Thursday, March 19, 2009

Infinite Crisis

Infinite Crisis, written by Geoff Johns with art by Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, and Jerry Ordway, was DC's big crossover event in 2005/2006 and the follow-up to one of the first superhero-universe-crossing events, the original Crisis on Infinite Earths (COIE). This review is a bit late - then again, that's true of all my TPB reviews - but, anyway, here's what I thought of the TPB collecting issues #1 to #7 of IC. Note that this does not contain any of the tie-ins.

Well, it's a crossover and, as with nearly all crossovers, you don't get the full story. Then again, in order to cover every single little nuance of IC you'd have to follow dozens of different books. Still, what you do get generally makes sense without having to read all the spin-offs (although sometimes some annotations help). Geoff Johns puts together a decent story concerning the heroes of DC's universe fighting against the three ex-heroes - Alex Luthor, Superman of Earth 2 and Superboy Prime - who went off to "heaven" at the end of the COIE.

Unfortunately, that's where the first problem starts. COIE established that the characters of Alex Luthor, Superman of Earth 2 and Superboy Prime were great heroes worthy of paradise; they saved the day at the end of COIE. Casting them as villains in this Crisis feels somewhat forced - especially considering how villainous Alex and Superboy are portrayed here. Thankfully, Earth 2 Superman is redeemed at the end, but Superboy is left as a raging, psychotic maniac and Alex is brutally killed, thus ending this character's brief life.

And that brings us to the other problem that plagues IC - the violence. There are a number of panels that depict characters having their arms ripped off or their head punched into adjacent panels. Black Adam pushes his fingers through Psycho-Pirates eyes and out the back of his head and we get to see all the bloody results. It's generally too much. As shown in some of his other books, Geoff Johns seems to have a thing for bloody violence and, certainly in DCs flagship book like IC, it's not welcome.

It's a pity Johns has such a violent streak, because other than the above two problems this is an exciting read. I enjoyed COIE when I read it in TPB form (I didn't get to read the series in 1985) and, I think, generally IC is a better read. It brings together all of DC's superheroes against a universal threat, which is always great to see and read. Being a fan of superteam books, I love seeing various heroes working together and love the super-bizarreness of huge battles and villains smashing planets together to create new ones.

This time, instead of George Perez (who pencilled COIE), Phil Jimenez provides most of the art on this series. Although, IMO, he's not as good as Perez, his line work is still very impressive. It's very fine, detailed and fun of energy and a lot is crammed onto a page. This is one time where the art would definitely benefit from being reproduced in a larger format.

Unfortunately, Jimenez does not do all the art in this TPB. A minority of the pages are provided by Ivan Reis, Jerry Ordway and the great George Pérez, all of whom are very good artists. I think they merge quite well with the other pages and there's not that much of a disconnect. Reis' style is probably the most different from Jimenez's but even there the transition is not jarring. It's probably helped by the colouring, which, although darker than I would have liked (COIE's lighter colouring was preferable), does a decent job.

Apparently some of the pages of art and dialogue have been changed in this TPB since the monthly floppies went out. Having not seen the original version, I can't really comment. If DC wants to correct any mistakes or clarify things since producing the floppies then that's fine with me - it's just a pity they didn't have the time to do it at the time.

I have the hardback version of this TPB that includes a good assortment of extras. There are the covers, of course, but also interviews with the creators, a discussion of why the changes were made, some used and unused pencil sketches and, I think, a script. So, on the extras front, this does pretty well.

Overall this is a decent story with great art. It suffers from being a company-wide crossover, which means that parts of the story are not explored within this TPB, and from moments of bloody darkness but, perhaps surprisingly, it's very enjoyable. As Andy Khouri of CBR mentioned, "The last time I had this much fun reading comics was when I was twelve years old... I love Crisis On Infinite Earths and this sequel was exactly what I wanted". I agree.

Grade: Very Fine.

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