Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review: CW Elseworlds Crossover Part 2

The second part of the CW Elseworlds was a bit more serious comic crossover, like a big annual crossover, and less like a silly single issue of Super-Team Family. The stakes became very real in this episode of Arrow. The immersion into the whole DC became deeper. The emotions, foreshadows, and angst that much more palpable.

I said in my review of the first part that this felt a little like Crisis On Infinite Earths Lite and this episode continues that with direct homages and indirect homages to what happened in that landmark series. As a long time fan, and someone who bought COIE off the rack, I can tell you I was basically gobsmacked this whole crossover.

There was so much to love about this. And I always worry that I might be focusing too much on the minor little Easter eggs in these reviews as opposed to recognizing the story as a whole. Yes, the body swap and the 'relationship' stuff was a very 'CW' layer to add. But this story of heroes getting together, fighting bad guys, meeting up with new allies, and saving the world was just classic comics, the reason why I still read these things today. And that makes me happy.

This is what a DC movie should feel like. I won't belabor that point. 

On to the show.

This is technically an episode of Arrow so his supporting cast get the time that the Flash folks did in chapter one. But in a nice little wrinkle, the show runners had Grant Gustin do the voice over for the title. They even made props of his face where Ollie's would otherwise be, on newspapers, etc. It is a nice way to remind us that we are in a weird place right now.

As I said, this is an Arrow episode, so the opening sequence is Diggle and Argus fighting Deathstroke's son. That guy's name is Grant Wolfman (surely a nod to Marv).
I don't watch Arrow regularly so hard to know if he is an established character. But Wolfman slices his way through agents until the super squad arrives and takes him out.

Having lived through a couple of these crossovers Diggle knows when these three are together, it's trouble.

And what says that better from a comic book perspective than the three of them standing below red skies flashing with lightning. This is *a* Crisis, for sure.

The three have come to ARGUS to try and help figure out who is in the sketch Ollie created the last episode. For now, the three decide to keep the body swapping between Ollie and Barry a secret from Felicity. The Ollie/Felicity relationship is strained already and so the decision is to not muddy things even further. A constant in this crossover has been the amusing way we see both Ollie and Barry be uncomfortable in the shoes of the other. Barry simply doesn't know how to act as Ollie around Felicity. It is cringe-worthy in an amusing way.

When ARGUS can't help figure out who the man in the sketch is, the three decide to head to Gotham. As a public figure, Ollie wants "Ollie" (Barry) to stay home. But it's clear they'll need everyone. Plus Barry wants to meet Batman.

In one of the best running bits, Ollie keeps denying that Batman is real, thinking he's an urban legend cooked up by the cops. He wants Green Arrow to be the first vigilante. Now that is funny!

The two don't have much to go on in terms of investigating. Ollie knows some people in Gotham, mostly women he has slept with.

In Gotham, it is clear that the whole city is 'the bad part of town'. Rich people go to work in armored vehicles with armed guards.

And our heroes learn this quickly, being mugged in an alley right out of the gates. When one tries to shoot Ollie/ Kara snags the bullet. This is a Donner swipe no doubt. I love it.

The hubbub of a brawl in the alley leads to the cops showing up and arresting everyone. And the cops are quite happy with themselves for having snagged Ollie Queen.

Tossed in jail, Kara is the voice of reason. Barry (as Ollie) escalated things too quickly. Ollie (as Barry) should know he can't talk down muggers. She would have sped them away. This body swap is getting trickier to handle.

Luckily, the three are bailed out by someone.

They're brought to Wayne Tower, as seen in the sketch. The place is in ruins, the lobby smashed and covered in graffiti.

There they meet Kate Kane, running the Wayne affairs after Bruce left the city 3 years earlier. That's the same time Batman left.

She wants these three out of her city. She doesn't want vigilantes in her town. The fastest way to accomplish that is to help them figure out what they are looking for so they'll leave.

Again, in another funny moment, Barry (as Ollie) says he would never compare his career as Green Arrow to a badass like Batman. It is a way friends would needle each other over insecurities.

Of course, needling can go both ways. As the Flash, Ollie stole a database from the GCPD.

Using that info, they learn the man in the drawing is Dr. Deegan, thrown out of the medical community for his illegal experiments and torture on his patients brains. With no address, Kara says she'll fly over the city for a super-vision scan.

