Tuesday, January 25, 2011

After All The Hype, Infinite Crisis Is A Surprisingly Average Superhero Story.

The Good: Moments of artwork, Basic story concept
The Bad: Moments of artwork, Character weaknesses.
The Basics: Lacking a universal quality of most of the best trade paperback anthologies, Infinite Crisis is a huge-in-scope self-referential work which changes the direction of the DC Universe.

As my "Wonder Woman" Year continued in 2010, so many of the stories seemed to be leading to a specific graphic novel, so it seemed inevitable that I would read that graphic novel. The graphic novel was Infinite Crisis and it was intended to be a sequel to Crisis On Infinite Earths. I seem to be one of the few people in the world who was underwhelmed by Crisis On Infinite Earths (read my review here!), so when I learned that the giant crossover event was a sequel to that, I was somewhat less excited. The thing is, I had truly enjoyed the prequel events Superman: Sacrifice (reviewed here!) and its companion book The OMAC Project (reviewed here!), so I was eager-enough that I did want to see what Infinite Crisis was all about.

Unfortunately, sometimes the hype and planning truly is more exciting and incredible than the resolution. No, there are no Ewoks in Infinite Crisis which is, as it turns out, a middle act in the Crisis storylines, but the story only works because of severe character faults and is a lot less satisfying than all the build-up made it seem like it might be. That said, it is readable and it is not the worst graphic novel or anthology I have read of late. Given, however, that the book has so many ramifications in the DC universe, it makes sense for fans of those comics to read it. Moreover, there are decent moments and it's not horrible.

Understanding Infinite Crisis hinges some on a basic understanding of multiverse theory, the idea that for every action that can happen, there is a universe where it does happen. The DC Universe has a much more muted concept of the multiverse where the Earths in it are drastically altered by big shifts in history and character events. So, for example, in the multiverse, there is an Earth where the Superman family is evil and Batman and Wonder Woman must stop him. The build-up to Infinite Crisis also builds in an essential conflict between the big three of the DC Universe: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman killed a man who was using Superman as a weapon in order to save the world, a decision Superman disagreed with and resents her for. Batman's paranoia has hit an all-time high and his suspicion of even his allies has led him to create a spy satellite which is now waging war on the metahumans (superheroes). Thus, as Infinite Crisis opens, the DC Universe is in chaos.

With Wonder Woman helping the Amazons defend Themyscira from the OMACs, the Green Lantern Corps spread thin dealing with an interstellar war and Batman searching desperately for the cloaked Brother Eye satellite, Power Girl is visited by an unexpected visitor. That visitor is Kal-L, the Superman from Earth Two. Earth Two was destroyed when the multiverse was collapsed in Crisis On Infinite Earths and Power Girl survived as a remnant of that destroyed universe. Kal-L, the Earth Two Lois Lane, Alexander Luthor, and Superboy Prime leave their pocket universe in order to try to save Lois Lane's life. But soon, the peace and quiet of the universe is upset by the plan that the quartet has set in motion by leaving the pocket universe. The plan, laid out by Alexander Luthor, is quite simple: to restore the multiverse, at least long enough to create a perfect Earth.

As Kal-L ministers to Lois Lane and attempts to sway Bruce Wayne to his cause of rebuilding a perfect Earth, instead of the corrupted universe, Power Girl is abducted and placed into Alexander Luthor's multiverse machine. As Connor Kent decides to rise to the occasion, the Flashes work to subdue Superboy-Prime as the true agenda of the pocket universe folks is revealed. As Alexander Luthor recreates the multiverse and begins mashing Earths in a vain pursuit of a perfect Earth, Batman works to stop the OMACS, Wonder Woman realizes she must find herself and Superman must rise to the occasion to help the Green Lantern Corps stop Superboy-Prime.

Like most of the big crossovers in the DC universe, there are notable casualties in the course of this book, but it left me somewhat baffled. In one of the prequel stories one of the peripheral characters was killed. Firestorm was torn apart and he exploded. Yet, here he appears in Infinite Crisis helping out in space and such and I was left feeling cheated. In other words, Infinite Crisis makes me feel like it suffers from typical science fiction syndrome where no one is ever truly dead. That makes the casualties that are laid out in Infinite Crisis not seem nearly as significant as they ought to.

Even more, Infinite Crisis feels like it hinges unfortunately on a Superman being a complete idiot. Kal-L is predictably in love with Lois Lane in the pocket universe and while I can buy that just fine, the idea that he does not notice Alexander Luthor and Superboy-Prime leaving as frequently as they have to to make the prequel works plausible is tough to buy. When there are only four people in an entire universe and that universe is small, one would think half the population going missing would be something a Superman would notice.

That said, the resolutions to Infinite Crisis are pretty cool and they left me excited about the direction of the DC Universe, even if I cannot actually recall how one of the main plot points was resolved. This does feel like a middle act in its resolution and the idea that the DC Multiverse may or may not be re-established leaves a pleasant ambiguity.

What is not pleasant is the artwork. While some of the panels are actually wonderfully visually descriptive, others are just cluttered. While there are not a terribly number of panels where the reader feels like they are looking at thumbnail sketches of the action, Infinite Crisis does have some such panels and others where the images are problematic. On page 168 the appearance of multiple Earths has visuals that are unclear. Moreover, one of the characters who appears to be a casualty appears to have her head torn off and that seemed drastically underemphasized. That said, the story is much better illustrated than Crisis On Infinite Earths and for that we may all be pleased.

While the story becomes an annoyingly Superman-focused story, it is actually Batman and Nightwing’s story that becomes the most interesting in the latter part of the book. Batman is a chronically suspicious character and how his character is forced to adapt and accept certain principles as a result of Kal-L’s discussion with him works surprisingly well. While Wonder Woman fans might be disappointed by the anticlimax with her character, Batman fans might actually enjoy the humanizing nature of this story on that character.

Ultimately, though, Infinite Crisis is a much more average superhero story than I would have liked and as a result, it is a much weaker “recommend” for this middle act.

For other graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Identity Crisis
Who Is Wonder Woman?
Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps


For other book reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment