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Infinite Crisis
Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, and others
DC Comics / Titan hardcover $24.95 / £19.99

review by Christopher Geary

The plot of this graphic novel spans the length and breadth, plumbs the depths, pokes into every darkest corner, and sprawls - almost chaotically - across the vastness of the DC superheroes' multi-verse. As its grand title suggests, the narrative of this mega-series attempts something rather more than just a good old shake up of all the various timelines, parallel worlds, domains and realms. Like DC's mid-1980s' sequence Crisis On Infinite Earths, this wholesale cosmic retooling of the publishing empire's assets was formally designed to affect or be reflected in all their current book lines, from the conservative to the cosmic, while rewriting the last 20 years of super-heroic history, so to speak.

Trying not to get thoroughly bogged down in the burdensome details of mega-story minutiae with too many 'meanwhile...' and 'elsewhere...' asides and updates, writer Geoff Johns is able to counterbalance world-shattering disasters with archly interpersonal tragedies, but only those regular readers of comics who are accustomed to figuring out numerous off-page plot threads from succinct footnote references or terse expository dialogue, will find it possible to keep up with rapid developments, as both momentous galactic events and modest human crises painstakingly converge and all reach their unified climax in this single, yet necessarily episodic, volume.

Expect abrupt shifts in tone (gritty urban noir segues to mythological horror and sci-fi sensawunda) and the metaphysical scale of events, as things here change far more frequently than the casts and locations of a typical genre anthology movie. Significant moments to savour include the paranoid Batman's secret OMAC project (intended to wipe out meta-humans) going homicidally and spectacularly awry, Wonder Woman (wearing a cape to compliment her usual fetching bustier, and wielding a sword - so it's clear she's out for blood) apparently commits a shocking murder that gets widely televised, Superman is effectively brainwashed into villainy, the virtually omnipotent Spectre opens fearsome hostilities against magic users (including Captain 'Shazam' Marvel's old wizard mentor at the Rock of Eternity), Lex Luthor drafts over 200 bad guys into his formidable secret army that stands practically united against the JLA (Justice League of America), JSA (Justice Society of America), and disparate other superhero groups, while interplanetary strife between the distant colliding worlds of Rann and Thanagar erupts into galactic war.

"This is what the world does to legends. It corrupts them..."

And then we have yet more brevity spotlighting Teen Titans and Donna Troy in outer space adventure, a forced retreat into clouds of myth of the Amazons' uncanny island, the unexpected discovery of Power Girl's origin, three generations of famed speedster the Flash, the soul-searching debacle of Superboy Prime, conflicts between different versions of Superman, a dying Lois Lane (well, from one peculiarly isolated timeline, anyway), assembled legions of Green Lanterns, and a desperate FTL flight straight through a red sun for the no-holds barred finale.

Quite intentionally, on the part of writer Johns and his collaborators on this series, there's no blatantly evil archenemy, to be tackled head-on and eventually defeated, in Infinite Crisis. It's as much a profoundly moral predicament for the collective-consciousness as anything else. Besides the mighty punch-ups, grudge-matches, team-ups switching between sundry alternative Earths, and supplementary super-scuffles, there's plenty of mayhem on the attendant levels of rogue personality, embittered ego and tormented psyche, too. It's a veritable mid-life crisis for all these super-folks!

If there's a serious fault with Infinite Crisis as a product, it's simply that this graphic novel is a meagre 10 x 6 ½ inches hardcover when it deserves a bigger format. The work by a skilled team of artists (led by Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, and Jerry Ordway) really calls for the bold canvas of a coffee table book. Apart from several double-page spreads and the splashy 'covers', many of this comic book's action panels often look terribly cramped, with the richness of background complexity lost in such awkwardly shrunken dimensions. As such, it fails to fulfil its true potential as a work of popular art. Epic storytelling ought to get a suitably extravagant presentation. As it is, Infinite Crisis is enjoyable but not especially satisfying, and that's a shame.
Infinite Crisis

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