And she isn't worried about what Kate will do. After all, she couldn't have Kryptonite stashed somewhere, right?

Well Kara ... if Kate inherited Batman's stuff, she just might.

Before flying off (literally), Kara runs into Kate. I love the conversation they have.

Kara implies strongly that she knows that Bruce was Batman. She wonders if keeping his private life 'private' broke him. Kara even says that her cousin and Bruce are frenemies, a cute way of summing up the Batman/Superman relationship.

But Kate says that looking out at Gotham steels someone; it doesn't break them.

With the conversation going well, Kara asks about Deegan and Kate says he is a psychiatrist at Arkham. (I have to question Arkham's hiring practice!)

With a place to investigate known, the heroes head off. And Kate descends into a Batcave of sorts. She is the Batwoman we have seen in glimpses alreadry.

I do have to laugh at the Shakespeare bust in Bruce's office, a nod to the Batman '66 show.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that the red skies are a phenomenon of someone trying to breech into the Earth 1 universe and it is following our heroes. With that in mind, the ARGUS team and the STAR labs team join up.

Using some fancy science, they are able to stabilize the field enough to catch a glimpse of the Earth 90 Barry warning them about the book of Destiny.

This is the purest of Crisis on Infinite Earths homages. In the early issues, our heroes were getting glimpses of the Flash in similar energy clouds warning them about the upcoming Crisis.

Man, I trembled a little when I saw it. Wonderful!

Kara, Ollie, and Barry all arrive at Arkham. Cisco, Caitlin, and Diggle all breech in to catch them up on finding the book. The decision gets made to sneak into Arkham by pretending Caitlin is a new inmate with ice powers.

The place is ripped from the comics. We see doors marked for Cobblepot, Isley, Karlo, Nygma, and even one for writer Marc Guggenheim (maybe he thinks he is insane for trying to pull this off?). We even get a riddle? Any answers? Mine is 'America in the Civil War.'

Ollie confronts Deegan who laughs at the situation. He wonders why, despite trying to rewrite the world, he didn't become the Flash. It is true. Why is Deegan still stuck in this dead end job? Why isn't the world that much different? Maybe he isn't thinking big enough?

To delay matters and get his hands back on the book, Deegan opens up all the cells in Arkham. We have an old fashioned breakout.

Time for heroes to be heroes!

We get an old school Supergirl shirt rip! I love these moments!

And as in last episode when we had a good action sequence with Amazo, this time we get a much more street level but just as satisfying throwdown in Arkham.

Diggle takes out a bunch of lunatics.
Batwoman beats up some thugs who show the appropriate amount of fear. We get a semi-extended look at someone that has to be the Psycho Pirate.
Caitlin gets into a scrap with Nora Fries who wields Victor's gun.
We see boomerangs, grenades, and even Bane's mask from the Nolan films.
Ollie as the Flash super-speeds people back into their cells.

It's all good.

Kara is able to grab the book of Destiny from Deegan even if she isn't able to grab  Deegan himself.

Meanwhile, Ollie and Barry are exposed to Scarecrow fear toxin and experience each other's biggest nightmares. For Ollie (living as Barry), he sees Thawne who says he is too good, too slow, too pathetic to do what needs to be done. Barry (living as Ollie) sees Mark Merlyn and hears about how he is a coward, weak, and pathetic. They battle their mortal enemies when in reality they are fighting each other. It is a nice way for the two friends to honestly understand each other.

It is only when Batwoman shows up and knocks them both out do they come to their senses.

This whole scene is shot effectively with zoom in shots allowing us to see the fight in all three combinations in one seamless feeling take - Flash vs Reverse Flash, Arrow vs Merlyn, and the reality of Flash vs Arrow. It is very well done.

With the book secured and Arkham back in lockdown, Batwoman tells the heroes to leave her city.

Before they go, Supergirl has a great solo scene with Batwoman.
Kara says that Kate's cousin would be proud of her. She should know what it means to have to live in the shadow of a super-cousin. And Kate lets on that she knows that Supergirl is Kara Danvers.

In the end they know they make a great team together, the World's Finest.



And I have to reiterate that in both this scene and the prior between Kate and Kara, Melissa Benoist and Ruby Rose have great chemistry. Let me see more of this at some point, please!!!

