What I thought of Crisis on Earth X

The superhero team-up is getting to be commonplace nowadays with both Marvel and DC films throwing heroes together with a variety of success, but it is to the world of television that we should look for what is by far the best example of how to do a superhero team-up and that is the four-part ‘Arrowverse‘ story, Crisis on Earth X.

One of the reasons the Justice League film failed was it pulled characters from the comics in a pretty generic ”bad guy looks to take over the Earth” storyline. Crisis on Earth X uses an old JLA storyline from 1982 written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas called Crisis on Earth Prime as the basic inspiration of the storyline which was given away from their marketing material a few months back. They also take a few things from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley’s All-Star Superman

As well as elements of Alan Moore’s Superman stories, especially this…

Essentially they dip into the history of DC Comics, nick what they want, adapt it to the storyline and spit out something that works beyond what the limits of telly budgets should do. By using mainly second tier characters (thanks to the restrictions imposed upon them by the film arm of Warner Brothers) the producers have carved themselves a superhero universe unafraid of not just embracing the soap opera elements of serialised superhero comics, but the political aspects that often get buried in superhero comics.

The plot revolves round an alternative Earth where the Nais won WW2, and the Nazi counterparts of Green Arrow and Supergirl, along with Prometheus, Reverse Flash and Metallo along with hordes of disposable Nazi soldiers invade the Earth of our heroes not just to expand the Nazi empire but to steal Supergirl’s heart and place it into Overgirl’s (the Nazi Supergirl) body as she’s dying as she’s soaked up too much solar radiation. The stakes essentially are high so virtually every superhero (along with various sidekicks and partners) in the Arrowverse comes together to fight the Nazi menace. That is a lot of costumed characters!

It should fall apart. It is simply too big for a TV series to do but ambition, along with a nice script that gives everyone their little, or big moment and although there’s some heroes not included in this (Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter and the Arrowverse Superman) this somehow makes a gigantic cast work in 162 minutes of television, as well managing to propel all four series (Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow) on in terms of characterisation and plot.

There are faults. There’s a bit too much crawling around in air-shafts in one episode, Supergirl is effectively written out the action for nearly two episodes, and some of the supporting cast vanish after episode one. In the final showdown the ambition overtakes the budget as the effects of an army of super-powered Nazis who happen to have a space/time ship on the civilian population falls down as they couldn’t get the masses of extras. However all the big actions set-pieces still outdo anything the Justice League film did, and matches much of what Marvel splash billions on.

But the positives outweigh the faults. Having Nazis as the baddies is more relevant in 2017 than it was in 1982, and this element of politics of having a diverse squad of heroes made up of of men, women, straight, LGBT, white, black, Muslim, Jewish, Hispanic, etc heroes beat Aryan white supremacists into the ground. In the era of Trump, Brexit and increasing white nationalism across the west it is nice to see Nazis being hit, and hit a lot. Crisis on Earth X works and to think it’s based off a 35 year old comic only people like me remembered makes it deliciously fun. I mean, the sight of The Flash and The Ray (a second tier DC superhero played by Russell Povey who pops up out of nowhere) fighting the Red Tornado will give old DC fanboys like me more fun than we’ve had in ages. Even seeing the Crisis logo is a nice buzz.

Does this wash away the taste of Justice League? yes. Does it give Marvel a few tips? Yes. Does it respect the comic source material and wallow in the fact? Yes. Is Crisis on Earth X perhaps the best example of a superhero team up outwith of the first Avengers film? Yes. This is a joy from the minute it starts to the end with its flaws being weak enough to ignore.and you can sit down and enjoy this as a wonderful letter to the superhero comics of the past as well as showing how to do superheroes in the present.

Advertisements

Crisis on Earth X

DC’s Arrowverse television universe is vastly more entertaining and fun than the tiresome films (though Wonder Woman is actually a sign someone gets the idea of ‘entertainment’) with The Flash being my favourite as it manages to capture the character perfectly. There’s now four series, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. In November all four will be crossing over in a storyline called ‘Crisis on Earth X’, which is accompanied with this great Phil Jimenez poster.

Based upon the cover of JLA #207, this is a cracking wee bit of nostalgic fun.

