Infinite Crisis #1 (2005)

Infinite Crisis #1 (December, 2005)
“Infinite Crisis”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Phil Jimenez
Inker – Andy Lanning
Colorists – Jeremy Cox & Guy Major
Letterer – Nick J. Napolitano
Assistant Editor – Jeanine Schaefer
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks – Greg Rucka, Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Cover Price: $3.99

Been in that strange Infinite Crisis mood for a little while now… figure why not take a look at the main story itself?

Gotta mention that the spoilery synopsis you are about to enter contains a whole lotta exposition… I did my best to try and fill in any information we might need going in.  I hope it all makes sense!

In panels which are reminiscent of the opening of Crisis on Infinite Earths, we open with Superman arriving at the ruins of the JLA Watchtower.  The HQ was destroyed during the penultimate JLA story arc Crisis of Conscience, which followed up on the events of Identity Crisis… ay yai yai.  Anyhoo, Superman arrives and is met by Batman, who is looking for the Black Box so he can check the security cameras.  Superman is irritated as he considers this to be more of Batman spying on the League… a callback to both the Tower of Babel storyline a few years earlier, where the League learned that Batman had protocols to take each member out should they go rogue and The OMAC Project miniseries which revealed that Batman had a part in the creation of the Brother Eye Satellite.  At this point, Wonder Woman arrives… and both fellas are a bit uncomfortable with her presence.  Oh boy… arright, this is coming off Wonder Woman breaking the neck of former Justice League International financier and “owner” Maxwell Lord… this is, of course after Max shot and killed Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) in Countdown to Infinite Crisis.  Ya got all that?  Good.  Oh!  There’s also a bad guy lurking in the shadows… so we got that too!

We shift to Smallville where Conner Kent is watching the Teen Titans fight off some OMACs in Los Angeles.  Ma Kent suggests he go help his friends, but he’s in a pretty dark place at the moment.  This is off the heels of his learning that half of the DNA cocktail he was cloned from belonged to Lex Luthor.  It looks like he’s about to leap into action… before hearing some Luthor-centric patter on the news and rebuttoning his shirt.  This is after Lex was President… and he was back to being an openly bad dude.

Elsewhere… we see several figures in shadow watching over the DC Universe via a wall of crystal.  We can see Lanterns, Black Hand, Aquaman, Flash… a bunch of stuff’s going on.  They discuss the idea that it might be time for them to intervene… whatever that means.  Yeah, yeah… we’ll find out soon.

We next visit Bludhaven… which is in a pretty dire state.  Nightwing is joined by Starfire, Donna Troy and Supergirl.  Donna is planning to take the ladies to New Cronus, despite Dick’s thoughts to the contrary.  He mentions that she “just got back”… which is in reference to her “death” during Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day.  She returned during the appropriately titled DC Special: Return of Donna Troy… which I remember most for being the first issue that came with DC’s “swoosh” logo.

Okay, so Donna, Kory and Kara leave… the OMACs continue taking over Bludhaven… we get a brief cameo of Ratcatcher (who dies), which is something… and before long the sky goes red… and is absolutely packed with OMACs.  Rumor has it at the time that Nightwing was going to be “offed” during this event… at this juncture, his odds ain’t lookin’ all that hot!

Next up, we head into Sector 2682, the Polaris Galaxy… and we’re in the midst of the Rann-Thanagar War.  I ought to mention that in the months leading up to Infinite Crisis, DC Comics released several miniseries’.  They were: Day of Vengeance focusing on magic characters (more on them in a bit), The OMAC Project (which was mentioned earlier), Rann-Thanagar War, and Villains United which is sort of the precursor for Secret Six.  Gotta say, this two-page spread is rather breathtaking.  My photos will do it (and the rest of the art) very little justice!  Anyhoo, the Guardians are lurking about discussing how “something” has changed the nature of the cosmos.  Wonder what that might be…

Back in Gotham City, we see the Rock of Eternity floating in the sky.  This is coming off the Day of Vengeance miniseries.  In the streets below, there is absolute madness.  We see baddies like Riddler, Fisherman, Murmur, and the Body Doubles from Resurrection Man… dang!  Watching the riot unfold are detectives Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen.

