessary for him to put the gun away.
#5 – Ending – Clark, Diana and Bruce meet on a pier. The scene is a mirror to where the series began. Instead of the darkness that pervaded space in the ruins of the watchtower, the sun shines as a new day has dawned. Tim and Dick call out to Bruce to hurry up so they can begin their journey. Diana is also off on a journey of self discovery. Clark has lost his powers and must live as a civilian. The end reaffirms their friendship and is a nice character moment to close out the series, but it also establishes the premise behind 52.
Lastly, the reader is treated to Superboy Prime in a Green Lantern jail cell in the middle of a red sun. He carves a bloody “S” into his chest, he says, “I’ve been in worse places than this. And I’ve gotten out.” The last image is haunting and perfectly sets up the Sinestro Corps War in Green Lantern.
Overall, this was an incredibly successful story that combines big action and lots of great character moments. Geoff Johns is the only writer I’ve ever encountered that can balance these two things during mega crossovers and that’s why Infinite Crisis is the best crossover of all time.