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Crisis on Infinite Earths: Review and Reference Guide – Part 1

I know what you’re thinking… Jeremy, Crisis was three months ago; why are you only getting to it now?! The thing is, I’m quite new to the DC universe. My first experience was watching Arrow, and its subsequent tie-ins. I’ve never read a DC comic book in my life… I hadn’t even seen any of the Batman or Superman movies, and this is why I’m late to the party – I tried, in vain, to “catch up” on all the film and television before watching Crisis. I quickly realised this task was fairly insurmountable and I’d be sat alongside broody, solitary, Earth-16 Oliver Queen in 2046 before I’d be up to date. Internet research had to suffice and into the Crisis I went!

Besides… it only aired for the first time in the UK this week anyway; not that I rely on Sky’s antiquated, months-long lag style broadcasting.

We begin on Supergirl (Season 5, Episode 9) with an episode that, if what happens during Crisis sticks, will have long lasting effects on the Supergirl TV series, as well as the upcoming Lois & Clark spinoff. The Monitor opens with the explanation that an anti-matter wave is tearing through the multiverse, destroying everything in its path. To combat this Crisis, The Monitor has been working aggressively to assemble heroes from throughout the multiple Earths to aid him and save, well, everything. From here, we begin to look in on some of these Earths and get our first slew of references and cameos from other DC properties.

Earth-89 – Batman (1989) World: The establishing shot of this Earth was very much reminiscent of the opening sequence the film (yes, I’ve seen it now). They’re even playing the old school theme music in the background as Alexander Knox (reprised by Robert Wuhl) sits on a bench under the red skies reading his particularly Burton-esque doom and gloom Gotham City Gazzette newspaper… apparently nothing positive is happening on Earth-89. The image on the newspaper is pulled directly from the comic book adaptation of the film; the art of the venerable Jerry Ordway. Pretty neat little set of Easter eggs here.

Earth-9 – Titans World: Titans is one of the shows I’ve not had the opportunity to catch up on yet but, to be fair, we didn’t see much of this Earth aside from its destruction. It’s not obvious why this Earth has its “9” designation but a popular headcanon on the interwebs is that Titans is the 9th Greg Berlanti produced DC television programme and, so, Earth-9 it is! I’m perfectly happy to roll with that.

Earth-X – Evil Hero World: Very quick look-in on Earth-X; long enough mostly to see it destroyed by the anti-matter wave. Happy trails, The Ray (Russell Tovey).

Earth-66 – Batman (1966) World: This is perhaps the most fun of all the quickly referenced Earths. The campy, over-the-top style of the 60s TV show is replicated fairly well, greatly aided by the cameo of Burt Ward. Ward didn’t explicitly reprise his role of Robin (whom he’s continued to voice in animated and extra material to this day) but in donning the colours and walking his Bathound-esqe German shephard, it’s close enough. Seeing the skies turn red, Ward shouts “Holy crimson skies of death!” which is, obviously, a ridiculous line but also a homage to the overuse of the “Holy” prefix in the 60s programme. Honestly, it was relentless… go check out some of the montages on YouTube.

Earth-1 – Arrowverse Prime: We take a brief journey to Earth-1 at the start of this episode to pick up the heroes we’re most familiar with. Lyla Michaels, now in full comic-style Harbinger mode, collects Oliver and Mia from Lian-Yu, Batwoman from Gotham, The Flash from Central City, and Legends Sara Lance and Ray Palmer… from a pub quiz.

Quick note about that pub quiz: the team that beats them is called “Strange Visitors.” This is a subtle reference to early Superman media in which people referred to the Kryptonian as “strange visitor from another planet.” Ray Palmer’s actor, Brandon Routh, played Superman in the 2006 movie, Superman Returns, and Routh is confirmed to be reprising this role at some point during Crisis. More Super-bang for your buck.

