on September 18, 2004
How is it possible to review this graphic novel objectively? People seem to either love it or hate it. And both with good reason. It was a story 50 years in the making that still has major ramifications, both positive and negative, for comics today.
Longtime comicbook readers feel that they need "continuity" in the stories they read. Continuity is the idea that a fictional universe, such as the one in which DC's superhero comics take place, operates with a certain logic and is internally consistent. By 1961, however, DC was having trouble with continuity. How could they explain that, twenty years ago, Batman and Robin were fighting Nazis and hanging out with FDR, while in the present they were fighting Commies and hanging out with JFK ... but Robin was still only a teenager???
Since DC's WW2 stories were too fondly remembered to just be ignored, the editors decided that they all took place in an alternate universe, dubbed Earth-2. The present-day DC heroes lived on Earth-1 and were a good deal younger than their Earth-2 counterparts, not having debuted until after WW2. Every year Earth-1's Justice League teamed up with Earth-2's Justice Society, whose Robin was an adult, whose Superman had grey hair, etc., etc.
By the early 1980s, DC decided that the multiplicity of Earths-- of Supermen, Batmen, and Wonder Women--was hurting the company's ability to attract new readers. The DC universes needed to be simplified into a single universe and duplicate characters eliminated. This move has remained controversial ever since, but I maintain that it was the right thing to do, because I only became a DC reader in the aftermath of CRISIS.
When I was growing up, my first knowledge of superheroes came through Saturday morning cartoons, namely Superfriends and Spider-Man. The first comic book I ever bought was a pre-Crisis JLA/JSA teamup. It was confusing as hell because it didn't fit into the template I had picked up from Superfriends: Who was this grown-up Robin? Why did Superman have grey hair? And just what was going on in the WW2 flashbacks? Then I realized that, over at Marvel Comics, Spider-Man was the same guy I saw on TV. I realized that if I bought a Marvel comic, Spider-Man would always be Peter Parker from the cartoons and not some geezer from "Earth-P." Marvel was still a young company, without all of DC's editorial baggage. And so I said, "Make Mine Marvel!"
CRISIS came and went without much notice from my pre-adolescent eyes. So what if they killed Supergirl? Her movie sucked. Adult Robin died? Hey, he was never on "Challenge of the Superfriends," so how important could he be? The good thing about CRISIS was that it swept DC's creative playing field clean. If John Byrne had never written Superman, Frank Miller never revised Batman, and George Perez never graced Wonder Woman, the Marvel zombies of the world would still dismiss these characters as naive throwbacks. It was these titles that made me sit up and notice DC. I became a fan of DC's iconic characters. I dug up that JLA/JSA crossover, reread it, enjoyed it, and even bought more back issues of the '70s Earth-1/Earth-2 teamups.
So in that sense, CRISIS was a success. DC's late '80s relaunches brought new readers to the company and redefined their characters for a new generation. But the editorial staff never really made explicit what had and hadn't changed in the new post-Crisis universe, so contradictions started creeping in. Some writers decided to ignore the Crisis altogether. And now, 20 years later, the DC universe looks more convoluted than it did back in 1961. That means that CRISIS failed in its goal of revising continuity. Rather, it wrecked continuity so badly that DC's creators threw out the concept altogether.
So people who hate CRISIS can blame people like me--Generation X babies brainwashed by too many TV channels--for why DC thought the Crisis was necessary. But now I look through my back issue collection and see stories like "The Freedom Fighters of Earth-X! The Crime Syndicate of Earth-3! The Marvel Family of Earth-S!" and can understand the excitement that those tales must have caused when they first appeared. CRISIS is the last, greatest, and by far the saddest of those classic stories.
