Crisis on Infinite Earths, Parts 1-3

I’m a sucker for almost all Crises, DC Style. While I love so many things about Marvel, it’s really DC’s particular Silver Age whimsy that drew me in first. Superman and all his kryptonite troubles. The Legion of Super-Heroes and their teen club moxy (and early bucking of the one-girl-per-team trend). Mxyzptlk and all the other 5th dimension imps and their mad whimsy. The mysteries of Batman, the magic of Wonder Woman. I love the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme in all their permutations, but would we have them without the JLA? Get all your best characters in one place for one big adventure, and since that works, fold in other super-teams for a massive crossover every year or so!

The CW Arrowverse has had five other Crises already, and not being very invested in all the shows (my current requisite viewing is just Batwoman, probably because it reminds me of the lamented Birds of Prey series with Huntress and Oracle and Harleen Quinzelle), I only tuned in to bits and pieces. But I regretted missing the whole story for Elseworlds and Earth X, so this time I taped every super show from the Winter Finale week, even if there wasn’t a direct tie-in.

The main ones were Supergirl, Batwoman and Flash (to be followed by Arrow and Legends back-to-back on January 14). And this time the crisis was a riff on the Biggest DC Crisis, the first that revamped the whole line in 12 issue serial format in the 1980s. We’ve had Final and Infinite Crises since then, but the original is the model, filled at it was with memorable new characters like Harbinger, Pariah and the Monitor. The fact that Lamonica Garrett is a spot-on recreation of the comics Monitor (great costume and makeup work) sucked me right in. Harbinger isn’t quite as successful visually (she has a generic futuristic look), but I gather from the story that the character embodying her is at least an important one on several of the Earths being visited. And even I know, from my intermittent Flash watching, that Tom Cavanaugh/Nash Wells was always destined to become Pariah.

So, the story starts with Supergirl, to afford us a cosmic entry into the whole outer-space radiation wave that creates red skies and annihilates planets multi-verse apocalypse. Each world is helpfully identified with a numbered caption, and we flip around a lot. That many of the heroes know there are alternate versions helps a lot. The generally cheesy FX of this show are enough to give us credible (if rather Potter-esque) shadow demons and Monitor towers, to take us to this world’s Clark and Lois (Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch) and their baby in a doomed Argo City, and to let us start collecting those crucial cameos that are the true attraction to this sort of infinite character blitz anyway. Green Arrow (the host of the whole shebang somehow) has already traded his life for those of Flash and Supergirl (the original main victims in the comics), which puts a harsh angle on his budding relationship with his devoted daughter Mia. His air of gravitas sells this pretty well as he tries to pass on his legacy, and Kara’s supporting cast tries their best to help with their usual efficiency, with even a wicked pissed (at Kara for her maintaining her secret identity) Lena Luthor responding to an appeal for humanitarian aid.

The second part is up to Batwoman, where her budding friendship with Kara is an indication of the CW’s hopes for its next and future World’s Finest team. Surprisingly, it works. Kate Kane isn’t a bad fit in the midst of all this cosmic mumbo jumbo after all. She doesn’t bring Bruce’s genius detective skills, but she does share his bravery and strict moral code. Mostly that’s clear when she takes them to an alternate world’s Batman (played by noted Batman voice actor, Kevin Conroy), who’s harsh reality reads a lot like The Dark Knight. Many of the heroes are dead, some murdered by this madman in an exo-skeleton. Kate gets away before he manages to kill Kara too with his secret kryptonite stash. A punk-dark Lucas, her reluctant assistant runner in her Gotham, brings a fun Evil Spock detail to this blasted world.

Kate and Kara also get to meet Tom Welling/Clark Kent in Smallville, who proves a match for Lex Luthor’s perverse obsession. This is just a stop along the way to Supergirl’s Superman meeting the Brandon Ruth version, who is somehow both the Motion Picture version plus Kingdom Come, except in a world where most of his supporting cast has been killed. We get to see Superman fight Superman (poor Tyler looks to be on the ropes pretty quickly next to the massive Routh), and that sort of Silver Age nonsense is exactly what I showed up for. Somehow Lois and her distaff allies grab the Book of Destiny, which leads to Lex’s capture. Jon Cryer is eating up his role on a stick, lollipop style btw.

The third part is up to Flash and involves a lot of cosmic treadmills. Not only do we open on the demise of the Birds of Prey world (such a nice glimpse of the Ashley Scott Huntress plus the voice of Dina Meyer’s Oracle), we also flash back to the John Wesley Shipp Flash from the 1990s (which in a way is the granddaddy of the whole Berlanti-verse, given that it didn’t play Barry Allen for laughs). Along the way, the TV John Constantine takes the Legends crew to meet TV’s Lucifer, all so they can try and free Oliver’s soul from Purgatory (after using a Lazarus Pit to resurrect his body in the Old West, despite Jonah Hex’s objection), where they instead run into the Spectre. Yeah, it’s a big sloppy crazy DC smorgasbord, and somehow it also works, with every actor making the most of their spotlit moments. Worlds keep dying, and while this makes for rushed emotional damage, the Monitor identifies seven “paragons” who include Black Lightning (ripped from his dying world into a realm of heroes he thought were fictional) and the Ryan Choi Atom who so far is only a scientist who stans Ray Palmer.

There’s pathos, drama and mystery here. Could the Paragons be the nascent Justice League? Are they all that’s left of any reality and thus the end of the story? Tune in next year to see where they pop up next! Don’t worry that the Anti-Monitor (also played by Garrett) looks like some old Warner Brothers mummy, his plans are just getting started!

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