Friday, October 01, 2004

A Post-Crisis Crisis

This may be about as useful as trying to rework the Civil War without Georgia or Maryland, but here goes.

With Matt over at Howling Curmudgeons offering his long-promised review and commentary on Crisis on Infinite Earths, I thought I'd share the "Post-Crisis Crisis" I tried to reason out last fall. (This previously appeared on the TrekBBS's SF&F message board, before I discovered the joys of the blogosphere.) I have also heard rumblings about Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez revisiting Crisis for its 20th anniversary next year, but that may just be my overactive imagination.

Why in the world (not the infinite worlds anymore, sadly) would I do this? Curiosity, basically. The "Crisis" (I can't even think of a prepositional phrase for it, since "Crisis Across Time" sounds too much like Zero Hour) is still an established event in DC history. There was a Monitor, an Anti-Monitor, a Pariah, and a Harbinger. Barry Allen and Prince Gavyn died as part of it. But how important was it, really?

Matt says it can't be as big without the infinite Earths, and I agree. It also can't be as big without those multitudes of characters the "serious" DC Universe was supposed to be rid of. However, it can still be a watershed moment. In the revised history, the heroes who founded the Justice League were becoming legends after only about 7-8 years in action. This is clearly different from the old Earth-1 timeline, in which even the original Teen Titans had over a decade of experience by the time they fought the Anti-Monitor's forces. The familiar relationship between Superman and Batman also had yet to form in the post-Crisis world. Finally, significant heroes like Wonder Woman (Diana) and Captain Atom were still in the future. Thus, where Crisis on Infinite Earths showed the Multiverse in "winter," the post-Crisis Crisis could show the new timeline getting ready for "spring."

The JLA: Incarnations miniseries (by John Ostrander and Val Semeiks) was very helpful, especially #5, the self-styled "Crisis crossover." I have also incorporated the events of Green Lantern #s 194-98 (by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton), detailing Hal Jordan’s and Guy Gardner’s return to the Green Lantern Corps. (Because those GL issues also state -- apparently contradictorily -- that John Stewart was on Supergirl’s final mission in Crisis #7, I have retconned him into that story.) Finally, my treasured Amazing Heroes all-Crisis issue (#91, March 15, 1986) was very helpful both in pointing out story issues and establishing an overall timeline for July and August, 1985. It's still very much a work in progress, because I'm discovering new issues constantly.

Fanzing tried this twice. The first attempt uses other DC worlds and the Kingdom Come characters, and the second uses alternate timelines (thanks to Hypertime, I guess). My feelings won’t be hurt if you like one of these better.

Issue #1. Central/Keystone Metroplex, 2956. Barry Allen, the second Flash, tries to defend the future from antimatter. (He's retired in the 30th Century following his acquittal on murder charges.) Figuring he needs the help of the JLA, he travels back in time to 1999 (or whatever year is “5 years ago,” DC time). Pariah, who's been silently watching Flash, disappears himself.

Meanwhile, in the anti-matter universe, its Earth is devoured by a similar white wall. In a mountainside retreat (reminiscent of the Earth-2 "Fortress of Solitude"), scientist Lex Luthor prepares his infant super-clone for a trip across the anti-matter barrier. (Why just a clone? Well, it was something he was working on already, and when the white wall showed up, he didn't have enough material to build a full-sized rocket.) The clone’s “mother” is the evil Amazon, Superwoman, who unwillingly contributed some DNA. (It was all very clinical; after all, Luthor doesn't want to stoop to the CSA's level.) Superwoman, now Luthor's prisoner, frees herself and attacks Luthor, but he manages to fire off the rocket. As it shoots into space, Pariah helplessly watches this world die too.

He's not the only one. A golden spaceship snags the rocket with a tractor beam.

Our Earth, 1999. Over a dozen super-beings have vanished almost simultaneously, with some witnesses reporting a strange blonde woman present. It’s a big puzzle, since the mystery woman is in many places at once. Wanting to consult a detective, and not having a good relationship with Batman since he left the JLA, Superman visits Titans’ Tower for a confab with Nightwing. Turns out Batman is there anyway. While capturing the Joker, he saw the dying Flash -- and together with the disappearances, thinks something’s afoot. (It's significant that Batman has come to Nightwing -- the Flash's apparent "death" has shaken him unexpectedly and he wants to make amends if this is really "the end.") Pariah appears here, this time mentioning to the three men that “your universe will die” before being pulled away.

