Monday, July 6, 2015

30th Anniversary: Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 Part 1

According to Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics, July 4th marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, a book which not only changed the history of Supergirl but, I feel, changed the history of comic books in general.

To celebrate this anniversary, I have been reviewing the Crisis issues in which Supergirl appeared. And so we have reached the end point. This is, as the cover says, a double-sized shocker. As such, I'll take 2 days to review this issue.

It is hard to say just what this issue meant to me as a teenage comic fan who loved Supergirl. Sure characters had died before. But this felt real and lasting. Supergirl was gone. It seemed somewhat strange to me that a character which had so much to offer, who had grown before our eyes, who had headlined multiple books, was deemed superfluous.

That said, despite writing the story in which she dies, Marv Wolfman makes Kara's death a powerful moment. She saves Superman, saves the multiple Earths that were still in existence, and inspired the heroes to fight on. Plenty of characters died in this series but few go out so nobly, so powerfully. DC at least recognized that Supergirl was bigger, and deserved a bigger stage, than the Crime Syndicate, Kole, Johnny Cloud, etc.

And, of course, this issue is a crown jewel in the artistic catalogues of artists George Perez, Jerry Ordway, and Dick Giordano. Perez knew how to utilize the page with inset panels, varying pages, and perfect splashes to keep the story moving while telling the dense story this warranted.

The first half of this issue looks at the history of multiverse and the Monitors. I'll be covering that portion today.

Last issue, Harbinger utilized all her remaining power to save Earths 4,S, and X. She pulled those universes into a safe dimensional pocket where the Monitor had drawn in the Earth 1 and Earth 2 universes.

Standing on a floating asteroid with Pariah and Alex Luthor, Harbinger knows it is time to explain the origins of the Crisis to the remaining champions. "All will be enlightened."

I like this idea of bringing together a group of representatives of each Earth to hear the tale of the Monitors.

Meanwhile, the heroes on the surviving Earths are trying to get a handle on exactly what is happening. For example, on Earth S, the Marvel Family talks to Supergirl. Last issue, they were enraged by the emotion-warping power of the Psycho Pirate. Now, they need to know what is going on in the universe.

One subplot that has been proceeding almost in the background continues on this Earth. The super-villains of all the universes are disappearing, being teleported away. Here we see Sivana and Ibac disappear.

But before that can be pondered, Lyla arrives and asks for Captain Marvel to join her.

I do think that Changeling has some of the best lines in this series. "Kid Marvel, Baby Marvel, and Fetus Marvel"?? Perfect.

And so a congress of representatives of the 5 surviving Earths, as well as the sole survivor of a dead Earth are brought together.

The Earth-1 Superman, the Earth-2 Superman, Earth-S Captain Marvel, Earth-X Uncle Sam, Earth-4 Blue Beetle, and Earth-6;s lone survivor Lady Quark are brought together to hear the long history of the multiverse.

I love this image of this council of elders of the planets. Interesting that it seems that the champions are the most powerful heroes of their planets ... except Blue Beetle stands out a bit. I suppose none of us knew a lot about Captain Atom at this point and had met the Beetle in the early issues of the Crisis, so I suppose from a story telling viewpoint, it makes sense.

It all started way back in Green Lantern #40.

The planet Oa, then called Maltus, was home to a utopian society. It was a natural and scientific paradise. One of the Maltusians was Krona who decided to look back in time at the creation of the universe (despite legends saying that would lead to disaster).

Scoffing at the warnings, Krona built a machine to view the past and did indeed see the universe's origins, the famous hand cupping a star system imagery long time fans know all too well.

But the legends were true. Upon Krona's viewing this, the machine exploded and a chain reaction occurred.

Evil was let loose on the universe.

The antimatter universe and Oa's antimatter doppelgänger Qward were created.

The Maltusian society broke down completely. Some left and became Controllers. Other left and became Zamarons. Those that remained became the Guarians.

But there was more.

This multiversal upheaval gave birth to the Monitor and his evil version, the Anti-Monitor

I love these sorts of panels by Perez, tiny narrow things which tell so much of the story. The Anti-Mobitor's gloved hand is born from rock, a mockery of life. Meanwhile the Monitor's naked hand breaks through some pink primordial goo. Solid economy of art here.

The two versions quickly learned of each other and instantly attacked each other. The result? Stalemate. And eons of catatonia on both sides.

I thought this was great story telling by Wolfman who needed to explain why we, as readers, never met these two if they came about because of Krona's shenanigans. This neatly explains it.

I also like Perez use now of horizontally narrow mirror panels here.

But hubris isn't only an Oan trait.

