Crisis on Infinite Earths

The End of the Beginning

Psycho-Pirate:Don’t worry, doctor. Everything is as it should be. The stage is set. Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the universe will never be the same.

Supergirl “Elseworlds Part 3” (Season 4, Episode 9)

Comic crossovers were once rare. You might see a pair of superheroes work together on a case or a group form a team, but they were few and far between. As fan demand increased, writers teamed heroes together more frequently, but that still wasn’t enough. Fans cried out for the biggest crossover, one where every hero would be forced to unite in order to save the day. Crisis on Infinite Earths answered their prayers.

Crisis celebrated DC Comics’ 50th anniversary and featured every DC character: hero or villain, old and new, and even characters created for the event. All of them were needed to stop a being that threatened to destroy the multiverse.

So what was The Crisis? How did the heroes overcome it? Why has the Arrowverse been leading up to it? Let’s find out.

The Set Up

The Monitor: And now let me properly introduce myself. I am The Monitor, and I have summoned you here because your universes are about to die!

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Crisis on Infinite Earths is a gigantic story with a lot of moving parts. Let’s set the stage.

In the months leading up to the event, word spread of a mysterious figure called The Monitor (Arrow‘s LaMonica Garrett). He was often seen in silhouette, observing heroes and villains during fights. He even staged several fights by luring heroes and villains with promises of weapons and advanced technology.

Around the same time, a mysterious woman called Harbinger (The Unit’s Audrey Marie Anderson) began recruiting heroes for an unstated purpose throughout time and space. Her narration tells readers that she is connected to The Monitor but is otherwise sparse with details. On her last trip to gather heroes, Harbinger is attacked by a shadowy figure that turns her into a sleeper agent.

We also meet Pariah (Tom Cavanagh) at the beginning. He is a cloaked figure who appears whenever an Earth’s destruction is imminent during The Crisis. He is immortal and constantly laments that he is forced to witness each world die as punishment for a past sin.

The final newcomer is born in the opening pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths. As Pariah watches the destruction of Earth-3 (a mirror universe where all the heroes are evil), a baby is sent to the Earth-1 as an homage to Superman’s backstory. This child is Alex Luthor, son of Earth-3’s only superhero, Alexander Luthor. The Monitor forcibly ages Alex into an adult to access his antimatter superpowers.

Now that the set up is done, let’s start the story.

Time Gone Mad

Firebrand:I-I’m still confused. Who are all these people? I only know a very few.
Obsidian:We’re from different times, Firebrand…sometimes even different Earths. You know me and Superman, and I only know a few others.

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Harbinger’s recruits gather on The Monitor’s spaceship. Before they can meet him, they are attacked by an army of Shadow Demons. The assembled heroes hold off the Shadow Demons long enough for The Monitor to banish them. He then tells them that the multiverse is being consumed by a wave of antimatter.

The Monitor sends the group to various points in DC’s history to stop the waves of antimatter. This allows the story to explore the Wild West, World War 2, the Dark Ages, a post apocalyptic world, and more with cameos from contemporary heroes.

Pariah is drawn to The Monitor’s ship, where he learns that The Monitor is the one forcing him to live through the planets dying. Pariah was used to monitor where the antimatter wave was spreading. Things get worse as Harbinger is mind controlled and forced to assassinate The Monitor.

Alex Luthor arrives and tells a guilty Harbinger that The Monitor knew she would be forced to kill him. His death unleashes energy that allows the five remaining Earths to fuse together. The Monitor warns him that the antimatter wave and Shadow Demons have a master, who is also The Monitor’s counterpart: The Anti-Monitor.

Heroic Sacrifice

The Flash: [running to his death] “There is hope… There is always hope… Time to save the world!… Time… Back in time… Do what you have to… We must save the world.

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With their enemy finally unmasked, the heroes of the multiverse gathered an army of their strongest members assault the Anti-Monitor’s fortress. Alex Luthor opens a portal to the Antimatter universe while Pariah guides the heroes to their enemy. Most of the army was bogged down fighting the Anti-Monitor’s forces, leaving only Superman to unsuccessfully fight the Big Bad, who is then badly wounded by an enraged Supergirl. The injured Anti-Monitor kills Supergirl when she was distracted by her allies.

The Anti-Monitor fled to his homeworld. His forces began building an  antimatter cannon strong enough destroy the multiverse because the wave wasn’t working fast enough. The Flash, who had arrived on the homeworld by convoluted means, managed to destabilize the cannon’s power source using his connection to the Speed Force. Unfortunately, the sheer power overloaded his body, burning The Flash to ashes.

