Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Infinite Crisis #4 –the Post Mortem

There is this scene in the middle of that cinematic classic “Conan the Destroyer” (now playing endlessly on one of the numerous HBO cable channels) where the future governator of KAL-lee-forn-a abruptly interrupts some chatter between two wizards by shouting “Eee-nough talk!” the whips his dagger into some guard’s neck—signaling the start of the head-taking, ass-kicking, & sword-fighting.

The film’s transition from dialogue to action was about as elegant as Green Lantern Guy Gardner at a Smith College Womyn’s Studies seminar.

That’s sort of what Infinite Crisis #4 felt like for me. Enough with the set up, do not pass go, proceed directly to the mayhem.

Standard spoiler warning—If you have not yet seen Infinite Crisis issue 4, read at your own risk. That said: I won't bother giving a soup to nuts review of IC4. For that check out this review from IGN http://comics.ign.com/articles/682/682719p1.html , as well as this play-by-play from Mile High Comics’ Newsarama, http://www.newsarama.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=56341

Maybe I'm in the minority here but for all of the careful planning, after the Countdown, after the various mini-series build up--Villains United, OMAC, Day of Vengeance, The Return of Donna Troy and the Rann/Thanagar War, as well as the upcoming One Year Later story line, why does DC Comics’ signature event of the year (perhaps even of the decade) read and feel like a half-baked rush job?

The plot: IC #4 does start to convey a sense of urgency following the painfully slow, multi-pronged build up of the previous three issues, but urgency seems artificial.

The art: In a word—inconsistent. The art credits for IC #4 list Phil Jimenez, George Perez and Ivan Reis as pencilers and Andy Lanning, Lary Stucker, George Perez, Mark Campos, Oclair Albert, Jimmy Palmiotti and Drew Geraci as inkers. There are simply WAY too many cooks in the kitchen.

While pages by George Perez are up to his own flawless standards, the pages by primary artist Phil Jimenez--a Perez protégé normally quite able in is own right--seem incomplete. It looks more like Jimenez is merely doing some breakdowns while long-time collaborator Andy Lanning does the finishes—but it doesn’t look finished, it feels unclear and fuzzy.

If the art of IC #4 were on the television, Perez’s art would be high definition while the rest Jimenez’s and Reis’ pages would be UHF—out of focus no matter what direction you twist the rabbit ears (am I showing my age here???)

Getting to the action, the issue opens up withthe city of Bludhaven’s destruction at Slade’s orders—Nightwing readers can figure out why. But it just seems for shock value with shades of the destruction of Coast City during the Reign of the Supermen story arc of a dozen or so years ago.

Next we have Alex Luthor giving a captive Power Girl (and the readers) a nice plot summary as to how the various aforementioned Countdown mini-series fit into his grand plan to bring back Earth-2…and more??? It was nice of him to do so because this poor confused fanboy was starting to need a map and a compass to connect the various and separate plot points.

What I didn’t like: When Power Girl asks “Why?”, Alex tells PG that after his studies of this universe and all others for countless years "I have learned that no matter where they are or what reality they come from, when a Luthor stands next to a Superman [Kal-L in this case]--they will always be at odds."

I don't buy it. In the original CRISIS, Alex Luthor was the sole survivor of Earth-3, the son of Alexander Luthor, that earth's only hero and of the Earth-3 Lois Lane. As the universe died around them, their last action was to rocket their only son away from destruction to safety (sound familiar?).

Other notes: During the CRISIS, the Monitor retrieved the Luthor child and observed him grow from a baby to adulthood within a space of days with anti-matter powers. So Alex is not a fully formed personality no matter how long they've been in limbo. I’m willing to give Geoff Johns the benefit of the doubt thus far, but it’s disappointing to see a character once so noble be dramatically rewired. I hope there is some back story or explanation to come.

What I really liked: The interchange between Batman and Nightwing. It was a humbling moment and a long time in coming for the Dark Knight when he both realizes and admits that his own hubris has isolated him while his son (Note: Bruce Wayne legally adopted Dick Grayson) has retained the trust and respect that he squandered. It really was a father son moment.

The Main Event: Since they reappeared from limbo, Superboy-Prime has had a jones to “talk” with his “doppelganger,” Superboy—Conner Kent/Kon-El, who is a clone of both Superman and Lex Luthor. SBP appears on the Kent farm, confronts Kon-El and goes from zero to crazy in two panels.

The only explanation he provides is that Kon-El isn’t Superboy, SBP is. Where SBP proceed to play kick the clone across Kansas. Before you know it, various members of the Teen Titans, as well as the Doom Patrol and the Justice Society are on hand to take on the irrational, crazed Kryptonian.

Not knowing his own strength, SBP kills a slew of useless characters including Pantha and Wildebeest. Not sure if Red Star is killed or just if he froze real good. Risk from Dan Jergens’ short lived Teen Titans literally has his arm ripped off.

Then the three Flashes—Jay Garrick the original, Wally West and Kid Flash Bart Allen, whisk SBP away. Jay can’t keep up and falls back while Wally and Bart proceed to take SBP into the Speed Force--the point past the speed of light for super speedsters where they assend to a pure energy form beyond our earthly plane.

It was a touching moment to see Barry Allen pop up from the other side of the Speed Force and his first (and final) meeting with Bart his grandfather. All that’s left is Jay Garrick to declare that the Speed Force is gone.

What a waste. In the original CRISIS, Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the universe. Why did Wally and Bart go and for what? To give the mini-series a gimmick….they killed one Flash last time, this time they knocked off two.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the IC has been shipping on time, but not at the expense of good storytelling. During the original CRISIS in 1985, Perez with Dick Giordano and later Jerry Ordway banged out 12 monthly issues, including two double-sized issues, on time every time and each page was quality art with a cohesive story.

If I am being too critical or picky it is because my hyped up expectations have not yet been met by the product. I’m still excited and eager for the next issue, but I’m hoping and expecting better for my $3.99 worth. --CW


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