Sunday, October 16, 2005

[Blog Entry] Infinite Crisis: The Biggest Comic Book Event of the Year

Infinite Crisis: The Biggest Comic Book Event of the Year

Earlier this year, two of the biggest mainstream comic companies, DC and Marvel, officially launched their earth-shaking series that promises to shake their respective worlds. For the former, it was Infinite Crisis, at heels of its success with Identity Crisis. The latter, on the other hand, in a feeble attempt to combat their rival’s plans, launched House of M, a what-if story that nobody yet knows where it’s going to lead. The biggest difference between Infinite Crisis from House of M, however, is the fact that the former was well-planned, the seeds of which were planted in various comic titles several months earlier.

So what is the hype all about? Why is Infinite Crisis the hottest item to hit comic bookshelves ever, at least for this decade? Well, most fans would cite its predecessor, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is a 12-issue miniseries that tied all of DC’s comic universes together. Actually, it was the perfect excuse for DC to cohesively unite its various titles, which existed in a complex multiverse (in part due to the fact that DC acquired characters from defunct comic publishers several years earlier). To summarize what happened in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the multiverse was reduced to one universe. The ones who appreciated that series the most was long time DC fans who were familiar with the convoluted history if its characters, but I caught on to it without too much difficulty (all you need to know is that well, there are different universes with different heroes and villains).

That was for Crisis on Infinite Earths. What’s the draw for Infinite Crisis, at least for myself? Well, it has to do with the build-up DC has been establishing. In Identity Crisis, we learn that the Justice League’s heroes are all too human, and they’re far from the boy scouts we’ve imagined them to be. Without spoiling anything, the story begins with a character death, and ends with much tragedy. You don’t need to be a comic book fan to get into it, although it’ll mean more for comic book fans who grew up with those characters.

(Character death in DC is perhaps more spectacular than Marvel. While the former have done their own share of character resurrections, some characters do stay dead, or at the very least have a lot of ramifications. The deaths of the Marvel universe are usually rehashes of the same event, from Phoenix’s sacrifice to the death of Avengers member Hawkeye. The only sacred cow Marvel never seemed to touch was Gwen Stacy’s death, who was pivotal in shaping Spider-man’s current views.)

And then there’s the four mini-series that all lead to Infinite Crisis: Day of Vengeance, Rann-Thanagar War, OMAC Project, and Villains United. While the four aren’t necessary to enjoy Infinite Crisis, they all build up to it, and thankfully, is available in trade paperback by November. The one with the biggest impact is perhaps OMAC Project, because here, the division between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman become evident. If there’s anything DC did right, it’s the update they did for their characters. Batman isn’t the Adam West variety you saw on TV: he’s a Frank Miller-inspired, angsty modern detective. Wonder Woman, over the years, has had many incarnations, and perhaps the persona the present one exhibits is that of the warrior. And Superman, while still a paragon of everything that America stands for, has had many experiences that tore at him. (In the present DC universe, the man with the purest heart isn’t Superman, but Captain Marvel, although the public isn’t exactly privy to that knowledge.)

So DC has infused more character into its cast. So what? That’s what gave Marvel much popularity nearly three decades earlier. Perhaps what’s important is that they’ve been modernized, despite the convoluted histories they have. And Infinite Crisis promises to shake things up, in ways you’ve never imagined.

Earlier last week, Infinite Crisis just arrived. The biggest surprise for fans was the last page. It’s a big spoiler, and I won’t mention it. Everyone seems to be saying “I didn’t think of that!”. Personally, I find it bizarre. Reading the first few pages of Infinite Crisis, I already knew what the last page would be (freaky considering I’m not a comic zealot). As a whole, the first issue had one of the best comic writing. The dialogue was unrestrained, everything you wanted to say to the heroes but couldn’t. And yes, that goes for non-comic fans.

So is Infinite Crisis #1 really that cool? Well, for existing comic fans, it’s a must-have. Get it, and get it now. For the non-aficionados, my best recommendation is to wait for the trade paperback, or at least until issue #2 is out. Issue #1, while great, might leave readers unfamiliar with Crisis in Infinite Earths going “huh?!”. The writers promise to give a quick and brief explanation to everything in issue 2 though, so the uninitiated shouldn’t fear.

Infinite Crisis sets the stage for something really big and perhaps what’s more important, something very dramatic. Those who followed the four titles I mentioned earlier, as well as the four-issue series Return of Donna Troy, will catch a glimpse of why it’s called a crisis, and where it’s all leading to. What sets it apart is the same reason why Infinite Crisis will be more successful compared to House of M: because there’s lots of history, and the groundwork has been laid down for several months now. That’s not to discourage newbies from entering the fray, but is an example of how epic things are going to be.


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