The various TV series are doing a fine job of bringing a more comic-book based ideas and translating that for television, but this homage is something that cheers me up vastly. IT just looks so right

 

What I thought of The Flash #22

It all ends and begins here! The DC Rebirth/Watchmen clustefuck hits a new level as the four-part ”The Button” storyline comes to a close with a cover featuring Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash promising the return of everything the New 52 cleaned out, but before we get there there’s a bit of matey banter between The Flash and Reverse-Flash, not to mention some prime product placement.

During all this Barry Allen mentions Hypertime, the Grant Morrison/Mark Waid idea that DC dabbled with in the 90’s to try to explain all the inconsistencies of their superhero universe.

Eventually the Reverse-Flash encounters the mysterious figure behind all of this (It’s Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen which we know anyhow), gets horribly killed and the Flash and Batman end up adrift in time and space heading towards an unknown voice.

That’ll be the Golden Age Flash.

However Barry and Bruce have no idea who Jay is because of that evil Dr. Manhattan chap and his big blue willy.

After Jay vanishes back into the ether, Barry and Bruce wrap things up while leaving things dangling, and talking about dangling, here comes Dr. Manhattan.

Which leads to the issue plugging November’s Doomsday Clock in which Superman and Dr. Manhattan will punch each other and ensure, once and for all, that nobody working at DC from Dan Didio to Geoff Johns actually read and understood Watchmen. As a roll of the creative dice this is a massive blank, but in terms of sales (and I speak now as someone diving back into the world of comics retail) this will sell books. They won’t be very good books but such is the power of Watchmen that it’ll propel DC along for a few years and then the novelty will have worn off.

See, Watchmen will continue to sell. It’s a classic book. Every time I read it I find something new in it. You will never, ever say that with Doomsday Clock. But hey, it’ll sell and in 2020 when this has all died down DC will try to work out what to do next and realise they’ve nothing left in their tank and creatively, they’ve worn out the bottom of the barrel but certain people will have kept their jobs which ultimately is what all this has been about…

What I thought of Batman #22

The saga of DC incorporating Watchmen into the mainstream DC Universe continues with Batman #22 which follows the last issue of The Flash.

The Flash and Batman are stuck in the Flashpoint universe, which shouldn’t exist but it does mean Bruce Wayne can have a conversation with his father, Thomas Wayne who happens to be the Batman of the Flashpoint universe. Confused? Of course you are. I don’t even think DC know exactly what’s going on.

Essentially this issue is about Bruce and his father talking while all of Thomas’s enemies mass to end his life. Of course they have The Flash with them who could fight all of them at once but he’s busy rebuilding the Cosmic Treadmill.

As the army of Amazons descend upon the Batcave, there’s a fight (of course) and eventually The Flash repairs the Cosmic Treadmill but not before Thomas and Bruce share a tender moment.

However the Flashpoint universe is collapsing.

As Barry and Bruce enter into the timestream they end up entering it before the Reverse-Flash was killed so they meet him holding his Watchmen badge.

Thawne is running to his doom though he says he knows who is behind this all. As for the issue it’s a bit of a mess as regular writer Tom King has Joshua Williamson help with the plot, and with Williamson dealing with the script too the entire thing feels like an undercooked stew.

Still, next issue of The Flash sees this story come to a close as DC ramps up the integration of Watchmen so that Comedian versus Batman series some fans have been drooling about is nearly here..

What I thought of Batman #21

The ongoing car-crash that is DC’s Rebirth (DC’s attempt to integrate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen into the mainstream DC Universe and blame it for everything ‘dark’) continues with Batman #21, a comic that makes the Watchmen link very, very obvious from the off.

That’s Saturn Girl of the Legion of Superheroes who has been locked up in Arkham Asylum since the Rebirth reboot started.She’s a telepath from the future so has knowledge of the 21st century and can read minds, so she knows (we think) what’s coming. As for the reader what’s coming is a bloody unsubtle reminder of what DC are doing with Watchmen.

