Welcome back to Comic Book Classics Revisited! Last time, we started the massive DC story that changed the company forever, Crisis on Infinite Earths. As the first issue ended, the mysterious Monitor and the superpowered Harbinger collected several heroes (and a couple villains) from some of the remaining Earths that have yet to be destroyed so they can begin the work to save what’s left of the multiverse and stop the being behind the wave of destruction!
Issue #2 begins with DC’s resident first Cro-Magnon, Anthro as he attempts to lead a rampaging herd of mammoths from trampling his village where his father and pregnant wife live. He succeeds, and when he is knocked off the mammoth he rode to make the diversion, he looks up to find a city from the 30th century. He calls people from his village to see the see the strange city for themselves, but by the time they arrive, the vision disappears – as does the mammoths. In the 30th century, members of the Legion of Superheroes are searching for their missing teammate, Dawnstar. Brainiac 5 calls them to help with an emergency. It appears the mammoths from Anthro’s time are stampeding through the city. When the legionnaires deal with the mammoths, they disappear into thin air. They call Brainiac 5 to see if he can help figure out what is going on, but he tells them that they need to table their search for Dawnstar and forget about the mammoths because he’s picked up a massive anti-matter wave strong enough to destroy the entire universe.
In the present, the Joker is up to his old tricks. He’s killed a millionaire for some copyrights to some movies. Batman comes crashing in to take him back to Arkham. While the two old foes face off against one another for the millionth time, an eerie vision of an emaciated Flash appears rambling about needing help, the world dying, and his late wife, Iris. Batman is unsettled by the sight as the Flash had previously disappeared, and horrified by the Flash literally disintegrating in front of his eyes.
Aboard the Monitor’s satellite, the 15 super beings recruited by the Monitor and Harbinger hear about how more than 1,000 universes have already been wiped out with the last being Earth-3. He tells them that natural disasters will ravage their planets just before the wave of white anti-matter energy comes to eliminate that Earth, and, ultimately, the universe that Earth inhabited. However, Firestorm is none too pleased with the Monitor. For the past year or so of continuity (and a tad longer than that in the actual comics), the Monitor had been known to supply villains with massive weaponry. The Monitor tries to explain himself, but he is growing weaker as his enemy continues to strengthen. He tells Lyla that he needs the power of Harbinger by his side to protect him. Harbinger agrees she will stand by him, but internally is starting to feel utter hatred for the man she loves as a father.
The Monitor continues to explain his actions prior to this by saying the heroes and villains he’s summoned are his initial force against his enemy. He states that others will be recruited as needed. The assembled heroes and villains are still not so sure the Monitor’s being truthful with them. Harbinger returns and tells the Monitor’s team that he has placed certain devices in five different periods of time that are powerful enough to stop the anti-matter wave. She tells the team that they must defend the devices against the Monitor’s enemies. Arion senses a darkness within her that worries him. Ultimately the heroes agree to defend the devices and Harbinger splits them up throughout the cosmos and time itself. Harbinger tells the Monitor to rest, but internally, she knows she must alert “the other” who is controlling her and, despite her best efforts, will cause her to betray the Monitor.
On the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians of the Universe, Oa, they have finally detected that the anti-matter wave is threatening the universe. They decide to call the entire might of the Green Lantern Corps to stop the wave, but a voice tells them they will not be permitted to call the Corps as they present a threat to it. The voice causes a surge through the central Green Lantern battery incapacitates the Guardians. On Earth 1, Batman and Superman meet about the vision of the Flash that Batman saw. Superman is late to the meeting because he had to stop a strange eruption of a volcano in the middle of the Mediterranean. As they discuss what the message from the Flash saw, Pariah appears and tells them their universe is going to be destroyed. As quickly as he appeared, he disappears leaving Superman and Batman concerned and confused.
In the future timeline of Kamandi, the Last Boy, the boy is surprised by the sudden appearance of a large tower. As he climbs the tower, he’s surprised by a shadow demon emerging from the structure. He’s caught by Superman who has arrived in this timeline with Solovar and Dawnstar. They are attacked by a group of the shadow demons but they are not as strong here as they were in the Monitor’s satellite. They are easily driven off after a brief fight. Harbinger watches on and thinks to herself that the heroes can defend the devices all they want but they will only be rewarded by death.