Of course, the missing heroes and villains are on the Monitor’s satellite. Through his aide Harbinger, who can split into multiple duplicates, he’s summoned 15 super-beings from across time and space -- Blue Beetle II, Dawnstar of the pre-Zero Hour Legion, Solovar, Psimon, Geo-Force, Cyborg, Psycho-Pirate II, M’Onel of the post-ZH Legion, Obsidian, Firebrand II, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Arion, Firestorm, Killer Frost, and Dr. Polaris. Harbinger's inner monologue tells us one of her “selves” has been turned evil. Shadow demons attack, and we see that the various powers have different degrees of success against them -- almost as if someone were running an experiment or testing theories. The battle ends when the Monitor drives the demons away and tells the super-folk their world is about to die.

Issue #2. The 15 are sent to defend and activate “tuning forks” the Monitor has planted in several Earth eras, including

-- ancient Atlantis (Arion, Obsidian, Psycho-Pirate),
-- the Old West (Firebrand, Green Lantern, Cyborg, Psimon),
-- WWII Markovia (Blue Beetle, Geo-Force, Dr. Polaris), and
-- the “Julie Schwartz DC Future” of Tommy Tomorrow, Space Ranger, Space Cabbie, etc. (Firestorm, Killer Frost, Solovar).

There is an additional fork in the 30th Century, around 2957 or so, but neither version of the Legion can quite claim it as their own. Teams are pretty much as they were before, except Dawnstar and M'Onel lead their respective Legions to 2957.

On Oa, the Guardians of the Universe are incapacitated by the Anti-Monitor's attack. The heroes in Atlantis, the Old West, and the “Schwartz future” defend their forks from shadow demons. The anti-matter wave kills Starman (Prince Gavyn). The Monitor studies the Luthor child, who ages rapidly. Soon he identifies himself as Alexander and begins to exhibit strange powers and properties. In Atlantis, Psycho-Pirate II is teleported away by the Anti-Monitor. The anti-matter wave appears in the skies over 1999 Earth.

Issue #3. The heroes continue to defend the Monitor's forks, but not without some losses. Solovar is wounded and returns to Gorilla City. We see that the original 15 heroes have learned some lessons from their early skirmishes -- Blue Beetle has altered the Bug's weapons; Geo-Force and Dr. Polaris learn to combine their powers; Solovar organizes Gorilla City's forces to defend Africa; etc.

As Superman, Batman, the Teen Titans, and the Outsiders investigate the just-appeared New York City tuning fork, Flash II materializes in their midst. He can only get out a few words before being snapped up by the Anti-Monitor, but Superman and Batman are convinced it's really him. Earth’s weather and plate tectonics soon go crazy from the anti-matter wave’s effects, and Superman flies off. Amidst the tension, much nervous chatter among the remaining heroes concerns the effect Superman has on crowds. Nightwing tells Batman, "Even you see it! I bet when we get through this, you're Superman's biggest fan." Batman replies, "First let's get through this."

Flying over Europe, Superman runs into the Justice Society. There is some casual banter between Green Lantern I and Flash I about how they always like visiting Europe, because they never got to see it much when they were young. Superman, helping them, is in awe of their calm in the face of such calamity, and tells them he hopes he learns that kind of control someday. Flash tells Supes, "You're there already, Superman. We've only been out of limbo for a few years, but the world's already forgotten us. And the world never looked up to us the way it looks up to you." GL continues: "Fifty years ago, we were America's heroes. Now you're a hero for the whole planet. We couldn't be prouder." Superman is stunned -- these men were Pa Kent's heroes, so it really means a lot -- and says he's honored and he'll try to do his best. Telescopic vision spots a tidal wave menacing Greece, so Superman flies off.

The Monitor creates Doctor Light II while the Anti-Monitor abducts Red Tornado II. All of Harbinger turns evil and blasts the Monitor.

Issue #4. Pariah saves Lady Quark from her homeworld's destruction. Dr. Light II appears at the NYC tuning fork. Harbinger's attack on the Monitor throws him into a control panel which futzes with the forks and opens up time portals throughout the "forked" eras. Making matters worse, anti-matter tendrils are now destroying sections of Earth directly. In all eras, the shadow demons merge into giant monsters and attempt to destroy the forks. The heroes stop them, but it's more of a stalemate than a victory. Those in later time-periods take comfort in the fact that their counterparts in the past must have succeeded, even as they keep wary eyes for any signs the timestream has changed. In New York, while the (Detroit) Justice League fights Fire-Eye, an intelligent dinosaur, Gypsy's future self tells present-day Gypsy to have Vibe activate the NYC tuning fork. We see that the other forks are similarly activated, not necessarily by vibrational power. Earth is apparently destroyed by anti-matter.


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