Crisis on Infinite Earths: the Novel

coie novel

In 1986, DC Comics decided that readers no longer enjoyed the variety provided by its "Multiverse" concept and, in fact, found it confusing.  To remedy the situation, it called upon Marv Wolfman to write the story that would combine five continuities/histories into one coherent timeline.  The comic book series was a stunning success, becoming the first of many summer-time events, which was certainly helped by the George Perez art. Recently, I picked up this 2005 novel (I hesitate to call it a novelization, as there are many differences) and gave it a read.  While it does follow the same general path as the comic series, there are numerous differences.  Mostly narrated by a dead Barry Allen, aka the Flash, his point of view is used to move from scene to scene.  He often provides behind the scenes help that wasn't present or apparant in the comic series.

Also, some characters that were created in the comic series were given little to no time in the novel, such as the female Doctor Light, whose origin involved the main antagonist in the comic series but who is seen or mentioned on no more than a handful of pages in the novel.

Wolfman also works in mentions of the Justice Alliance of Earth-D, characters he created well after the original series, who represented a racially integrated team of characters.  Supposedly, their story was one that he had wanted to tell, but he cut it due to the length of the series.

One last major difference is what happens to certain major characters at the end of the story. In the original, Alexander Luthor takes the Superman and Lois Lane of Earth 2 and the Superboy of Earth Prime into himself where he's created a virtual paradise for them. Superboy of Earth Prime isn't even mentioned (he was probably too hard to explain using the narrative style of the book) and Superman and Lois Lane have a different destiny in the novel.

While these differences are intruiging, and help to attract a reader to the story, readers who have probably read the original story at least one if not multiple times, the style of the narrative made the book a struggle to finish.  While the use of Barry Allen as a narrator was probably as good an idea as any, he spends many pages pining for his lost wife, Iris.  Having been dragged from his life to help to defeat the bad guys, he was unable to return to her before his death.

Wolfman also made a strange choice to have chapters that were no more than three or so pages long.  While it means that you could read the book easily and entirely in bathroom trips, it felt very jarring to have such frequent changes of scene. It also meant that not much time was spent with any given situation or character, with the exception of the Flash.

Lastly, the thing that drew me out of the book most were the large number of editorial mistakes.  There were many missing letters that should have been caught by the editor during a simple read-through of the manuscript.  In addition, for as researched as the story had to have been, Wolfman made many mistakes on fairly simple things.  For example, he continually referred to the Psycho Pirate as being from Earth 1 (he's originally from Earth 2), and he continually misspelled Obsidian's name.

All in all, the positives in the form of the changes to the story were offset by the negatives of the writing style and editorial mistakes to make the book both mediocre and disappointing.  Read it if you are a completist, such as I am, but only the most serious fan would want to in the first place.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds HC

The Legion of Super-Heroes was the first book I bought with my own money.  Was it because the dentist had the first appearance of the Composite Superman (who gained the powers of the Legion when lightning hit their statues while he was standing nearby)? Nope.  It was because my local grocery store had two consecutive issues.  Yes, it's that silly a reason.

I've been their fan ever since.  Through the good times (Paul Levitz is still my favorite Legion writer) to the bad (I can't believe they allowed fan-fiction writers to take the reins), I've been there. My Legion collection is complete back into the early 1970s and through reprints I've read most, if not all, of the books in which they've appeared.

Recently, the Legion has fallen on hard times.  They began their third incarnation, which bears almost no resemblance to the previous two, and even the usually masterful Mark Waid couldn't keep interest in this version.  And then Geoff Johns used the Legion for a crossover with Superman (which will be reviewed later).  The catch: the Legion he used appeared to be the one from my youth.

And Johns' story was a revelation.  I've liked, and even loved, his work but this story took me back to my youth.  While the story made it clear this wasn't exactly the same Legion, it was close enough.  The Legion I thought had been lost in the first re-start was back (mostly).  It also seemed that they were the same up to the bad times, up to the point where my least favorite Legion writers took over.  With excellent art by Gary Frank, this story was a love letter to older Legion fans and, for me, I thought it was the best a fan like me was going to get.

Until Final Crisis.  As part of DC's summer event, the powers-that-be gave Johns the go-ahead to write another Legion story. Using elements he had set up previously, Johns weaves a story of Superboy-Prime and the Time Trapper, and their attempts to destroy the LSH.  With glorious art by George Perez, there's something in this story for any Legion fan, with appearances by every character who has ever been a member, and appearances by most of the various costumes that they've worn.  All three Legions are represented, including the Five-Year Gap Legion whose history I thought removed in Johns "retroboot".

In the story, Superboy-Prime is unknowningly thrown into the 31st century, where he sees that Superman is still revered, but he is nearly unknown.  Being the egocentric character that he is, he takes his anger out on the Superman Museum and its patrons before learning of the Legion of Super-Heroes and their counterparts, the Legion of Super-Villains.  Determined to destroy Superman's legacy, including the LSH, he attempts to take over the LSV and begins attacking Metropolis.  To counter him, the retroboot Legion hatches a plan of their own, calling in their counterparts from other universes, the reboot and threeboot Legions (from after Zero Hour and Mark Waid's Legion, respectively).

After gaining Superman's help, the Legions determine that the best way to stop Superboy-Prime is to bring back the heroes who defeated him before: Kid Flash (Bart Allen) and Superboy (Conner Kent).  In doing so, the Time Trapper captures the retroboot version of the Legion founders (Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic Boy) along with Superman and brings them to the end of time, where he reveals that he is, in fact, Superboy-Prime all grown up.  He tells them a story of how he won't be defeated, that his being there now was proof.  All that goes up in smoke when damage Superboy-Prime took in the past appears on the Time Trapper, proving that history can be changed.

The Legions hatch a plan to bring Time Trapper back to the present, where Superboy-Prime becomes enraged at the thought of becoming the Trapper, and attacks him.  As soon as they touch, Superboy-Prime is returned to his original Earth, which had been recreated in the events of Infinite Crisis, and the Time Trapper disappears.  The threeboot Legion turns out to be the Legion of Earth-Prime, while the reboot Legion become wanderers in the Multi-verse.

I read these as they were coming out, late books and all, and reread the hard cover that just came out. While the HC doesn't have anything in the way of extras, it's still worth the money for the excellent story and art.  This story is a fan's dream, given that it contains every major and most every minor character who has been in a Legion story, and it reintroduces the original Legion to the DC universe in a way that makes sense with the new status quo.  It's a must-read for a Legion fan, but it's an excellent story even for those who have only a passing familiarity with this part of DC's history.