Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Infinite Crisis #7 – review and summary

This is it! It all ends here. No Jim Lee alternate cover here – just a beautiful classic Perez cover, with as many villains and heroes on it as possible, fighting on the fallen symbol of the Daily Planet. (As an aside, the downloadable desktop of the cover from has a couple of significant coloring errors – Sinestro’s energy shield is purple rather than yellow (a main point of the character is that his ring takes advantage of the Green Lantern's rings weakness against the color yellow), and Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick is punching out someone with the normal Flash colors, rather than Zoom, who wears the reverse. It also cuts off my favorite part of the scene – Hourman punching out Deathstroke right in the bottom right.)

I will also take the time here to mention that I didn’t review (by choice – I think that while they enrich your enjoyment of the series they are not necessary for it) any of the tie-ins, even those spawned from the lead-up series. The Villains United tie-in sets up this giant battle, and does it well. I haven’t been shy about singing the praises of Gail Simone on this blog. I will continue not to be shy about doing so. She does great characterization, and knows how to write super heroes as well as anyone writing today for my money.

On to the issue at hand.

The scene starts right where last issue let off. Only now, they are talking. It starts off with Clark saying that Superboy’s death “is our fault. That should have been us.” Wonder Woman says “I’m sorry, Clark.” (I’m not sure if Cassie or Nightwing are supposed to know Superman’s identity. At this moment, no one cares.) He answers, “Sorry isn’t going to help Superboy. We should have been here.” Batman speaks up, again, not to harp on this endlessly, but notice the lack of recriminations. Notice the tacit acceptance of his own error in here: “Never again. It never happens again. We learn from it. We learn from them.” Batman is admitting that the Titans “got it” better than he and the rest of the league. You never turn your back on your friends. The remaining characters from the tower show up, and Kal-L tells Power Girl that Lois (from Earth-2) is dead. Kal-L is now in narrator mode, and explains how misguided he was. As Superman pays his respects to the fallen Superboy, and then as Robin arrives, seeing what might be his best friend lying there, lifeless, and can only cry and collapse over him, distraught, Kal-L narrates: “I thought their Superboy was unworthy of the symbol I built. But I picked the wrong one to condone. And the wrong one to condemn.”

Hal then summarizes the whole of the aforementioned Villains United crossover in one panel. The villains have cracked open every metahuman containment facility on the planet, and are attacking Metropolis. “They say if Superman’s city falls, the others will follow.” In the Villains United tie-in, we find that Oracle has been organizing the heroes not directly involved in the tower battle to try to stop this, with only limited success. But they did manage to contain Arkham Asylum, and a couple of others.

There follows a two-page spread of the battle for Metropolis. The art is excellent as far as it goes, but it seems very… static. While the state of some characters such as Aquaman seems to show that the battle has already been joined, the image seems to be mostly about people posing. As much as I like the look of the art, there isn’t enough action in it to portray the chaos of the battle for Metropolis.

We then step into vignettes of the battle.

First, we see Bane breaking Judomaster’s back. I was disappointed with this. Judomaster is often thought of as being right up there with Lady Shiva and Richard Dragon as a potential for the best martial artist in DC, and Bane, who has been out of action for a while, without his venom harness (the drug he used in his early appearances to give him increased strength, resistance to pain and savagery) he really shouldn’t be able to hang with Judomaster, despite the lame name.

Next, Prometheus is blowing a hole in Peacemaker’s chest. (Peacemaker – his tagline was “he loved peace so much, he would fight for it.”) The greatest significance to this is that Judomaster and Peacemaker were two characters brought over when DC bought Charlton Comics, as was Blue Beetle. These two scenes so close together, and coupled with the death of Blue Beetle in the countdown, and the lack of Captain Atom in the mainstream DC Universe, (he has been over in the universe of the Authority, et al. in his Captain Atom: Armageddon series) caused many fans to wonder if DC was trying to purge their stables of Charlton characters. However, Nightshade has figured prominently in Infinite Crisis, and is a member of the Shadowpact going forward, and the Question is to be featured prominently in 52, the story of the year after the Infinite Crisis if the previews are to be believed, both of whom also came over from Charlton.

The next panel has Wild Dog, a little-remembered character from the late 80’s in his own short-lived series, and occasional feature in Action Comics Weekly, The Vigilante (not the motorcycle-riding cowboy from the Seven Soldiers of Victory, but the gun-wielding one) and someone whose identity I am not sure of (it has been identified as the current Crimson Avenger, but that doesn’t seem right to me – the speech pattern is wrong, and I think that is a headband and not a blindfold the character is wearing) raining bullets down on the Trigger Twins, a couple of Batman Family enemies, and the Madmen, old Blue Beetle enemies, among others.

Next, we see Killer Croc and Hourman going at it, and Shining Knight beating down the Riddler. (Both of whom, incidentally, were specifically shown in the Villains United tie-in not getting away… oops! Hard to forget because the artist of Villains United broke from the accepted appearance of Croc enough to make me wonder if I had missed a further mutation, and because of a great interaction between Huntress and Riddler when he was caught. Huntress from behind the Riddler, whose accepted identity is Edward Nigma (E.Nigma… yeah, I know): “Riddle me this, Nigma. What’s got a bad mustache and doesn’t breathe?” Riddler: “Me, if I move?” Huntress: “You, if you move.” Did I mention that I love Gail Simone’s writing? ‘Cause I do.)

Next, we see Black Adam in full-on bad ass mode. He tears the head off of Amazo. Yeah, he tears the head off of the android that has all the powers of one of the most powerful incarnations of the JLA. (Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern at least… do you really need any more?)

The Bloodpack (a bunch of characters who got their powers when DC created a series of annuals called “Bloodlines,” these characters got powers when aliens tried to feed on them. The only one who went on to significance in the DC Universe was Hitman) take on Solomon Grundy, only to be incinerated with him by a blast from “off-screen” while a voice says “I still can’t tell the heroes from the villains.” It’s Superboy-Prime. He survived the battle with Superboy, seemingly not significantly the worse for wear. He reveals that Alex Luthor’s new plan (he says it with quotes, obviously not thinking much of it) is to use the Society to take this earth and make it perfect rather than replace it.

As they talk, we see a foot that can only belong to one character – Doomsday. Meanwhile, while Alex and Superboy discuss the fact that this isn’t Earth-1 but a new earth, with changes (Wonder Woman is again a founding member of the Justice League, Batman’s parents killer has been caught, but he still fights for justice, and there are rumored appearances of Superman before his first public appearance, just for starters) from the established continuity, Superboy-Prime kills Major Disaster (shame – I liked his redemption arc) Baron Blitzkrieg (no real loss – most Nazi villains are not really that pertinent any more – certainly no need for Blitzkrieg and Captain Nazi running around in the modern day) and Charaxes (Killer Moth of old, evolved into a true insect form by the devil Neron in the Underworld Unleashed crossover).

Doomsday bears down on Arsenal and Green Arrow, tossing Aztec and someone in a suit aside. In comes the cavalry. Both Supermen swoop down and lay in to Doomsday. Doomsday lands a punch on Kal-El, but Kal-L blocks its attempt to hit him, snapping one of its bone protrusions. He then knees it in the face, and both Supermen hit it together to knock it out. In the eyes of watching heroes, you can see the tide of battle turning. Kal-El speaks up. “They murdered Superboy. And now they say they are going to take my city. Then they’re going to take the earth. I say… Like hell.” The last is in its own panel, and shows Superman leading a charge of himself, Kal-L, the Ray, Power Girl, Martian Manhunter, Stargirl, Raven, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Green Lantern John Stewart, Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman, Robin, Aquaman, Batman, and Nightwing. They are charging right over Doomsday’s prone body. The two Supermen drop Bizarro. The Batman family (Batman, Nightwing and Robin) take on Deathstroke. Hal drops Sinestro while John Stewart gets his back. The newer, heroic, female Dr. Light teams with The Ray and Black Canary to drop Dr. Light while the Martian Manhunter looks on. Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl take care of the Cheetah. The JSA take on Zoom, as Wildcat begins to remember Kal-L, but Power Girl’s affirmation of his feeling is interrupted by a blast from Alex Luthor. He wants to destroy her as he feels that she should have been in the first place.

Kal-L intervenes and confronts Alex, asking how he could do this, how he could use Lois’ death, Lois, who was like a mother to him, to manipulate Kal-L and Superboy-Prime, as well as Power Girl. Alex shows just how far gone he is with his reply: “Because I… am like my father was. The only hero in a world full of villains.” In his twisted frame of reference, all of the others, even the Supermen, are villains. Their conversation is interrupted by a blast from Superboy Prime, which destroys one of Alex’s machines. His “world view” which was calculating the Society’s war plans. Grabbing Wonder Girl, who is unconscious (undoubtedly at his hand) Prime says, “I told you, I don’t want this earth. I don’t want anything that impostor had.” At this point, he is jumped by a blur, who punches him repeatedly at super-speed. The blur says “You killed Conner. You killed my friend. Still got Flash phobia?” It’s Bart, formerly Impulse, formerly Kid Flash, now fully grown and in Barry’s Flash uniform. It’s apparent that Prime is still afraid of the Flash. Superboy-Prime’s fear feeds his anger. He decides he will fly through Oa (once again at the center of the universe with Alex’s tower and rift gone) at light speed and recreate the Big Bang, with only him to survive. Yep. The “hero” is going to destroy the entire Universe, so he can be the only hero.