If DC's heroes have any resonance in your memory, whether pre- or post-Crisis, buy this book, read it, love it or hate it, and then put it on your shelf knowing that it's a piece of pop culture history.
on March 2, 2006
...then this book is worth it. I can't say anything about this story that hasn't already been said so I'll go straight to the book itself. This is a HUGE deluxe version of The Crisis on Infinite Earth's story. George Perez's artwork shine's in this enlarged format his already beautiful work is now enhanced. The companion book list all of the tie-in and crossover's that lead up too and took place during the Crisis. There is even mention's of the supposed sequel's(crisis in heaven, zero hour etc...)that were inspired by the story. The only way this could have been better is if they would have included the history of the DC universe mini series that was the direct follow up to the Crisis. Hell they even mention Infinite Crisis(DC's current running true sequel to this story)in the appendix book. A list of ALL the alternate earth's are included. Bottom line is if you like this story enough shell out the money to buy this if you are a newbie try the softcover. hope this help's
on November 29, 2002
You can't talk about the DC Universe with anyone without referring to post-Crisis and pre-Crisis events.For these reasons alone, any DC Comics fan has to read the brilliant Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfan and George Perez. It is also unique in that it chronicles the deaths of several DC characters, most of whome have since remained dead. These include the deaths of Kara (the original Supergirl) and Barry Allen (the silver age Flash, who was the main Flash character for almost 30 years). These are some of the best deaths ever written in comics, especially the Flash's horific death against the story's antagonist the Anti-Monitor.
The Crisis is a massive, ambitious project which DC undertook in 1985 to simplify the DC Multiverse and turn it into a universe. The multiverse was too confusing with different versions of the same characters living in different parralel universes. The end result wasa single coherent universe in which different universes were merged into one. So it is obviously a very important story.
But that's not all because it also holds its own as a story. The Monitor is in a mission to save the positive universe from being devoured by the negative universe, ruled by the Anti-monitor. To do this, he gathers key heroes and villains from both the positive nad negative unverses to stop this.
The end result, as the advertisements of the time said, world lived, world died, but the unverse was never hte same again.
Like, say Lord of the Rings, Crisis has a main antagonist but does not seem to have a main character. In the beginning it seems that perhaps the Monitor and his helper the Harbinger are the main characters but at some points the focus shifts on other characters. There are literally hundreds of characters making appearances in this story and this is one of the things I like about it. In addition to the superheroes you would expect to see, characters like Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Jonah Hex, The Demon, Sgt Rock, Enemy Ace, Vandal Savage, Sam Simeon, Tomahawk, Johnny Double and others make appearances.
Although there are dozens of comics that crossover with the main Crisis story, its not necessary to read all of them to get the main storyline, which is good.
Unfortunately it seems that Crisi opened a Pandora's Box of crossover events, which now seem to be an almost annual occurance. Some have been good, such as Legends and Zero Hour, but others we could have done without (The Final Night for example).
A final note on the art. It is simply brilliant. Very few artists could have pulled this story off and I can't think ofanyone better than Perez. He is so good at drawing dozens of characters in single panels. He has an average about 10 or 11 panels on every page which makes for good storytelling, ideal for such a complex tale. In one page I counted 18 panels!!!
I bought the hardcover edition of this book... and I can tell you it was worth every cent. Its such a complex story that you can read it again every six months or a year and it still seems fresh because there is no way you can possibly remember all its intracacies. For me its best on the third reading.
There is also a brilliant cover by Alex Ross. Sometimes I like to just take out the book and pass time just by looking at the cover and trying to identify as many characters as I can.
on November 1, 2005
There was a bit of chaos caused by Flash #123, way back in 1961. The events in that book -- with Jay Garrick and Barry Allen meeting each other for the first time -- spawned what would become known as the DC Multiverse. Some 24 years later, the multiverse and collected histories of the characters within the multiverse got very muddled and confusing. Which Superman was that? And does he know about the events happening on Earth-2?
From the business side of the comics industry, people were having a hard time joining in on comics, because of this confusion, along with almost 50 years of history that may be needed to understand some of the storylines. Because of all this, DC decided to do something. And with the 50 year anniversary looming in 1985, they decided to do something BIG.