The book can't be unlocked.
Barry and Ollie sit down to acknowledge what they saw while under the influence and how they now respect each other even more. In a line I think dripping with foreshadow, Barry tells Ollie to patch things up with Felicity because you never know how much time you have. Is Ollie doomed?

But before that can happen, the Earth 90 Flash arrives through a breech. Of course, he is confused for Jay Garrick and Barry's dad (both played by Shipp as well). But he says he is the Barry of Earth 90. And as the Flash he wonders, while looking at Diggle, why John isn't wearing his ring. Yep! On Earth 90, Diggle must be Green Lantern John Stewart!

Barry warns everyone that the Monitor is testing universes to find one strong enough to withstand an upcoming Crisis, a collision of realities.


The Monitor shows up and sends the Earth 90 Barry away.

He does indeed say that a Crisis is coming, someone stronger than him, something more powerful than a reality altering book. He needs to find heroes strong enough to withstand that attack and save the multiverse. Earth 1 has promise. He takes the book back and blips away.

That idea of the Monitor testing heroes is also right out of the comics. The threat has to be The Anti-Monitor.

And he isn't done testing this place. He goes back to Deegan and hands him the book again, this time telling him to think bigger.

Sure enough, our heroes awaken in a new world, one where they are gun-toting criminals called the Trigger Twins. The Trigger Twins! And worse off, their Earth is now guarded by a black garbed Superman!

Nice cliffhanger.

So this one had it all. The Gotham scenes, and especially the Kara/Kate scenes, were perfect. Arkham was fantastic. We had many Crisis beats in the story. And now a new reality.

I said it before. I'll say again.


Anonymous said...

Supergirl meeting Batwoman was the best part. I just wish Barbara was the female Bat Kara has to interact with, but I'll take what I can get.

Predicatbly, some fanboys complained across the net because their friendly interaction has been unearned or they don't deserve the "World's Finest" title or some other nonsense. I say "Nuts!" to that. I'm sick of Superman and Batman being "frenemies" and of Batman fanboys with inferiority complex constantly needing the reassurance that their hero is the best by putting other heroes down. Here, the female Super and Bat connected quickly and befriended each other as God intended.

Anonymous said...

Yeah "When Kara met Kate" has Future Team Up Awesomeness written all over it!!! As far as I'm concerned the Batwoman Supergirl team IS "The Worlds Finest" or at least it will be when the team up goes down!
And since Batwoman isn't hitched to any other specific Berlantiverse show she can show up anywhere anytime, but of course "Earth 38," should be her first stop.


Nutation said...

> Kara teasing Ollie and Barry about their rivalry, while clearly enjoying their predicament provided some of the best moments of the show, as did her more introspective conversations with Clark about life, superheroing, secret identities, and everything in between.

One of the biggest reasons I liked the original two crossovers (and several lesser crossovers) was that we got to see characters who are seldom or never in the same room play off of each other. Well, that's old hat, so we're now seeing friends who seldom get together enjoy each other's company. As in these examples, or Kara's casual, "I'm going to put on my work clothes and fly around".

> When one tries to shoot Ollie/ Kara snags the bullet.

I thought at first that they didn't film this honestly. But, stepping through the frames, Kara's hand is visible for just a bit. Of course, Ollie could have dodged the bullet, but we already saw that last episode. Mix it up a little.

> Any answers? Mine is 'America in the Civil War.'

I'm going with "dead Batman".

>Before they go, Supergirl has a great solo scene with Batwoman.
Kara says that Kate's cousin would be proud of her. She should know what it means to have to live in the shadow of a super-cousin. And Kate lets on that she knows that Supergirl is Kara Danvers.

> In the end they know they make a great team together, the World's Finest.

The "World's Finest" line seemed forced. It's been used before (for example, the first Supergirl/Flash crossover), so I was expecting it.

I actually found Batwoman to be a distraction. She got a lot of screen time here because CW is setting her up for a possible series. But, I don't yet find her likeable, and these crossovers have enough going on already. (The actors may disagree; there was, yes, good chemistry on screen.)

I'm also a bit skeptical that she can spot Supergirl's secret identity. I imagine she used the same reasoning as Cat Grant did to identify The Flash as Barry Allen. (They both showed up at the same time.)

> I just wish Barbara was the female Bat Kara has to interact with, but I'll take what I can get.

Yes, lost opportunity. Sorry for being grouchy.