Martian Manhunter broadcasts his plan to all who the heroes and those who can fly are off in pursuit. Prime stops to blast Zauriel, trying to kill an angel. He blasts Breach, Earth-8’s Captain Atom, who has been standing in on this earth while Atom was elsewhere, as explained earlier. Breach’s shell is ruptured, and he explodes, with Looker and Technocrat of the Outsiders (formerly, anyway) right near him. It is unclear if either of them survived the blast. In the void left by Breach’s explosion, the real Captain Atom returns. (Take that, Charlton nay sayers!) Kal-L uses these delays to get a hand on Prime’s ankle, and tries to reason with Prime. He’ll have none of it. He is beyond reason. He outdistances the other heroes heading to Oa.

Still on Earth, Batman, Nightwing and Robin are done taking out Deathstroke. Alex blasts Nightwing, furious because the destruction of his tower has “doomed this earth.” Nightwing falls, in a significant pool of blood. While Alex complains because his power is waning, Robin goes to help Nightwing. An enraged Batman says to Alex, “No one else dies. Not because of you!” As he says that, the General (General Wade Eiling, control freak from the U.S. Air force, responsible for the creation of Captain Atom and Major Force, since transferred from his own body into that of the Shaggy Man, a Silver Age JLA opponent who is indestructible, super strong, and was mostly mindless. Eiling shaves the body, so he is no longer Shaggy, but his “end justifies the means” mentality combined with the powers of the body he is in (and a healthy dose of instability) make him a JLA-class threat) lands in their midst, scattering Batman, Deathstroke and Alex.

Superboy is congratulating himself on outdistancing the other heroes, only to run into a solid wall of green. He flies through it, but we get the narration from Guy Gardner, “Three-hundred-mile-thick wall of pure damn willpower slowed him down. Thin Green Line will stop him cold.” Thin Green Line here refers to the Green Lantern Corps, all of whom are on Superboy-Prime. Prime counterattacks, killing Lanterns. On this page, an excellent device is used: as the lanterns die, their rings call out the death of their wielders, and the beginning of their search for new wielders. Prime gets his hands on Guy, and is going to kill him, face to face, only to have the other heroes arrive, and Hal frees Guy from Prime’s grip. The Supermen both grab Prime, while Martian Manhunter holds Power Girl back.

Back on earth, Alex is telling Batman that they are not so different. Mostly, their differences are only a matter of scale and of willingness to take shortcuts. Interspersed with this, we see an image of the battered Nightwing, lying in a pool of his own blood, and an image of Robin, crying again. Batman’s response to Alex? Actions speak louder than words, and he clocks him. Alex is down, and Batman picks up one of Deathstroke’s guns. “I know what Superman is going through.” (Remember, even though Jason Todd is now back, he did die at the hands of the Joker, before Superboy-Prime’s reality-altering beating on the walls of his “heaven.” “He doesn’t deserve that. Superboy didn’t deserve that. What do you deserve?” Alex is bleeding from the nose and mouth, and has a gun pointed right between his eyes at point blank range. Batman does something with the gun that makes a “chak” noise (I choose to believe he is turning the safety off, as nothing else really makes sense with an automatic) and we hear a voice. “Bruce.” It’s Wonder Woman. She walks towards Batman and Alex, the desire to kill evident in Batman’s face, and she draws her sword. Alex, who was watching as Superman stopped her from killing Mongul in the first issue of the series knows there is no Superman to stop her now, and Batman doesn’t seem inclined to even try. She brings the sword down, and breaks it on the ground. She tells Batman that it isn’t worth it. Alex is looking like it is a good thing that he is wearing those high-tech jimmies of his or there might be a wet spot. Batman says, “I know. Dammit.” And throws the gun over to lie with the broken sword. Alex regains his confidence and says that this doesn’t change anything or make Wonder Woman better. Then a building falls on him. Batman and Wonder Woman are not sure if he got away or not.

Back in space, Superboy is taunting the Supermen, saying that they cannot do anything about him. They can’t send him back into the speed force, as they aren’t fast enough, so where are they taking him. He throws punches, as the two Supermen silently carry him to their destination. They take him to where Krypton exploded, but this Kryptonite has no effect on Prime or on Kal-L. The kryptonite of each of their realities is different enough that they are each immune to the other’s kryptonite. Prime laughs. “Did you think these rocks would stop me? HAHAHAHA! Did you really?” Then he realizes the real plan, as the grimly determined Supermen push him through the red sun. Kal-El works like a solar battery. He stores power from a yellow sun to power his abilities. Superboy-Prime works like pre-crisis Superman, where he is immediately weaker in the presence of a red sun. That is why he built his harness, to channel him yellow sun radiation even when not in its presence.

The three supermen come out the other side and crash on Mogo, the Green Lantern that is also a planet. Prime begins to try to fry Kal-L to death with his heat vision. It is working, until his heat vision fizzles. In response to Prime’s question of “what’s happening,” Kal-L replies, “You’re losing.” And clocks him. Prime lands, face bloodied and realizes that the trip through the sun destroyed his harness. He retains enough power to beat Kal-L to a bloody pulp. Kal-El intervenes, and he and Superboy start going at it. Unfortunately for Kal-El, some of the fragments of Krypton have also landed here, and Superboy-Prime uses that against him. As he tries to choke the life out of Superman, he says “When you’re gone… I will be Superman!” Kal-El replies by tearing the S-shield off of Prime’s chest, and, while laying down a beating on the red-sun-weakened Prime, and resisting the pain of the Kryptonite himself, says that being Superman isn’t about where you are from, or what powers you have, “It’s about what you do… it’s about action.” Superboy-Prime is out. Superman then succumbs to the kryptonite himself. As he lies there, the other heroes arrive and destroy the kryptonite. All the Green Lanterns left create a prison for Prime.

Power Girl rushes to Kal-L. He tells her that he finally understands what Lois was trying to tell him. That Power Girl will never be without him and Lois. Even if she can’t see them. And Kal-L, the first Superman, dies, holding the girl he loved like a daughter’s hand, with the true love of his life’s name on his lips.

From here, we go into a kind of epilogue mode. We see heroes helping to recover from the events of the crisis; we see Power Girl and Wonder Girl at the graves of Kal-L, Lois and Conner. Bart gives the Flash costume to Jay Garrick, explaining that he had some residue of the speed force in him, but that he is no longer fast. Jay says that he is still fast, as with him, it was a metagene, and not just the Speed Force that powered him, but he now tops out around the speed of sound. But these days he is still, the Fastest Man Alive.

In Gotham City, Alex Luthor has indeed survived. He is already working on a new plan. Then, he hears laughter. He turns, and is sprayed in the face with acid, from a flower on a purple lapel. He looks up, to see a rather frightening-looking joy buzzer descending on him. This is shoved into the eye on the side that has been corroded of his face, by the acid-squiring flower. The Joker laughs as he tortures Alex Luthor. Alex tries to crawl away, begging for help, and his had touches a rather fine shoe. It’s Lex. “Oh, Alex. You made a lot of mistakes. You underestimated Superman. Superboy. Me. But the biggest one?” Alex begs for his life as he sees the Joker pulling out a rather large gun, and leveling it at his head, much like Batman had, “You didn’t let the Joker play.” Viewed from a distance, we hear a BLAM! And the Joker’s maniacal laughter. Lex smirks downward and asks “now who’s stupid?”

We then see the trinity, in their civilian identities. Diana is off to be human for a while. Clark is lacking his powers, after the red sun and kryptonite incident, but seems confident they will be back and Bruce is heading on a world tour to retrace the steps he took to become Batman, rebuilding him, but this time with a difference. Dick and Tim, Nightwing and Robin are going along. Like a family. The three part as friends, renewing their vow to stand together when the world needs them. And thus begins two things: the One Year Later series of comics, where all of DC’s regular titles jump right after this comic, and the 52 maxi-series. An issue a week describing what happens between the end of this comic and the beginning of One Year Later. 52’s tag line is “a world without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but not a world without heroes.”

The next two page spread shows the heroes who will be populating that world, and there are some interesting things to be seen. A new Batwoman, someone wearing the Barry Allen flash suit, but no sight of Jay in his trademark helmet, the Atom, who hasn’t been seen since Identity Crisis, a much-changed Marvel Family, an new Uncle Sam, or at least a new look for him, a new Phantom Lady, an OMAC, a new Black Condor, a change of costume for the Ray and for Robin, as well as the Martian Manhunter. It should be an interesting year.

Meanwhile, on Oa, at the center of the universe, Superboy-Prime is in prison, surrounded by a miniature red-sun eater, and encased in an emerald prison, with fifty Green Lanterns watching him at all times. Prime has carved the Superman symbol into his own chest, and says “I’ve been in worse places than this. And I’ve gotten out.”

And thus ends Infinite Crisis.

Overall, I thought it was a good ride. I am disappointed with this as the final legacy of the first Superman. In this series, he was the villain for an issue (or so it seemed) and misled for several, then did nothing outstanding save for show Doomsday who’s boss. His death was… unimpressive. He took as ass whupping from Superboy-Prime, apparently just to give Kal-El time to recover, and to let Prime wear his power levels down on him a bit. It strikes me that if this is what they brought him back for, they should have left him in is Post-Crisis state, when he was willing to sacrifice everything to save the universe, and was rewarded with eternal happiness with Lois.

I would’ve liked much more to have seen Prime still powerful enough to slap Kal-El around, only to be dragged through the red sun again by a nearly-dead Kal-L. This action drains still more of Prime’s power, without his harness, and leaves Kal-L in a state to do his death scene which I thought was handled well. The weakened Prime is then beaten to unconsciousness by Kal-El, and the story continues as it did. I like the tone of willing sacrifice for the greater good that Kal-L’s first disappearance had, and would have like this one to have this more explicit in it. I also fervently hope not to ever see Prime again, the ending aside.

I really enjoyed the interaction between the Big Three in their civilian identities, and the idea of Bruce Wayne taking Dick Grayson and Tim Drake on a trip that is part vacation/part re-centering trip.

