Sunday, March 05, 2006

Infinite Crisis #5 –A storytelling CRISIS

The upshot from DC Comics: The DC Universe shakes apart as Kal-L, Superman of Earth-2 finally confronts our Superman, Kal-El. Meanwhile, heroes are disappearing throughout the DCU, a transformed villain returns, and the mystics of every world and dimension seek help from the very Spirit that is destroying them.

FanBoyWonder deliberately waited a few days to digest this issue before posting because we didn’t want to be overly negative…at least unfairly so.

We are 5 issues into this 7 issue series and we still have no idea what the heck is going on or what it’s all about. So far this series has been a disappointment…on so many levels. More is the pity as the folks at DC have spent two solid years plotting out this sequel to 1985’s landmark 12-part epoch CRISIS on Infinite Earths.

We won’t bother with a page-by-page breakdown of events. Mile High Comics’ Newsarama does a much better job of that in their annotated commentary...check it out here

Our biggest or most fundamental problem with the Infinite Crisis to date is that it a very technical, by the numbers story. It’s woefully short of heart or soul and the creators have yet to score a meaningfully emotional connection.

Example: Superman and Lois Kent have appeared on the newly manufactured Earth-2 in front of the offices of the Daily Star. Lois, who has been slowly dying—presumably of old age—during their time in the post-CRISIS “paradise” dimension has been little more than window dressing up.

Until now…she’s barely had a speaking part so the reader hasn’t formed the aforementioned emotional connection. At best we’ve been connected via her husband Superman’s desperate attempts to save her. Yet the reader, at least this reader has not been clued into how or why Kal-L believes that the return of Earth-2 or the multiverse will save his wife’s life.

Despite illustrator Jerry Ordway’s best efforts, Lois Kent’s death scene where she suddenly collapses and quietly passes away in her husband’s arms is devoid of true impact—it’s as if the reader can “hear” Lois’ death on cue.

Ordway’s splash page with Kal-L screaming and holding his dead wife in his arms is deliberately reminiscent of classic cover of Crisis of Infinite Earth #7 where Kal-El holds a battle-slain Supergirl. But that’s where the comparison ends.

During the original CRISIS, we all knew Supergirl would die—it had been leaked out months before but when the moment came, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Knowing the outcome didn’t prevent the reader from connecting emotionally.

IC5’s battle of the Supermen was even less satisfying. As a grief stricken Kal-L lashes out at a confused Kal-El, the words are right but the emotion feels contrived.

We did, however like very much the cameo between Wonder Woman and the Earth-2 Wonder Woman Diana Prince. The conversation between the two Princess Dianas amounts to little more than a cameo and Diana Prince knows her time is limited so she offers some advice and a caution to her younger counterpart to allow herself to be human.
It was a touching if all too brief scene.

One thing we didn’t notice until it was pointed out to us was the apparent identity of the Flash who appeared in Tokyo near the end. We believed it was Wally West emerging from the Speed Force where the Flashes--Wally West and Kid Flash Bart Allen--had sent a rampaging Superboy Prime last issue.

Upon closer inspection of the costume, the belt appears to be straight like Barry Allen’s costume, not the zig-zag lightening bolt pattern of Wally’s Flash costume—a small but critical detail.

DC in it’s current love affair with the Silver Age already has brought Hal Jordan Green Lantern back to life and before that Oliver Queen Green Arrow was brought back from the dead…are the powers that be at DC going for the resurrect trifecta?

At the end of the issue, Flash warns that the Speed Force couldn’t contain him and that Superboy Prime, wearing a variant of the Anti-Monitor’s armor, has returned. Of course it would have been more of a surprise if DC, one week before he was “killed” in Infinite Crisis #4 hadn’t sent out solicitations for a Superboy Prime in battle armor action figure.

The bottom line: Infinite Crisis is a CRISIS because we have been TOLD for more than a year by DC that this IS a CRISIS but it doesn’t FEEL like a crisis. This remains a still promising story so but far the reader is being consumed by nothing more than an anti-matter wave of hype.

DC has plotted the Countdown and is ready to go with the One Year Later editorial launching point but somewhere along the line they forgot to pay attention to the event that was supposed to be “ground zero” of the whole affair.

This series has tried to do too many things at once so nothing is getting accomplished. Even a creative rainmaker like IC writer Geoff Johns can’t keep all of the various plot points from unraveling into chaos.

They still two issues to pull everything together but as it stands, Infinite Crisis has a long way to go to even compare to the original CRISIS while surpassing it may be impossible.

Justice League Unlimited –The Great Brain Robbery

The upshot: A mystical accident leads to Lex Luthor and the Flash's minds being swapped into each other's bodies.

The old hero/villain switch bodies dilemma is one of the oldest tricks in comics or cartoons but JLU really makes it work this time, thanks in no small part to the voice talents of Michael Rosenbaum as The Flash and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor.

The beginning of the episode cuts back and forth between the Justice League’s Watchtower orbiting satellite and the Legion of Doom’s secret headquarters.

While Lex Luthor is in the midst of probing the mind of Gorilla Grodd, the recently deposed leader of the Legion, at the same time Dr. Fate is mystically probing the mind of the Flash in the hopes of getting a lead on Grodd and the rest of the LOD.

As viewers are reminded, Grodd used his telepathy to take over Flash’s mind a couple of seasons back. In one of those only in comic books/cartoons coincidences, there is a short circuit on the astral plane and Flash and Lex Luthor wake up in each other’s bodies.

The League immediately knows it is Lex in Flash’s body and they tear apart the Watchtower trying to apprehend him. Along the way, in addition to Dr. Fate and Green Lantern, we get to see more of Mr. Terrific running the Watchtower, as well as the android Red Tornado who this time gets a few spoken lines.

The mind of the world’s worst criminal genus in the body of the Fastest Man Alive is not a good thing. As Lex/Flash tries to get off the satellite, a lot of mayhem ensues. The thing we really found annoying, however was that Lex used the Flash’s speed powers better than Flash does.

One laugh out loud moment for us was when GL and Fate cornered Lex/Flash in the Watchtower cafeteria. As the fastest evil guy alive was speed throwing everything in sight—forks, knives plates—the then tossed a yellow custard pie at GL which went through his power ring shield.

“Ah ha!” we yelled….so the ring DOES have a yellow weakness in the JLU universe…we hadn’t been sure until now.

Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom headquarters, Dr. Polaris was already itching to depose Luthor as the new leader even before the body switch but now Flash/Lex is desperately trying to fake it. It’s actually kind of fun to watch.

They proceed with Lex’s plan to rob a train full of cash and we get to see Sinestro and Polaris, as well as Rampage among the bad guys in action. Called out to stop them were the female/good Dr. Light, Steel and Ice.

The league finally captures the Lex/Flash, allowing Dr. Fate to work his magic do the old reverse mind/body switcharoo. The LOD villains had been doing what villains do when they realized that Luthor was a Justice League spy and were unmoved when Luthor announced he was back in his own body.

Dr. Polaris made his move and attempted to assume leadership but Luthor, who had helped Polaris augment his magnetic powers, shut him down with a click of a button. They don’t call him an evil genus for nothing.

However it doesn’t take an evil genus to figure out where the series finale is going—a big battle between the heroes of the Justice League and the villains of the Legion of Doom.

As we keep count, the Great Brain Robbery marked the 8th of the 13 remaining JLU episodes before the series goes dark.

Next week: Grudge Match. Roulette starts Metabrawl up again this time with female contestants only.
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