Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 review

I’ve said many a time that I’m a sucker for Crisis ‘porn’. Give me heroes from different realities battling a multiversal madman out to destroy/reset/turn everything fuchsia and I’m there. And so far I’ve been enjoying this latest go-round, knowing it’s leading to a reset which, fingers crossed, might bring us a few needed treats – the return of Superman’s secret ID, a viable Justice Society and Legion of Super-Heroes… that kind of thing. This issue, though, I’m not feeling it.

The chapter, knowingly titled Crossovers, gets off to a great start, with the Flash, Barry Allen, having escaped the fantasy reality designated megalomaniac Pariah had trapped him in, and catching up with his oldest hero pal Green Lantern, aka Hal Jordan.

Writer Josh Williamson captures the chemistry Barry and Hal at their best have with one another. There’s more excellent writing as the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, tries to chivvy a depressed Dick Grayson to get onto the battlefield as Nightwing.

The art by illustrator Daniel Sampere and colourist Alejandro Sánchez is, self-evidently, gorgeous. Just look at the compositions, the finishes, the emotions, the lighting and glowing tones. Every page is a gem, with some especially impressive examples of illustrator and colour artist working in beautiful tandem.

So yes, some lovely bits of characterisation and yummy visuals, but most of this issue is just wheel spinning, with lots of talk about how dark everything is, and page-filling battles between the possessed Deathstroke’s army and the Legion of Doom. The in-story reason is that protracted punch-ups create enough Crisis energy to help Pariah bring back the Multiverse (again). It looks impressive but it feels terribly ‘been there, seen that’. And of course, that’s because I’ve been reading these comics for so darn long, but it’s old fanpeople like me DC is aiming these comics at, so something new would be rather nice.

I did grin when I came to this panel.

It seems someone was forced into the story by editorial mandate… it’s just a shame Cheetah doesn’t take up Punchline on her offer and eviscerate the Harley Quinn-wannabe with her super speed and catty claws.

Tom Napolitano’s letters are sterling as ever, all well-chosen fonts, perfectly placed. And the cover by Sampere and Sánchez is simply stunning, showing us what talent and hard work can birth.

The book ends on a big note – I won’t spoil it, though if you’re a follower of DC’s Crises it’s not going to stun you, but it does hint that next issue is going to be a Big One. For now we have this chapter, which is efficient but, given the major talents involved, could be so much more.

23 thoughts on “Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 review

  1. Whilst I agree with you that’s it a padding episode, I’m a sucker for character interactions so I’m a little more forgiving on this issue.

    It helps that the JSA are pretty integral to the issue, I was worried that they were going to have that pretty splash page and not have anything else to do with the plot. We even get a teeny-tiny Pee Gee in a panel!

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  2. I heard on some podcast somewhere the suggestion that there’s an editorial mandate now to “Fourth things up,” as DC wants to woo James Tynion IV back. So, there’s been a Miracle Molly special, Punchline keeps showing up (like here) and now is getting her own series, Ghost-Maker and Clownhunter are part of Batman, Incorporated, and it looks like Dan Watters was asked to include Vengeance, a clone of Bane or something who was in Tynion’s “Joker” series, into the new Azrael series.

    Willamson, through Luthor, has dispatched a couple of leftover and confusing elements from the end of Death Metal: the Omniverse is no more, and apparently never really existed, and I guess good riddance to it. (I always figured it was just a collection of Multiverses, but why wasn’t a single Multiverse sufficient? We needed a MultiMultiverse? I guess it would have allowed for a variety of different kinds of multiversal crises all at once. But it’s silly enough dealing with one at a time.) And the peculiar Totality, an unlikely Earth-0 team that included folks like Luthor, Vandal Savage and Talia al Ghul teaming up with good guys like Hawkgirl and Mister Terrific, has been disbanded. Talia, for one, always neglected her Totality duties, since she was busy appearing simultaneously in several other books.

    So, DC is continuing to feature Tynion’s creations, but appears to be completely over the Snyderverse.

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  3. I just read this, and was totally floored by the last-page reveal of the rebirth of the Multiverse! Because I thought there was already a multiverse. I really don’t get the distinction of the multiverse and whatever it is we have now, with Amanda Waller on Earth-3 and the Teen Justice series being published and all that other stuff. If it’s just more Earths — INFINITE Earths — so what? We’ve already got plenty.

    I swear, man, this constant cosmic re-juggling gives me a headache. It’s as if, since people loved the cannons in the 1812 Overture so much, someone decided EVERY orchestral piece had to have ’em. Sometimes a dude just wants to hear Rite of Spring, y’know?

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    1. I think after Crisis on Infinite Earths, everything collapsed to one earth. (Though somehow there might have actually been two or three allowed. And then an earth had to be created to explain how the Legion of Super-Heroes was inspired by a Superboy that had never been active in the new timeline. And that may or may not have been the very same earth where a good, young Alexander Luthor created Matrix based on his love Lana Lang, and eventually refashioned into the ersatz Supergirl and sent over here.)

      And then with New 52, things expanded to 52 universes. I guess that happened as a result of one of the subsequent crises. Or maybe it was thanks to Dr. Manhattan. But they aren’t the same as the original infinite universes.