The Rock of Eternity explodes, Captain Marvel comes flying into Montoya and Allen’s car.  He is able to utter that the Spectre killed the Wizard Shazam.  At this point we can see the Spectre looming over Gotham… it’s pretty cool, the Bat-Signal is illuminated and pointed at where the Spectre’s chest would be.  It’s a really neat visual.  Freed from the wrecked rock, the Seven Deadly Sins now run amok through the streets of Gotham.

We jump to Metropolis… or thereabouts, and meet up with the… well, I’ll be damned, it’s the Freedom Fighters.  They are by a Stagg Industries refinery, which is likely in reference to Metamorpho’s main squeeze Sapphire Stagg’s father whatshisface.  They make their way inside, with some raw strength and some laser-dodging stealth… only to find themselves stood before, welp… a whole lotta bad folks.  This is fallout from Villains United… and our baddies include Dr. Light, Deathstroke, Dr. Polaris, Sinestro, Bizarro, Zoom (I think it’s Zoom), Cheetah, Sinestro, Psycho Pirate… and if that ain’t enough, Black Adam too!  Oh yeah, and Sinestro kills Black Condor too!

Back on the Moon (remember that?) Superman is startled by a fourth heartbeat among the Watchtower wreckage.  Before he can act, however, he is walloped and sent flying.  Our mystery guest is… Mongul… and with Superman briefly out of the picture, we get a scene which is a nice callback to For the Man Who Has Everything.

We return to Earth where the Freedom Fighters are getting positively wrecked.  Dr. Light fries the Ray while Zoom pounds Damage at super speed.  Cheetah uses her enhanced senses to “spot” and attack Phantom Lady… who eventually winds up on the end of Deathstroke’s blade.  Welcome to the all-new all-dark DC Comics!

Some quick bits follow… we briefly return to the Moon, where the heroes do their best to hold off Mongul.  Back with the FF, Bizarro makes the Human Bomb explode… then pounds him to mush.  Back to the Moon again… Superman nails Mongul with a kayo shot… at which time, Wonder Woman leaps in to deliver the killing (?) blow… which Superman stops.  They make eye contact and Superman says he doesn’t know who she is anymore.  Mongul takes this opportunity to make a hasty retreat.

Back in Metropolis, Black Adam is beating the holy hell out of Uncle Sam.  The Ray tries to pull himself to his feet when he is approached by our old friend the Psycho Pirate… who emotionally manipulates the lad.  As he drags Ray away, Uncle Sam gets a second wind… unfortunately, by this point he finds himself surrounded by Black Adam, Deathstroke, Dr. Light, and Sinestro… dang.

Back at the Watchtower, the trinity engages in a… very uncomfortable heart-to-heart.  Wonder Woman defends her use of lethal force by saying she didn’t have a choice.  Batman says there’s always a choice… and refers to having been mind-wiped by the Justice League (more Identity Crisis stuff).

Now here’s where it gets rough.  Superman says there’s only so much he can do… because he’s not a God.  Batman says they don’t need a God right now… just someone to inspire them.  He continues… saying the last time Superman was inspirational was when… he was dead.  Ouch.

We return to the silhouettes from earlier.  They’re watching all of this go down, and realize that the heroes have no hope if they can’t work together.  They come to the conclusion that they are once again needed.  It’s up to them to save everybody… including “her”.

One of the figures begins punching the crystal wall… eventually breaking through revealing himself to be… Kal-L, the Superman from Earth-2!  He is flanked by Lois Lane (of Earth-2), Alexander Luthor, and Superboy-Prime!  Business is about to pick up!

Ho’ boy… that’s a lot to unpack, ain’t it?

Let’s start with some Christory.  The first time I read this was on release… a time in which I didn’t really have proper context required to truly be impacted by what we just experienced.  My main takeaway wasn’t the return of the Crisis on Infinite Earths survivors… but the interpersonal conflict between the members of the Trinity.  The most salient bits to me were also the most “immediate” so to speak.  I’d followed along through Identity Crisis Countdown to Infinite Crisis and the various miniseries’, so my focus was on the “present” rather than the past… or even the future, really.

