A House of Infinite Crisis
Marvel and DC drop bombshells that will change their respective universes forever. What's it mean and why should you care?
October 13, 2005
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead! Don't read unless you want to know what happened in House of M #7 and Infinite Crisis #1
It seemed like a dream, or perhaps a nightmare to those without a thick wallet, that both Marvel and DC would come out with major universe-defining events right around the same time. As fans shelled out the bucks for the four Infinite Crisis prelude minis and their seemingly infinite number of spin-offs, they were also mortgaging their parents basements to pick up Marvel's House of M. Two incredibly important events from the top creators at each publisher. How could it get any better or more expensive?
How about two crucial issues -- packed with unbelievable surprises -- shipping the same day? These are the stories that finally broke the Internet's back.
House of M #7 featured the revelation that it was Quicksilver and not Magneto who was ultimately responsible for creating a brave new world for mutantkind. The ending proved incredible. With three words the Scarlet Witch dramatically changed the face of the Marvel Universe: "No more mutants."
Infinite Crisis #1 kicked off one hell of a bad day for the DCU. First, we learned in Villains United #6 that there were actually two Lex Luthors running around and that Pariah, the harbinger of dying universes, was on Earth. Then in Crisis #1 we saw the return of several characters from Earth-2 and Earth-Prime. Apparently these cats escaped the end of all things in Crisis On Infinite Earths 20 years back.
To have both DC and Marvel's events deliver so completely on the same day is a pretty incredible feat. It's a good time to be a comic-book fan.
Heroes are used to bad days, but for Marvel and DC these moments will resonate for years to come.
To its credit, Marvel's House of M has remained true to the promise that you could read the HOM miniseries alone and understand all that was going on. This is very true. In fact, all the spinoffs seem a little unnecessary, because House of M is so well-contained. While Marvel stilled milked us of money with a few miniseries and some connected issues, poorer fans could focus just on the main series and still enjoy the jaw-dropper that issues 7 provided.
On the other hand, House of M has dragged, with filler stories in supporting series and a typically-delayed schedule. As awesome as issue 7 may be, it didn't earn that moment over the course of the first six issues. Hell yes, Bendis delivered, but the past few issues have not been equal to the first and penultimate chapters.
Contrasting HoM's conciseness, Crisis is a lot like the Blob. The longer it lives, the more series it consumes, the bigger it grows. Though long-promised to be as self-contained as possible, no one can really hop into Crisis #1 blind and know what the hell is going on. Why are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman so pissed off at each other? What the heck is an OMAC? Why's there another Superman with grey hair? You need to have some understanding of the preceding events to fully enjoy Crisis #1 and you really need to know a bit about the two-decades-old Crisis On Infinite Earths.
While long-time DC fans such as myself are jumping up and down with joy over the payoff for a year's worth of eager speculation, many others may be scratching their head wondering who flipped the world upside down. The payoff, so far, has been great, but it seems that the best moments of Crisis #1 are a handshake in a gentleman's club that most newer readers haven't been invited to. Doesn't DC understand that Infinite Earths is a classic, but not particularly accessible to newer DC fans? Apparently not.
DC has done an overall solid job of building to this moment, but hasn't made these mega-event particularly attractive to outsiders.
Marvel and DC combined put out 35-50 issues a week. Over the years, moments, lines and story arcs can fade from memory. However, House of M #7 and Crisis #1 will probably be remembered for a long time.
Who will soon forget Wanda deconstructing Hawkeye or Magneto showing his expert parenting skills with Pietro? How long will those final three pages resonate with Marvel fans? For quite some time, I'd guess.
Crisis has only just truly begun and it's almost certain that there are bigger surprises up ahead that could well wash away some of the things that stood out most in the first issue. However, no one will soon forget the ultimate Batman line of the past decade: "Let's face it 'Superman'... The last time you really inspired anyone was when you were dead." Not only a brilliant, powerful line, but an acknowledgement from DC that they've allowed Superman to meander over the past decade.
The impact from House of M #7 will be felt immediately. November kicks of Decimation, a one-shot on the aftermath of Wanda's actions. The X-books all gain new direction in November and the fallout will be felt for at least a few years. Expect a whole lot of tertiary mutants to be no more. And let's face it, this is a house-cleaning Marvel has needed for a very long time.
Over the years there have been too many mutants thrown into the mix for no good reason. The world is overcrowded with them. So if Marvel wants to clean up, it's a little odd that they aren't cutting down some books and rebuilding slowly. And it's perhaps more troubling that they aren't slotting in whole new creative teams for the long haul. Brubaker should breathe some interesting life into the X-Men with the Deadly Genesis miniseries, but as a whole Marvel has missed a golden opportunity to refresh its creative teams. Instead, all the new blood is coming onto new series.
There are a number of looming questions to be answered. What's happened to Xavier? What will become of the Avengers who died in "Disassembled"? It seems pretty clear that Quicksilver, star of the upcoming Son of M, will be powerless in this redefined Marvel Universe.
We know that everyone will remember what has happened. So look for renewed interest in containing the mutant menace, whatever may be left of it. But also expect some changes in how mutants are viewed by other superheroes. The line has blurred over the years and it really has become a wonder why someone loves the Fantastic Four but fears a mutant. The line in the sand has been redrawn. That should provide some excellent fodder for future stories.
Infinite Crisis suggest that Crisis on Infinite Earths never ended. With the re-emergence of Earth-2, Earth-3 and Earth-Prime characters, that would seem to be the case. What is the end-goal? We can't be certain, but in recent weeks DC's lips have become considerably looser.
The DCU has become quite dark of late, but only through its darkest days can the heroes come through to a brighter future. That doesn't mean Batman will no longer stalk criminals in the night, but look for DCU's biggest heroes to get nudged back a bit more towards center.
Much of the focus leading into Crisis has been on secret identities. When villains learned of a hero's secret identity and the identity of their loved ones, Zatanna and the JLA were there to do some mindwiping. That's come back to bite the league in the ass. But the problem of identities, particularly how none seem very secret anymore, is a major theme. Don't be shocked if Geoff Johns pulls a similar trick to the one he did in Flash, where he made the world forget Wally West was the Scarlet Speedster. The heroes have become far too familiar with one another, making those alternate identities almost meaningless. A DCU where Wonder Woman refers to the Dark Knight as "Batman" instead of "Bruce" is a better one in the long run.
There's been considerable speculation that Bruce Wayne will die. After all, someone has to die, right? This may actually come to pass. Infinite Crisis has been too carefully plotted for there to be any mere coincidence, so the panel showing the Bat-Signal projected over Spectre's chest should not be taken for granted. In August, Judd Winick alluded to the idea that even if Bruce Wayne were to not be Batman for a while, eventually he would come back. It's very possible Wayne could become the new Spectre for a period of time, atoning for his recent mistakes and reclaiming the mantle of the Bat at the end of next year (or at least before the next Batman movie).
Crisis is a course correction that will likely maintain the history of the past two decades, but fundamentally shift the focus of specific characters. DC has stated several times that Crisis will set DC up for the next generation, so look for some of the younger characters to step forward and take key roles as the Crisis comes full-force.
This is just the beginning of some big changes for both Marvel and DC. Who knows what surprises are ultimately in store, but both universes should look significantly different a year from now.