Comic Book Classics Revisited has reached another epic conclusion! The Anti-Monitor has brought the new, merged Earth, created when the creation of the multiverse was prevented, into the anti-matter universe. Now, the combined might of heroes AND villains of the DC Universe must band together to defeat this near unstoppable foe! Let’s look at the final issue of DC’s classic Crisis on Infinite Earths!
On board Brainiac’s space ship, Dolphin, Captain Comet, Rip Hunter, Animal Man, Adam Strange, and the Atomic Knight are shocked to find that the Earth is no longer found outside in its normal space. Brainiac wakes from his stasis. Brainiac threatens to kill the heroes on board his ship, but they convince him that something has changed despite his memory banks missing the info. When he realizes they are telling the truth and that his memory systems have been tampered with, the heroes recount the events that have led to this moment. Realizing that the Anti-Monitor is probably more powerful than what help he can provide, Brainiac takes the ship to someone who can help them fight the evil.
On Earth, the heroes collectively stand in horror as the Anti-Monitor speaks to them in the sky. He congratulates them on their struggle to survive, but it is not going to change anything. He announces that the world must die like their Supergirl and Flash died before it. Wally West finally gets the answer to what happened to Barry Allen. Despite Wally asking where Barry is, the Anti-Monitor continues his rant about how his warriors have stained the Earth with blood. Soon, his image disappears, and the sky goes black and no one is able to see anything. Earth 2 Superman uses his telescopic vision to look at cities around the world. Panic is running wild and screams and prayers are all that can be heard. Harbinger arrives and tells the two Supermen that the time for discussion is over for it is time to attack. Another copy of Harbinger collects the new Dr. Light who is struggling with her role at the end of Supergirl’s life. However, between fellow Japanese superhero Sunburst and Harbinger, she finally realizes her place as a superhero and goes with Harbinger.
Soon, the black skies begins to crack, and from it, spring millions of shadow demons (ultimately the darkness was the shadow demons merged into one). The shadow demons begin to slaughter the people of Earth. (Hold on to your hats, kids, things are about to get bloody.) All over the planet, heroes join forces to defeat the shadow demons. They put aside cultural, political, and personal differences to do everything they can to defend the planet. Injuries are suffered. In Brazil, the Lieutenant Marvels, those given some of the powers of Captain Marvel, are overwhelmed and killed (though this would be debated by fans).
Elsewhere, the heroes the Monitor most closely watched have gathered to take the final fight to the Anti-Monitor. While they prepare to breach the wall preventing the heroes from getting off planet to try to stop the evil villain, the mystical beings of the DCU work to bring the Spectre out of his hibernation. The mystical beings will then stay behind and defeat the shadow demons. Just as Alexander Luthor opens the anti-matter gate so the heroes can engage the Anti-Monitor, Deadman senses another presence that speeds into the portal and joins the heroes. In space, Brainiac’s ship arrives at its destination – Apokolips. He tells the heroes on his ship that the only being powerful enough to lend aid is Darkseid.
On Earth, news reports are coming in from everywhere of the fight the heroes are putting on against the shadow demons. Lois Lane reports from New York City where she witnesses the heroic act of Dove, of Hawk and Dove, saving a small child from a building. Unfortunately, because he stopped to save the child, Dove is killed by a shadow demon and his body vanishes as if he never existed. In Salem, Massachusetts, the magical people are pouring their energies into the center of a circle where Doctor Occult and Green Lantern of Earth 2 are attempting to bring the Spectre to consciousness.
On Qward, the heroes arrive to battle the Anti-Monitor. They are surprised to find that Wally West has joined them (remember that blur that joined them just as they were transporting to the anti-matter universe? I thought you would). He speeds off in the hopes of finding Barry. He and the other heroes are met with a vision of Barry who was on his run through time during the destruction of the Anti-Monitor’s ultimate weapon. Wally takes off to find Barry, but stops when he sees Psycho Pirate tugging at Barry’s costume and pleading for him to help him get to safety. Seeing that the costume is empty, Wally is crushed by grief. He knocks out the Psycho Pirate and collects Barry’s uniform and ring where he kept it. As he comes to the final realization that Barry is indeed gone, Pariah calls out to the heroes telling them that there is a massive concentration of evil just in front of them. There, they find a massive version of the Anti-Monitor already set to destroy the heroes.
