Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Infinite Crisis

A while back, I read Infinite Crisis, the followup to DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, and another series that is full of odd, convoluted storytelling, put over the top by the sheer epicness of everything that happens. It’s not a great story, but it’s got enough good stuff to carry it along. Most importantly, it’s something that’s uniquely comics, relying on a huge amount of past continuity and fan familiarity with the concepts to make it work.

It’s a pretty direct sequel to the original Crisis, plucking four other Earth characters out of the ‘heaven’ they went to at the end of the first book and returning them to current continuity. This is done primarily as a way to engage in a bunch of meta commentary on the state of superhero comics. The DCU has moved in an increasingly dark direction, so we bring in the Earth 2 Superman to point out just how far the heroes have fallen. On one level, it’s a pretty clear knock on contemporary comics, ironically housed in a book about conflicted, fallen heroes and some of the most over the top violence seen in a mainstream superhero book.

However, the reading that made the book work for me was to think of Superboy Prime and Kal-L Superman as representatives of the Bush government. They are people who think the world has fallen into decadence and moral uncertainty, and seek to use their power to restore moral order to the world, no matter how much violence in takes. Superboy Prime in particular is reminiscent of Bush’s temper tantrum my way or no way at all behavior. The big setpiece for him is the rush through the Titans, tearing limbs off b list characters, all the while chastising them for their immoral behavior. That irony is the key to Bush’s misguided worldview, everything he does is right because it’s in the service of something good, everything we do is wrong.

That would make Alex Luthor the Dick Cheney of the piece, secretly trying to reshape the world behind the scenes, and Earth 2 Superman the entire older generation, who’s been duped by Bush’s war mongering. For me, that reading takes the book beyond an echo chamber look at comics and gives it some overall relevance for the world. Was it intentional? I’m not positive, but it fits so well, it doesn’t really matter.

Of course, we’ve also got a clear tie back to Miracleman. The extreme violence made it jump out for me, but Superboy Prime is basically Kid Miracleman. Things never reach the operatic heights of the definitive superhero fight, Miracleman 15, but pretty much no series since has, so that’s not something you can knock it for.

As for the book outside that, much like the original Crisis, it’s epic and thrilling most of the time, even if the end loses a bit of the momentum. It’s interesting that people condemn the book for being so continuity reliant when if this was a literary work, people would be hailing it for the complexity. Well, maybe not exactly, but nobody cracks of James Joyce for taking a lot of effort to decipher. There’s something cool about having sixty years of story behind a single narrative. Morrison’s talked about the DCU becoming sentient, and in this case, the sheer amount of backstory involved means the narrative takes on a life of its own, commenting back on the previous stories that have been told.

The series benefits from some fantastic Phil Jiminez artwork. Unfortunately, like his run on The Invisibles, the perfect polish and style of the opening slips a bit by the end as we get fill in artists and messy inkers. But, it still looks really good, and even though I’m sure JG Jones will be great, I’d love to see Phil work with Morrison on Final Crisis.

And Final Crisis is the main reason I read this book. When Morrison’s miniseries comes out next year, I want to be fully acquainted with the backstory and ready to tackle whatever he comes up with. Having gotten caught up in the DCU recently, I’m really excited about that series and finding out what Morrison’s going to do for his final statement in the DCU, at least for now. IC is already full of characters from Seven Soldiers, I spotted everyone in there at some point, always putting a smile on my face. Hopefully he’ll bring some of those guys back and nail that series. If anyone can write something that’s truly forward thinking with the DCU, it’s Grant.


RAB said...

Has anyone stopped to consider whether making the DC universe sentient, if Morrison really could do such a thing, is a good idea?

The DC universe has been horrifically mistreated and abused. In just the collections you've read recently, you've seen it given a multiple personality disorder, then having all but one of its personalities eliminated, then struggling for twenty years with lingering mismatched remnants of those former selves, then having its personality altered again several times, and finally being disintegrated into entirely different multiple personalities yet again. If such a thing were to be made self-aware it could only be a deeply neurotic entity at best, and probably more likely psychotic; to birth a creature only to give it awareness of all that is an act of cruelty. For its own sake, we can only hope Morrison will fail.

Worse still from our viewpoint, has anyone considered the possible consequences to us? What if a sentient DC universe chose to seek revenge on our universe, the source of all its woes? I don't think our world could defend itself against the mighty powers the DC universe could bring to bear. I say: Mr. Morrison, leave up that wall!

Patrick said...

This is true, but perhaps what it needs is the chance to right itself without intrusion from our world. The implication of Infinite Crisis is that it's the toxicity of our world that's infecting theirs, and Earth 2 Superman is coming back from the 'real' DCU.

But, if it did come to life, I'd imagine those contradictions would be too much to overcome and it would be a beastly entity. Still, at least some corners of the universe are still good. Zatanna has seen out into our world and called out to all the readers who observed her adventures in Zatanna #4. She got strength from our world and used that strength to help defeat the Sheeda. Was that the first step to self actualization? Is she the figurehead at the forefront of the DCU's awakening? You know you touched her hand when she reached out to you.