This is the series that changed everything, and continues to impact the DC Universe twenty years later with Infinite Crisis. For that reason alone, don't expect to just casually pick this up and enjoy it like "Formerly Known as the Justice League". This is a book that is very involving, encompasing and changing some 50 years of history, and requires the reader's attention to be adequately enjoyed. But for those that want to see how a massive fictional history can be effectively rebooted, this is required reading. After all, characters have been referred to as pre-Crisis and post-Crisis for a reason.
on March 15, 2003
It's difficult to convey to somebody who didn't grow up obsessed with the detail of comic book universes, and who didn't spend their days poring over issues of `Who's Who in DC Comics' and `The Encyclopaedia of the Marvel Universe', what a joyous experience reading `Crisis on Infinite Earths' is.
The original thinking behind this 12-issue maxi-series is common knowledge. The system of multiple universes that DC Comics had used to rationalise various conflicts in continuity had become cumbersome, and the aim was to use a crisis of cosmic proportions as a pretext for amalgamating all of the different DC universes into one.
`Crisis on Infinite Earths' completely failed to achieve this aim. It failed at an emotional level - a number of comic book fans (myself included) were nostalgic for the `pre-crisis' stories, and found it hard to adjust to characters being reintroduced from scratch. And it failed logistically - conflicts in continuity persisted, and new stories such as the sequel `Zero Hour: Crisis in Time' (nowhere near as good as this, but still worth buying) were required to mop up the mess.
That aside, the research that writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez put into `Crisis on Infinite Earths' is phenomenal. They made it their duty to include and do justice to 50 years of complex comic book history, trawling through the DC archives and making sure that every character and era got a look-in. Wolfman's love for these characters is evident, and Pérez's painstaking renditions - down to the different-shaped `S's on the chests of the Supermans of Earth-1 and Earth-2 - are a real achievement.
`Crisis on Infinite Earths' concerns a conflict between two cosmic beings (the heroic Monitor and the evil anti-Monitor), that threatens the existence of every DC Comics universe and the multiple Earths residing within them. These include Earth-1 (home of Silver Age characters), Earth-2 (home of Golden Age characters), Earth-3 (where heroes are villains and the only hero is Lex Luthor), Earth-4 (Charlton Comics characters), Earth-S (Fawcett Comics characters), and Earth X (where the Second World War lasted for 40 years).
Anyone confused by all of this (and it is very confusing), who wants to understand the intricacies of the various Earths, would be well-advised to buy the two companion volumes to this: `Crisis on Multiple Earths' (which collects some early landmark `crossover' stories in which characters from different Earths joined forces), and `The History of the DC Universe' (which explains how the histories of the various Earths are reconciled into the single history of the Earth seen at the end of `Crisis on Infinite Earths').
I can understand why some people don't like `Crisis on Infinite Earths'. The plot is hyperbolic and nonsensical, and relies too heavily upon endless pseudo-science and ever-increasing explosions. The dialogue is goofy as hell, intended more to give every character a look-in than to make the story credible. And the story's subtext - the entire crisis is precipitated by two characters who seek to understand the origins of the universe, ignoring the warnings of their peers - is offensively anti-science.
But you have to put the series in context. This is the historical pinnacle of corny, larger-than-life comic book storytelling. It is the culmination of 50 years of superhero adventures, from a time when comic book readers were expected to suspend their disbelief, when superheroes constantly explained the obvious to one another, and when superheroes never failed to address one another by their full superhero names - no matter how silly those names were.
From a broader perspective, `Crisis on Infinite Earths' represents the end of a political era, and of the kind of superheroes that were possible in that era. American superhero comics were born in the Second World War and nurtured by the Cold War, but by 1985, the Cold War was winding down and `Crisis on Infinite Earths' was the last time American superheroes upholding American values could claim to speak not just on behalf of humanity, but on behalf of the entire universe. (Yes, there have been attempts to revive this political spirit in comic books since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, but these are superficial and mawkish.)