On an unnamed world, Pariah was a great scientist who was revered. But he also decided not to heed the warnings and look back.

And like Krona, he saw the hand cradling the galaxy ... followed by disaster.

The resulting backlash destroyed Pariah's entire universe. But safe within the viewing cube, Pariah survived.

I love that at this point in the story, Lady Quark has to be held back from attacking Pariah. After all, without his interference, the multiverse would be safe.

If it is one thing I have learned, don't look back at the beginning of the universe!

Unfortunately, the destruction of Pariah's universe created a vacuum which was filled by the extension of the antimatter universe. The Anti-Monitor was now awake and stronger. It was clear. If one of the multiverses were destroyed, the Anti-Monitor would grow more powerful. With that he created the weaponers of Qward, the shadow demons, and the plans for destruction.

Luckily, the destruction of Pariah's universe also blasted the Monitor from his coma as well. He knew what happened and knew he needed to plan to stymie his malevolent twin.

His first step, to rescue Pariah, give him the powers of immortality, and to be teleported to places of great danger.

Then the Monitor began to study and catalog all the heroes of the different Earths, preparing a strike force to defeat his brother. And he even took the time to save a small girl lost at sea ... Lyla.

And that brings everyone up to speed. Now we know how this whole Crisis began, with the pride of two renowned scientists leading to the creation of evil and the destruction of billions of souls.

One thing is clear, the Monitor's plan has failed ... or has gone as far as it can. There needs to be a new strategy.

The heroes decide to be pro-active.

Alex Luthor, being both matter and anti-matter can be used as a gateway to Qward. So a phalanx of some of the most powerful heroes gather as an attack force. They'll bring the fight to the Anti-Monitor, acting rather than reacting.

It is a small but impressive force. Superman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Captain Atom, Shazam, Firestorm, Mon-El, Wildfire, Dr. Light, The Ray, the Earth-2 Green Lantern, Jade, and Lady Quark. Who could sustain an attack by such a force of good?

This early part of the book was inked by Jerry Ordway. At this point Dick Giordano takes over the inking responsibilities.

While this part of the book is basically exposition, it was needed. And it was done well. With Lyla and Pariah handing over the narration. It mixed in classic DC history with new material. The art work is brilliant. And it explained how two such powerful beings as the Monitors could be part of the fabric of the DCU and never have been heard of before.

But there is more to this issue.

There is more ...


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

There was a prose pb of COIE I read years ago. Pretty decently written--though my favorite adaptation is Elliot S! Maggin writing KINGDOM COME--and the book mentions Pariah is on Earth-19. I just found it interesting that that was one of the few things added to the book that wasn't in the comic.

Anonymous said...

I know I am a broken record on this point but I repeat myself in the name of everyone whose favorite has yet to be Killed Off to Satisfy Some New Editorial "Attitude".
A Short Dialogue circa 1985:
Supergirl is brave, Supergirl is smart, Supergirl is self sacrificing, Supergirl is DEAD never to Return....But You the fans are permitted to silently remember her fondly as you buy Power-Girl's latest non-seller...otherwise she doesn't exist anymore.
But Marvin she was so exciting and interesting right up to the point of her death why??
Cuz she was boring.
Shhhh read Powergirl instead....
Thats my take away sorry if its the same old same old.



Anj said...

No worries John.

As I said early, and as I will repeat over this month with every anniversary post, I struggle with my feelings here. In the end, I think it was a silly decision which DC basically retconned as soon as it could. But it added depth to the character, a layer of destiny.

I wonder if all my coverage will make you reconsider at least a little.


Anonymous said...

I read the calendar a tad differently than you Anj from my perspective DC devoted nineteen years solid to denying Cousin Kara ever existed and greenlit every scheme they could to effacing her memory and diverting the fanbase's attention from her.
The way I see it, the only reason Kara Zor El came back at all was persistent activism from the fanbase on line, some risk taking on the part of Bruce Timm and in due course Paul Levitz. If Jeanette Kahn was still Jefe Maximo of the DCU, the mere mention of Kara's name would still be forbidden.

Okay seriously riding this hobyhorse is giving me saddle sores!


Anonymous said...

Well, JLA 3001 #2 is still to come (return of pre-crisis Supergirl to comics)!

Anonymous said...

"I read the calendar a tad differently than you Anj from my perspective DC devoted nineteen years solid to denying Cousin Kara ever existed and greenlit every scheme they could to effacing her memory and diverting the fanbase's attention from her.
The way I see it, the only reason Kara Zor El came back at all was persistent activism from the fanbase on line, some risk taking on the part of Bruce Timm and in due course Paul Levitz."

Harsh but true.