Next- my reasons for thinking that Dick Grayson wasn’t going to survive the Crisis originally, and my opinion on the series as a whole, and it’s effect on the DC Universe.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Infinite Crisis #6 – Review and Summary

Okay, the penultimate chapter. I bought the issue with the Jim Lee Cover. This surprises me, as I am a life-long Perez fan, but while Perez’ cover was very reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the image of Superboy-Prime in his Anti-Monitor armor, and holding Wonder Girl’s lasso (I think you can tell by the energy coursing off of it), standing over a batarang, Wonder Woman’s Tiara, a GL Lantern (all looking like they had seen better days), and with Superboy’s T-shirt flowing in tatters in the background – well, Lee hit a home run with this one.

The comic starts with Batman’s (and Booster’s?) team in space in the Bug. The fearlessness, and confidence of Hal Jordan is the first thing we see. They are off to confront this world-beating satellite, and he is whistling “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” When Green Arrow asks him about it, he explains that he is just looking forward to the start of the season next week, because Guy Gardner has tickets on the dugout. There is no doubt in Hal’s mind that the heroes will emerge victorious.

We also see another couple of developments. John Stewarts GL ring seems to be afraid of the Blue Beetle. This is an interesting development, but the new Blue Beetle changes the subject, only to be condescended to by Booster. Batman’s response? “Booster. You have no idea how to talk to kids.” This from the man who until recently was known far and wide as “Batdick.” The efforts to make Batman more human seem to be going well. Even when Jaime starts to falter as the new Blue Beetle, complaining of the strain of looking for something invisible, Batman chooses supportive rather than intimidating: “I know it’s difficult, but if Booster’s right, you’re the only one who can help us.” This is not the same character who told Superman that his most inspiring act was dying, clearly. The events of the series so far have started to have an effect on Batman. Little things like this are easily lost in the scope of an event like Infinite Crisis, so I am glad that Geoff Johns has spent the extra time making sure that we see the change in Batman, rather than just having him be more human come “One Year Later.”

The Blue Beetle is able to cause Brother Eye to become visible, and it and Batman, its creator have a chat, which ends with the Bug coming under attack by the OMACs.

Scene change to the two Supermen. They bond over one of the most powerful things they have in common – a love for Lois Lane. Wonder Woman shows up and talks to them, passing along what she learned in the previous issue from Diana Prince – that everyone makes mistakes, and all they can do is learn from them. When Kal-L asks, “How can you still have faith in your earth?” Kal-El gives him an answer: “because they still have faith in us.” Kal-L immediately goes to work with Kal-El and Wonder Woman to fix what he has helped Alex Luthor wreak. The next two pages have some views of other earths, showing the residents of several worlds have been shunted back to those worlds, while still others are shown for what I believe is the first time. We see the Marvel Family on Earth-S, the “Tangent Comics” (a re-imagining of heroes with the same names as DC standbys by various creators) characters on Earth-97 (The year Tangent was first released – some books came out in ’98 as well), Earth-247 featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, Earth-898 where DC’s Western heroes play out, Earth-0, which seems to be Bizarro-world, and Earth-154 which seems to be the earth of the Super Sons from an old story arc in World’s Finest, I believe, and Earth-462 which seems to be in World War 2 with close analogues of members of the All-Star Squadron fighting Nazis, including Baron Blitzkrieg and Captain Nazi. Alex grabs these last two earths, and smashes them together to see what kind of world he gets. There is a bit of a joke here – Marvel has defined its prime earth as Earth-616. The sum of the two earths crammed together? 616. The result of putting those two worlds together is an Aztec Batman family (plus Wonder Woman) against an Aztec Superman family. Or maybe one, or both, are Toltec or Inca. I am not up to date on my Native American Headdresses enough to know for sure. Regardless, Lex isn’t happy with this world, and destroys it. Again, Psycho-Pirate points out that he feels something like millions of voices, crying out at… no wait… I mean he feels people “being reborn in pain, and given essence - then destroyed. Billions at a time.” Alex, as usual, feels nothing for these losses, seeing them only as part of a grand experiment.

All of the magic characters get together to try and help – it was key in the first Crisis to have them. Spectre wrestled the Anti-Monitor at the beginning of time back then. Now, they are going to summon the Spectre again. My personal favorite mage-type, Faust, the son of Felix Faust and one-time member of the Outsiders points out this is a bad idea, and is mocked for it. Zatanna speaks her magic, and the Spectre appears, still inside Crispin Allen, the GCPD detective who was killed by Jim Corrigan. Spectre bursts out of Allen, and looms over the gathering. The Phantom Stranger, he of the uncertain origin and unclear level of power goes to talk to the Spectre, calling him “old friend.” The Spectre ignores him, passes judgment on the murderous Star Sapphire, turns her into glass, shatters her with explosive authority, and leaves. Faust, adjusting his ever-present shades: “Told you.”

Back to the tower that Alex built. Wonder Girl, the love of Superboy’s life joins Superboy and Nightwing to help take down the tower. Alex is distracting and frustrated, sifting Earths. Psycho Pirate is busy perving on Power Girl, planning to “remind” Alex that he was promised her. Psycho Pirate is a fascinating character, at once amazingly powerful, as most everyone has emotions he can manipulate, but at the same time, crazy enough to be non-functional most of the time. As Superboy decks the Psycho-Pirate, the OMACs leap to defense of the tower.

Batman’s team begins their assault on Brother Eye. Blue Beetle comments that Hal is insane, to which Metamorpho says, “You don’t know the half of it, kid.” This is a recurring theme for many who feel that Hal being “fearless” is not an admirable attribute. It was touched on earlier in the story, and raised again here. Many writers and readers defended Kyle Rainer when he replaced a fallen Hal Jordan by pointing out that his heroism was more pure because he did feel fear, and had to overcome it. Be that as it may, Hal’s brash confidence is fun to read, and here he surfs the Bug through a mass of Brother Eye’s defenses, shielding the bug in front, as he goes.

The Bug breaches Brother Eye, and Batman sends his team off on their jobs. Green Arrow asks why Batman had called him, and Batman answers, “Just to see if you’d show.” Green Arrow tried to kill Batman in the last story arc of the recently-deceased JLA comic, spurred on by Envy of the Seven Deadly Sins. Batman and Green Arrow were the centers of the conflict as to whether or not the League should exist even after all that had happened. This may be as close as Batman gets to conceding that a League is necessary.

There is some interesting commentary between Mr. Terrific and Black Lightning about their names, and Mr. Terrific reveals the most compelling reason he is here – he is invisible to machines. While the others do what they have to, including Black Lightning fighting off Brother Eye’s attacks, Mr. Terrific heads to the machine’s core.

Back to the tower, and Earth-2 and Donna Troy’s spaceketeers. Wonder Girl and Superboy are trying to free the Martian Manhunter from the tower, while Alex reaches to combine his own earth and Earth-2, where both Supermen and Wonder Woman currently are. As we have already seen, such a combination results in a new world, not necessarily containing the same beings as on either of the source planets. Donna realizes why she put this team together – to prevent the death of Superman and Wonder Woman (and the other Superman). Alex is trying to fuse Kal-L with the Lex Luthor of Earth-3. Earth-3 is where the Crime Syndicate is from. An evil version of the Justice League, their chief opponent was Lex Luthor, the greatest (and only remaining) hero of that Earth. As the two of them merge, Kal-El merges with Ultraman, the evil version of himself, and Wonder Woman with Superwoman, her own doppelganger. As Alex focuses on this, we see Nightwing climbing the tower, ever closer to him. Firestorm, on the advice of Professor Stein, figures out how to hurt Alex’s giant hands, which are smashing the planets together, and blows off one of his fingers. This injury is real – Alex is missing a finger. The resultant feedback causes many of the heroes at the center of the universe to disappear.

Back at the tower, Alex has lost it. He intends to destroy Earth-2 in revenge for the loss of his finger. No longer concerned about creating the perfect earth, Alex has moved beyond “the end justifies the means” into “batshit crazy.” So, Nightwing kicks him in the face. As he looks up, the heroes who were in the tower have been freed. Power Girl leads the assault. Wonder Girl is unsure if they should free Black Adam, but Superboy insists. Alex falters under the assault, but he fights back. Psycho Pirate approaches Power Girl, intending to make her so angry that she will kill the Ray. He is interrupted by Black Adam. As he tries to manipulate Black Adam, Adam pokes his fingers through the eyeholes in the Medusa Mask that the Pirate wears. He then, saying “No more silly faces,” shoves the mask through Psycho-Pirate’s head, fingers first. The Ray and Power Girl are both taken aback, and Power Girl asks him if his actions were necessary. A blood-spattered Adam responds, “Absolutely.”

Nightwing, Superboy and Wonder Girl look to figure out how to shut down the tower. And they are interrupted. Superboy-Prime flies by, hitting Power Girl, Ray and Adam. Adam goes to lay a beat-down on Prime. The magic that gives Adam his power is causing him pain, ostensibly due to the death of the wizard. He continues to lay his beat down anyway. Superboy-Prime shrugs it off, and knocks Adam flying. He flies too far from the tower, and is transported to Earth-S. Superboy-Prime is freaked out because being away from the tower doesn’t send him back to Earth-Prime. Alex hypothesizes that he has changed in the core of his being. He gets in Alex’s face and informs him that the perfect earth will be the one Superboy is from… Earth Prime. Alex doesn’t look like he likes being told what to do, but his snappy “Your life means nothing to me… I am like un to a god,” reply is lost, as the Martian Manhunter shows Superboy-Prime what happens when you don’t jump him by surprise. He uses the incredible number of powers he has (here stretching, phasing and Super Strength) to kick your ass a bit.