Footnote: This isn't a Flash blog, but I'll note for what it's worth that the script in the Destiny Book is that same that Nora Allen is using to immutably record timelines in her diary on The Flash.

KET said...

"Before they go, Supergirl has a great solo scene with Batwoman.
Kara says that Kate's cousin would be proud of her. She should know what it means to have to live in the shadow of a super-cousin."

That sums up a lot between the two in a very short moment. They're both making names for themselves, in their own respective ways.

It seemed to me that much of Batwoman/Kate Kane's characterization is dependent on glowering looks and minimal dialogue. Worked for me; hope we get a series out of this crossover episode.

Interesting that this episode highlighted female protagonists acting as peacemakers while the guys mostly fought old demons and past personality grudges. Kara, Kate and Felicity all exhibited several moments of clarity over their various situations.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I thought that there was enough similarities in Kate and Kara’s situation as members of a hero family as well as mutual respect for their abilities to be instant friends. And Supergirl probably doesn’t like Clark and Bruce being frenemies and so reached out.

I loved that scene.

Hope we see more of the two of them.

Scrimmage said...

The good news was, they got Barry and Oliver out of each other's costumes. The bad news was, they dressed them up as the non-powered Trigger Twins. WTF??? All I can say about that is, when I'm watching a superhero team-up show, I'd rather see them all in uniform – preferably their own – at the same time.

Speaking of uniforms...

Can I take just a minute to say how much I hate this latest version of Flash's uniform? Specifically, I can't stand the new hood, which looks more like a bicycle helmet worn over a ski mask, than a single cowl, something which was evident when they had to cut away when Barry asked Ollie to put the mask on. It also REALLY needs a chinstrap, like all the previous Flash uniforms had. Barry looks goofy enough in this open neck design, but Oliver looks RIDICULOUS in it, with his facial hair exposed. If he really WAS the Flash, that “disguise” wouldn't fool a six year-old.

I've got two last words for the costume designers of The Flash... YELLOW BOOTS!!!

On the other hand, Batwoman looked AMAZING! The best thing about her costume was that she was totally unrecognizable, which IS the whole point, after all. It also looked functional, with her “cape-like” coat able to accommodate any number of wonderful bat-toys. The biggest problem I had with the character was that both Kate Kane and Batwoman not only had the same dark demeanor, they also spoke identically, often using the same phrases, like “MY city,” and so on. Maybe she wasn't trying very hard to hide her dual identity from her fellow heroes, but if she gets a series of her own, Kate's going to have to do a better job of differentiating herself from the Batwoman, at least to the general public. Her cousin, Bruce pretends to be a playboy, while Clark and Kara adopt “mild mannered” personas. Kate's tough talking, biker chick civilian identity needs more “alter” and less “ego.”

As you would expect in an “All Star Spectacular” like this, the action sequences were the highlight of the show, but as usual, the interactions between the cast members from the three shows provided the most entertaining scenes. I especially liked the talk between girl geniuses Caitlin and Felicity, and the cameo appearances (via hallucination) of Barry and Oliver's original archenemies, Reverse-Flash, and Malcolm Merlyn. It's always fun to see Captain Jack!

As in the first episode, Dr Destiny's poor use of reality warping powers seemed to reflect a similar lack of imagination on the part of the writers. I mean, a JAILBREAK to distract the good guys? C'MON!! Why not a meteor shower, or an attack of robot dinosaurs? The whole playbook is open, and this guy is calling dive plays up the middle. Even making HIMSELF “Dark Superman” at the end of the episode didn't seem to strike much fear into the hearts of the heroes.

As for his boss, The Monitor, his undefined power levels are so obviously superior to those of ANY of the heroes he's been “testing,” it begs the question, why is he even bothering with humans, super-powered, or otherwise? He should be looking for other beings in his OWN cosmic “weight class” to take on the “BIG BAD” he's so scared of. I realize that this crossover is trying to follow the original build up to the COIE storyline as closely as possible, and that those kinds of questions will probably never be addressed, just like they were largely ignored in the comics, but I hope that as we go along, we're given SOME insight into what led the Monitor to believe that this “testing” process was going to provide the solution to his problem, in the first place. There's no rule that the writers CAN'T improve on the original material.

For what was essentially a pilot for a potential Batwoman series – and a pretty darn good one, at that – this turned out to be a very entertaining Arrow episode.

Anonymous said...