Back on Earth, Aquaman and his allies fight against the shadow demons in Atlantis. When Mera, Aquaman’s estranged wife, is trapped by about a dozen of the shadow demons, she’s rescued by Lori Lemaris. However, in doing so, Lori is killed by another shadow demon. Across the world, in different cities where the fight against the shadow demons continue – with horrible results. the Green Arrow of Earth 2, Prince Ra-Man (a mostly forgotten, but generally liked magician from DC’s Silver Age), Clayface, the Bug-Eyed Bandit, and the Ten-Eyed Man all meet their deaths. In New York, the Huntress is trapped under some rubble. Earth 2’s Robin attempts to get her out, but the shadow demons are about to strike against them. Kole swoops down and puts up a crystal dome to protect them while Robin digs out Huntress. However, this doesn’t stop the shadow demons, and they pound, break through the dome and kill all three heroes. However, the work of the mystical beings begin to work as a brilliant green light spreads out from Salem and begins capturing and encase the shadow demons into a cage and shot it out into the anti-matter universe.
Meanwhile, the heroes attack the Anti-Monitor with all they have, but the massive villain is hardly bothered by their collective attacks. They do succeed in distracting him for Harbinger, Alex, and Dr. Light to fulfill the new heroine’s purpose. Dr. Light is to absorb the black star that is giving the Anti-Monitor his power. Dr. Light begins absorbing the star’s energies and the Anti-Monitor finally begins to show signs of weakness. Alex shifts into his anti-matter form and attacks to drain the Anti-Monitor’s power. Negative Woman turns into her radioactive form and ties up the Anti-Monitor. All the heroes pour all their power into the Anti-Monitor. He finally falls, which allows Dr. Light to blast him with all the energy she siphoned from the star.
The heroes seem almost disappointed that the end of the Anti-Monitor was from such a seemingly easy plan. They don’t have much time to think on it as Alex tells them he’s got enough power to return Earth into its proper place and get everyone home, but they must hurry. Just as they are about to go through Alex’s portal, they see that the captured shadow demons are being hurled toward Qward. It turns out the shadow demons are absorbed by the Anti-Monitor giving him new life. He attacks again, and blasts Wonder Woman of Earth 1 into apparent nothingness. Earth 1’s Superman wants to handle this himself and tells everyone to get back to Earth in normal space. He’s joined by Lady Quark, but both are knocked out by Earth 2’s Superman. He tells their unconscious bodies that they have too much to live for and he’s not going to exist in a world without his love. He tells Earth-Prime Superboy to take them back to Earth.
As the remaining Superman fights the Anti-Monitor, it is revealed that the sorcerers have made good on their part. They have shifted the makeup of the shadow demons. Knowing the Anti-Monitor would eventually absorb them to gain more power, the demons are not powering him, but killing him from the inside out. Superboy-Prime flings Earth 1’s Superman and Lady Quark back into the positive universe and decides to remain behind. Unfortunately for Alex, he is not able to go into the positive universe as it is locked off from the inside. Suddenly, Alex feels something happening to him. As Alex watches what’s happening in the fight against the Anti-Monitor, he’s unaware that Darkseid is using his eyes to see the battle. Superman deals a massive blow to the Anti-Monitor but that still doesn’t stop the monster. Just as the Anti-Monitor does all he can to kill Superboy-Prime and Superman, Darkseid provides Alex with some power, that pours out of Alex’s eyes and blasts the Anti-Monitor into oblivion. The Anti-Monitor is forced into a planetoid which is then forced into a nearby star. Darkseid tells the humans to leave as today there was a need for cooperation, but the next time they meet it will be as enemies.
Being flung into a star STILL doesn’t stop the Anti-Monitor. As the monster comes for one more attack, Superman gives one last, massive punch which destroys the Anti-Monitor forever. The result of the Anti-Monitor’s destruction causes a wave of destruction that will surely kill the remaining heroes in the anti-matter universe. Superman and Superboy-Prime both wait for death. Superman wishes his Lois had lived to see their greatest victory. Alex tells Superman she was still alive. Alex had saved Lois before the universe was reborn and kept her in a paradise that existed in the pocket universe inside his own body. Superman, Lois, Superboy-Prime, and Alex enter into the pocket paradise before the anti-matter space around them is destroyed to live in everlasting peace.