In fact, in a strange way `Crisis on Infinite Earths' is a companion piece to Alan Moore's `Watchmen' - another 12-issue DC maxi-series, which was published shortly after `Crisis'. `Watchmen' confronts the political realities that undermine American superheroism by adopting a mature, unsentimental tone - its three key characters are Dr Manhattan (who represents American atomic weapons), Ozymandias (who represents the ruthlessly healthy, intelligent and dominating American businessman), and the Comedian (who represents American thuggery, misogyny, and Vietnam massacre). `Crisis on Infinite Earths', on the other hand, evades the political realities that undermine American superheroism by adopting an exuberant, childish manner - its three key characters are Superman of Earth-2 (who represents the American confidence of the Second World War), Superman of Earth-1 (who represents the American confidence of the Cold War), and Uncle Sam of the Freedom Fighters (who represents timeless apple-pie values and wisdom).
And yet while `Watchmen' is bleak, it is informed by the same love for superhero lore that is evident on every page of `Crisis on Infinite Earths'. And while `Crisis on Infinite Earths' is larger-than-life, it is informed by the same melancholy recognition that an age of comics has come to a close that is evident on every page of `Watchmen'.
This melancholy is particularly evident in the final two issues of `Crisis', as character inconsistencies on the single recombined Earth are ironed out. You can even put your finger on the precise moment when the original raison d'être of American comic books died. It's in the final issue of `Crisis', when the Superman of Earth-2, stranded in the abyss with Superboy after defeating the Anti-Monitor one last time, sees a vision of Lois Lane in the afterlife, asking him to join her - and steps off the pages of comic books forever.
Getting this is like buying the 3 DVD set of some movie you love. It has it all. Notes from the initial proposal. Thoughts from the writers, artist, editor, etc.
The story was earth shattering (pun intended) and set the stage for DC's revival. If you love comics, the medium or the characters, buy it. It would also make a great present. For those just looking for the basics, I'd suggest a copy of the Trade Paperback.
on September 30, 2005
This was a pivotal point in the history of DC comics as they strove to clean up a ton of loose ends that had accumulated over the past half century and they did as good a job as anyone could given the enormous task they had ahead of them. Wolfman is servicable at the writer but it's mostly Perez and Ordway's inks (issue 5 to 12) that mark this series as a high quality event. This series was 3 years in the planning and execution. It was going to be SO big, that after they had started, Marvel found out about it and quickly ground out Secret Wars so it could hit BEFORE Crisis and the quality shows it. They knew Crisis and Perez would be a whopper in terms of sales so they had to throw something out there to compete. Secret Wars is basically thought of as a joke now but Crisis's quality has stood the test of time, even if some of the changes made have not. Definitely worth the buy though.
on January 23, 2002
...CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was DC's 1985/1986 attempt to clean house, to condense the numerous characters scattered across many (though not actually infinite) alternate realities into one main universe. This attempt can only be judged a failure, seeing as how they attempted it again in 1992 (with the abysmal ZERO HOUR) and now seem to have simply given up (as some of the supposedly destroyed universes have been seen again).
But what of the story's own merits and flaws?
On the positive side, this twelve issue series contains some spectacular art by George Perez. Some of the new characters are interesting, especially Pariah. The Anti-Monitor is certainly a powerful villain, and seeing so many comic book superstars in one story is a bit of a guilty pleasure.
On the negative side, however, Marv Wolfman is forced to use huge chunks of expository dialogue that will seem cumbersome even to comic book fans who have read such clunky dialogue hundreds of times before. Also, Wolfman doesn't explain many of the events in other comics (e.g., the Flash in the future) that have an effect on this story. As a result of this, combined with the huge number of characters whose names aren't given, CRISIS is not the easiest book for 'casual' comic fans to pick up and understand. There are a few plot holes as well, to be sure.
Now time for a couple of personal gripes. I own this in the hardcover collection, because at the time DC said that that was the only form this story would ever be collected in, and like a gullible fool I believed them. Then they come out with this thing, 66% cheaper than what I paid. Lesson: Don't trust DC.
