Review: Crisis on Infinite Earths: Paragons Rising: The Deluxe Edition hardcover (DC Comics)

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I’ve never missed an episode of DC’s CW television shows, so I say with as much affection as possible that the spin-off Crisis on Infinite Earths: Paragons Rising comic is as brilliant and as misbegotten as an episode of one of the series often is. 

In essence, these two stories from the Crisis on Infinite Earths Giants (exclusive to Walmart, though darned if I ever saw them) allowed Arrowverse producer Marc Guggenheim to sneak in a couple more Easter eggs that TV production couldn’t or wouldn’t allow for, which is great, and also let original Crisis comic writer Mark Wolfman and inker Jerry Ordway take an additional role, which is also great. It is wrapped, however, in plots that betray how quickly they were put together, and also the kind of melodrama that struggles as is on the screen, let alone on the page. Still, in addition to the other high points, the bonus material does well to remind the reader how much history backs all of this and how wonderfully unlikely any of this actually is.

[Review contains spoilers]

The book’s main story, “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” has as its high concept showing what Felicity Smoak was doing during the events of the CW crossover. The story opens, however, with Nash “Pariah” Wells appearing on Earth-N52 shortly before its destruction, with an image of what’s clearly DC’s New 52 Justice League behind him. This continues with Pariah popping in on Earth-F, with a Fleischer-styled Superman and Lois Lane, and Earth-76, home of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman.

Later we also get Earth-D, from Wolfman’s own 1999 Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths special, and the Green Lanterns and Guardians of the Universe as seen in Guggenheim’s Green Lantern movie. In the same way, the second story, “Infinite Luthors,” plays with a variety of Lex’s appearances over the years — Super Friends, Gene Hackman, that time he pretended to be his own son, and so on, plus the Tyler Hoechlin Superman meets the Kingdom Come Superman, the Reign of the Supermen Superman, and the Electric Blue Superman, all drawn by Ordway. (Some of the ancillary matter suggests this book even intersects with the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic proper, but the TV-styled Anti-Monitor nullifies this somewhat, if I’m even thinking of the right scene.)

This is cute, and a great use of a tie-in comic, and I rather wish the writers had leaned into this even more. Who knows all the rights involved, but here’s the only place they could have nodded to Batman: The Animated Series, the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, even Teen Titans Go, or to have cameoed some recognizable aspect of the current DC comics universe, like Super Sons Jon Kent and Damian Wayne. Nor is Michael Rosenbaum in the background of the Luthor story as he should be, at least not clearly.

Also, perhaps necessarily, it felt like the writers were trying to keep the disparate elements largely separate. Aside from Felicity mouthing off to the Guardians, we lack undoubtedly entertaining scenes like Felicity actually meeting Wonder Woman or even a more comics-authentic Green Arrow, or Lyla meeting the Green Lantern John (Diggle) Stewart or the CW Barry Allen running into the soon-to-die Crisis Barry Allen. And so on.

Instead, we get a story that feels hasty and juvenile, hardly likely to bring a new fan to the comics. The Monitor suddenly reveals that Pariah has an anti-matter counterpart, called “Outkast,” whom Felicity and the heroes have to find. Here I think they zigged when they should have zagged; Outkast is, of course, never mentioned on the TV shows, so he feels very much an invention of this comic. As well, I see they’re trying to parallel “Pariah,” but the name “Outkast” smacks of the worst faux cool comics cliches (also Andre and Antwan want their name back). And low and behold, Outkast can suddenly turn into an anti-matter bomb (despite that Pariah can’t) when the plot calls for it.

Once that’s done with, Felicity performs her “computer magic” to determine the heroes need to go to OA, though for specious reasons they actually go to see the Phantom Stranger first and then on to OA. Felicity tapping a couple computer keys and delivering a plot device is off-putting on Arrow on a good day; here, the stakes are so cosmic — Felicity hacking the Monitor's computer — that it’s nigh unbelievable. Artist Tom Derenick’s tendency to draw every character with a gaping wide open mouth is exceptionally distracting, and the book hardly looks like something that would change the mind of a reader on the fence about collecting comics.

As someone with a DC Trade Paperback Timeline on my site, far be it from me to fault Guggenheim for trying to fit these stories into Arrowverse continuity. In a text piece, he says they do, so of course I’ll take his word for it, though Felicity’s mere presence is a puzzler — I thought she sat out all of “Crisis,” at home with baby Mia, but it’s been a couple months since I watched it. But in the first part of “Infinite Luthors,” Guggenheim admits to a gaffe, sending Superman to an Earth that would have already been destroyed; the fix is bizarre, however, as Guggenheim has the other Supermans correct “our” Superman on a fact only ever shown in “location text,” something only the reader can see, as if Superman and the audience are sharing a fourth-wall-breaking mass delusion.

Worth the price of admission on its own, perhaps, is the final two-page text piece by Marv Wolfman. Succinctly, Wolfman describes not just the genesis of the original Crisis comics, but then follows the legacy of Crisis over 35 years(!), including the aforementioned Legends issue, the novel, the audiobook, and finally the TV miniseries, not to mention the various comics sequels. Thirty-five years is a long time and Wolfman’s gratitude and excitement comes through in his words. The comics' longevity and this TV crossover are both marvels, and this is a nice reminder of that.



Crisis on Infinite Earths: Paragons Rising is a collection we likely needed earlier, as with the CW series ending early as is, this book feels very much out of its time. But, despite some perhaps unavoidable silliness within, this did feel like a second chance to say good-bye to Arrow, which might not have been so poignant without distance. This is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of book, nothing wholly unmissable here, though again Marc Guggenheim’s Felicity Smoak yelling at his Guardians of the Universe probably made writing it feel good.

[Includes original covers; text from Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Marv Wolfman; scripts, penciled pages, and TV production art]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. I'm not 100%, but I think the Felicity appearing in the comic is the version from future Star City where Mia is all grown up, as seen in the seventh season of the show. But I could be wrong.


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