You wanna talk about Crisis events, DC? Sure, we can talk about Crisis events.
BRING OUT THE CHARTS.
I love talking about Crisis events. They’re so confusing and they bring up five hundred questions that will never be answered unless you’re someone with too much time on their hands (hello!). Seeing as the Tales from the Dark Multiverse series seems to be building up to the next Crisis, making a story about another Crisis in this book is some serious Inception bullshit. So, how does this alternate take on Infinite Crisis, written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Aaron Lopresti, hold up to the other stories in this collection?
Well, I thought it was really good!
Okay, look, I wasn’t kidding when I told you that you’ll need some charts. This chart in particular is going to be important:
Infinite Crisis is a very interesting case. Not only is it a pseudo-sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, as well as a lead-in to the FANTASTIC series known as 52, but it’s also the culmination of a VAST swathe of other projects that were being released concurrently, spinning off from stories such as Identity Crisis. There was a level of connectivity at that point in the DC Universe that rivalled no other period in the company’s history, and having read every comic book on this checklist, I have to say that the series might just be one of my favourite, and the most effective, crossovers I’ve ever read.
The thing is, James Tynion IV has clearly read every issue of that crossover too, and I’m not sure if he can expect that of his readers.
Don’t get me wrong – as someone who HAS read all of the story, I loved it. Tynion has packed this issue with so many different threads from the original saga, as he explains what would happen if Blue Beetle had killed Maxwell Lord in Countdown to Infinite Crisis, instead of the other way around. Blue Beetle was at the precipice of discovering a massive conspiracy that led into the event, but because no one respected him, his efforts to bring the matter to light were ignored. In this issue, he’s centre stage, and solving almost every problem that faced the heroes of the original series. As someone who was never big on Blue Beetle but loved his depiction in the Countdown issue, I adored watching him prove to the world how capable he is.
Until everything goes to hell, because this is a Dark Multiverse story.
Tynion does a great job of balancing all the different plotlines in one issue, from the Brother Eye content to the Secret Six and the Society of Super-Villains, even managing to realistically explain how Blue Beetle resolves the Shadowpact and Rann-Thanagar War storylines. Don’t know what any of those words mean? Exactly! And therein lies my “issue” with the story.
Knightfall and The Death of Superman are stories that lend well to Dark Multiverse iterations – not everyone has read their stories, but everyone knows what happened. It’s not too hard to do an alternate universe take on them, since the basic concepts are easy to grasp. Even Blackest Night is mostly comprehensible without too much context. Infinite Crisis, however, has a plot that is really held up by the crossover content, and that content is anything but simple. Everything in that story is reactionary: reacting to Blue Beetle’s death, reacting to Max Lord’s death, reacting to Brother’s Eye’s sentience, the rise of the Society of Super-Villains, the fallout of Identity Crisis, and reacting to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Make no mistake, Tynion does try to recap as much as he can, both in the story and through the narration of the celestial known as Tempus Fuginaut. That said, there’s too much content for it to make much sense out of context; I can’t see new audiences being able to realistically read this without having read the original story.
On the other hand, not all stories need to stand on their own. If you have already read Infinite Crisis, I honestly think you’re going to have a blast with this issue. Reading this story really took me back to when I binge-read the entire saga; Tynion’s writing is often a little too exposition-heavy for my taste, but it’s relevant when trying to cram so much info into one issue – and ESPECIALLY relevant considering that this kind of writing is common in a Crisis event. As such, it feels like a very natural progression from the original story. The characters seem very true to their old selves in that tale, and I saw Blue Beetle as a very relatable and tragic protagonist. You felt like you could very easily root for him throughout the story, because he often wasn’t wrong; I couldn’t help but feel like his transition into “evil” was awfully sudden as a result of this, but it’s slightly mitigated by the fact that he’s heavily manipulated by the Artificial Intelligence known as Brother Eye. Aside from the sudden turn, Beetle is one of the best protagonists in the Dark Multiverse stories so far, and watching him prove himself to the universe only for it all to crumble around him is the definition of a Monkey’s Paw.
Once you understand that this is not a story you can simply jump into, you realize that could be working to the story’s benefit – ultimately, Tynion has crafted a story that feels very loyal to the original Infinite Crisis, both in story and in style. That fact applies to the artwork too; Aaron Lopresti’s pencils really make it feel like you’re stepping into another issue from that era!
The most obvious example of how well Lopresti’s art works in this issue is his depiction of Maxwell Lord’s death – contrasted with Blue Beetle’s in the original story. I’d also like to take this moment to give letterist Rob Leigh props for using the same effect as in that issue!
That’s not where the comparisons end either – the panel composition of their death scenes remain the same between the comics, and it’s one of those small elements that make reading the both of them very rewarding. We get a bunch of great work regarding Blue Beetle in this story, and I enjoy the costume design he gets near the end of the issue – reminiscent of both Brother Eye and Superboy Prime’s costume.
That said, I feel it’d be disingenuous to say that Beetle’s art is the star of the show – not when Lopresti pulls off such an excellent Superboy Prime! I know so many friends who view that little bastard as one of their favourite villains in the DC Universe, and with good cause – most of my experience with him was from Infinite Crisis, and I loved seeing a righteous boy with god-like powers turn into a hateful and spiteful monster. You see that again here, and while Tynion kind of glosses over his transition to murder – something that was a big deal in the original story – Lopresti really makes it work when you see Superboy’s evil looks and petulant scowls. I won’t spoil who he’s killing here, but it’s easily one of the standout images from this story.
The Dark Multiverse comics seem to have a thing for massive panels of pure, brutal annihilation – not that I’m complaining, of course, because they’re often the highlights of the books. Lopresti has continued this series’ trend of generally solid artwork, and his content is a perfect fit for the crossover he’s adapting and continuing.
When I read this book, I see how comic books must be so difficult for new readers to jump into – you’re essentially committing to a storyline that’s too vast and complicated for any one person to understand. That said, if you do understand something, those comics can become so much more rewarding – this issue is very emblematic of that dynamic. We need to keep striving to make comics accessible, of course… but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating its history as well.
- Infinite Crisis is a crossover that you loved when you read, and you just want to read more.
- You want some good representation for Ted Kord, along with some cathartic recognition (until, you know, he turns evil).
- Stories with a LOT of references are right up your alley – there are a ton of easter eggs you could find in this book.
- You want to try and figure out the logistics of an alternate universe story about a Crisis event that already spans alternate universes. Do DC Multiverse mechanics not apply to the Dark Multiverse? So, is everything in a constant dream state? Is there a separate Crisis that affects the Dark Multiverse, and did this story impact other Dark Multiverses? Does hypertime exist in the Dark Multiverse? What about-
I really can’t imagine this story being very satisfying for readers who haven’t read Infinite Crisis – but there’s no reason that it needs to be. This entire series is based on showcasing darker endings to iconic stories – the fact that Tynion and Lopresti commit to the story without compromising it for new audiences honestly makes it all the better. If you’re a long-standing fan of DC history, or you’re fresh off a binge-read to prepare for the next event, then I can’t give this anything less than a strong recommendation.
Now to find out how the hell they’re gonna title the next Crisis when Final Crisis was already taken.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provides Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.