Book Review – Crisis on Infinite Earths

  • Title: Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Author: Marv Wolfman
  • Artist: George Pérez
  • Characters: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Justice League, et. al.
  • Publication Date: 2001 (this edition), first published 1985
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/12/2016

Crisis on Infinite Earths is big, really big, you might think it’s a long walk down to the chemist’s but… No wait, that’s The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but nevertheless this graphic novel is huge. It is really big – in every sense. It’s 364 pages – not including the introduction or the final analysis/review and the sketchbook at the end. Not only is it a lot of pages, but the art style and layout of Crisis on Infinite Earths include many small panels almost crammed onto the individual pages – rather than four or two or a single splash page there are often 9, 11, 14, small panels per page – the effect isn’t that the art is crowded or hard to follow – it’s that there’s so much going on simultaneously that multiple panels are needed to even give a glimpse of the story. This novel is a breathless read.

The story is also huge in every way that a good superhero comics story can be. It features just about every DC superhero – from all the various alternate Earths in the pre-Crisis universe. Earth 1, Earth 2, Earth 3, Earth X, Earth S – those and more are all here – as are their heroes. Every hero from the known (Superman (two of them), Wonder Woman (two of her too), Batman, Aquaman, etc.) to the obscure (Bwana Beast, The Question, Rip Hunter, various magic-users, etc.) is here – at least briefly. And the teams are here too – from the World War 2 Era Freedom Fighters to Doom Patrol, the Justice Society to the Justice League of America, The Green Lantern Corps to the Legion of Super-Heroes. Amazingly, this doesn’t get confusing or overwhelming – the book is skillfully-written to give you at least a name or affiliation for each character, as well as usually defining their powers.

The actual story had a very pragmatic purpose – the DC Universe had gotten very confusing. When you’ve been around since 1932 – that’s bound to happen. And the creative folks at DC were feeling a bit confined by trying to keep everything in continuity or declare a story an “Elseworlds” or “Imaginary Story” (DC’s parlance for alternate universe stories and stories outside the main continuity.) The creatives at DC felt their universe was also intimidating to new readers. Crisis on Infinite Earths was DC’s plan to simplify. Not to quite go back to a clean slate or change everything – but to create a new starting point. Yet for something that had a practical purpose, it’s just an amazing roller coaster ride of a story. It moves. It has sad bits. It has humor. It has moments that will make you gasp. And it the end, it does what was promised: some will live, some will die, the DC Universe will never be the same.

I started with reading DC Comics immediately after Crisis on Infinite Earths – so I didn’t read it in softcover. And it took a long time for this story to be published as a graphic novel. This was my second reading (the first was when I bought it whenever that was) and I was even more impressed. Crisis on Infinite Earths is a “wow” graphic novel. It’s amazing. And it’s something any comics and graphics novel fan needs to read. This novel didn’t just change things at DC – it changed the comics industry forever by showing that a long, complicated, cross-over story that actually changed things could be done and could be both successful and popular. Not to be missed.

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