Welcome to Austin’s new but long in the planning column: Event Horizon. This will be a roughly biweekly look at the grand events of comic history. Why? Well, event comics tend to be big entry points for new readers. A lot of my friends jump in in these moments. They’re also not dissimilar to summer blockbusters. The stakes are sky high and everything is super big. So why not treat them like blockbusters?
Unlike Comics For Rent where I bounced around, I’m approaching each event in roughly chronological order. I’m going to cheat just once to put Crisis on Infinite Earths first, and I will shuffle a bit if I feel it’s too stacked towards one company or the other, but otherwise in order.
I’m also using a rather strict definition of event comics. I’m sticking to miniseries which had a linewide effect. I’m avoiding “family” events like the countless X-Men crossovers in the 1990s save for The Death of Superman and Batman: Knightfall as those are two of the best known and most vital events. Sadly this means books like Batman: No Man’s Land and The Sinestro Corps War, brilliant as they are, are outside my purview for now. I’m also avoiding every single miniseries, which means things like Millennium and Invasion are out. I want to focus on the BIG books.
I’m using a rubric as I did on Comics For Rent (and will continue to do as new movies hit.) It is as follows:
Story: Is it a well written book?
Art: Is it well drawn:
Does it stand alone?
Importance and impact?
Final verdict:This will be scored as Major event (important and a great read), minor event (one of those is lacking), or non-event (it’s neither).
Time to begin.
Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985, 12 issues)
Plot: The DC Multiverse starts vanishing universe at a time as a wave of antimatter sweeps through the universes, forcing every hero in the canon to unite and stop it.
Background: This was DC’s big attempt to simplify their incredibly snarled continuity, reducing the multiple universes into one. It also allowed for a restart of key parts of the continuity and a reshaping of others. Basically this is the template for almost every future DC universe event.
Story: Marv Wolfman and co-plotter (as of issue 12) George Perez pull of a feat of juggling here. This is an epic in every sense and yet it works. The plot is complex, with the goal seemingly resetting every issue which keeps it moving rather fast. There are a mass of characters, yet everybody gets their own moments to shine. This is how you pull off a book like this. On a script level, it’s impeccable.
Art: George Perez is as great as comic artists come so really there’s not much else to say. Perez has one hell of a challenge, drawing massive battles often loaded with characters and he nails them. The level of detail is awe inspiring. It’s such a gorgeous book.
Does it stand alone? Yes and no. It can certainly be read as its own story and it works phenomenally. It has a completeness to it most events don’t. But if all you know of DC is the big 3, you will be devastatingly lost. This requires some awareness of characters ranging from John Constantine to the Legion of Super-Heroes. It’s not impossible to do but definitely shouldn’t be the first DC book you read.
Importance and Impact: It’s the event so big one only need say “Crisis” to a fan to get a reaction. It’s the definitive event. The book completely altered the DCU. Nothing was left unaffected, even books that mostly kept their continuity. Its impact is still felt throughout the years, though every single major death in the book was eventually undone and even the multiverse was restored, then destroyed, then restored. But the fact that it’s even being played with says it all. This is as big as they get.
Final verdict: Well, as I said, it’s the big one. Obviously this is a major event. It’s really on a tier all its own honestly. But put aside the importance, this is as great as comics get. It’s a powerful story about legacy and fighting for the future while honoring the past. The characters struggle with this and eventually find their own paths. There is emotion in every panel of this book. Just a classic.
Bonus Material: In 2005, Marv Wolfman wrote a novelization of the event that’s utterly fantastic. Rather than doing a straight adaptation, he shuffles the timeline using Barry Allen as his POV. Graphic Audio adapted the novelization into an audiobook. I highly recommend both.
Next: Secret Wars (1984)