In a secluded place on Earth, Lyla tells a recording that Earth 1’s Wonder Woman did not die when she was blasted by the weakened death rays of the Anti-Monitor. Instead, she was devolved from woman, to girl, to infant, to a ball of clay from which Hippolyta would mold her from. Earth 2’s Wonder Woman still lived, though, but without a world to call home. Zeus saw that an injustice had been dealt. He invited her and her Earth-born husband, Steve Trevor, to live happily on Mt. Olympus. Deaths of heroes that were suffered were memorialized – whether they were from Earth 1 or Earth 2 (Sunburst would be among the fallen in the end). However, there would be rebirths too. Jay Garrick ran tests on Wally West and discovered that when he was hit by the energies from the Anti-Monitor, it reversed the effects that was causing him to die a little each time he accessed the Speed Force. That said, Wally is now free to take up the mantle of the Flash from Barry’s sacrifice. In the new world created, there would be no Great Disaster, so now when Kamandi is found in his bunker, he would be adopted and renamed Thomas Tomorrow. Jonah Hex was transported to the future from the past to help fight a world gone mad. The split in the ranks of the Guardians of the Galaxy would be something that would be a negative and may never be resolved. Lyla decides it is her place to create a new recorded history of this merged universe that was created as a homage to her “father”, the Monitor.
In an epilogue, there is a raving madman in Arkham Asylum. This man is babbling on and on about multiple Earths that perished leaving behind a new Earth born from the survivors. This madman is Psycho Pirate who is the only one who remembers the infinite Earths. He rambles on about having a friend in the Anti-Monitor who was going to give him a world to rule and that he would much rather remember and live in the past because today is full of questions. After all, “You just never know who’s going to die… And who’s going to live.”
Well, that’s the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and what a read it was. This story ended a history with DC and created a new world to explore. It had to be a massive story and it had to deal with death, life, and the future because, in the end, the past was wiped out. The original superhero, Earth 2’s Superman was never going to be part of the new DCU. Earth 2’s Batman was already dead, and his Robin and his daughter Huntress were killed off too. Wonder Woman of Earth 2 was brought to Mt. Olympus to live out the rest of eternity as being of mythology. These were the heroes DC’s original fanbase followed with excitement and love. They were gone now, and, in their wake, comes their new fanbase who needed things to be easier to follow and stories to not need decades of continuity to understand. After all, DC’s readership was slanting to be slightly older than the children who read comics prior to the 80s, but enjoyed reading younger characters.
Crisis on Infinite Earths still stands as a radiant achievement in superhero comics. It had a massive cast of characters throughout the company’s vast history, and carried a weight in the story that had true consequences. This is something that publishers struggle with today. We’re often told things are never going to be the same after a current event, but we often see things reversed or ignored or the current event only rolls into more events that wear us out. With the upcoming event Secret Wars from Marvel having a similar feel to Crisis, I wonder if the actual fortitude is present to truly change the universe that Marvel fans read.
While Crisis was meant to make things much easier to follow and straighten out continuity, the reality was that the DC publication line following the event fumbled the opportunity to cement the new merged universe. Think back to the summer of 2011 for a moment. DC announced that their event for the year, Flashpoint, was going to be the final story of the DC Universe that existed for the previous 75+ years. Once it was over, they were going to reboot every single title and character in what would be known as The New 52. Simply put, The New 52 was a young universe of only about 5-10 years. Characters would be updated and reintroduced to a 21 Century audience. On August 31, 2011, Flashpoint #5 ended the DCU, and Justice League #1 began a new DCU. The following week, September 7th, saw a dozen new #1 issues including Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #1.
Seems simple, huh? Like it or not, DC was making a concerted effort to create a new DC Universe. While there would be some continuity issues that would raise many questions, it was made very clear that The New 52 was the DC Universe. What happened before was over. This would not be as simple for the DC Universe of early to mid 1986. Instead of forcing the resulting series that would survive into the the new, merged universe to start over with new #1 issues, there were leftovers of the old DC in the new.
Yes, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Flash would all get new series with both Superman and Wonder Woman getting updated origins, but there was no forcing of a new timeline. Therefore, the elimination of the multiverse would be a line wide edict handed down through the editors, there was no real enforcement of it right out of the gate. Ultimately, in time, the characters in DC would forget there was ever an infinite number of Earths. Lady Quark would not be from Earth 6, but from another planet that was very similar to Earth. Characters from Earth X, S, 4, and 2 would get folded into a singular timeline with Earth 1’s heroes. The crisis would be labeled the “Great Crisis” and it would later be remembered as an attack on time.