Also, this story ruined many good characters. For example, Captain Marvel, the Marvel Family, and all the other Fawcett characters simply haven't been the same since they were forced to occupy the same universe as everyone else. On the upside, though, this story led to the Giffen/Dematteis era of the Justice League, which contain some of the funniest comics I've ever read.
Bottom line-- Big-time DC collectors and George Perez fans will want to buy this. Casual readers should steer clear until they've educated themselves a bit on DC. To see how this kind of thing can be done right, I recommend Marvel's "Avengers Forever" by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco.
on March 21, 2016
A book has to be pretty outstanding if I bought the same book three times in a row. Well, that's exactly what I've done in this case. This is the third time I've had to replace Crisis On Infinite Earths. I have many other trade paperbacks and I've always considered this book an absolute essential in my collection. I remember when I was a teenager that both this and Marvel's "Secret Wars" came out around the same time as two maxiseries (way back before comics were collected in the trade paperbacks that we all know and love). Back then, I read both but was collecting some of the Secret Wars issues and read Crisis whenever I went to the mall. When both made it to trade paperback a decade or so later, I chose Crisis because it had better plotting, story, and art. Even though I'd always been a bit more biased in favor of Marvel, this was one of those times when DC knocked it out of the park. Where I'm concerned, this is the first and best mega-crossover (even including the Justice League/Avengers crossover, which was also drawn by the superb George Perez).
Flash forward three decades later, comics have become oversaturated with so many crossover events, deaths, relaunches, reboots, and reimaginings so as to become virtually meaningless. These aren't the special events they used to be. Now, it can be said that Crisis is the one that started it all. I can't pretend that I'd know what it would be like for a first time reader to pick up this book and try to make sense of it all, because I'm an avid comic book reader from way back (long before all the mega-events & crossovers). I was familiar with a majority of the characters in Crisis, so I had no difficulty keeping up with what was happening in the story. Moreover, I always find something new to be surprised and delighted by with each new reading. Kudos to Marv Wolfman, George Perez, and Jerry Ordway for crafting a magnificent tale that's as enjoyable now as it was three decades ago.
This book should be required reading for anyone who enjoys superhero comics. DC has tried going back to the well again, but with disastrous results (Infinite Crisis, among others). Marvel has also "gone beyond the pale" in a lot of their event book,as well. As i said, I'm glad to have Crisis On Infinite Earths in my collection.
on July 30, 2004
Do you remember the 80's? Do you remember DC comics in the 80's? Nothing changed forever and nothing broke the status quo. Storylines spanned one or two issues with maybe a few sub plots spanning multiple issues. When the story arc came to an end everything was as before...
Crisis on Infinite Earths was the first major shake up of the DC universe it was the herald of new strategies for storyline development. Writers could at last permanently affect the characters within the DC universe. It was an event that closed the book on the fanciful heroes and villains of the gold and silver age of comics and opened the doors to the darker and grittier modern day heroes and villains.
Crisis on Infinite Earths came out and tested the boundaries of what the comic buying fans wanted from the DC universe. Crisis on Infinite Earths laid the ground work for the must read graphic novels and story arcs of the late 80's like the works of Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Killing joke), Frank Miller (The Dark Knight returns and Batman: Year One) and Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylum)
It allowed the darker side of 'reality' to creep into storylines. Heroes didn't need to be perfect all the time and villans could acutally be vile and do the unthinkable.
By todays standards the story seems tame but don't discount it. It is packed full DC universe lore and effectively sinches off the loose ends into a more reasonable DC setting. If you have read the comics of the era the sub pots within the Crisis on Infinite Earths will make more sense to you but don't let that hold you back.
Crisis on Infinite Earths was a major event and needs to be read to draw the connection between the comics of today with the comics of the past.
With the new season of the animated Justice league spotlighting more of the characters from this era Crisis on Infinite Earths will have more relevance.