"Wha ... they just killed Pantha!" -- actual quote while reading Infinite Crisis #4.
This most recent issue of Infinite Crisis--the one where, as Geoff Johns described on Wordballoon.com, "things go nuclear"--is my favorite so far in terms of "stuff happening"; only now do I feel like the plot has really started moving. We understand now the "hows" of everything Alexander Luthor has been planning, if not necessarily the "whys." I'm glad to see all of the Countdown miniseries tied together, even Day of Vengeance, and the suggestion that the heroes will become more pro-active now, lead by Batman, portends good things for the rest of the series.
Unfortunately, this issue felt very compressed to me, and with only three issues left to go, I'm afraid that the next three issues will feel compressed, too. There was a lot of great stuff here, almost on every page--dropping Chemo on Bludhaven, Crispus Allen becoming the Spectre, learning how all four Countdown miniseries finally tie in, a big shocking fight scene, and the return of Barry Allen and Max Mercury--but it all just seemed to come so quickly that it felt like some things got short-changed. For instance, apparently the beetle scarab is now attached to the new Blue Beetle's spine; maybe it would have been a waste of pages to show that actually happening, but when Booster Gold talked about it, I felt like I had missed something. In the case of something like Infinite Crisis, I don't mind being taken step-by-step, and if that meant that Infinite Crisis would have been twelve issues like the original, that would have been fine with me.
I was however glad to see that it doesn't look like Wally West died, or, at least, I don't think he did. That his whole family was pulled into the Speed Force suggests Wally will be back; that's too big of a plot point to just let go. Personally, I'm very much in favor of Wally keeping on as the Flash; Bart Allen has not been Kid Flash long enough to trade for the red suit. At least if Wally's gone he has his whole family with him, rather than dying a tragic death a la Barry Allen. I felt it would have been "death for death's sake" if Wally West died in Infinite Crisis just like Barry did in the original; better that Wally evolve some way, growing perhaps beyond the whole Speed Force set-up. I hope get further details about what happened next issue, rather than having to wait for the new Flash series in order to learn more.
Certainly, Infinite Crisis #4 wasn't a great place for mid-nineties Titans. Again, the character deaths seem to focus on "limbo characters," be it Phantom Lady before or Pantha, Red Star, and Baby Wildebeest now. At the same time, these were shocking deaths, and deaths of characters I cared for (hey, everybody has to be somebody's favorite), so in terms of adding emotional punch to the series, the deaths suceeded. And I did think that the extreme violence in this issue lent a seriousness to Infinite Crisis that puts it on par with Identity Crisis; in specific, Superboy's ripping Risk's arm off was a frightening moment, and I hope that Geoff actually revisits Risk down the road, showing what happens to him, rather than let it be for shock value only. With these deaths, DC shows that it means business, and I welcome it even as I'm concerned who else will be killed in the last half of the series.
Though it seems extreme that it should take four issues for all the players to be gathered, I'm looking forward to issue five for the game to finally begin. Infinite Crisis doesn't read like a story to me the same way that Identity Crisis did, but there were some nice character moments that made it worth while. Here's looking forward to issue five, the one that's rumored to be so big, it launches us all one year later. See you then.