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
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
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.
We then see the trinity, in their civilian identities. Diana is off to be human for a while.
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.