Review: Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


What a beautiful, beautiful mess Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths is.

And it is beautiful; for one, artist Daniel Sampere is doing the work of his career. The book is far more akin to DC’s Infinite Crisis than it ever is Crisis on Infinite Earths, and one indication is how much Sampere evokes Phil Jimenez and company before him.

Equally there is much here that writer Joshua Williamson does that’s beautiful. At Dark Crisis’s heart, it’s a story about specific DC heroes carrying on in the absence of the Justice League, and that’s well done and heartfelt. I also adore the sheer amount of the current DC Universe that Dark Crisis pulls from. Where the book is less lofty and more grounded, it’s better for it.

But there’s also so many places where Dark Crisis goes wrong. The story turns on a false claim, which would be fine except that it contradicts information presented before as narrative fact. Characters pull revelations about their situation right out of the air. And the main book never explains the stakes — what we’re in danger of losing, nor even what’s gained in the end. Maybe that’s in one of the tertiary books I haven’t read yet, but it’s not here, and that makes the main Dark Crisis book unsatisfying reading on its own.

For me, the good outweighed the bad. But I don’t think the DC hype machine helped things; this book is perfectly passable as “Dark Crisis,” but “Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths” was probably a step too far.

[Review contains spoilers]

Again, distilled to its basics, Dark Crisis is relatively simple, and lovely; Nightwing, Jon Kent, Black Adam, and others try to pick up after the disappearance of the Justice League, battling a souped-up Deathstroke and company. If not perhaps “Crisis”-level, this is surely fodder for a fifth-week event, or a lead-in to a new Titans series (which this is) a la the masterpiece JLA/Titans.

There’s plenty stand-up-and-cheer moments — Jon saves Nightwing, Superman saves Jon, the splashy arrivals of the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice Society. And even if the book doesn’t use Williamson’s lead-in miniseries quite as much as you’d expect, it’s wonderfully rooted in the last year of DC comics, from an unexpected emphasis on Titans Academy to Jon and Nightwing’s friendship, Black Adam’s struggles to fit into the Justice League, lost Green Lantern Corps members, two Swamp Things, the events of Williamson’s Batman: Shadow War, and on — even Punchline is here. In the ways this is relatively simple — heroes versus iconic villains, from the Legion of Doom to Nekron and Neron — it reminds of what was equally enjoyable in Infinite Crisis.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Dark Crisis wears its theme on its sleeve, sprinkling the word “legacy” wherever it gets a chance. But if a DCU concept is being revitalized here, we might equally say it’s “friendship.” Before the New 52 turned things on their head, you knew a scene with Kyle Rayner and Connor Hawke or Wally West would have a little extra something because these people didn’t just work together, they were friends. Here we’ve got Jon Kent with Nightwing and Jon Kent with Robin Damian Wayne; there’s also a mission that teams best pals Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, teasing and joking like we haven’t seen of late.

This is also the first DC Comics event in about a decade to involve the real, in-our-timeline Justice Society, and Williamson makes great use of them, from Wildcat in the background cracking wise to Alan Scott dropping by to give Nightwing a pep talk. Not just because of the JSA — but not despite it, either — Dark Crisis feels like the ultimate return to form for the DCU after the events of Flashpoint.

But, as mentioned, Dark Crisis turns on a misunderstanding — Pariah claims to be causing these events on behalf of the Great Darkness entity, though we understand by the end that it’s really Pariah’s own insanity and the Great Darkness is uninvolved.

Except, the Dark Crisis collection includes a “History of the DC Multiverse” section at the end (reusing art from a similar section within Justice League Incarnate proper) that specifically says the Darkness took Pariah as its avatar for the Dark Crisis. This follows from — so says both Dark Crisis and Incarnate — the Darkness’s behind-the-scenes involvement in DC’s biggest “crises” to this point, from Zero Hour to Infinite Crisis and 52. In Justice League Incarnate, we’re told all that by Doctor Multiverse, who gets the upcoming Dark Crisis’s culprit wrong (she says Darkseid), but even if Multiverse isn’t a reliable narrator, the Dark Crisis “History” is presented as unfiltered fact.

Thus Dark Crisis struggles in its cosmic aspects even with questions as simple as “who’s the bad guy?”1 and it continues from there. Apparently the DCU’s “Earth-Zero” heroes are each “a world unto yourself” that Pariah can use to “rebuild the Multiverse,” though what that means isn’t explained, and Pariah’s multiverse, the so-called Multiverse-2, is already reborn; that very scene takes place there. Lex Luthor opines that “the idea of the Omniverse was false. It created an imbalance in our Multiverse”; I am well versed in -verses, and I cannot tell you what that means.

Later, the Flashes (rather apropos of nothing) are very concerned about the fate of the “Infinite Earths,” separate from the Multiverse; Williamson’s Barry Allen says that every day since the Infinite Earths have been gone “and we didn’t restore them we’ve been losing.” “Losing” what, I don’t know; perhaps, like Dark Nights: Metal, there’s an essential tie-in book that ought have been included in the main volume and wasn’t, but the loser is still the very new uninformed readers that DC needs to be keeping. I’m sure it’s a good thing, as Mr. Terrific says in the end, that now “our Multiverse powers the Infinite,” but I can’t tell you why.

