Monday, January 30, 2006

We've made a horrible miscalculation. It's time to intervene.


Infinite Crisis #1 - 3

I'm guessing that not many readers of this blog are members of the Illuminati, the ultra-secret global conspiracy hellbent on directing the history of the world for its own diabolic purposes. However I am, which is why I spend most of my evenings ensconced in the library of an exclusive London gentlemen's club with Kofi Annan, Peter Mandelson and Boxcar Willie, plotting the downfall of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus.

Now the one thing which really irks us Illuminatis (or "Loomies", as we call ourselves), is novice members like spotty newcomer David Cameron who haven't committed to memory all 86 Books of our Secret Gospels. Anyone who hasn't attained at least the 55th degree of the Inner Circle is, frankly, a ignoramus thicko who should be serving cappuchinos in the canteen.

Which segues me nicely into Infinite Crisis, the greatest comic book event of the next millennium, a series so wilfully, gloriously obscure that a reader unversed in DC lore experiences a sensation similar to being headbutted across the nose by an "H-E-A-R-T-S" singing hooligan from Wester Hailes. Painful, and yet somehow leaving you with the feeling that you deserve it.

The first issue should be preserved in aspic as a study of how to make a reader feel unwelcome. Shovel dozens of characters in there, don't introduce them, don't even name them, up the portentousness quotient to "flatulent", mix in some dubious astronomical observations ("this storm just swallowed the neighboring galaxy", "For the first time in history, Oa is no longer at the center of the universe") and you're happily cruising down the Incomprehensibility Highway.

My particular favourite in this blizzard of weirdness is the character of Uncle Sam. No, not a national symbol or a metaphor for American power, but an actual living, walking Uncle Sam. "He claims to have bested Paul Bunyan in Armwrestling and outplanted Johnny Appleseed in the orchards of Washington". But that's nothing: I personally seduced King Arthur's wife and beat Robin Hood at darts in the snug lounge of the Swan and Smallpox in Alfreton.

Anyway, Sam and his unnamed band of heroes get butchered by an unnamed band of villains for unknown reasons, providing Infinite Crisis with its own Women In Refrigerators moment, touched with just a wee smidgen of disturbing sexual imagery.


Sigmund Freud himself would find nothing remotely
sexual about the death of this young lady


Meanwhile, Uncle Sam ends up bleeding in a puddle, political in the sense that superpowers tend to need to see themselves as victims, though not exactly the Putney Debates in terms of subtlety of thought.


Middle eastern ruler bops one on American national
symbol while unnecessarily disrespecting democratic
values


By the end of it, we have no less than five people running round in Superman outfits, something calculated to give us Clone Saga veterans post-traumatic flashbacks. And "The world needs a Superboy" may well be the most contestable statement in the history of literature.

So by the end of Infinite Crisis #1 I was just utterly baffled. Which is why I got down on my knees and wept real tears in #2 when the writers took the time to explain something about what was going on. A four and a half page summary provided more useful information than the other twenty or thirty Infinite Crisis tie-ins had managed. Though the fact that I was still reading by this point, rather than having given up bewildered, probably owes more to blog writing than any intrinsic value to the story.

Anyway, there's an Earth-1 and an Earth-2, and Earth-1 is ruined because Wonder Woman snapped someone's neck like a twiglet and one of the Supermen wants to swap Earth-1 for Earth-2 and Batman's going to stop him. Why Superman thinks getting rid of Earth-1 isn't exactly the same as planet-level genocide, and where Earth-2 has been hiding in the meantime are questions I haven't exactly figured out. Now Wonder Woman killing someone who was evidently asking for it isn't such a great crime in my books, but we're assured that Earth-2 is a much more pleasant place than Earth-1. Does that mean they missed out on some of the world's other less heart-warming moments, like the Holocaust and Black Death? Or is Earth-1 just being given a bad press so they can justify utterly jumbling up the DC Universe again?

And by issue #3 everyone is running around like Corporal Jones shouting "Don't panic". There is a portrayal of a genuine atmosphere of malice here, but the shouty, overwrought over-reactions left me thinking the entire cast needed hosing down.

So this is a cosmology story, and obviously this cosmology is a bit ridiculous, but so is Marvel's, but that doesn't mean the story can't be fun. And maybe it is enjoyable for the initiated, but with my limited knowledge of the DC Universe, I simply can't judge. It's an inward-looking, dedicated hard-core-fans-only story. It leaves the casual reader feeling ignorant and foolish, which are not typically the reactions you would want to inspire.

"They're a bit beyond my likes or dislikes, Mister Frodo", as Samwise the Gardener might say on being faced by some mendacious Elven trickery.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Paul W. said...

No, the world DOES need a Superboy. Really, it does. I mean, just look at this world we're living in today. No Superboy, right? And...? The economy is tanking, war in the Middle East,starvation in Africa, and Iran is working at getting the nuclear bomb. Now, imagine this same scenario... but with Superboy!!!!!!! Imagine the glee in your heart as you watched Superboy goof around with his super-pet, Krypto. playing fetch with meteors in outer space. Wouldn't that put a smile on your face? You bet it would!!! ah, Superboy. I... NEED... Superboy...

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