Re Flash masks/cowls: they ALWAYS cut away when a mask is being taken off or put on. When on, these masks are essentially glued on by the costumers. It's a separate piece of wardrobe.


Anj said...

Re: Deegan and letting out the criminals.

My thoughts were he could only rewrite things when he had the book open. Had he made a world where aliens and dinosaurs existed, that could have happened but only by chance. He was still bound by the rules he set when he used the book, not on the fly.

Anonymous said...

"I do have to laugh at the Shakespeare bust in Bruce's office, a nod to the Batman '66 show."

Holy classic TV reruns! I loved that little part.

"We see doors marked for Cobblepot, Isley, Karlo, Nygma, and even one for writer Marc Guggenheim (maybe he thinks he is insane for trying to pull this off?). We even get a riddle? Any answers? Mine is 'America in the Civil War.'"

Cobblepot for Penguin, Isley for Poison Ivy, E Nygma for of course The Riddler, and Karlo for Clayface. But the Guggenheim one made me scream with laughter. He has gotten the ire of fans of these DCTV shows for a long time.

As for the riddle...well I would agree with the U-S Civil War being the answer.

And as for the shirt rip, it's the first one this season for Supergirl, though it wasn't on her show. And I also note it's the first time Kara has worn an overcoat doing the rip. All the other times, it was just her shirt coming off...yes even counting last seasons silly but fun button at a time one from last season ("I Like this shirt!)

Scrimmage said...

The answer to the riddle is "Batman in a blender," a superhero variation on an OLD joke.

Scrimmage said...

It occurs to me that one explanation for why there are no super powered Kryptonians on Barry and Oliver's Earth 1 might because in that universe, Krypton never exploded, or perhaps more dramatically, hasn't exploded YET!

If there is even the slightest possibility that the planet Krypton still exists in that universe, wouldn't it be tempting for Kara and Kal-El to find out for sure. If they thought that Krypton 1's destruction was inevitable, and imminent, wouldn't they feel that it was their duty to warn the Kryptonians, and to try to save as many of them as possible, before it was too late? There could be great dramatic potential in such a story.

Naturally, they would have to fail, mainly to prevent the oversaturation of Kryptonians in the Arrowverse, but also to preserve Kara and Kal-El's uniqueness in their own universe.

I doubt if that will ever be explored because, as others have mentioned, I have a feeling that the upcoming COIE event will merge several of the Earths that we're familiar with, primarily Earths 1 and 38, but also the Jay Garrick / Justice Society Earth, whichever number THAT one is.

That would work for me. There should only be one Krypton, one Superman, and one Supergirl. Of course, there would always be room for a Power Girl, but that's another subject.

Steve said...

I’m maybe in the minority here but I liked it was Kate Kane and not Barbra Gordon doing the World’s Finest thing. Kate and Kara have a partner vibe to them, Babs should be more Super Best Friends (in fact very similar to how they’ve treated Kara and Barry). Of course I’m that one weirdo who wants them to bring in Stephanie Brown instead (less baggage than Barbara, the Kara/Babs thing is being done really well over on DC Superhero Girls right now and it’s a crime that Ms Brown hasn’t got wider recognition as she’d fit perfectly into the modern media landscape).

Really liked that Ruby Rose went for more of the Kevin Conroy approach to playing the role. There’s some differences but no silly bat growl or other nonsense and doesn’t immediately tie them into a specific direction when this goes to series. Yet another example of Melissa having superb chemistry with pretty much anyone too, though we now seem to have a tradition of any gay / bi women in crossovers hitting on a Danvers sister. Talking of, just how far down did you X-ray Kara as to the casual viewer that was more than simply fact checking...

What else... oh yeah, Kara’s ongoing efforts to nudge someone into making the Bruce = Batman connection were delightful including a subtle one I think a lot of people missed. She flies Bar... Oll... Grant Gustin to Gotham (and that little yelp / scream when she did so had me dying) and they *just happen* to land on the roof with a bat signal. After she clearly flies around looking for a landing spot. Riiiiiight. At the same time Kara clearly getting irritated at the boys being, let’s be honest, a bit crap at handling the situation is fabulous as she tries to hang on to her patience. Best summed up by that wonderful Argus corridor sequence, Kara’s face after the ‘if you’re done screwing around’ and them carrying right on just screams “don’t punt them into orbit, don’t punt them into orbit...”.