mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

The End of Infinite Crisis; The Beginning of...What?

This week Infinite Crisis #7 was finally released, bringing to a conclusion a comic book story that had its seeds in a year-long miniseries published a little over twenty years ago. Ever since 1985, if DC Comics were to call something new a "Crisis," we knew it had to be an earth-shattering event. If you've been reading my posts on this new Crisis from the beginning, you know how excited I've been by these developments in one my favorite fictional universes.

So did the new Crisis live up to my expectations?

Well, let me start with two minor disappointments.

Disappointment #1: Plot.

Let's boil the plot of Infinite Crisis down to a few sentences. Ahem. "A hero-turned-villain decides that the universe is corrupt and evil and needs to be recreated from the beginning. Taking on the quasi-Machiavellian philosophy that the ends justify the means, he attempts to recreate a new universe to his own specifications, which will require destroying the old one. A band of heroes unites to stop him, but in the end, the universe is in fact recreated, just without being under the direct influence of the villain."

Sound familiar to anyone? If you've been reading DC Comics for over twenty years, like I have, you've just read the plot of the 1994 five-issue weekly miniseries Zero Hour, in which Hal Jordan decides that the universe...well, no sense in stating it again. Frankly, I'd say that Geoff Johns owes a debt to Dan Jurgens here. Back in 1994, DC decided to eliminate continuity errors by creating a reboot of the one universe, and here they've done it again. Essentially, all Infinite Crisis did was create a brand-new rebooted universe.

Now, it's possible that the new changes could be significant enough to have warranted the miniseries. They've only hinted at a few things, though, such as the killer of Batman's parents having been captured. And personally, I'm hoping that the biggest change will be that everyone will now remember the original Crisis, and how there once was a Multiverse and that the original Kara Zor-El existed.

But the original Crisis ended big. The Multiverse was gone, and a new single universe had taken its place. The upshot of Infinite Crisis? A single universe is replaced by...another single universe. Hm. So where does this take us to?

Disappointment #2: One Year Later.

When I first heard that they were planning to jump the entire DC universe one year into the future the same month that Infinite Crisis #5 was supposed to be published, I was excited. Aha, I thought. Obviously, something major happens at the end of issue #5 that causes the whole universe to jump ahead one year. I thought they might be riffing on the jump that took place between issues #10 and #11 of Crisis on Infinite Earths. At the end of issue #10, the final nail is put into the coffin of the Multiverse, and at the start of issue #11, Kal-L wakes up in the brand new single universe, not realizing what has happened. It appeared to me that something akin to this was planned between Infinite Crisis #5 and #6.

And, in fact, because of delays in the shipping of Infinite Crisis, we got to see what I thought was such a discontinuity in one of the other comic books. Most of the books that were jumping one year later ended their current story and then presented a final splash page showing different versions of the main character. But the final pages of JSA Classified #9 showed the universe fluctuating around Jay Garrick (the original Flash) and Ted Grant (Wildcat), and the two of them reacting to the fluctuations as they tumble through the cosmos. Clearly this was an effect of whatever happened at the end of Infinite Crisis #5.

But it turned out I was wrong. There was no major jump ahead that took place because of the effects of the Infinite Crisis.

In short, from a story perspective, there is a complete lack of justification for One Year Later. The only reason for them to do One Year Later, as an editor at DC said, is "Because it's cool."

Well, it is kind of cool. But it would have been cooler if it had been justified by the events of Infinite Crisis.

Okay, disappointment time over. What did I like about it?

Cool Thing #1: The final fate of Kal-L.

One could argue that the only reason Infinite Crisis could play out was because four characters -- Superman-2, Lois Lane-2, Superboy-Prime, and Luthor-3 -- were kept in reserve at the end of the original Crisis, twenty years ago. When the Anti-Monitor was finally defeated, these four characters were left floating in space as a wave of anti-matter headed toward them. All four came from pre-Crisis continuity, and by all rights, all four should have died or simply been wiped from existence.

But Marv Wolfman, who wrote Crisis, couldn't bring himself to kill the original Golden Age Superman. So instead. Luthor-3 opened up a portal to another dimension, a place that we all assumed was heaven. It was a way of killing off the characters without actually killing them off. In essence, Wolfman simply took the characters off the table.

Geoff Johns finally did what Marv Wolfman couldn't bring himself to do twenty years ago.

Kal-L dies, and the artwork gives the impression that by doing so, he ends up in a real heaven, with Lois Lane. Theoretically, I suppose this means that the Earth-2 Superman is really no longer on the table.

Then again, that's what we believed twenty years ago.

Cool Thing #2: They set it up for repercussions and a possible sequel.

I can hear legions of fans screaming about this, but I'm sorry, it's just cool.

Why is it cool? Because creativity will ring across the ages. Fans argue over whether or not continuity is a straightjacket, but what makes it appealing to many of us is the way it keeps the story going for years and years.

Let me digress for a moment to discuss the concept of foreshadowing. Simply putting, foreshadowing is when a writer drops hints about future plot developments. This literary device has usually appeared within a short story or a novel, but rarely in a piece of fiction with a larger time scale, such as a TV show or an ongoing series of novels. In the past ten years, however, some TV shows have done a lot with foreshadowing, setting things up in season one whose consequences you don't see until season four or five. (Yes, I'm referring to Babylon 5 here.)

Foreshadowing wasn't a technique used that often in comics, either. In fact, there was a time when comic book writers didn't really think of what they were doing as an art form, and would have dismissed the idea that anything they did could be called a literary device. Furthermore, there was little veneration for the past or concern for the future. If a writer had a Superman story due tomorrow, the writer had little time to decide to put in plot hints that wouldn't pay off until the next year.

Which is not to say that future writers didn't look for plot points that they could develop later on. Think about how Kurt Busiek went back into Marvel Comics history when he wrote Marvels. He was delighted to discover that certain storylines he wanted to use had apparently been fit together in certain comic books as if they had taken place at the same time, almost as if the writers had set it up for him. But in reality, they hadn't.

For example, the original Crisis didn't really set itself up for foreshadowing. I'll admit that at the end we had the characters of Pariah, Harbinger, and Lady Quark left over from the Crisis, but no one knew what to do with them. Nor did anyone know what to do with the Psycho Pirate. Eventually, these characters faded away, with only minor and often contradictory appearances in various stories. But no one at the time was thinking that they'd leave these characters alive so that another writer could continue the story twenty years down the line.

All that has now changed.

By ending Infinite Crisis with an insane Superboy-Prime trapped in an Oan energy field prison, Johns has clearly set up something for future writers to work with. I've never met Johns personally, so I have no evidence for what I'm about to say, but I suspect that he actually has no idea what might happen with Superboy-Prime in the future. But instead of just leaving the character dead, or trapped "out there, somewhere," he's given us a definitive picture of what Superboy-Prime is going through as the DC universe progresses. Twenty years from now, perhaps, when DC Comics needs to revamp their universe yet again, Superboy-Prime will be there, waiting, ready to play his part...whatever it might be.

The comics creators of today are deliberately planting the seeds to grow into possible stories for the comics creators of tomorrow.

One final thought. Back when this all started, I pondered what we would call the new era, since we use the term pre-Crisis and post-Crisis to describe the DC universe. After having read all of Infinite Crisis, and the beginning of the One Year Later books, I'm guessing that in the end, Infinite Crisis is only going to be as significant in the big picture as Zero Hour was. Infinite Crisis appears to have been meant as a convenient and useful reboot to help clean up continuity. But it is not something so important as to require us to consider it a major branching point in the history of the DC universe.
Tags: comics, infinite-crisis, science-fiction, television, writing, writing-advice

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