Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Phil Jiminez
Publisher: DC Comics

Normally, comic book mega events leave me dissatisfied – more exercises in marketing (no, I haven’t forgiven Marvel for Secret Wars II) than triumphs of story-telling. The comic book companies knew they had burned out their readership with endless useless tie-ins and sprawling storylines. So naturally, Infinite Crisis was approached with skepticism (as well as my inner fanboy longing that it actually be a comic and story worth investing in).

The build up for Infinite Crisis began a decade ago in Crisis on Infinite Earths. For the uninitiated, the DC universe likes to have the occasional comic book even that serves as a sort of reset for their characters and as a springboard for new ideas, characters, and situations. Crisis on Infinite Earths. Zero Hour. Kingdom. The DC universe was a confusing multiverse caused by one man’s actions “and his blasphemous actions corrupted the innate nature of the cosmos.” During Crisis on Infinite Earths, the universes were merged into one, consolidating the histories of the characters and their various incarnations.

While Infinite Crisis is a sequel of sorts to Crisis on Infinite Earths, it also springs from some of the events and revelations from Identity Crisis. How big an event is Infinite Crisis? To fully appreciate the build up for Infinite Crisis, one might want to pick up Prelude to Infinite Crisis. The story then picks up in earnest with Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Day of Vengeance (a story involving the mystical characters of the DC universe, because the grand story works on a physical and metaphysical level), Villains United (a close second place finish in the race of the best of these minis-series – half character study and a behind the scenes look at the community of villains), Rann-Thanagar War (a mess of a series that requires knowledge of the various alien races and agendas of the DC universe that was hard to keep together), and The O.M.A.C. Project (the most gripping and most directly relevant of the various mini-series, about the spying satellite project designed by Batman corrupted for an attempt to wipe out all metahumans).

All the major comic books of the DC Universe tie into or draw from Infinite Crisis. I can’t begin to comprehend the amount of effort it takes to coordinate something on this scale. Geoff Johns proves himself a master of story-telling and dialogue (DC’s answer to Brian Michael Bendis). Phil Jiminez’s George Perez-inspired brand of detailed artwork must make it tough to squeeze in dialogue for fear of crowding out the pretty pictures. All of this makes for a project that takes on the power of myth making, a story for the ages.

Wonder Woman: Look at what’s going on across the globe, Bruce. Do you really believe humanity’s going to rise above it themselves?
Batman: You’ve lost faith.
Wonder Woman: The world is not as black and white as you and Kal see it.
Batman: Diana … you should’ve stayed in paradise.
Wonder Woman: And you should stop judging everyone but yourself. You’ve lost your way.
Superman: And you’ve lost yours.

Even the pillars of the super hero pantheon have trouble working together at this point. Batman, the pinnacle of human achievement, the self-made man, realizes his limitations. His way doesn’t offer hope of something greater than himself. An Ideal, a greater Reality. Superman seems to have forgotten his role, not just as a hero, a hero’s hero, but as inspiration. Wonder Woman, the warrior princess, had come to see the failure of her mission of ambassador of peace. People had forgotten the warrior side of her persona. In addition to being royalty from a warrior culture (Amazons), this daughter of Greek myth played by a different set of rules. People were reminded as footage of her killing the man behind the corruption of the O.M.A.C. Project had been broadcast around the world. Making people afraid of their heroes.

Mining territory similarly explored in John Byrne’s Legends, Infinite Crisis explores a simple premise: what happens when our icons fail us? It leads to a crisis of faith. The God-sized hole that Augustine speaks of that resides in all of us is an infinite crisis. Even the pillars of the super hero community must endure this dark night of the soul.

“This is what the world does to legends. It corrupts them. Or it destroys them.” –Superman.

Many people have commented on how the deconstruction of the idea of the hero has led to a dark age in comics. An idea that Alan Moore explored in Image Comics’ Judgment Day, how writers have often confused dark and gritty for gritty’s sake (to create the semblance of modern day sensibilities and relevance) with genuine story telling. Now DC is holding a mirror up to its stories. The bad guys seem more brutal; the heroes less heroic and more vengeful. The violence has been upped a few notches. With so many characters dying in Infinite Crisis, it’s hard for any to have much emotional resonance (even in a world where “dead” doesn’t mean … dead).

Part commentary on the dark turn that the DC Universe (and comics in general) have taken, Infinite Crisis appears to be saying enough is enough: heroes should act heroic. Often there is a lament for the world of the classic (more heroic? more innocent?) heroes, fearing that it is forever gone. This is a new world (darker? postmodern?) in which the heroes have to figure out how to operate. The characters sense that things aren’t as they should be, that creation, the world around them and the people that inhabit it, aren’t as they should be. That they were created to be something else, yet somewhere along the line, things had gone awry. The problem was that darkness (what some might label sin) entered the world. It spread, warping people’s lives. It took Superman’s blood before redemption of creation can be found. In many ways, Infinite Crisis is a quest for new heavens and a new earth.

Infinite Crisis is as self-contained a story as Identity Crisis, meaning that the bait and switch feeling you may be experiencing is because this story is also part of an larger on-going story setting up the next big event, 52. Still, it is full of great comic book moments (Nightwing/Batman, the Flashes, Sup
erman, Luthor) and new characters developing (the Spectre, Blue Beetle). Is this a reflection of society? Maybe. Is the idealism of the past laudable, however simpler times are long dead? Maybe. Do dark times require dark heroes? Maybe. Or … do we not have to accept any of that? Hopefully. The heroes want to bring back joy to humanity. To super hero adventures. To comic book stories.

And I can’t wait.

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