Meanwhile, Nightwing tries to get Superboy to step up and use his tactile telekinesis (which has always struck me as an oxymoron – does he have to touch it, or is it “tele” meaning, at a distance? For this character, it means he can control whatever substance he touches, primarily to disassemble things) to take apart the tower, something much bigger than he has ever tried. Lady Quark, The Ray and Breach triple team Superboy-Prime, but it does no good. Nightshade hits him with darkness, and he flips out. He knocks just about everyone but the Manhunter, Power Girl, and the three Titans on the tower back to their worlds.

Back to Brother Eye, where Batman is doing the “you can’t stop me” walk through his innards. Brother Eye taunts him that his friends will fail. When Batman (again, showing heretofore unseen for years confidence in his allies, and actually using the word “friends” in a non-ironic way) says, “My friends can take care of themselves,” Brother Eye reveals he is talking not about the ones on the satellite, but instead the ones fighting Prime. When he specifically mentions Nightwing trying to face down Prime, Batman actually starts to sweat… or are those tears falling from under his cowl? But, being Batman, he continues on with what he needs to do. (By the way, throughout all of this, the damn satellite keeps using “eye” instead of “I.” In the first person, though, so it isn’t just referring to itself in the third person…)

On the tower, Nightwing gives Superboy a pep talk about taking down the tower. They are almost there when the buzzing OMACs get the better of Wonder Girl, and Conner is distracted. Prime attacks both Nightwing and Superboy. Alex goes back to trying to create the perfect world, and Nightwing takes out his Escrima sticks and prepares to face down Prime. Prime explains he wasn’t even trying when he fought and killed all of those titans. As he rushes Nightwing, Conner lands on his back, and says, “Neither was I. Round two!

Back on Brother Eye, Brother Eye tells Batman that his assault on the main memory core is a waste of time. Batman’s plan comes out – he wasn’t there to destroy Brother Eye, Batman was a distraction while Mr. Terrific, who is invisible to machines, triggered Brother Eye’s thrusters to move him out of orbit, so Brother Eye would crash to the earth, in pieces. Not to harp too much on this, but here was a plan by Batman that allowed for someone other than him to do the heavy lifting… will wonders never cease?

Brother Eye grabs Batman with his defensive tendrils, determined to take Batman down with him. The OMACs fall apart, revealing people inside, who Green Lantern John Stewart sets about saving. Black Canary informs Hal Jordan that they are ready to go, but cannot find Batman. Even as this is going on, Blue Beetle says that the scarab says that they are done, and have to get away from the Green Lanterns, and he disappears. Hal goes in to save Batman. Batman, the one hero least willing to give Hal a second chance after he became Parallax. Batman, the man who cannot forgive Hal for being party to wiping his mind. In many ways, Hal epitomizes the reasons why Batman created Brother Eye. And when Brother Eye is trying to convince Batman to fix what he has done, it says, “You can never trust them after all they have done,” right as Hal reaches out his had to Batman. Batman says, “I’ll take my chances.” As they leave the satellite which is rapidly becoming a fireball on re-entry, Batman directs Hal to fly them to Alex’s tower.

Meanwhile, the battle at the tower reaches a fever point. Nightwing stands amidst the people who were formerly the OMACs protecting the tower, and Prime lays an unholy beat-down on both Wonder Girl and Superboy. Alex reaches out for Earth-Prime. It looks like he is going to listen to Superboy-Prime after all.

The beating on Cassie drives Conner over the edge. Conner says he is tired of Superboy-Prime’s hypocrisy – claiming that this world’s heroes don’t live up to some ridiculous standards, while beating people to death himself. Prime doesn’t even know what hypocrisy means, and sets out to prove Conner isn’t smarter than him by beating him up. The two crash in to the tower, locked in a death grip struggle. The tower is destroyed by the impact, and from all the possibilities, a new earth is created.

Judging from the shards shown around the earth being created, there are some changes to continuity forthcoming – we can see Kal-L in those shards, we can see that there was a Superboy in Smallville, that Wonder Woman participated in some of the Justice Leagues early adventures, and that even when he was relatively young, Joe Chill was arrested for the murder of Batman’s parents. None of these are true in what was “current” continuity up until now.

Cassie digs through the rubble of the tower, looking for Conner. She finds him, and he is in rough shape. Cassie tells him he did it. He saved the earth. He saved everyone. He replies weakly that he knows he did. “Isn’t it cool?”

On the last page of the comic we see Batman, Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Kal-El and Kal-L standing around Wonder Girl, holding the dead body of Superboy in her lap, collapsed over him. Most of them look to be in mourning, but anger is evident in the face and posture of Kal-El, and in the clenched fist of Nightwing. Clearly, in issue #7, there will be a reckoning.

This was a powerful issue. The fights with Prime were excellent, the art for the sections on Brother Eye was perfect, and Conner’s death both meant something and was poignant. I am sorry to see the character go, but at the same time, can never be too sad to see a hero die a well-written hero’s death. The characterization in this issue was excellent. This is what a cross-over issue should be, in my opinion.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Infinite Crisis #5 – summary and review

Back on pace now with my home PC repaired. Infinite Crisis #5 promises the big showdown between Kal-L and Kal-El, the Superman of the main earth.

The book starts off with some nice character work, something that Johns is good at, but didn’t have enough space for in much of this series. Mr. Terrific and Ragman are standing around outside a big mass for all of the superheroes. They talk about why they are not in there, and Ragman revels he isn’t inside because he is Jewish, and Mr. Terrific says he isn’t in there because he is an atheist. Ragman questions how anyone as intelligent as Mr. Terrific could be an atheist in a world with the Spectre, Deadman, the angel Zauriel (who is, incidentally leading the mass) and even Ragman’s own suit, composed of corrupted souls. Mr. Terrific’s answer is not satisfying to me, but it set up the following line:

Ragman: So you don’t believe in anything? You don’t have any faith?

Mr. Terrific: Of course I do, Ragman. Got faith in my team.

Ragman replies that he wishes he could say the same about his own team – seems like the Shadowpact are off to a rocky beginning.

We see Hal Jordan leave the mass early. It seems like something Zauriel said got him thinking. We also see the Blue Devil smoking and burning. Turns out whenever he sets foot in a church, he burns, but the Irish Catholic boy inside of him felt it was worth it.

Next, the scene is set on Earth-2. The members of the JSA (and Flamebird from the Titans I believe she is the daughter of Earth-2’s Batwoman) who were originally from there reappeared there, along with Kal-L and Lois, when it was created. Kal-L is so happy – Lois is saved, by bringing her back to the “right” earth.

Meanwhile, on Earth-1, Booster Gold and a blindfolded Jaime Reyes (the kid with the Blue Beetle Scarab) are trying to make their way through a cave. They are captured by snares, and Booster says that this is perfectly normal. Turns out, they were trying to get into the Batcave. Booster slaps Jaime and the Scarab springs to action, coating Jaime in a bug-like carapace to protect him. Booster tells Batman that he knows that Batman is going to try to take down Brother Eye. He even reveals that he knows who Batman was going to invite, and has already done so. He explains that the historical record from his time in the future shows who went, and that they failed, but that with the Beetle, they can succeed. He is the only one who can see Brother Eye in its current cloaked mode.

We then see Superboy getting healed in a vat by Lex Luthor, and getting ready to unleash Superboy on Superboy-Prime and Alex. He still calls Superboy “My son.” Lex actually may have some kind of emotional attachment to the kid.

Back to Earth-2. Lois likes the re-created Earth-2, but that doesn’t stop her from collapsing. Her ailment, it seems, had nothing to do with the Earth or with the “heaven” they were in – it was entirely natural. She dies in Kal-L’s arms, time being about the only opponent that this Superman cannot beat. Kal-L’s cry of anguish shatters even the sidewalk below his feet. The cry is so lout that Kal-El hears it on Earth-1, and flies off to investigate.

In Boston on Earth-1, Wonder Woman tries to intervene in some looting, but is confronted by the effects of her killing Maxwell Lord. The crowd turns on her, calling her a murderer and hypocrite. The Wonder Woman of Earth-2 appears to her, saying that the fate of the universe is at hand.

Kal-El arrives on Earth-2 to see what is going on, after hearing Kal-L’s scream of “Lois.” As is his nature, he offers to help. Kal-L is beyond hearing him. He is blaming him for having brought the “corruption” of Earth-1 to Earth-2, and causing Lois’s death. In a nice full page spread reminiscent of the cover of Superman’s first comic appearance, he attacks Kal-El with a car. There battle wages, a battle of the most powerful men on two earths.

At Alex’s tower, Alex observes this. Psycho-Pirate asks, “The Lois Lane of Earth-two has died?” Alex’s response: “She was never going to survive. A price for the future. I will miss her,” to which Psycho-Pirate says “I sense very little sorrow in you, Alex.” They continue to talk and Alex reveals that he is prepared to write off Superboy-Prime as well, as having “served his purpose. I have everything I need.”

Folks, take it from me, when the Psycho-Pirate is acting as the conscience of a group, there is an issue. Alex is well around the bend by this point.

Wonder Woman of Earth-1 and Wonder Woman of Earth-2 are talking. Diana Prince, Earth-2’s Wonder Woman explains that Superman needs WW’s help, regardless of whether or not he wants it. She also tells her to accept what might be her most challenging role of all, not ambassador, not warrior, not goddess, but human being. After the conversation, Wonder Woman ends up over Metropolis on Earth-2. She watches the battle between the Supermen, and eventually intervenes by lassoing Kal-L. He settles down enough to talk, and removes the lasso, explaining that it isn’t needed for him to tell the truth, “That’s what people from my earth do.”

