Continuity has been an albatross around the neck of comic companies for years. Long-time fans demand that attention be paid to the character’s history. They expect each character’s past to be referenced in every story and never, ever contradicted. But the weight of decades of continuity makes it hard for new readers to understand what’s going on. So, comic book publishers have had to walk the delicate balance of paying back loyal fans for their years of devotion by giving a nod to history while not alienating new readers with too much of a focus on years of continuity.
Continuity plays heavily into Infinite Crisis, an ipso facto sequel slash anniversary celebration to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Crisis on Infinite Earths was the 1985 maxi-series written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Pérez created to try to streamline and simplify 50 years of continuity by drastically cutting down the cast of the DC Universe and starting many characters almost from scratch. Infinite Crisis makes no claims about doing similar, but the series’ devotion to past continuity makes it almost unapproachable to anyone but the most rabidly dedicated DC fan.
Infinite Crisis is in no way a stand alone series. Not only do characters and concepts listed in Crisis on Infinite Earths make a reappearance, but it also draws on the 20 years of history that has come between the two series. On top of all that, DC has been building for this storyline for the past several years. Infinite Crisis is the culmination of several “events” that have happened during this time, specifically last year’s Identity Crisis mini-series, this year’s Countdown to Infinite Crisis one-shot, the four mini-series that immediately preceded it, The Omac Project, Day of Vengeance, The Rann/Thanagar War, and Villains United, the Sacrifice arc that ran through the Superman and Wonder Woman books, and various issues of DC series like Teen Titans and Outsiders.
That’s a lot of books. And each of the above comics plays a crucial part to Infinite Crisis. Therefore, any new reader or even any loyal DC fan that didn’t pick up any of the above mentioned books, or couldn’t afford to, will be hopelessly lost.
And the first issue of Infinite Crisis does little to explain what has come before. Of course, it is hampered by only having 32 pages of story to work with. And, to be fair to Johns, over 60 heroes and villains are featured in the issue, 39 of them with speaking roles. It’s impossible for him to shoehorn more than a perfunctory introduction to the themes leading up to this series before plot advancement needs to begin.
But if you have invested the time (as well as a sizable amount of money) to read the books leading up to Infinite Crisis, then this issue is a good payoff. Not all questions that were raised are answered, but you begin to see how all the divergent storylines come together. For comic fans who love continuity, this book does follow logically all that has come before. The payoff for all the months of reading and waiting begins here, and the final resolution has the potential of being sweet.
Where Johns really shines is in the conversation between DC’s “Big Three”, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The scene is the break up of three friends, each who have done something to cause them to betray the ideals of the other two. The characters speak to each other in a way that seems logical and believable based on the way they have developed in the past twenty years. When they each leave separately, you believe the rift is real, and quite possibly permanent.
The art work is quite outstanding. If Geoff Johns’ writing reminds one of Marv Wolfman’s, then the only modern artist who should pencil the series would be Phil Jimenez. His work bears more than just a passing similarity to that of George Pérez. Both pencil with a fine line, include richly detailed backgrounds, and can draw hundreds of characters on a page with the reader being able to determine who each character is. Andy Lanning provides inks which enhances Jimenez’s pencils without overpowering them.
Of course, all of this is only meaningful if you are up to speed with the story. And since Infinite Crisis is rumored to be a series that will have a lasting effect on the entire DC Universe in the years to come, the series will be picked up by a number of new readers just to see what changes will be made. Judging by the first issue, they will be in for a long and confusing ride. More of an effort should have been made to explain the previous continuity to make the story more accessible to new readers instead of aiming the book to long time readers already familiar with said continuity.