From A Library: Infinite Crisis

Infinite Crisis #1–7 by Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez (with George Perez, Jerry Ordway and Ivan Reis)

I’ve had my library’s copy of Infinite Crisis for over six weeks, re-reading it several times in the process, and yet each time I couldn’t bring myself to writing something about it. Therefore, this is more of why I don’t want to write about Infinite Crisis, rather than a review.

This is a big book – seven oversized issues totalling over 250 pages, crammed full of dialogue and densely detailed art (from Jiminez – Ordway’s work is old-school clarity and simple design, and Reis is a modern superhero artist with less detail). However, it doesn’t feel like things are actually happening. The overall story is straightforward – Alex Luthor of Earth-3 is recreating the multiverse so he can create a new perfect Earth – but it seems as if Johns feels that there must be more incidental plot strands because it is a CRISIS book. So we have Superman of Earth-2, and OMAC and Brother Eye, and heroes going to the centre of the universe to save everything, and an attack on Paradise Island, and the destruction of Bludhaven, a new Spectre and Blue Beetle, and the reappearance of Barry Allen (well, he has to – it’s a Crisis book). To compile all this and tell an interesting and cohesive story is too much for Johns – he is a technically competent writer, combining a nostalgic feel with an obsession with ultraviolence (witness the gory murders of the members of he Freedom Fighters in the first issue, or Black Adam poking his fingers through Psycho Pirate’s eyes and out the back of his skull in graphic detail), but here he has bitten off more than he can chew.

The other aspect of Johns’ writing and the link to Crisis is the requirement for a PhD in DC universe history, especially Crisis on Infinite Earths. Whereas Grant Morrison respects the intelligence of his readers when he omits the boring information to precipitate the story, Johns assumes that everyone will understand the references without explaining enough for the casual reader. It needs annotations to understand everything that is going on, which may be a DC fanboy’s dream but it doesn’t make for a good storytelling experience. He does explain some parts, such as the first Crisis and Earth-2, as well as the concepts of other Earths, but then it has the feeling of leaden exposition rather than organic storytelling.

The denseness of the book (story + large-scale action + character moments) puts a strain on the art. Jiminez, who is perhaps the best artist for this type of book (even better than his influence, George Perez), provides exquisite rendering matched with an eye for scene setting and fitting all the characters onto the page (necessary when Johns tries for a panel with EVERYBODY in the DC universe) along with a sense of anatomy that makes the superheroes look heroic just by their postures and a decided lack of cheesecake – even a shot of Supergirl in flight is done tastefully, despite her looking gorgeous. However, trying to do all of this all the time had an affect and other artists are required to get the book done. Ordway’s art is jarring in comparison – he is an able craftsman but his pencilling harks back to a different age, with much less detail and an old-fashioned approach. Reis’ art is pretty but doesn’t quite have the skill for panel composition and layout required for a job of such magnitude. Even Jiminez’s artistic predecessor, Perez, is called in to help out; this isn’t as dramatic a shift in tone but his art isn’t as good as Jiminez’s, and it’s a shame that Jiminez couldn’t have done the whole book because it is perfect for the big crossover.

In the end, the biggest factor is that I don’t feel any connection to the story. Superboy of Earth Prime as a villain is silly, with all his teenage whining and complaining. Facts jar (why is Nightwing in the final spread of heroes looking after the DC universe if he is going on the journey with Bruce?) and the book seems to only exist to tweak some minor DC inconsistencies (when Luthor creates ‘New Earth’, he talks about ‘recorded rumours of Superman’s activities before his appearance in Metropolis’) and to preview things that still haven’t happened (Batgirl is in the same final spread as Nightwing but she still hasn’t got her own series). I enjoy seeing lots of superheroes in one book, all fighting against a common threat; I just wish it can happen in a better story. The best bit for me was having the Joker, mostly absent from the seven issues, being the one who kills Luthor for being left out of things. And that’s not a great recommendation for a crossover mini-series that supposedly set up the new DC universe. A messy, overly complicated, unnecessary homage to a previous mini-series, with some mostly nice art. Avoid unless you are a DC fanboy.

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