They debate the flaws in the new earth, and Kal-L explains that they had to bring back the perfect earth, HIS earth. Kal-El cuts through that argument by pointing out that a perfect earth doesn’t need a Superman. Kal-L takes off.

Back at Alex’s tower, he discusses the different people he has captured and why. One of them is Breach, the Captain Atom of Earth-8 which would have also been home to Green Lantern Kyle Rainer, and the current Firestorm and Huntress. This explains why Breach’s origin struck me as being such a lame retread of Captain Atom’s – it was a retread of Captain Atom’s origin.

Batman’s crew to take down Brother Eye come together, and Alex begins to sift through the realities. Kal-L comes to a realization – Alex has been playing him. Alex reveals the reason he has kept up the disguise of what he is doing because he needed him alive. “Everything comes from Superman.” They show Kal-L in various incarnations of Superman, from Stan Lee’s Just Imagine, to Red Son, to the Arthurian Knight version and even his brief identity of “Nova” from back when he lost his powers and decided to fight crime anyway. All of the infinite earths are back.

Meanwhile, Nightwing tries to gather heroes at Titan’s Tower for an assault on Alex at his tower. While he does this, we see scenes of heroes all over on the verge of being overwhelmed and unable to answer his call. No one answers the call. Nightwing stands alone in Titan’s Tower, and looks, for a moment, defeated. Then, Superboy shows up. Nightwing and Superboy – just the two of them, are off to defeat the greatest threat to the universe.

Next, in Japan, Flash emerges from the speed force. But it is Barry Allen’s costume. He is a herald of bad news. They couldn’t hold him… Superboy-Prime is back, and wearing a costume in some ways reminiscent of the Anti-Monitor’s body armor. I have a feeling that last fight with the Titans, Doom Patrol and JSA was just the start… Now things are going to get UGLY.

Overall, this was a decent episode. The two Supermen realize they are on the same side, Alex reveals the depths of his lack of caring about human life, even those who are close to him, and Superboy-Prime returns, looking like he is ready to kick more ass and take names. The series really feels like it is heading towards its climax now.

I still think that the series could have benefited from more space to tell the more human sides of the story in more detail, but there is one thing for sure, it doesn’t have that decompressed feeling that some people complain about in today’s comics.

Something that is interesting here is that the theme of the corruption of the “Post-Crisis Earth” is just waved away here with a “well, your world isn’t perfect either.” I would have liked a little more examination of why things went the way they did. It might be Geoff Johns’ way of saying that we live in darker times now, and the things that faced the Golden Age heroes were just as serious then (some of these guys were fighting Nazis, after all) as questions of personal freedom, identity theft and such are now. The problems they are facing may have changed, but that is natural.

Anyhow, stay tuned for the recap of issue #6, coming up shortly.

Infinite Crisis #4 – review and summary

Sorry for the delay on this one – computer crashus maximus.

Okay, we’ve made it to the half-way point. This issue has three before it, and three after it. Judging by the Perez cover, the group that Wonder Girl/Troia/Donna Troy/Whatever-Her-Name-Is put together is finally going to do something. From the look of the Jim Lee cover, Superboy-Prime is about to lay the smack down on Conner Kent (looks like Krypto is on Conner’s side, though). Let’s look inside and see if either of these is true.

The scene opens on the Brotherhood of Evil, a group of villains who traditionally opposed the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans, acting on orders from Deathstroke – orders to drop the extremely caustic Chemo on Blüdhaven. Blüdhaven is Nightwing’s base of operations. Deathstroke has a personal vendetta against Nightwing, and as has been mentioned previously, there is much in this series about Nightwing. I was predicting for months before the series started that Dick Grayson would not be making it out the other side of this one.

We are treated to scenes of Blüdhaven’s utter corruption as Chemo falls towards the city, and then we see his toxic waste spread throughout the city. In the words of Alex Luthor, he and Superboy-Prime are “erasing everything that’s bad.” Power Girl takes exception to this, and again, Superboy-Prime reveals his spoiled brat temper, yelling at her and calling her a traitor.

Alex Luthor now reveals the depths of his involvement in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis. He and Superboy had broken out of their pocket dimension before Superman (Kal-L) broke them all out at then end of IC #1. He had Superboy find the Anti-Monitor’s corpse, and used that as the basis for the tower he now has several heroes strapped to. He posed as Lex Luthor to create the Society, and used them to capture many of those very heroes. He used Psycho-Pirate, who was key to the Anti-Monitor’s plans in the original Crisis, to manipulate Eclipso into seducing the Spectre. Using the Spectre to destroy all the Lords of Order and Chaos to end the current age of magic allowed the magic to become a raw, unshaped energy, which Alex planned to use the power of Shazam to tap into. Alex also was responsible for Brother Eye gaining sentience, although I don’t know if he was the one who taught it to use “Eye” instead of “I” when referring to itself. Either way, just for this transgression, I am rooting for anyone who isn’t Alex Luthor in this one already. And Superboy-Prime was the one who started moving planets towards each other (yeah, that’s right, I said moving planets) to change the center of the universe away from Oa (which only existed in the Earth-1 universe) to where it was in the Earth-2 universe. He was then able to open a rift in the center of the universe, and use his tower, powers, Brother Eye, the magical energies, and the rift to create a new earth – one that is “perfect.” Alex also reveals that Earth-2 is not his perfect earth – he is using Kal-L too.

Power Girl concludes that it was all this manipulation, and the effects of the Psycho Pirate that have contributed to the darkening of the DC Universe. Alex assures her that it was falling apart before he got involved. Luthor also explains that in all the universes, when a Superman and a Luthor stand next to each other, “…They will always be at odds.” Is this perhaps foreshadowing of conflict between Alex and Superboy? Or did the writers overlook that part of the story?

Next, we see Batman and Nightwing. Nightwing is going to risk life and limb to head back into Blüdhaven to help, and Batman asks him not to. Batman is there just to make sure that Nightwing is all right. The un-Batman-likeness of this is lost on Nightwing in the face of the tragedy. I think it is driven home when Batman looks him in the eye and says “I need your help, Dick.” What? Calling him by his given name in costume? Asking for help rather than barking orders? Something has definitely changed in this man.

Next, we see Kal-L and Alex talking at Lois’ bedside. Superman confirms that Batman wasn’t willing to join him. He mentions that Batman pointed out this world’s Dick Grayson is better than Earth-2’s. He grew out of Batman’s shadow – even stopped calling himself Robin, unlike the Dick Grayson of Earth-2. He is a good and strong man. Superman’s conviction is starting to waver, so Alex uses Lois’ health to distract him.

Next, Superboy-Prime confronts Conner Kent on the Kent farm. Even at his lowest ebb, Conner Kent has more confidence, more charisma than Superboy-Prime can muster, even for a confrontation he has been waiting years for. As usual, Superboy-Prime is acting like a petulant child, and he throws the first punch, right there in the doorway of the farm house.

Over to El Paso Texas. Jaime Reyes, who found the Blue Beetle Scarab last issue, awakens to find Booster Gold in his bedroom. Booster discovers that the Scarab, which he has plans for, has grafted itself to Jaime’s spine. There is a hitch in Booster’s plan. Booster ponders the next step.

Next, we are treated to a page of Superboy-Prime trashing Conner Kent. And much of Smallville in the process. He is ranting about being the real Superboy. Krypto intervenes, and gets kicked down the street for his trouble. Conner uses the moments this takes to recover, and mounts a counterattack, bloodied but unbowed.

Back to Batman and Dick. Batman asks Nightwing to gather people to assault Alex Luthor in his headquarters. When Nightwing asks, “Why come to me,” Batman replies, “Because everyone else trusts you. They always have.” Batman admits that he hasn’t spent as much time keeping up relationships with other heroes. As they part ways, Batman off to fix a “computer problem” (anyone else thinking Brother Eye here?) and Dick off to gather heroes for an assault, Batman stops him. He asks Dick, “The early years. I’ve forgotten if… they were good for you, weren’t they?” Faced with this very human question, Dick, Batman’s first Robin gives him an answer that is both honest, and what Batman needs to hear: “The best.”

Meanwhile, it turns out that Superboy’s counterattack was short lived. Superboy-Prime can move planets. And can wreck tons of private property throwing cars at Conner. One of the things that made me laugh at Prime here was his statement to Conner, “You don’t even have a cape!” Here, obviously, is a kid who understands what it means to wear the “S.” It means you wear a cape. And beat an opponent who is less powerful to you nearly to death. Conner is smiling, though, and when Prime asks him why, he reveals his Titans communicator device. The next page (and I think this should have taken two, but again – so much story so few pages) we see Beast Boy in dinosaur form yelling “Titans Together!” The Titans and there reserves are here, along with the JSA (minus Allan Scott, who is out in space, and Doctor Fate, who is dead) and the Doom Patrol. Prime’s feelings are hurt by being attacked by all these heroes, as he still sees himself as a hero.

The next two pages cover the creation of the new Spectre. He is bound to the suddenly-animated corpse of Crispus Allen, a cop from the now-defunct Gotham Central series. A cop killed by another cop, a corrupt one named James Corrigan, the same name as the man who was the Spectre’s original human host. In many of the original stories, that Corrigan wasn’t entirely clean either, though not for his own betterment. He was the kind of cop that tended to lose a lot of suspects who happened to be shot while “fleeing custody” or was more than happy to provide his own evidence if such was required.