In reading this today, I can better appreciate how important that final page was… it’s sort of the way I looked at that last page of Superman: Doomed #2 back in 2015… 

When I saw this page, it was as though I was going to be getting a piece of my DC Comics back.  Granted, this wound up just being a teaser for Convergence… but things worked out pretty good in the end with Rebirth.  I couldn’t imagine how jazzed I’d have been if I were a pre-Crisis fan seeing my Superman emerging from his crystal quarters… but I’m sure it would’a been amazing.

For the issue itself… it’s a pretty awesome piece of work to behold.  I mean, this whole endeavor was so meticulously planned… like, everything mattered… it’s the kind of story I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around having been conceived.

Let’s chat up the disparate miniseries’… each one leads almost flawlessly into the event.  The OMAC Project revealed Batman’s Brother Eye Satellite, and some the Maxwell Lord bits… which really did a number on how the heroes were perceived/trusted by the public.  Day of Vengeance concerns the magic characters and features Shazam bringing the Rock of Eternity to Gotham… and going boom.  Villains United, well unites the villains who took out the Freedom Fighters here… and Rann-Thanagar War, well… I never read that, but it’s fallout looms somewhat large here as well.  We also gotta consider things like Graduation Day and the Return of Donna Troy as part of the lead-up.  I mean, you could read for days before even getting to Infinite Crisis #1!

The story is also heavily influenced by the events of Identity Crisis… the rape and murder of Sue Dibney opened up a huge can of worms, which revealed that Dr. Light had been mindwiped by the Justice League sometime back during the Satellite days.  Not only that, but some members of the League who disagreed with that course of action were… also mindwiped!  We’re talkin’ Batman here… so, is it any wonder he might have some trust-related side-projects like the protocols and Brother Eye?

The discussion between the Trinity really illustrates how fractured the superhero community has become.  Like, this isn’t just a disagreement or difference of opinion here… it feels like they’re actively trying to hurt one another.  Superman telling Wonder Woman that he no longer knows her… calling out Batman for his lack of trust… and most strikingly, Batman telling Superman that he’s more of an inspirational figure when he’s not breathing.  It’s like something you’d say in a heat of the moment argument to someone you really care about… and regret before you even finish saying it.  Very powerful scenes here!

Shifting gears, there’s the rumor that Nightwing wasn’t going to get out of this one alive.  It certainly looks as though he’s being offered up to the comic deities as a sacrifice here, don’t it?  We know he survives… and I gotta wonder if this is being done as misdirection, or if they really did originally intend to “off” him here, and decide against pulling the trigger.  Dan Didio said during Wizard World Philadelphia 2006 that he would have liked to kill Nightwing during Infinite Crisis, but Geoff Johns refused.  Gotta wonder how close it came!

Now, let’s talk about the Crisis on Infinite Earths castaways.  We learn at the end of the issue that the narration we’ve been reading throughout the book is that of Kal-L.  In knowing that, it’s possible to give this a second flip through with the understanding that we’re experiencing this story through his “eyes”.  He mentions making a sacrifice to help the younger post-Crisis heroes.  If we recall, they remained to fight the Anti-Monitor during the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths and were believed to be gone forever.  Just goes to show, there’s no such thing as “forever” in comics, right?

The art here… ooooooooooh boy.  If there’s a worthy successor to George Perez, it’s gotta be Mr. Jimenez here.  There are a handful of double-page spreads here… and that’s normally something I’d kvetch about… but ho-ly smokes, these are gorgeous!  Just a wonderful package, words and art!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this issue… but with the warning that there is a whole lotta prerequisite reading required if you wanna get the most out of it.  My first time through I only had a cursory understanding of the pre-Crisis DC Universe, and I was still able to enjoy it… however, reading it today with a more well-rounded knowledge of DC history, I enjoyed it so much more.  This issue is available digitally (and has been collected a few times, including an out-of-print Omnibus that goes for like a grand)… but also, the 80-page Countdown to Infinite Crisis is available… FOR FREE!  So definitely snag that first.

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