Saturday, April 4, 2015

30th Anniversary: Crisis On Infinite Earths #4

It is hard to believe that this is the thirtieth anniversary of Crisis On Infinite Earths, a key moment not only in comics but in my comic life. Rather than painstakingly review the series as a whole, my plan is to closely look at the issues in which Supergirl appears. And maybe I'll have a few other surprises up my sleeve.

Based on Mikes Amazing World of DC Comics, Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 came out on this day thirty years ago. I was a wide eyed fanboy at the time (I guess I still am). This was my first big company crossover book and it was going to change everything that I had known before. Worlds would live. Worlds would die. We already had learned that Supergirl and the Flash were going to die. But I don't think anyone knew where this book was going and what was going to happen at the end. This was suspense at its finest, something I don't know would happen today with leaks, etc.

And Crisis #4 upped the ante quite a bit. We didn't know who was destroying universes. We didn't know who the Monitor really was. And we hadn't had much to cheer for in the first three issues. The heroes seemed stymied. All we knew was that the Monitor had a plan. And yet here he is ... dead ... on the cover.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was written/plotted/penciled by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This issue is inked by Mike DeCarlo, one of my favorite inkers at the time. Here he makes Perez' pencils seem so crisp. Better than Giordano and sharper than upcoming inker Jerry Ordway, DeCarlo makes this issue feel just a little different.

And we start out with a great scene between Batgirl and Supergirl. I know Supergirl fans love this scene as it captures just who she is, her optimism and heroism. It is sad that Wolfman could recognize this in her and yet decided to snuff her out. I have always wondered how Batgirl fans perceive this scene. Here, especially in comparison to Kara, Barbara seems scared, conflicted, and passive. The scene is so great that I will buck a trend and post the pages.

We start out with Kara recognizing that she has lived through a world dying already. Unlike many, she saw Argo City unravel before her eyes.

Great opening shot.

Barbara talks of feeling helpless. Of thinking this time she and the world will die.

And there is Supergirl, shining the light of optimism, talking about being scared herself. But not giving into that fear. Instead she will continue to hope, continue to fight, continue to do what's right.

If everyday people like police officers, firefighters, and soldiers can continue to do their best for the world, they need to as well.

Supergirl streaks off to save a pilot whose plane is falling apart before the antimatter wave. Supergirl could die if that wave hits here ... but it won't stop her from doing what's right. "We fight to live as long as we can." Ominous knowing what will come to pass.

It is such a great scene.

This scene is replayed almost verbatim in the Paul Kupperberg scripted  DC Comics Presents 86, a Crisis crossover issue starring Superman and Supergirl.

We are still early in the game so Wolfman and Perez continue to up the ante. Here we are introduced to Earth 6 only to see it destroyed.

Only Lady Quark is saved, grabbed and whisked away by Pariah when he teleports away. (Always wondered why he didn't try this before.)

Perez is obviously a master, but his use of inset panels (as above) in Crisis pure art, stuffing in scenes and moments into the tiniest of spaced.

And then sequences like this. The Monitor uses his waning energy to create the new Doctor Light. He watches that origin. Then Harbinger, possessed by the unknown enemy, seethes as she watches on her screen the Monitor watching Dr. Light's origin. And then Alex Luthor watches Harbinger seethe as she watches the Monitor who is watching Dr. Light. And using smaller and smaller panels just works.


I have to say, the early plan by the Monitor never struck me with optimism. "Hey, I know, let's put giant tuning forks on Earth 1 and Earth 2 and have Solivar and Dawnstar protect them!" Really??

But the Monitor does put the new Dr. Light on one of them. Unfortunately, in this crazy world, no one can initially tell if she is a villain or a hero. Luckily Superman speaks Japanese and knows she is trying to save everyone.

I love that last panel as the use of black and white is visually striking. But it looks more like shadow powers, no?

And then it happens. No longer able to control her evil impulses, Harbinger lashes out, killing the Monitor.

These first issues of Crisis were something of a slow burn as we try to grasp the scope of what is happening. But heading in, I thought the Monitor was going to be the answer. So killing him this early in the story was jolting.

And then we get three pages of the slow fade out of the worlds and the slow creeping in of blackness.

What the heck does/did that mean!!!

Well, back then it meant waiting 4 long weeks to wait! But for now, it seemed that everything was destroyed.

Crisis on Infinite Earths is a must for any Supergirl collection. She appears in issues #4-7. This issue really shines a nice light on her making it a good piece for a Kara comic collection.

I won't grade these Crisis issues. I love this series (despite Supergirl's fate). It would be like grading a classic novel ... there is no need.


Anonymous said...

Batgirl gets jobbed out to Supergirl, Supergirl gets killed off and expelled from continuity then Batgirl ends up in a wheel. Gee and people wonder why I'm bitter about DC comics....


Martin Gray said...

I wasn't keen on Babs being so afraid, but I can accept it. She knows entire worlds are fading out; this is before the days of Bat-God, of course she's going to be afraid, feel powerless. But she's not hiding away, she's in costume. It was a wobble, not a resignation.

I do wonder, JF, how you can still be bitter after 30 years and still be following the company.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Mart, Supergirl (for me) outshines Batgirl so much in that scene that I feel I simply can't gather my thoughts about Babs. So hearing you think this was a moment of humanity and not resignation of fatalism is great. I don't know if I would be able to see it that way without someone telling me.

Anonymous said...

Martin, I often ask myself the same question.



Anonymous said...

They really should resurrect the Supergirl and Batgirl friendship. It worked well pre-Crisis and in the Animated Universe, also with the Mike Maihack stuff, etc. It is befuddling why DC is not capitalizing on this dynamic.