Comic books love their major events. For years now, Marvel and DC have hyped up major events every year that promise to rock their respective universes to their core. Marvel’s events usually involve the term “war,” you had Secret War, Civil War, Secret Wars (a different event entirely), Secret Wars II and others. DC’s main event title hook was “crisis”. Several of their events have incorporated “crisis” into their title.
It started back in 1963. Shortly after DC heroes like Flash and Green Lantern got reboots, people noticed some inconsistencies. This was later explained by having both characters exist on parallel worlds. With their great speed, both Flashes were able to cross dimensional boundaries and teamed up on occasion.
This later paved the way for the annual “Crisis” events that involved the Justice Society (Earth 2’s hero team) and the Justice League (Earth 1’s hero team). I, myself, haven’t read any of these early crises, however you can find general synopses here.
This built up to DC’s first multiverse spanning mega event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Some see this as the first mega-event, although Marvel’s Secret Wars came out first. The tagline for Crisis on Infinte Earths promised that worlds would live and die and that nothing would ever be the same. While most events promise earth shattering ramifications, this story actually backed it up.
The story involves the conflict between two entities called the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. The Monitor is an observatory figure while the anti-monitor is hellbent on consuming all universes in a wave of anti-matter that destroys all in it’s wake. The story involves heroes and villains from many parallel earths teaming up to tackle the threat. The story is notable for killing off Barry Allen as well as Supergirl. The story marked a shift in DC Comics’ storytelling as the multiverse was reduced down to one single universe after the dust settled.
After the crisis, many heroes don’t remember what happened before. Even the details of the crisis itself become fuzzy. They know something happened as they frequently refer to the great crisis, but they’re not sure on the specifics of the event.
The story gets a follow up in Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man. There is talk of another great crisis coming and Psycho-Pirate, a villain who remembers everything, plays a big role. Animal Man manages to avert it.
The next major crisis was called Zero Hour, with the subtitle, Crisis in time. After Crisis on Infinite Earths ended, the idea was to give each character a blank slate. However, with many conflicting backstories and unspecified details, readers got confused. DC decided to wipe the slate clean again with this event. The story involves Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, descend into villainy after his home town is destroyed by alien despot Mongul and Superman villain, Cyborg Superman. At first, he tries to recreate the town with his ring, however the guardians tell him that this sort of action is not allowed. Hal snaps and decides to try and rewrite time itself to undo the tragedy. Hal wages war on the Green Lantern Corps, killing several of his former comrades in arms in an attempt to fix the past.
One of the lasting effects of this story was the obliteration of the Green Lantern Corps. Ganthet, one of the guardians of the universe, had one ring left and passed it onto Kyle Rayner, who acted as sole Green Lantern until 2005.
There was another crisis event called Crisis times five. It involves the fifth dimension, home of omnipotent imps like Mxyzptlk and Batmite. I haven’t read this story, heck I didn’t even know about it until I hit up Wikipedia.
The next major crisis was entitled Identity Crisis. The story starts with Sue Dibny, wife of Elongated Man, being murdered in her apartment. The heroes go off in search of the killer. It’s revealed that the Justice League had Zatanna perform mind wipes on villains. It started off with small things, erasing the names from villains who had discovered the secret identity of heroes, but soon escalated to a full on mystical lobotomy when Dr. Light infiltrated the watchtower and raped Sue. Batman finds out and is about to object, but Zatanna wipes his memory as well.
This story has gotten a lot of heat over the years. Sue was declared fridged and many say that the ending makes no sense. I agree. It’s sad as, up until that point, it was actually a well done story, however, once it’s revealed who the killer is, plot holes start to emerge.
The aftermath of this story is felt in a JLA arc called Crisis of Conscience. Batman, as well as the villains, find out what had happened to them and seek revenge.
Following that, DC announced it’s next Crisis called Infinite Crisis. They built up the event for several months, starting with a $1 one shot entitled Countdown to Infinite Crisis. The story focuses on Blue Beetle, real name Ted Kord, who uncovers a conspiracy. Most of the Justice League ignores him, either due to acting out of character (martian manhunter), lack of evidence (Green lantern), or obssession with other things (Batman).
This issue sparked four mini-series, each six issues long, that elaborated on events that were touched on in the comic, such as the war between the Thanagarians and the Rannians, the Spectre’s rampage against DC magic users, and Batman’s involvement in something called OMAC.
After much hype, Infinite Crisis arrived. DC’s big three were at odds and the villains were uniting like never before. The story picks up on elements covered in the characters’ ongoing series. One notable example is the watchtower being blown up by some unknown assailant.
This story is a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths as it brings back three characters who were thought gone. Superboy Prime, Alexander Luthor, Earth 2 Superman, and Earth 2 Lois Lane make a return. Having seen the events from the “paradise dimension” they departed to at the end of the original crisis, they decide to break out and set things straight. They note how the heroes aren’t acting as such and decide to recreate Earth 2, where things were better.
This story fleshes out Superboy Prime to the character we all know and hate. He’s whiny, spoiled, and many see him as a backhanded “take that” against comic fanboys. The Anti-Monitor also plays a role, well his body does anyway, as do the “tuning forks” that appeared in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story also brings back the multiverse.
It also launched the trilogy of year long weekly series that I talked about earlier.
The most recent event was called Final Crisis. It told us of the day where evil won. Like Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis has it’s own build up in the year long, Countdown to Final Crisis. It didn’t work nearly as well and Grant Morrison ignored it anyway. The story involves Darkseid finally achieving his goal of obtaining the anti-life equation. He is able to enslave humanity by transmitting it through the internet, yeah I know, but it’s Grant Morrison, he’s always doing stuff like this.
Many complained, but I could almost see what Morrison was going for with this story. It was flawed in execution but you can see an epic superhero story buried underneath all of the random Grant Morrison weirdness. It all falls apart at the end though. I’m not going to spoil it, but the final showdown doesn’t involve Darkseid, who had been the villain for the whole series.
The crises form two sets of trilogies. The first involves escalating threats. Identity Crisis involved a threat on a personal level, Infinite Crisis pit the heroes against great odds and Final Crisis shows us the heroes finally falling to a superior foe. The second trilogy involves the multiverse. Crisis on Infinite Earths wiped it out, Infinite Crisis brought it back, and Final Crisis shows us the final story of the multiverse.
Given the long history of the crisis, I doubt that Final Crisis will, in fact, be the final crisis. Right now, the major event going on is Blackest Night. What the writers have in store I don’t know. If nothing else, I’m sure another crisis will occur on the anniversary of the original crisis, much like Infinite Crisis did. It’s a staple in DC Comics’ storytelling, I doubt that they are going to abandon it. I would be surprised if they didn’t name another story with some sort of crisis. If they do pull it off, I would have to tip my hat in respect.
Countdown to Infinite Crisis
Crisis of Conscience