The two most affected by this realignment would be the Legion of Superheroes and Hawkman. There are several references online that go further into the problems these two series/characters would face, but here’s a quick rundown: When John Byrne rebooted Superman’s origin, he wiped out the existence of Clark’s time as Superboy. The Legion of Superheroes were not just inspired by Superboy, they actually met the lad. That no longer existed, so what would that do to them? Additionally, Kara Zor-El would no longer exist in the new Superman timeline (remember, Superman was meant to be the LAST SON of Krypton). That would explain her reintroduction in 2004 and how she was seemingly a new concept to Superman and Batman, and the rest of DC, but she had lots of adventures with the Legion. For Hawkman, this would prove to be a bigger problem. Hawkman’s “introduction” to the new DCU would not come until a few years after Crisis ended in the form of the series Hawkworld. This resulted in an extremely problematic continuity that required retcon after retcon to resolve until it was finally dropped and figured out later in subsequent events.
Speaking of the Crisis legacy, there would be several loose sequels that dealt with characters and concepts of the leftover pieces of the multiverse. There were stories that dealt with Barry Allen, Psycho Pirate’s memories of the multiverse, and even the ghost of Kara Zor-El. Even the history that Lyla comprised of the new DCU would be released as a two-part mini-series that helped people understand what was now canon and would be part of an event (Millennium).
The word “Crisis” would later be used when DC placed an emphasis on either the multiversal idea or fixes to their continuity/time line. I would consider these more of the true “sequels” to Crisis on Infinite Earths. The first would be 1994’s Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time! Later, near the end of 2005, a direct continuation of the original Crisis, in the name of Infinite Crisis, would be released and reintroduce the multiverse back into the DCU. This would be followed by 2008’s Final Crisis. That last one was billed as the final fate of the DC Multiverse Saga, but… Let’s just leave my personal opinion of that series out of this article. (But I’d count on Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis being covered in the future along with the similarly titled, but slightly less connected Identity Crisis.) Clearly, Crisis has continued to have a presence 30 years after its publication. In fact, it’s recently been stated that the New 52 DCU has yet to even have a “Crisis” of their own. I’m sure that will later be rectified.
In case you were wondering about the death toll of Crisis on Infinite Earths, here’s a total breakdown:
- Earth 3’s Crime Syndicate of America: Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring
- Earth 3’s Lex Luthor and Lois Lane-Luthor
- The Losers: Johnny Cloud, Gunner, Sarge, and Captain Storm
- Farmer Boy of Sgt. Rock’s Easy Company
- Kid Psycho
- Princess Fern
- Lord Volt
- The Monitor
- The Justice Alliance of Earth D (This occurred in 1999’s Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths)
- Earth 1’s Flash
- Earth 2’s Lex Luthor
- Psimon (later brought back)
- Shaggy Man (later brought back)
- Mirror Master
- Maaldor the Darklord
- Angle Man (later brought back)
- The Lieutenant Marvels: Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel, and Hill Billy Marvel (as mentioned earlier, this is debatable because it is only proven that this is their final appearance NOT that they were definitely dead)
- Earth 2’s Green Arrow
- Prince Ra-Man
- Clayface (Matt Hagen)
- The Bugged-Eyed Bandit (though later brought back)
- The Ten-Eyed Man
- Earth 2’s Robin and Huntress
- Starman (Prince Gavyn, but this isn’t what truly happened – he was transformed into pure energy)
- Lori Lemaris (though later brought back)
- Sunburst (later brought back)
- Earth 1’s Wonder Woman (technically devolved, not killed)
- The Anti-Monitor
- The trillions upon trillions of people who existed in the multiverse as each version was destroyed)
So that does it for this story. It’s a doozy, but if you like superheroes, even if you have less than a passing interest in the DC Universe, I strongly recommend the story. It’s well crafted and beautifully illustrated. It has real consequences and a lasting legacy. It’s the definition of “classic”. However, we must close this chapter and prepare for the next. Next week, let’s start our celebration of all things Ultron. We’ll start with the villainous robot’s first appearance in Avengers (Vol. 1) #54 and cover some of his most important stories!