DC recently shared that Heroes in Crisis will be coming to us in late September, courtesy of Batman creative team Tom King and Clay Mann, and will involve a murder mystery. While DC has not exactly shied away from crossover events, with this book DC is revisiting its “Crisis” title – something that carries more meaning than your typical crossover due to its long tradition, multiple uses, and wildly varying quality between events. Often, a “Crisis” involves trying to reboot DC continuity in some way, but not always.
Should the reinstitution of a “Crisis” event be cause for hype or skepticism? We suppose that depends on your opinion of the “Crisis” crossover events to date. Below, find GEEK’s deadlocked ranking of all DC’s “Crisis” crossovers, and what made them great – or not so great. To be clear: this is not breaking down all of DC’s crossover events, only the ones explicitly using “Crisis” in their names, and only those with their own books – as the name “Crisis” was first used for JLA/JSA crossovers way back in “Crisis on Earth One” in Justice League of America #21 (1963).
The Stinker: Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time
If only they hadn’t given this series the “Crisis in Time” tagline, this list would be mostly hype. Feel free to skip this one; this series, which largely concerns lame concepts like Hawk from Hawk & Dove progressing from one dumb heel turn to an even dumber one. Now, Hawk turning rogue perhaps could have been an interesting development for the hotheaded Hank Hall if he’d merely let rage get the better of him, but Hawk – in a non-Crisis crossover called Armageddon 2001 actually became a scheming, would-be world conqueror called “Monarch.” In Zero Hour, he gets a power upgrade and becomes the even more out-of-character malcontent time-lord called “Extant.”
The other villain of the story is the equally silly heel-turned Hal Jordan, who at this point was the villainous Parallax – a move that took future Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns to unravel in even a moderately satisfying way. Further, whatever problems this event was trying to solve – mostly involving DC’s future timelines not being in synch – just created more issues, such as muddling some of Batman’s backstory, and further jumbling Hawkman’s origins rather than solving much. All in all, this “Crisis” is, at best, forgettable.
Rather Polarizing: Identity Crisis
We believe there’s value in taking grim and/or gritty looks at our brightly colored capes & tights crowd. Sure, perhaps it’s been overdone since the great works by Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Frank Millar (Dark Knight) started the trend, but there’s certainly still room for exploring heroes against a more serious backdrop. And we’ll admit there’s a lot to like in Identity Crisis – but, damn, does it go overboard, and some of the violence seems tone deaf. Elongated Man’s wife, Sue Dibny, is not only murdered in this one, but is revealed to have been the one-time victim of rape at the hands of Doctor Light. WHUCK? Much of the plot also involves that Zatanna was pressured to mind-wipe villains to keep secret identities and such secret and protect heroes’ families, etc. And, as villains regain some of their memories, other victims in the near-gratuitous body-count end up including Robin’s (Tim Drake) father, Captain Boomerang, and Firestorm. Finally, the real villain of the piece turns out to be a long-time supporting character of the Atom, one that perhaps wasn’t “loved,” but this character shift still seemed off to at least this reader.
Look, Brad Meltzer, even with some misguided plot points, is a very good writer, and there are interesting implications to uncovering this backstory, and it sets up some fun DC stuff to come (Batman creates Brother Eye, for instance). And Rags Morales’ art is always welcome in our book. But, on the whole, Identity Crisis is the “Crisis” that receives, at best, a lukewarm endorsement. Better than Zero Hour, sure.
The Whole Package: Infinite Crisis
Infinite Crisis is the first of these that we can recommend with little reservations. Again, it’s written by Geoff Johns, who expertly invokes past Crisis events in a way that pays tribute, rather than invalidate, even as he moves the ever-rebooting DCU forward. And the series’ main artist, Phil Jimenez, is perhaps better suited to drawing legions of characters in a Crisis event than anybody not named “George Perez.” We won’t even factor in that a couple of the associated mini-series (Day of Vengeance, Villains United) spawned into good ongoings of their own (respectively Shadowpact and Secret Six), because Infinite Crisis can stand on its own as a good story, with high stakes and high action/adventure.
The nutshell synopsis: the Big Three (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) are in a feud, even as the very overpowered Superboy-Prime and original Crisis refugee Alexander Luthor scheme to enact a “reboot” of their own – one that will create one, definitive, ideal Earth. There is some really brutal stuff in here, mostly in the form of fanboy stand-in Superboy-Prime, who tends to put his fist through enemies’ heads and rip their arms off. Somehow, it feels more cartoony than the strange Identity Crisis violence – perhaps being more over the top, it doesn’t hit that grotesque chord of realistic violence that IC did. Perhaps it’s that deft touch of Geoff Johns.
Ambitious (Overly?): Final Crisis
Burdened by art issues and perhaps too much allegory and some narrative confusion, Final Crisis nonetheless is second on our deadlock list. After all, Grant Morrison aims very high, and even if the ambitious outweighs the execution, it’s a beautiful, potent mess, full of DC minutiae and metacommentary. The art throughout – while intended to be all by JG Jones but getting help from Carlos Pacheco for the middle issues and the final issue done entirely by Doug Mahnke – is really special, despite the shift. And the story? It’s real universe-shaking stuff, with Jack Kirby’s New Gods are front and center.
Essentially, Darkseid, DC’s best villain not named “Lex” or possessing a clown’s visage, invades Earth… and succeeds. The scheme largely centered around the evil New Gods using humans – in some cases heroes – as their host bodies for the invasion. What do heroes do when evil wins? There is some scary, gross, beautiful, and compelling stuff in here. Another bit of criticism is that the tie-in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond is nearly essential to enjoying the tale to its fullest. This “Crisis” is the most work for the reader, but perhaps the most worth it once you’re done.
Granddaddy of Them All: Crisis on Infinite Earths
The first is the best, period. George Perez drawing crowds and crowds of heroes and villains, often multiple, alternate-world versions of each side by side, yet distinct and emotive, as only Perez can. He and writer Marv Wolfman sought to pare the vast DC Universe – that is, with its infinite Earths – in to a single Earth, as a jumping-on point to help new readers. While perhaps short-sighted in that a vast mess of a universe, in this fan’s opinion, is half the fun, their effort to decimate the “infinite” universe really helped to celebrate all the wonderful things about it.
This one has it all: epic villainy from the Anti-Monitor, plenty of petty villainy from the usual gang of Luthors and Jokers, amazing heroism and sacrifice (Flash! Supergirl! You will believe a Superman can cry!), time travel, strange bedfellows… and just about any character you can think of that appeared prior to 1985.
Dispute this list? NEVER. This is straight up truth. Okay, okay – just our opinion. If you want to share yours before this next Crisis series hits, you know where to go.
Images: DC Comics