Yeah, that isn’t subtle. Neither are the pages on 9-panel grids as Batman watches the same hockey game Saturn Girl was, which also adds as a meta-commentary on the nature and voyeurism of violence in comics. Of course Watchmen had very little violence in it, though what their was was either repulsive or there to make a point about the nature of violence in comics was never reflective of the nature of violence in reality. Here the point seems to be muddled, not to mention blaming Watchmen for the violence in comics after its publication.

A brush with the Psycho Pirate’s mask sees Bruce Wayne encounter his father, the Batman of Flashpoint.

Bringing the Flashpoint Batman back for a glimpse reminds us of The New 52,one of  DC’s previous attempt to reboot its universe in a ‘gritty’ way. it’s also blamed for generally poor sales and the company struggling before leading to Rebirth last year.Anyhow, after contacting The Flash, Batman ends up in a fight with the Reverse-Flash as it’s hinted that a ‘power’ (Dr. Manhattan?) brought him back from the dead.

So we get a few pages of Thawne beating up Batman (MORE VIOLENCE!!) before Thawne finally wins thanks to The Flash being late. Picking up the Comedian’s badge does this to Thawne…

That does look like a Dr. Manhattan style ”BZZT’ there. Unfortunately for Thawne he comes back a tad worse for wear.

The story picks up in The Flash #21 due out next week but it’s clear DC are pushing on with the integration of Moore and Gibbons work into the DC Universe even if its clear they don’t seem to really have got or understood Watchmen, or what Moore and Giibbons were doing with their work. I don’t blame writer Tom King as he actually does a pretty good job in working with a shitty stick to create a pretty reasonable superhero tale, but the entire idea seems seedy.

I don’t think the higher-ups of DC get how integrating Watchmen changes the meaning of it, but they are counting the praise for that work rubs off on titles like this. It’s a bit like the Fearless Girl statue in New York and the controversy around that. This is just simply another example of late capitalism of course, but as a sales tactic it’ll work as already on Ebay issues of Batman #21 are being advertised at stupidly high prices.

So I’ll take a hit for the team and carry on to the next part in The Flash to see what happens next…

What I thought of Superman #199, World’s Finest #198, #199 and Adventures of Superman #463

As a kid I grew up with The Hulk and The Flash as my favourite superheroes, I grew out of liking The Hulk, but have always loved the Flash, and I especially loved it when the Flash would race Superman for the title of Fastest Man Alive. Sadly though being skint and/or stupidity I sold these issues years ago but Comixology has a Flash sale on, so I grabbed these issues for a bargain price of 69p each.

superman199

Superman #199 has a fantastic Carmine Infantino cover, and I especially like Batman failing to support his supposed best mate, but imagine being a kid in the 60’s and 70’s and seeing this cover? It’d be impossible not to buy this.

The premise of the issue is that mobsters are betting on either hero so they follow them around timing their speed, but we find that the United Nations have asked the pair to run a race to aid them.

superman199-1

As both men can travel faster than light a course is designed for them to make it a real race.

superman199-2

 

Rival mob gangs have plans to sabotage the race so that the Flash and Superman both fail, so although the heroes are doing a lot of great work for charidee mate, the mobsters have bet billions on the outcome of the race. Eventually the day of the race arrives, and Superman and The Flash get their marks and race.

superman199-3

 

Groovy.

superman199-4

There’s a strange moment that looks odd to 21st century eyes when the heroes go through Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

superman199-5As the race continues natural hazards come thick and thin such as hurricanes and flying chunks of Kryptonite that in the DC Universe of the time, seemed to be as common as rickets. Eventually the mobsters break out their cunning plans and yes, this is real.

superman199-6

Do the baddies stop the heroes? Course not, but it’s enormous fun in that wholesome and slightly staid way DC were back then, but this isn’t the end of the heroes rivalry.

Worldsfinest198

The second race between the heroes isn’t on Comixolgy’s sale as far as I can see, but this is, and isn’t that a glorious Neal Adams/Carmine Infantino cover? This time things seem more modern thanks to Denny O’Neill’s script and the vastly underrated Dick Dillon art. Essentially some bad guys are mucking around with time and that brings in Green Lantern’s Guardians to ask Superman for help.