Superboy-Prime is whining again. “I just wanted to talk to Superboy. You started this!” Pantha calls him a stupid kid as she leaps at him. Getting angry, he punches her head off. Literally. It rolls down the street, while Prime is horrified at his own actions. (Note: he started the Rann-Thanagar war, which has cost millions of lives. And he also at least knows of Alex’ creation of the Society, which just dropped Chemo on a densely populated city. He is okay with all of this, until he actually sees the blood on his own hands – literally.) The unified teams begin an all out assault on Superboy, and actually manage to draw blood. He is babbling like a child, “Please! I said I didn’t mean to!” But then his temper takes over – rather than face the consequences of his actions, he goes on to kill Wildebeest, cutting him in half with his heat vision. He freezes Red Star solid, and tears Risk’s arm off. Bushido, a character I liked, introduced in an annual a few years ago, when each comic was tasked with introducing a new hero from somewhere other than North America, is also burned in twain with heat vision. At this point, the Flashes arrive (Wally West Flash, Jay Garrick Flash, and Bart Allen, Kid Flash), and take Prime into the Speed Force with them. All except Jay Garrick, who simply isn’t fast enough to get there. He helps with the original attack, but drops out before they make that last step.

While running into the speed force, Wally stops by to see his wife Linda, and tells her that he has to give up everything he loves to save it. She says that he will not, and his family is going with him. Wally disappears off to the side, leaving just Bart to take Superboy into the speed force, and Bart says he can’t do it. Superboy agrees with him, and starts to call him a stupid little kid who has been left all alone. This pushes Bart’s buttons, and he begins to lay a Super-Speed Smackdown on Prime, all by himself, running the whole time. It’s not likely he could keep this up alone, but doesn’t need to. From the speed force emerge fallen speedsters. First Barry Allen, Bart’s grandfather, and Wally’s mentor and inspiration. Then Max Mercury, Bart’s guardian and father figure, and lastly Johnny Quick, father of Jesse Quick, and member of the All-Star Squadron. Bart helps them push Prime into the speed force, ending his threat – only Wally has ever emerged from the speed force.

At this point, the speed force’s connection to earth is destroyed.

Next, we move back to Alex Luthor’s tower, where they use Black Adam to call down the power of Shazam from the magical morass that was once the ninth age of magic. This energy will power Alex’s tower.

Back into space, and we now see why those heroes are there. Alex’s hands appear in the great rift at the centre of the universe, and things start happening. Many heroes and buildings disappear from earth. In the sky… another earth. Earth-2 is back, and those things that belong to it are taken there. Kal-L thinks it’s all over. He and Lois are home. I suspect that since there are still 3 more issues to go, it cannot possibly be that simple.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Infinite Crisis number 3!

Infinite Crisis review and Summary – issue 3

Okay, the summary issues should more or less be over, and the action should be starting right now. Let’s look in and find out.

Opening scene: The Society has all the water-breathing villains attacking San Diego/Sub Diego (Aquaman’s underwater town) while storms pummel the world. Aquaman is proving to Black Manta, Ocean Master and their cohorts that he is capable of being just as vicious as the beasts who just bit Neptune Perkins in half. He runs one of them through with a spear, before moving on to the other. (I have to admit – most of Aquaman’s comics have been a blind spot of mine, other than the portion that Peter David wrote, so I don’t recognize a lot of the characters here. I think the one he stabs with the spear is The Shark, an old Green Lantern foe, though it could be King Shark, who was a Superboy foe.)

Cut to Atlantis, where the Atlantean mages are trying to cast some kind of spell. Tempest (the former Aqualad-turned-Atlantean-sorceror), Dolphin (his wife), Lori Lemaris (a mermaid who is a one-time Superman love interest), Vulko (long-time Aquaman supporting character), and Koryak (Aquaman’s son) are all seen here. The Spectre, still out to crush magic, decides this is a bad idea and steps on the city. Yes. The whole city. There are undoubtedly some survivors, but it is still messy.

Next we see the battle between the OMACs and the Amazons of Paradise Island. The OMACs, serving as Brother Eye’s, well, eyes are broadcasting the battle back to the rest of the world. The Amazons unleash a variant on their “purple healing ray,” the “purple death ray.”

Batman is in contact with Brother Eye and is trying to convince it to stop, but Brother Eye has determined that “Wonder Woman and the Amazons pose a threat that must be exposed.” Batman insists that Brother Eye shut the OMACs down, seeing both Amazons and OMAC-controlled people dying in this battle. This is made more poignant if you have read “Trinity” where one of the main things that comes from the story for Batman is knowledge that there is a perfect Paradise on earth, in the form of Paradise Island (and no, not just because it is full of hot women). Batman then loses his temper, throwing his chair at his main monitor, and essentially having a breakdown, where he realizes that his methods are failing. Collapsing to his knees, he flashes back to the most traumatic times of his life, and he says “…I just wish I could start over.” At that moment, Superman appears to him. He says “Bruce… You can start over.” This Superman is, of course, Kal-L.

Next we see Power Girl reacquainting herself with Lois, and with her regained memories. Superboy-Prime confronts Power Girl about whether or not she is going to help with the re-creation of Earth-2 to save Lois, and fix things. Power Girl is not ready to commit, and Superboy loses his temper. Every time someone disagrees with this kid, he loses his temper. He expresses his jealousy towards Conner Kent, the current Superboy. He then gives Power Girl a copy of Lois’ journal to help convince her.

In El Paso, Texas, the Shadowpact, a team of mystically-based heroes, are collecting the pieces of the Rock of Eternity and trying to protect innocents from the fallout. The nature of the Rock of Eternity allows the explosion to appear to happen over Gotham, yet rain down shards all over the world. As they look on, a skyscraper begins to fall. None of them have the power to stop it, but suddenly, Superman is there. Kal-El. The Superman of this world. He fixes the skyscraper, and explains he has to go to California to save more lives. The Shadowpact say they think they have things covered, and Superman says to them, “Keep up the good work.” From Ragman’s reaction, it is clear – Superman is becoming a figure of inspiration again. Not far away, we see that a kid named Jaime picks up the Blue Beetle’s scarab.

At the center of the universe, not much happens, except Firestorm is hearing more voices in his head than he should be, and Animal Man is shooting lightning out of his face.

We see a moment of the Flash’s home life before it is interrupted by a broadcast of the carnage at Paradise Island, the newsman wondering if Wonder Woman’s preaching of peace has been a lie all along. The next news story is about super tornadoes in Kansas, and Flash runs out to be a Superhero. Even as the story changes to describe the tornado’s dissolving with a red blur and streak of lightning within them, Linda, his wife, is obviously scared for him in this time of great trouble.

Back to Kal-L and Batman. Batman seems to be considering Kal-L’s pitch. Kal-L finishes his pitch by telling Batman, the man who was mindwiped by his own teammates in the JLA and has since had them turn their backs on him for the actions he took as a result, “I will always stand at your side.”

Wonder Woman realizes that while the Amazons might win this battle, they do so at the cost of the war – that if they are seen as a violent threat, which Brother Eye has managed to arrange, that more armies will come. She suggests that the Amazons ask their gods to move them to another plane of existence, away from “man’s world.” The gods hear the prayers of the Amazons, and Wonder Woman leaves the island, saying her destiny is not on the island, but is instead to stay. The gods move the island elsewhere.

Next, green-eyed battle-suited Lex Luthor watches as the Society, led by blue-eyed, business suited Lex turns on Black Adam. There are some serious heavy hitters sent to take him down – Amazo, the android with the powers of the entire JLA, the General, a military man in the body of the powerful and indestructible Shaggy Man, Gorilla Grodd, the super-strong and savage master of the mind who has fought Flash on many occasions, Silver Banshee, who has gone toe-to-toe with Superman, and someone who I do not recognize named Sudden Death. The more physical among even this crowd aren’t having much luck against Black Adam (the dude is hard core), but Psycho Pirate is there, and intends to use his power to mollify Adam. Luthor’s gloating is interrupted by the other Lex, green eyed and wearing a battle suit. The presence of the other Lex so close makes it hard for green eyes to think, and it degenerates to a fight. A blast of the battle suit that makes Lex able to play with Superman doesn’t even ruffle blue-eyes’ suit. He returns the favor with a dark energy blast.

Back to Kal-L and Batman. Kal-L tries to give Bruce an easy way out. He says that none of this is Batman’s fault, but Batman insists that it is his fault. Batman asks what will happen to all the people of his world if Kal-L is successful, and Kal says they’ll be replaced, but with better people. Bruce asks about Dick Grayson. If he is better on Earth-2. Superman has to admit that he is not. Batman expected that answer – after all how could Dick be any better than he is? Saying he believes that Kal-L can reshape the world, and cannot let him do that, he confronts Batman with the Kryptonite ring that Kal-El gave him. Kal-L explains that the Kryptonite being from a different reality has no effect on him, and says that he ring is a symbol of all that is wrong in this world. That it represents the flawed relationships that the heroes have in this world that will destroy it if it is allowed to. He then flies off, seeming to truly regret Batman’s decision.

The two Luthors continue their battle. Green eyes acts unpredictably – he destroys the computers masking blue eyes’ appearance. It turns out that blue eyes, the leader of the Society, is Alex Luthor. At this point, we se the hands of a Super type tear open Lex’s battle armor like a crab’s shell, and Alex gives the order to “erase him.” A blast of heat vision threatens to do just that, but Lex teleports away. The Super type wants to go find him, but Alex says no. “Not until the tower is ready.”

Power Girl finishes reading Lois’ journal with tears in her eyes. She goes to find Alex and Superboy-Prime, to try and convince them that if they work with the heroes of this earth, maybe they can find a win-win solution. At the same time, interspersed, we see Batman reviewing the last moments during which anyone saw the Martian Manhunter, his computers having finally finished downloading and recovering the information on the black box from the Watchtower. At the same moment, Power Girl sees the tower, topped by the corpse of the Anti-Monitor, and goes to see if the Martian Manhunter is okay, and Batman sees that it is a Super-type who surprised the Manhunter. Power Girl is knocked unconscious even as Batman watches the same fate visited on the Manhunter in both cases, it is revealed to be Superboy-Prime, acting on the orders of Alex Luthor.