      (Earth itself was originally Earth-One (with Jay Garrick et al from Earth-Two), Earth-Prime, New Earth, Earth-0, and Earth-Zero. Presently I think it’s Earth-Zero.)

      Death Metal scrambled some things, maybe created an Omniverse of Multiverses, but that hasn’t been around for very long and it’s apparently going away. (Who needs omni when infinite is bigger than omni?)

      Then we have the hallucination-earths the Justice Leaguers are trapped in, and which somehow the Flash Family was able to portal into. These clearly aren’t alternate earths in the usual sense, but seem to be fictions of the mind, so how the Flashes found them – stop asking questions!

      Then there’s the Flashpoint series, but that’s not a different universe – it’s an alternate timeline. Pay attention!

      So I think Pariah is trying to restore the pre-Crisis infinite earths, including his own home world that was lost in the Crisis. That seems to be what he’s interested in, even if the Great Darkness has other plans.

      Or — maybe not!

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      1. If I remember the Superboy universe was a pocket universe created to fix the whole Legion thing, which is probably the only Legion content I’ve ever read. This was the long ago so it’s probably Martin’s fault I read this story at all!

        Infinite Crisis bought back the multiverse and then shenanigans between that and the new 52 got all obsessed with 52!

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      2. Thanks… but I don’t even care about the state of OUR universe, let alone all of these.

        I just care about the people & things in ’em (ours included). I want good stories where reality DOESN’T change — but where more comprehensible things are at stake.

        The appeal of this re-juggling (if I’m understanding the rumors right) is that it’ll basically
        restore the multiverse of my childhood. The JSA on Earth-2, the Crime Syndicate on Earth-3, Shazam on Earth-S, etc. Which is all well and good. I liked that setup! But my childhood was over 40 years ago. (And I also love the generational model, with everyone on one earth, mentoring future generations.)

        That said, a restoration of the original multiverse *would* sidestep the problem of the generational universe. If the JSA is on Earth-2, who cares that they fought in WWII? But in the main universe, that means they’re 100 years old. For a while, we could hand-wave those numbers with magic and Ian Karkull energy. But at this point, they’re functionally immortal — and that changes the nature of those characters.

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      3. I’d happily have an Earth 2 series in which the JSA are a la Seventies All-Star Comics ie older but hanging in there, and bringing on the kids. From reading Bleeding Cool it seems the Zero Hour Legion might be coming back, I liked that lot… if only DnA would get back together to write it!

        I’m totally bored with long stories that have to be ‘significant’. Just give me entertaining, surprising tales with action, subplots, surprises and supporting cast… why are the higher ups apparently so against this? They could still have summer team-ups and the occasional event book, but yeah, enough with the super-high stakes. When you have characters saying in-story that the 42-part ‘epic’ you’ve invested a lot of cash in doesn’t matter a jot in-story – as Time Master Bonnie does in this week’s Flashpoint Beyond – you wonder, why bother following them? Just give us mainly self-contained stories that actually are stories, and don’t pretend to ‘Matter’.

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      4. Thanks so much for the explanation. I just wish they’d left everything alone. Compare the two-panel introduction to infinite earths we’d get in JLA/JSA team-ups with the pages-long gobbledygook in this week’s Flashpoint Beyond, it’s ridiculous. What more do we need than – ‘there are earths for every decision made’. I honestly never understood why Hypertime was needed, though it was good to have alternate Earths back.

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    2. EXACTLY!!!! DC HAS A MULTI-VERSE!!!! It returned at the end of the “52” weekly series. And then Grant Morrison explored it in “Multiversity.” It, like the rest of DCs continuity, I guess went away during the “New 52” push for new readers, but then came back. So exactly what Williamson/”Dark Crisis”/Pariah are trying to accomplish is beyond me.
      One thing I’ve thought about is, back in the Silver Age up through the ’80s, when DC had its “original” multi-verse, writers were really consistent in exploring it. There are tons of stories from those years of heroes/villains crossing over onto other earths.
      But since the concept was brought back following “Infinite Crisis” and “52” back in around 2005/2006, the multiverse only seems to get trotted out during events when a writer wants to blow it up.
      Grant Morrison touched on this recently when he noted how some of the characters he introduce in his exploration of the new multiverse – “Multiversity” — that he hoped would have staying power, next appeared as cannon fodder.
      The idea of the “Justice League Incarnate” for example that Morrison introduced in “Multiversity” is AWESOME. But did DC ever publish an ongoing? No. Were there regular guest appearances by that group in other titles? Annual team-ups with the “Justice League”? No. The only other time they really got a focus was just a few months ago when, in the build up to “Dark Crisis,” Williamson wrote their new miniseries so they could get destroyed at the end.
      Maybe this is a market issue. Maybe fans are just different in 2022 than in the 60s, 70s, 80s. Storytelling is different. Having a yearly “Justice League teams up with Justice League Incarnate” event isn’t enough to sell books anymore. But whatever the reason, the multiverse has become a sad gimmick to be brought out for regular reboots/crises, rather than an organic story-telling engine that creators dip into to tell great stories.