Earth-38 – Supergirl’s Earth: The bulk of the story from the Crisis opener takes place in Supergirl’s universe, named after 1938: the year in which the first Superman comic was published. Before things kick off, we get a cameo from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wil Wheaton, who plays an apocalypse calling nut job. As a big Trekkie myself, I appreciated this brief appearance. Wheaton’s doomsaying wasn’t far wrong, though, and the severity of the anti-matter wave is understood quickly by the cast. Brainy immediately identifies Argo, the remnant planet of Krypton on which Kara’s mother, Superman, Lois Lane and their son Jonathan reside, as being among the first to perish. Kara gets a message to Argo and the aforementioned group put baby Jon in a pod and launch it towards Earth – harkening back to the journeys of the child’s father and cousin before him. Lois says that they’ll look out for him “even in the face of our deaths” which is a line lifted verbatim from Superman: The Movie, which starred Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder. Quite the high powered cast! The anti-matter wave hits and, it is assumed, everyone else perished. More on that shortly.

Harbinger arrives on Earth-38 and is met by Alex Danvers and her squadron of gun totin’ D.E.O. agents. ‘Binger magics up the Super Friends, including Clarke and Lois whom she apparently whisked away in the nick of time, and we’re thrusted into full save the multiverse mode.

Earth-16 – Future Lonely Arrow World: The mishmash team of Sara Lance, Brainy and Lois Lane travel to Earth-16 to collect Jon, whose pod was sidetracked by a wormhole. Standard stuff. This Earth somehow exists in a different time to the others and, in this universe, it’s 2046. Here they find a slightly greying and very confused Oliver Queen who is haunted by the sight of Sara Lance, whom, on this Earth, died on the Queen’s Gambit a very long time ago. They have a heart to heart, Sara makes the questionable statement that Oliver is “a good man on every Earth,” (Nazi Ollie, anyone?) and back to Earth-38 they go. For the record, Earth-16 is where the Young Justice series is set.

The Demise of Earth-38

Back on Supergirl World, the proverbial kryptonite infused sh*t is hitting the fan. The Monitor has summoned a quantum tower, seemingly out of his ass, but apparently he placed these towers on critical Earths to act and some kind of interdimentional backup plan should this very specific form of threat come about. Alrighty then. In brief, it’s a macguffin that dissipates anti-matter. Cool.

It is in this quantum tower that the heroes mount their defense against the uninspiringly named Shadow Demons of the even-more uninspiringly named Anti-Monitor. The Demons are taken out a bit too easily but there’s a lot of them and the group are regularly overwhelmed. The Shadow Demons are plucked straight out of the comic books and their origins trace back to Sinestro, which is a much more imaginative name.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of Earth-38 is in full swing with Alex and J’onn J’onzz taking the role of extreme contingency planners, flanked by Nia Nal and a Guardian-shield-wielding Kelly Olsen. Alex appeals to Lena Luthor to help them by building a portal to transport large numbers of people in spaceships to Earth-1 for safety. She agrees while continuing to reserve the right to be her usual irritating, bitchy self. Seriously, get over it already. Lest we forget, The Monitor still has Lex Luthor in his back pocket just waiting to be pulled out.

The quantum tower begins to fail and The Monitor starts to pull his heroes away from Earth-38 so that they may fight another day. Oliver, however, refuses to leave and makes the ultimate sacrifice, laying down his own life to give this Earth’s inhabitants more time to evacuate.

Green No More

The Monitor, now joined by Nash Wells/The Pariah, finally gets the Green Arrow back to his home Earth with enough time for Ollie to use his dying breaths to say goodbye to Mia and ask her to find William and Felicity.

The Monitor explains how Oliver’s sacrifice allowed 1 billion more of Earth-38’s 7.35 billion population to escape but laments how this isn’t going as he foresaw. Pariah Wells, whom is responsible for releasing the Anti-Monitor from his confinement chimes in… “Everything we know, everything there is, and everything there ever was, is doomed.”

Thanks for that, Nash. Super uplifting.

At the end of one…

Overall, this was a very solid start to Crisis. The cameos and references, while mostly throwaway, were well placed and enjoyable. Killing Oliver Queen in the opening is a bold move but it really helps to develop the mindset that the stakes here are very high and that no character is safe, no matter the tenure within their show or even if the show is named for them. I think we will see Ollie again in some form but ultimately the focus will now shift to transitioning completely to Mia Smoak as the Green Arrow, which I personally am all for. Bring on the second act!

What did you think of Crisis on Infinite Earths, part 1? Leave me a comment on social media!