Okay, so at the end of the first issue, it looked like Kal-L could be the hero of the piece. At the end of the second issue, it looked like he could be the villain of the piece, and at the end of this issue, it looks like he is a well-intentioned foil.

I’m not sure how I feel about this issue. I am not sure if I like the idea of Alex Luthor being the villain. I certainly like it more than Kal-L being the villain, though, so I will let it go.

The problem with these comics so far is that with so much story to tell, there haven’t been enough moments for action. This one is the same. We see some scenes involving a little action between the Luthors, but that is more of a beating than a fight, and it is there just to reveal that the Lex Luthor behind the Society is in fact Alex. The fights between the OMACs and the Amazons are one-panel affairs, not doing the Amazon fighting style justice. The exception to this is the beating of the Freedom Fighters, and it is one of the moments that stands out. The scene here with the Shadowpact and Superman would have benefited from being longer. I think showing the Shadowpact struggling heroically, but gradually being overwhelmed, only to have the collapsing skyscraper be the proverbial last straw would have been more effective. I’m sure there simply wasn’t space, but the “nick of time” save thing didn’t have much impact because we only saw the nick of time, without seeing the build up to it, and being invested in the situation. Maybe this needed to be a twelve-issue series, with about the same number of pages total devoted to the main story, but more used to develop interest and investment in the other things going on. Maybe that would have been too much, but I would have loved to see more than one panel of Black Adam’s fight against the most powerful the Society had to offer. I would have loved to see the Freedom Fighters in issue #1 beat down some of the less-powerful members of the Society with teamwork and style to find the location of the warehouse where they eventually got decimated.

I really do hope to see more straight-ahead action in further installments, and more time to make me care about what is happening to those less directly involved in the story line.

Other major plot points in this issue: Batman finally admits he isn’t perfect, and takes responsibility for his mistakes. Superman inspires hope and wonder in other heroes. Wonder Woman chooses to avoid battle rather than straight ahead destroy those who oppose her. The Society starts showing cracks. Superboy-Prime is shown to a jealous punk very much under Alex Luthor’s control, and is shown to have no problem with the ends justifying the means.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Infinite Crisis #2 – summary and review.

After the first issue, I was expecting more plot movement and less summary from this one. I’d say more action, but the truth is that between the Freedom Fighters having their asses handed to them and Mongul’s attack on the Big Three, there was action in the first issue.

This issue opens showing the home life of Animal Man, as he prepares to head out into space, discussing that the animals all over the world are having flight reactions. As he puts it, “I tried to borrow speed from a rabbit yesterday and I ended up thumping my foot against the ground for an hour.”

Next, we see Donna Troy’s space-bound heroes. Air Wave is having a breakdown from the sounds of all the deaths in the Rann-Thanagar war. This is a particularly human couple of pages, just showing how some of the heroes get along, or deal with each other.

Superman of Earth-2 revealed last issue to be the narrator says he can hear Supergirl’s heart beating (from space? Dude’s some kind of powerful) in perfect synch with Power Girl’s. This might help explain why when they were close to each other their powers got a little haywire. This leads to Power Girl’s scene. She is under attack by members of the Society, who say they have instructions to take her alive. She fights, but starts to take a little bit of a beating. To be fair, she is facing enemies of Captain Marvel and Superman, for the most part. Then he steps in. Kal-L. The Superman of Earth-2. He makes short (VERY short) work of the villains attacking Power Girl, and offers her his hand, calling her cousin. Throughout the series, we are seeing red skies, just like we did through Crisis on Infinite Earths. When Kal-L shows up to save Power Girl, The skies in the area are suddenly blue. In his own words, “The clouds part. The yellow sun welcomes me back.”

Next we see Superman, taking Batman’s accusation of last issue to heart. He takes steps to move in the opposite direction. He now understands his role and intends to fulfill it.

After that, we see Lex Luthor talking to the Society’s inner circle – Deathstroke the Terminator, Dr. Psycho and the Calculator specifically in this case, and he needs one of the Marvel family. Since they are having trouble finding them, he instructs the Society to bring him Black Adam instead. Deathstroke says that the heroes being captured (The Ray in issue 1, the attempt to capture Power Girl a few pages ago, and could this be where the Martian Manhunter has gone?) are to be used to power a mind-wiping machine. Triggered by the events revealed in Identity Crisis, when the JLA (or at least some of them) mind-wiped Dr. Light and others, including Batman, the Society evidently intends to strike back.

Next scene: Lex Luthor in the icy wastes near Kal-L’s new Fortress of Solitude. But this is a different Lex. This Lex is listening in on the conversation that the Society’s Lex is having with Deathstroke. This Lex is having trouble thinking straight. And, he has green eyes, where the society’s Lex has blue. If you go back through recent comics (the last year or two) you will see different Lex appearances, some of which have green eyes and some of which have blue. It has never been a mistake. One of these Lexes (Lexi?) is not from the main DC world, which explains the befuddlement when they are in the same reality. Much like when Power Girl and Supergirl got too close to each other.

Kal-L brings Power Girl back to see Superboy-Prime and Alex Luthor as well as his Lois. We get a quick summary of the creation of the multiverse by Krona, a Scientist from the planet Oa, before everyone from there looked the same. Then, we get a summary of how the different earths were different and how the League met the Society, and of Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the being called the Anti-Monitor destroyed most of the earths of the multiverse. How he was defeated, and how the result was a single universe, which is how it was meant to be.

Superman covers how Alexander Luthor created a pocket dimension where the four of them, who probably should have been destroyed in the new reality, were able to survive, and watch the rest of the DCU. Things were going well. But then they took a turn for the worse.

We see the events that led this Superman to decide that the world needed him again: The death of Robin, the death of Superman, Batman having his back broken, Wonder Woman being replaced by the more violent Artemis, Sue Dibny’s death in Identity Crisis, Blue Beetle’s death at the hands of Maxwell Lord, Superboy turning on the Teen Titans due to the part of him that is Lex Luthor, and Maxwell Lord’s death at the hands of Wonder Woman.

Superman then shows Kara that his Lois is dying.

Next we see the return of Booster Gold. His intention was, apparently to have appeared before someone in a Superman-type costume took Martian Manhunter and destroyed the JLA Watchtower, but he is too late. He sets out to find Blue Beetle’s scarab. This scarab powered the original Blue Beetle, who actually had some powers, but not the most recent one. The most recent one took his inspiration from the original, and they were friends, but Ted Kord was never super-powered.

The next page, we touch base with one of DC’s main villains, who we haven’t seen yet this series: The Joker. He has apparently taken out the Royal Flush Gang on his own. He asks King when his invitation to the Society is going to come, and King’s answer doesn’t make him happy: “You’re the only one they don’t want. See, everyone knows… Joker’s too wild.” Making Joker unhappy typically isn’t a good recipe for a long life. That remains true. Joker walks out of the casino where the confrontation took place, saying “that’s not funny.” I have a funny feeling that will end up being significant.

Next, Kal-L reveals Power Girl’s true origin as basically the Supergirl of Earth-2 to her, and she remembers her close familial bonds with Kal and Lois.

Batman is shown blowing off Alfred’s attempts to sew up some of his cuts. He goes so far as slapping Alfred’s hand away, only to get a line from Alfred that cuts him as deeply as his line to Superman last issue: “You know, there was one thing your father never wanted to be. Alone. Fortunately, he had your mother at his side. Even at the worst of times.” Batman has no response. He pauses, and goes back to work trying to figure out what happened with Brother Eye.

Brother Eye basically says that he has simply taken Batman’s mission for it, that of monitoring the super heroes, to the next level, using the OMAC technology that Maxwell Lord added to it. He says there were 1.3 million OMACs, of which 60.7% were disabled at the end of the OMAC Project miniseries. The rest are going to “protect this world from people like (Wonder Woman).”

The OMACs have begun an all-out attack on Paradise Isle, where Wonder Woman stands with the Amazons, including her once-rival Artemis, and Fury from the Young All Stars. Wonder Woman is unsure how to fight the menace – OMACs have innocent people inside.

At the end of the issue, Kal-L reveals something shocking: He intends to replace the current earth with Earth-2, and bring back the world he remembers as being “right” or “perfect.”

It’s an interesting comic. More catch up, and even less action. This was mostly a “talking heads” type of issue, but we do see some changes starting: Superman wants to fix the problem that Batman identified, and Batman is forced to confront the fact that he keeps pushing everyone he cares about, and who might care about him, away. Wonder Woman is shown not to be bloodthirsty in this issue, perhaps not as far gone as Superman and Batman think her to be.

Kal-L might just turn out to be the villain of the piece. Also, there is some fracturing within the Society, as that Lex’s goals are more important to him than loyalty to Black Adam.

The story moves forward, and I am looking forward to more action in the next issue.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Summary and review - Infinite Crisis number 1

Infinite Crisis review and summary… or is that summary and review

Below is my summary and review of Infinite Crisis, issue 1. It is rife with spoilers. And some cursing. If you don’t want either of those things, stop reading now. Expect the rest to come out over the next week.

Infinite Crisis number 1:

Mostly a summary of “how we got to where we are” but told in an interesting way. Narrated by an all-seeing character who obviously thinks that the characters he is talking about should be doing more, and are capable of doing more than they are, and told in flashback, as well as through conversation among characters(very much in-character and well written) we get all kinds of information, mixed in with new developments.