She returns to the satellite and is ordered by the Monitor to bring Alexander Luthor of Earth 3 to him. She has been completely possessed by the darkness that infected one of her duplicates, but is still serving the Monitor until she is given the final command from the one who secretly controls her. When she goes to collect Alexander, she is shocked to find that the baby has grown into an adolescent after only hours.
In Atlantis, Arion, Obsidian, and Psycho Pirate arrive to protect the tower the Monitor placed there. There is one problem here, though, and it has nothing to do with shadow demons. The Psycho Pirate is starting to lose it. He did warn Harbinger previously that if he started to manipulate people’s emotions, he will become addicted to the taste of the emotions. As Psycho Pirate wanders off, he’s met by Pariah who doesn’t know where he is, but is racked by terror which attracts the villain. Pariah begs for Psycho Pirate to stop torturing him. By the time Arion confronts Psycho Pirate, it’s too late, and the Pirate infects all of Atlantis with terror. Obsidian is able to envelope Arion in his shadow powers just as Arion is about to succumb to the terror Psycho Pirate is emanating. Shortly, Psycho Pirate is teleported away to a dark room where a voice “like ice” tells him that he is needed. The Monitor is concerned about loss of Psycho Pirate as he was necessary for the plans put into place. He tells Harbinger to bring him the file on a new Doctor Light that he will create as a contingency plan for the loss of Psycho Pirate.
Outside Atlantis, Pariah explains that he is from the very first Earth that fell tot he anti-matter wave. His traveling from one universe to the next witnessing destruction is to atone for a crime he committed. As he explains all this, the white anti-matter wave appears above Atlantis. The Monitor tries to speed up his creation of the new Doctor Light, and Harbinger is commanded to speak to her dark master. She tells the evil being that the heroes stand ready to activate the Monitor’s machines. The evil being explains that it will not matter as he plans to turn the Monitor’s heroes against one another. As Harbinger receives her next commands, the Monitor pleads to her to find the hope he instilled in her when she had none and resist the temptations that are infecting her so her and the other champions can save the universes.
And so ends the second chapter of Crisis on Infinite Earths. For the most part, we’re still not given too much as to who is causing the destruction of the universes, nor are we given too much about what the Monitor’s plans are to save what universes are remaining. However, that doesn’t really take away from a compelling story. While the pacing is still fairly quick and engaging, the build up to the bigger moments are still coming at a slower speed. It’s really building tension and properly putting pieces into place as opposed to jamming each issue with obvious reference to what characters should be doing, how they are motivated, and replaying that cycle issue after issue. There has yet to be any kind of real reference to the previous issue to serve as a “Hey, in case you missed the first issue, here’s what’s going on!” Yes, the Monitor does explain that Earth 3 is already gone, but that was a natural exposition for the collected champions. They were there to see it wiped out. Other comics of the time were spouting exposition leading up to the issue you are currently reading by having it in the middle of a conversation between two people who lived through the very thing they are talking about as if they weren’t there at all. This is playing out almost like you’d expect to see in a television show or movie. It’s really much more natural.
One thing I’d very much like to point out in these first two issues that, on the surface, seems odd, but shows the strength of the story itself, is, here we are, two issues in, and the Earth 1 versions of Superman and Batman have had next to no real involvement. Batman saw the Flash disintegrating and goes to tell Superman about it and they are utterly confused and a little scared about what’s going on around them – that’s it for their involvement up to this point. In all, out of about a total of 57 pages of story between these first two issues, the Batman and Superman of the primary DC Comics publishing line have had all of about two total pages of action. The Earth 2 Superman is hanging out and very important to the story, but it’s not THE Superman of the present day DC Comics. This really shows a great strength in how Marv Wolfman was telling the story. We could have these lesser known, or secondary, characters carry the book almost effortlessly. On top of that, they aren’t spitting out awkward dialog. In fact, the dialog is so well scripted, you almost have to wonder if the book was written in the last five or ten years as opposed to it being a thirty year-old story.
Next time, we’ll start a new week off right with issue #3 as the Crisis starts to heat up something terrible! Come back and check it out!