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      1. Brilliantly put. Mind, i think the reason Grant Morrison’s Watcher, sorry Monitor, from Multiversity hasn’t had much play is that he wasn’t very interesting. Also, weird name.

        I’d certainly have been up for some regular Justice League Incarnate fun, with them visiting the various worlds. I think they’re mainly still alive after the mini-series, though, so you never know, their potential may yet be realise.

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  4. What would you think of this week’s Flashpoint Beyond? Geoff Johns seems to be saying: Who cares about the Omniverse? Crises come – we witness the skies turn red and some universe-ending threat appears, then things stabilize; rinse and repeat. Everything matters – but only if it matters to your heart.

    That’s partly what you’re saying: the people matter. Put them in good stories.

    And you’d want those to be stories with human-scaled stakes. I agree. Crisis stories exist as meta stories where DC tries to to reorganize its own messed up continuity, ironically at our expense.

    Flashpoint Beyond is the same thing, but opposite – it’s telling us to not try bother trying to reorganize continuity. So, it’s a mini-series on the topic of continuity, arguing we shouldn’t care about continuity? No wonder there are debates about what the deluge of exposition in the issue means.

    He also seems to be getting meta about all this, where he writes that it’s easy to witness the typical crisis in Omniverse space – the sky turns red and bad stuff happens. It’s published and right there on the page we spent $3.99 for. It’s harder to see the wars focusing on time – and I think he means the never-ending debates about continuity that take place in the hallways of DC Publishing. We don’t hear much about that because of non-disclosure agreements, I suppose.

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    1. Well, we’re on the same page here! I can do a review of Flashpoint Beyond if anyone wants one… I thought I might spare you after one lot of multiversal meanderings this week. Basically, I really enjoyed it, but all the talk show talk of Crises… surely this isn’t something you want to be sharing with the public? I know we had some text pages on it after 52 or Infinite Crisis or something, then more on Infinite Frontier, but really, it’s the way to induce mass nervous breakdowns.

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  5. That line ‘We need the one who did it first’ was obviously meant to be important but fell utterly flat because I had to spend a couple of minutes working out Dick is the first legacy hero now. Which I guess works if you take this story as meaning every previous legacy hero doesn’t exist. Not the clearest.

    Then we have the scene with the Legion of Doom Headquarters, Vandal Savage & black crackling energy and I was entirely out of this story.
    No idea if this is meant to be relevant to the JLAvLSH series currently limping along or if it’s entirely coincidence. Or if they were meant to line up before DC’s schedule got so out of whack.

    All in all reading this was more work than fun, gorgeous artwork aside.

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    1. I did get the Dick reference but it’s all a bit meta, indeed. Why on Earth would it make any difference in-story? Either heroes step up to hell or they don’t.

      I honestly don’t think the Bendis LSH vs JL stuff is even relevant to itself, never mind Dark Crisis.

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  6. I just can’t get excited about this. There doesn’t seem to be anything new here. Even the Flash’s “brave and the bold” quote from the preview for issue #4 is regurgitated. Kevin Smith, I believe, was the first writer to use that reference back in his Green Arrow series. Heck, for all I know Morrison did it back in his JLA run – seems like something he might have done. And I’m gonna keep saying this – the multiverse has been back since the mid 2000’s when “Infinite Crisis” and “52” were published and undid the original “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” And then Grant Morrison wrote a whole miniseries based on that called “Multiversity.” Williamson/”Dark Crisis” is not bringing it back. It’s been there all along. Whether DC took advantage of that is another thing entirely. I hate to be THAT GUY but it’s driving me nuts that none of the reviewers seem to acknowledge or care about this, and no one has asked Williamson to reconcile this in interviews, which admittedly are all softball, fannish affairs.
    He has gone on record stating that “Infinite Crisis” was a big deal for him/inspiration for him. That he worked in a comic store when it came out.
    Also ditching the “omniverse” idea after, what, a year and a half from when it was introduced at the end of “Death Metal” really to me shouts that DC has no direction/road map and it just throwing stuff at the wall at this point. If you let a writer introduce a big concept, at least stick with it for at least a few years, work it into other stories. Explore it, again like Morrison did in “Multiversity.” He fleshed out some of those post-“Infinite Crisis/52” earths.
    At the end of the day, I think “Dark Crisis” is for newer fans not as steeped in the continuity (for me it feels like I read “Infinite Crisis” yesterday) and old school fans who are just willing to, as you say, enjoy the “Crisis porn” and not get hung up as I do on internal consistency/continuity.

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    1. Sometimes we need THAT GUY… I think I asked Josh Williamson on Twitter a few months back about the multiverse having been back for ages, but got nothing. Or perhaps I asked some other awkward question. I just remember the tumbleweed.

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  7. The Crisis, to me … is that everything I read from DC – now just seems like a version of a version of a version. Everyone’s been dead once or more – So if you’re a DC character that hasn’t died yet you need to complain to management.

    So just enjoy the ride! Have Fun! Look for the odd item that amuses you! For me in Issue 4, it was Zatana’s portrait waving to the 4 heroes as they walked by.

    Don’t worry … Zatanna won’t be dead for too long!

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