Supergirl and The Flash’s deaths crippled the Anti-Monitor’s plans so he escapes to the beginning of time to use his plan of last resort.

The Villain War

Luthor: Well, well, well… this is a pleasure! The name’s Lex Luthor. And the culmination of everything I’ve ever worked for is at hand!

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When the Anti-Monitor disappeared, the remaining Earths breathed a short-lived sigh of relief until the alien robot Brainiac and Lex Luthor recruited an army of every remaining villain to conquer the multiverse. Before the heroes could blink, the Villain Army had conquered three of the five remaining Earths.

The heroes counterattacked, simultaneously battling the Villain Army on five worlds. Despite being badly outnumbered, the heroes held their own. The war was soon ended by The Spectre, God’s Angel of Vengeance, who revealed that the Anti-Monitor was alive and had traveled to the beginning of time.

The two sides formed a truce. The heroes traveled to the beginning of time to stop the Anti-Monitor while the villains worked on a backup plan. Pariah finally reveals that he had accidentally unleashed the Anti-Monitor when he tried to view the birth of the multiverse. The Anti-Monitor scoffs, revealing that Pariah had only accelerated his attack, not created or unleashed him.

The assembled heroes attack the Anti-Monitor, but are woefully outmatched. He absorbs their life force, planning to consume the multiverse as soon as it’s created. With no other options, The Spectre harnesses the power of a dozen magical heroes and fights the Anti-Monitor. Their almighty clash destroys the multiverse and creates a new universe.

New Earth

Harbinger:The Golden Age saw the heroes of what had been many Earths born on this one Earth. Soldiers went into battle, fighting side by side with the Special Forces, battling alongside Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.”
Uncle Sam:But we went to Earth-X
Harbinger:Sorry, Sam. In the reborn universe there never was an Earth-X.
Uncle Sam:Y’can’t tell me I don’t remember it. I do.

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The heroes woke up in the new universe, confused about what had happened. They learned that the five remaining universes had been blended together to form one universe, with one timeline that fit everyone together. There were several people and places that could not be smoothly integrated, creating conflict about where they came from.

The survivors of the multiverse struggled to cope with losing everyone and everything they knew. That soon became the least of their problems as the sky turned a hellish red and filled with Shadow Demons. The Anti-Monitor had survived, and he was pissed. He no longer wanted to rule the universe. He wanted everyone who had opposed him to die.

The Final Battle

Earth-2 Superman:Can’t anything stop him?! His body is destroyed but he keeps coming back! He’s a fireball… a living, killing fireball! No more…nothing matters any longer. I want to see him destroyed! [shatters the Anti-Monitor with a punch] I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!”

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The heroes and villains of Earth held off the Shadow Demon army while their strongest members flew into space to kill the Anti-Monitor. Casualties grew as the Shadow Demons tore their way through the heroes. While the victims were mostly D-listers, a few bigger names like Dove, Green Arrow, and Robin were killed in the struggle.

Things weren’t much better in space. The Anti-Monitor was wounded, but still able to withstand dozens of world-killing attacks. Most of the heroes were sent away as the Anti-Monitor was trapped in a pocket dimension with Alex Luthor, a Superboy from Earth Prime (this Earth) and the original Earth-2 Superman.

They finally managed to kill the Anti-Monitor, but found themselves in a collapsing pocket universe. Alex Luthor sends them all to a paradise dimension, even managing to save the Lois Lane of Earth-2 to reunite with her Superman.

The Fallout

Psycho-Pirate:You see, I like to remember the past because those were better times than now. I mean, I’d rather live in the past than today, wouldn’t you? I mean, nothing’s ever certain anymore. Nothing’s ever predictable like it used to be. These days… y-you just never know who’s going to die… and who’s going to live.

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The Crisis on Infinite Earths was made to simplify the convoluted multiverse new fans had to contend with. It was a complete success and a huge mess. While most writers and fans used the event as a fresh start, others dealt with massive retcons and plot holes as the publishers debated what was still canon. 

Many heroes started new journeys while others coped with a brave new world. The dead were mourned, even as new heroes took up the mantles of the fallen. Most notably, Kid Flash graduated from being a sidekick and became the new Flash to honor his mentor’s sacrifice.

The world was saved, but it had been scarred. While it started out bright, it slowly grew darker as new villains and atrocities appeared. And observing from their paradise dimension, the survivors of the multiverse began wondering if their sacrifice was worth it, setting the stage for the event Infinite Crisis. But that is a story for another time.

Didya get all that?

Worlds lived, worlds died, and the DC universe was never the same.

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