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Blog: Crisis On Infinite Earths

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Last week I went to the UAL library to get some BOOKS. Nothing strange about that, you might think, but this time I was getting some GRAPHIC NOVELS. Again, bearing in mind that I'm doing a PhD about COMICS this might appear fairly straightforward, but actually I had until that point taken NO graphic novels/collected comics out of the library. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited so don't usually need Actual Physical Printed Comics, but this time I was after (YIKES) non-Marvel product - at the conference in Dundee someone had recommended "Hellboy" for representations of Eastern Europe in US mainstream comics, and several people had mentioned Alison Bechdel's "Fun House" which I hadn't read and thought I ought.

I got both these books out but have as yet read NEITHER of them as something MUCH more exciting caught my eye - the collected edition of DC Comics' "Crisis On Infinite Earths"! I have mentioned this myself in VARIOUS presentations as one of the possible endpoints for The Bronze Age so thought I should have another look at it, as I've not read it for at LEAST fifteen years, since I sold my original comics collection. Also, it looked really cool and I fancied something a bit FUN.

I have been TRYING for the past year to read "Secret Wars", which is the Marvel Comics equivalent of the above, but have been constantly thwarted by the fact that it is BLOODY AWFUL, so I was half-expecting Crisis to be much the same. Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out to be GRATE! It's exciting, intriguing, full of ideas, MOVING, and also looks GRATE! It does share some of the same problems as "Secret Wars" does, but I think those are problems shared by MOST comics from back then. The most obvious thing is that all the characters keep introducing themselves ALL THE TIME and addressing everybody by their full titles e.g. "Hey Captain Comet, how are you getting on in your battle with The Monitor's Shadow Demons?" "All right thank you, Shade The Changing Man - I knew being a mutant born 10,000 years before his time would come in handy!" NB this is not me joking, this is how they talk.

They are also CONSTANTLY describing things that are happening to them ("Oh no, this building! It is falling down and I am trapped in it!") and explain everything to THEMSELVES in thought bubbles. I know that much of this is a hangover from newsstand distribution (any comic could be someone's first, so all characters must be named) but the description of events gets a bit tiring. "I know the building is falling down, Kid Flash, I can see it doing so there in the picture!"

With all that said it is still a RIGHT riveting read, and a LOT happens. Flipping heck, when you're used to today's decompressed comics (and compared to Crisis, ALL comics are decompressed) with splash pages galore, duplicated images and a four panels per page norm, it comes as a bit of a shock to find page after page with TWENTY tiny little panels, all PACKED with dialogue, corner boxes, thought bubbles and CONSTANT ACTION. Each issue takes FOREVER to read through, and you certainly feel you've got your money's worth when you've done so!

Two things REALLY surprised me about it, that I don't remember from previous readings. Firstly, it's rather MOVING, especially when (SPOILERS) Supergirl dies. I got quite worked up at that bit, and there's a real heartfelt sadness to lots of sections. We think we're all modern and characterful with today's comics, but the Bronze Age stuff can still pack a punch!

Secondly, it didn't work out AT ALL like I thought it did. I'd forgotten all about the various twists and turns, the different ways that the Multiverse got moved around, and also that, really, it is "Crisis On Five Earths" rather than infinite ones. MOST OF ALL though I was astonished to get to the end and find that, according to this series at least, loads of the superheroes remembered exactly what happened, with most of the leftover Earth-2 types just getting conveniently killed in a final battle. Eh? Wot? I distinctly remember John Byrne's "Man Of Steel" being a complete reboot going RIGHT back to the start in a modern setting, what happened there then?

Alas I may have to force myself NOT to find out - I've got the flipping Marvel Multiverse to worry about, I don't need to get involved with another one!

posted 13/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett

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