And that’s not even to mention Williamson’s arbitrary leaps of logic to move the story forward. Nightwing relays that the comatose Beast Boy “believes he was killed … That’s why he’s not waking up,” because apparently the doctors can assess the beliefs of unconscious patients. Cyborg’s unspecified “readings” tell him their enemies are on the way; Lex Luthor consults a blurry globe and discerns a connection between Deathstroke and the Darkness. The heroes arbitrarily decide that even though Pariah was to blame, they’ll tell the public it was the Great Darkness to “ease their worries,” though a malevolent cosmic force attacking Earth rather than one supervillain doesn’t seem more comforting to me.

As others have pointed out, with few exceptions Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths is the first major DC event in almost 20 years not written by either Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. No offense to Snyder, whose alt-Earth Dark Nights books I enjoyed and am due to re-read, but I’ve missed the Johns of Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night, and Forever Evil, events which, if cosmic, all had a strong ground level heroes-versus-villains component. As I’ve said, Joshua Williamson’s Dark Crisis reminds of all that, and feels like DC’s first event in a decade that could reasonably, seamlessly carry on from their old continuity.

Williamson’s first major event is far from perfect, but it’s almost entirely what I’m looking for in a DC event. If this is the dawn of the Dawn of DC, setting the tone for what comes next, then I’m optimistic indeed.

[Includes original and variant covers, “History of the DC Multiverse” section, George Perez tribute pages]

Rating 3.0

  1. For much of the Great Darkness material, the collection points us toward Dark Crisis: The Deadly Green, collected in Tales From Dark Crisis, though I’m skeptical whether that will help or sustain the confusion.  ↩︎

Comments ( 6 )

  1. I love the concept of this crossover but the prelude in Justice League #75, where after a long battle, the villain decides to take out the entire Justice League in a single blast really left a bad taste in my mouth. Why didn't he do that earlier? Why didn't he do it again? How is anyone supposed to beat him without so clever plan if he can do that? It could've been handled so much better and it wasn't.

  2. Fantastic review, as ever, and your enthusiasm makes me want to reread the event. At the time, it felt like editorial interference really ripped through the third act; the plot and stakes had been ballooning, only for a last-minute reveal that actually the event was much smaller than we thought it was, and it really comes down to Deathstroke more than to Pariah. Of course, the increasingly multi/omniversal shenanigans had to contract at a point, but with this event it felt like whiplash, especially after Infinite Frontier and Justice League Incarnate. (And I don't remember the tie-ins helping much.)

    > with few exceptions Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths is the first major DC event in almost 20 years not written by either Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder

    The most important exception being Grant Morrison's Final Crisis!

    1. Precisely. I'm like, they've all been written by Johns or Snyder, but then oh, oh wait, can't overlook Final Crisis (also Convergence, but maybe the less said, the better).

      I've heard "editorial interference" mentioned a couple times in terms of Dark Crisis, everything from the mid-series name change to sidelining the Great Darkness. Even that bit about "we'll still blame it on the Great Darkness anyway," and then I see them blaming the Great Darkness again in Flash Vol. 19 — was it planned to be the Great Darkness and then it changed, and that's the hedge if Great Darkness is mentioned elsewhere? Theories? Surely as much as they've picked the bones of Alan Moore's creations, this can't be hesitation to use Great Darkness because it figured prominently in Moore's Swamp Thing run (since, what, Legion used "Great Darkness Saga" at least a couple years earlier than that).

      Did something change with the original Dark Crisis plan? Why? Thoughts, anyone?

    2. Another sure sign of a course correction is that one panel, right at the end, where Black Adam is unmistakably The Rock -- smack in the middle of Christopher Priest's run on the character, it feels like a major pivot away from an Adam at the center of DC to an Adam at the fringes, coinciding neatly with Bendis's departure and Dwayne Johnson's fallen fortunes at WB and the late DCEU. Dawn of DC really felt like editorial insisting, "Don't worry about all that stuff before. If you liked it, it's here." And it's really hard to argue with much of what Dawn has wrought.

      Meanwhile, on the covers, the Batman/Superman/Green Lantern fusion from the Waid/Mora run dukes it out with Deathstroke on a variant cover for #7, but nothing remotely resembling that happens in the event. (He also appears on another cover, making me wonder if he was ever part of the story or if he was just fodder for speculators. Me personally, I just think he's neat!) The closest thing is Black Adam empowering the Justice League - again, a Black Adam/JL fusion that felt like corporate synergy but now feels like an unwelcome phantom.

  3. I agree the premise of the event worked on paper than the actual execution.

    The other thing working against it was that the entire Infinite Frontier narrative was DC plunging down into the Multiverse well despite how much it had dominated the preceding 5 years (from the original Metal all through Snyder's Leagye Myth Arc).

    Doing it so soon again was a mistake (even if it was mandated to some extent due to opening up the Omniverse).

    The Dick v. Slade climax, at least, worked as a coda to Williamson's run on Slade's book.

    1. When you say "opening up the Omniverse," tell me more what that means. I feel like that was touted by the characters as a major thing happening in Dark Crisis, but I never could figure out what it meant or how they knew it was happening. What does it mean in-story? In terms of DC's "real world" storytelling?


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