Worldsfinest198-1

Thanks to some Guardian SF gibberish Superman and The Flash have to run through space to stop these creatures, and the pair decide to make a race of it.

Worldsfinest198-2

The pair race through stars, alternate realities and eventually find the Arachnoids as the story spins into the next issue.

Worldsfinest199

A pretty average Neal Adams cover fronts up the second part of the story as the pair of heroes attempt to save the universe, Can they do it?

Worldsfinest199-1

The heroes find out the people responsible for the Arachnoids, and it’s the Phantom Zone baddies.

Worldsfinest199-2

 

Can the heroes win? Of course they do, but who wins the race is probably a bit of a surprise for what was a Superman team-up comic but it really didn’t matter as these stories were just about giving fans the buzz of seeing heroes play out playground arguments on the paper.

For the last comic on this incomplete list of Superman/Flash races, it’s tie to hit the 1980’s for Adventures of Superman#463, but instead of the Barry Allen Flash this is now the Wally West Flash of DC’s post-Crisis universe, and thanks to some prodding from Mr. Mxyzptlk the pair of heroes have a race.

adventuresofsuperman463-1

 

After Superman acts like an arsehole to the Flash, the race is on.

adventuresofsuperman463-2

The pair come across natural obstacles as well as more problems of an impish kind.

adventuresofsuperman463-3

These though aren’t the demigods of the previous issues running between galaxies, but are more limited in their powers.

adventuresofsuperman463-4

These stories aren’t especially great comics, let alone great examples of superhero comics but they do show how superhero comics developed from the staid 60’s through the groovy 70’s and the more down to earth 80’s, but all hold a sense of fun in what they’re doing and that’s often something that doesn’t happen in most superhero comics these days. These comics are snapshots of history. As said, the question of who’s faster, The Flash or Superman is a kids argument but at the end of the day these are kids comics that all can enjoy because reading these are just joyful nostalgia.

Why The Flash is the best thing on telly right now

One of the very first American superheroes I fell in love with was The Flash and this was one of the first comics I remember reading as a kid. This is the cover to The Flash #163.

flash163

But it was this bizarre cover a few issues later that hooked me forever on The Flash as a villain turns The Flash into The Fastest Paving Stone Alive. Seriously.

flash171

I love the art of Carmine Infantino who would draw these elegant but sharp lined people and his portrayal of The Flash is still one of my favourite  bits of comic book art I’ll probably ever enjoy. Even when I stopped reading superheroes I still dipped in and out of The Flash because the idea of being the fastest man alive who can run so fast he can run through time itself was, and is, one of the simplest and most fun ideas for a superhero ever.

So when I heard an American television series adapting the Flash from the people who made Arrow I was a bit wary. Not because I disliked Arrow, as I’d not watched the programme because too many superhero adaptations are grim, depressing and don’t capture an iota of the fun of those wonderful Infantino drawn stories from the 1960’s, but I thought I’d give it a chance.

Well, after one episode I was totally hooked. Much of this is down to the light tone, the surprisingly good scripts and effects, but it’s really down to the lead actor Grant Gustin who simply is Barry Allen/The Flash.

flashtv

It’s not perfect. It is a bit soap operaish in places and sometimes it’s budget betrays its ambition but overwhelmingly the series is a joy even for an old cynic like myself. It’s got The Flash being heroic, but also it’s a programme that celebrates intelligence as opposed to many programmes that assumes it’s audience isn’t paying attention or smart. Yes it can cram a lot into an episode but it moves so quickly that the joins don’t matter but anyhow, all it has to do is get Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen/Flash to smile, act heroically and I’m sold on it again.

It also pays an amazing amount of faithfulness to DC Comics. So far in the nine episodes broadcast we’ve seen Grodd, the Reverse Flash, Captain Cold, Rainbow Raider and Firestorm among many others, including of course the crossover with Arrow which is simply a joy.

This is fun, enjoyable and overwhelming entertaining television that captures and updates the Flash perfectly for television. This is the perfect time to catch up with it as it’s now on it’s mid-season break in the US so if it’s a case you’ve not watched it so far, do it now and get ready for when it returns in the New Year. This really is the best programme around at the moment.

Though no yellow boots. I loved the yellow boots…..