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‘Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1’ (review)

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Mike Perkins
Published by DC Comics

 

Look, folks. I still don’t care about this whole Dark Multiverse deal nor these expanded universe books that are all basically What If? Darkest Timeline Edition.

But 2020 is the year to do full-on dystopia, as long as you go all out.

Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths goes. All. The. Way. Out.

Hats off, Steve Orlando and Mike Perkins. Bravo for creating an epic opera of end-of-the-world destruction that sets up ends-of-worlds bloodbaths!

The setup: the Crisis happened, and the Anti-Monitor was defeated. But this time, Earth-2 was the seed of the new reality.

Yes, the Earth-2 built around heroes emerging around World War Two and growing old: the Justice Society of America, with all the Golden Age versions of Green Lantern, Flash, Starman, Hawkman, Doctor Mid-Nite, etc.. Superman is Kal-L rather than Kal-El, graying at the temples but still powerful. Batman and Catwoman’s daughter, Helena, becomes Huntress. And Supergirl, Kara Zor-L, grows up to become Power Girl.

After the Anti-Monitor was defeated, the depleted, weary JSA return to their home Earth and rush into a new crisis: the Asgardian god Surtur has arrived to enact Ragnarok.

Even worse, he’s just killed the depleted, weary Justice League of America! We even get one of those classic comic book pages of heroes’ bodies strewn across the ground, their costumes in tatters.

And so the battle begins, and Perkins treats us to a full page of Surtur the fiery god standing over the U.S. Capitol building against an ashen sky, his winged minions tearing everything to shreds and soldiers carrying wounded and dead out of the wreckage. It reminded me of that absolutely chilling image of King Ghidorah over D.C. in the movie Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

(If y’all haven’t seen King of the Monsters, please do; I first watched it at the start of the pandemic, and it hits especially good amid this environmental and political moment in time.)

There’s no greater dystopian thrill than seeing every hero you love get their guts ripped out, right?

And this book is a straight up slaughterhouse. Arms ripped off? Beheadings? Bodies ripped in half? Faces melted off? It’s all here.

Orlando and Perkins do a lot of showing rather than telling. Which means that when they do tell, it matters. Namely: a single page on which Surtur delivers a monologue regaling Green Lantern Alan Scott with how he killed Green Lantern Hal Jordan from Earth-1.

Orlando’s purple, horrifying prose hits on a “why don’t bad guys just ____” thing about Green Lanterns and those power rings. Perkins executes a solid composition, by which two large panels are fill the page, and in the center are letterbox panels to focus on details. The motion of the page follows a scrap of Hal’s uniform, which Surtur sets afire, and the burning GL emblem falls as Scott’s feet.

But the story also goes intimate.

Heartfelt scenes between Superman and Lois Lane (whom Perkins draws here with striking resemblance to Margot Kidder), Alan Scott and Obsidian, Hawkgirl and Huntress, play out as they discuss duty, sacrifice and family legacies.

Those quiet moments of the JSA regrouping work well in a story structure where they are bookended by two battles with Surtur.

And the second battle follows all the beats you know and love, even doing a solid job of tricking you into thinking that victory is coming! But this is the Dark Multiverse (cue extreme guitar riff) where everything goes wrong!

But you knew that was going to happen, didn’t you? It’s in the freaking name!

After reading this and liking Mike Perkins’ art, I want to go check out the Lois Lane maxi-series that he did with Greg Rucka writing.

So, cool! Pick it up. It’s enjoyable.

 

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