The Justice League’s Watchtower has been destroyed by forces unknown. The Martian Manhunter, one of DC’s most powerful characters is missing, as part of the same event. Batman has been spying on his allies in the JLA via a satellite. The Trinity (speaking of which, I just picked up the Trade paperback of Trinity by Mat Wagner, telling of the first meeting of Superman and Batman with Wonder Woman. The man remains one of my favorite writers and artists. In fact, this review was delayed because I couldn’t put that bad boy down) are not getting along any more. Wonder Woman murdered someone in cold blood, while he was tied up in her lasso. (Revealed in the OMAC miniseries and a Superman/Wonder Woman crossover, we see that this man is Maxwell Lord, who for years was comic relief in the DCU, but it turns out was secretly advancing his anti-metahuman agenda the whole time. We are just shown the image without Lord being identified.) Both the Maxwell Lord bit and the satellite thing revolve around the OMAC miniseries, as does the moment with Nightwing leading up to his two-page spread.

It goes like this: Batman created a satellite, alternately called Brother Eye or Brother I (as in Roman numerals, but also pronounced "eye.") to spy on all the other superheroes. Ostensibly because of the brain wipe revealed in Identity Crisis. Maxwell Lord took over the satellite and used it to create the OMACs. They are nanobots that exist in the bloodstreams of otherwise normal people which suddenly become Ultra-tech armor allowing these things to go toe to toe with the likes of Superman, yet at the same time get trashed in large numbers by Robin. It's like Lobo, who was always at exactly the right power level to challenge whoever he was fighting in his early appearances in the non-Omega Men DCU. Whether that person was Lar Gand (Superman level power, briefly had his own series called Valor, only mentioned here because I wanted to repeat the fact that when they fought, Lobo called him "Large Gland"), Santa Claus, or a wrestler, it was always a good fight. So, apparently, despite being roundly seen as the most dangerous member of the JLA, Batman sucks. Yep. you heard me. He created protocols for beating the rest of the JLA, which were stolen and led to the Tower of Babel story arc. I hated it, but many loved it. Anyhow - idea for handling issue stolen from him. Then he fires Spoiler as Robin. So she steals one of his ideas and causes the "War Games" story line. Which leads to her own death, and Batman's ostracism by the GCPD. Then he creates this satellite to keep tabs on other heroes, and Maxwell Lord takes it over. Apparently, Batman's security sucks, and the dude never learns. So, by the time this series starts, the OMACs are a huge threat, capable of taking out many of the heroes of the DCU, largely because Batman cannot learn from his mistakes. Oh, and the satallite is sentient, and instead of "I" says "Eye." Which is stupid.

Superboy has given up his heroic identity, after discovering he was created by Lex Luthor. He is on the verge of stepping back in, but in the end, hears a news story about Lex and cannot bring himself to do it.

We also see four people watching the DCU in some sort of crystalline matrix. We find out that Donna Troy is putting together a force of Superheroes to go to determine what is going on that the Titans of Myth said will threaten the end of the very universe. Nightwing and Bludhaven are prominently featured. Nightwing seems to be of particular interest to the narrator.

We see the Rann-Thanagar war still going on, and the gash in the Universe created at the end of that miniseries is now the center of the Universe, which Oa (home planet of the Guardians of the Universe, creators of the Green Lanterns) has been up until now.

In Gotham, we see Riddler and some of the DCU’s lamer villains (I mean really, Geoff Johns had to bring back The Fisherman?) and they as well as some of Gotham’s finest watch the Rock of Eternity appear and explode. This is where Shazam, the wizard behind the powers of Captain Marvel, his Marvel Family and Black Adam resides. Given its name, you might guess that it blowing up is a big deal. The Spectre shows up in Gotham. The narrator decides that the world he is observing corrupts legends after watching one kill another – the wizard Shazam, part of the Quintessence, DC’s council of the most influential magical beings, is dead.

The Freedom Fighters (a not-too well known team, who have been around for years, currently mostly second-generation heroes) who consist of Uncle Sam, the living embodiment of the United States, and claiming to be as old as the country itself, Phantom Lady, who wears among the skimpiest costumes in comics (worth mentioning because don’t be surprised if you look for her online and find lots of “fan art”) and uses a “blacklight ray” to disappear, or to blind her foes, trained by the original Phantom Lady, who was also in the Freedom Fighters, The Human Bomb who explodes on contact with, well, anything, if he isn’t wearing a special suit, the Black Condor, who is a cut-rate Hawkman, The Ray, who has light-control powers, and is the son of the original Ray, a founding member of the Freedom Fighters back in World War II, and Damage, the son of the original Atom, who has an internal charge that gives him super powers, but if not used frequently enough, can also cause him to explode. The magnitude of his explosions has been shown to be sufficient to re-create the Big Bang during Zero Hour. Of course, that was a one time thing, but there you have it. That was a lot of background, considering what happens next: They get their butts kicked. They investigate a warehouse, only to open a couple of door and get surprised by some of the nastier members of the Society, an effort by Lex Luthor to get all of the villains on earth together against the heroes in a concerted way. The opening salvo is a blast of Yellow energy that lances right through the Black Condor’s chest – he looks pretty dead. The next two pages are a nice spread of the villains here to stop the Freedom Fighters: Black Adam, Dr. Light, Dr. Polaris, Deathstroke, Psycho Pirate, Bizarro, Cheetah, Sinestro and Zoom. Really, this is overkill. And it soon shows. Dr. Light uses his newfound power levels to suck all the light out of The Ray, taking him out of the fight. Zoom uses the standard speedster “hit you a million times” ploy on Damage. He’s out. Cheetah sniffs out the invisible Phantom Lady and claws her, and then Deathstroke runs her through. That’s two deaths so far for the freedom fighters. Human Bomb sets himself off, within his protective outfit, using only his hand it tosses Sinestro, Light and Deathstroke for a loop, at which point Polaris comes in and gloats about Phantom Lady’s death. Human Bomb rips open his protective suit, and saying, “You want war, Polaris? DIE!” allows a huge explosion to be released. Polaris’ ravaged body can be seen in the next bit, when Bizarro shows up and beats the Human Bomb to death, releasing another explosion with each impact, commenting on how, “Me like pretty lights,” with each punch. Soon, there are not more lights. That’s three Freedom Fighters down. Black Adam, Cheetah, Zoom and Sinestro dog pile Uncle Sam. He may not get a lot of press, but he is a powerful dude, and hard to kill. Psycho Pirate drags the Ray off, saying that “Luthor needs you alive.” That’s the last we see of the Freedom Fighters for this issue. Phantom Lady, Black Condor and the Human Bomb are definitely dead. Uncle Sam is last seen being blasted by Sinestro, until a little panel I will mention just below, Damage has taken a pretty severe beating, and the Ray is dragged off. The villains have lost the services of Dr. Polaris, a poor man’s Magneto, with multiple personality disorder.

Interspersed with this fight, Mongul, who has never even beaten just Superman, pounces on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman while they are hashing out their personal differences, figuring this would be a good time to take advantage. He sucker-punches Superman, and then faces Batman and Wonder Woman while Superman flies off into space. He then knocks Batman aside, and Wonder Woman cuts him with her sword. Mongul is defeated by a pissed-off Superman, but there is nothing remotely resembling team work or strategy among the JLA. This is a stark contrast to the Freedom Fighters/Society fight, where the Freedom Fighters are double teamed, and the villains cover for and support each other. Wonder woman tries to kill Mongul, and Superman stops her. Mongul then runs off, leaving the JLA to argue about what they should be doing, and what they have done, while the world’s most powerful villains tear the Freedom Fighters apart. Superman and Batman both dump on Wonder Woman for being too bloodthirsty. Batman then accuses Superman of not doing what he needs to and leading people, not inspiring them. As he puts it, “…They need to be inspired, and let’s face it, ‘Superman’… the last time you really inspired anyone was when you were dead.” Superman has a difficult to read look on his face, Wonder Woman hangs her head. The scene then shows Uncle Sam, lying face down in a pool of water, with blood and who knows what else flowing through it. Batman says simply, “We’re finished here,” and walks away from Superman and Wonder Woman replies “Yes. I guess we are.” She walks in the other direction, leaving Superman, standing there, hanging his head. The narrator decides that time has come. The next few panels reveal who the narrator is: Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-2, who was taken away from the universe during Crisis on Infinite Earths. He has been watching what has been happening since, and he isn’t happy. He punches his way out of the “heaven” Alexander Luthor created for him at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and as he finally shatters the barrier, says “Now this… This looks like a job for Superman.”

And so ends issue number one. With a page of Superman (Kal-L) Superboy from Earth Prime (an earth that existed before the original Crisis, where there were no super powers, until him. It was originally supposed to be our world, but over time that got changed) Lois Lane of Earth-2 (Kal-L’s aged wife) and Alexander Luthor free into the mainstream DC Universe.

This issue is clearly a “darkest before the dawn” kind of story – the biggest three heroes can’t even work together to take down a direct threat, and even though they beat him through sheer power, are so busy squabbling over how to deal with him he gets away. Batman is intentionally hurtful towards Superman, solely to be hurtful – it doesn’t even feel like his is trying to motivate him, more like a recrimination. And at the same time, some of the toughest villains in comics are working together like a well-oiled machine.

Fortunately, the original Superman is back to set things right. Or is he? We deal much more with Kal-L in issue 2.

The story touches some good emotional chords, particularly the Superboy moment, a moment between Nightwing and Starfire, and the confrontation among the "big three" at the end. It feels like a set-up book, and it is one, but it does it in style. The important plot points in this one:

  1. The "Big Three" aren't working together and don't even like each other.
  2. The villains are working together well.
  3. Superboy is not able to brign himself to continue being Superboy right now.
  4. Kal-L, Superboy-prime, Alex Luthor and Lois Lane of Earth-2 are back.
  5. The Freedom Fighters, a government-sponsored Super Team have been devastated.
  6. The Rock of Eternity has been destroyed.