The DC Infinite Crisis and the “Old” 52 (Part 1): The Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1
Previously, I’ve written about one of my favorite single DC events: Identity Crisis. It’s an excellent story contained in a single volume. In other words, it’s what I would call a graphic novel because it is unified in narrative and theme and is contained in a single volume, even though it was published initially as monthly comics. At the end of my Identity Crisis review, I mentioned the books to purchase to follow up from that event, mainly those I plan to cover in more detail in this series of reviews.
Compared with Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis is a much larger, sprawling story with only a few weak links. When I refer to Infinite Crisis, I do not mean merely the handful of issues that came out with that title; rather, I mean everything leading up to and much that came out of it at DC, particularly the fantastic 52 (not to be confused with the New 52), but also some other great titles like Checkmate written by Greg Rucka.
But wait. Why should I read a huge crossover event? I hate crossover events.
This series is difficult to write about because it is so large, crossing many titles and involving many authors. I usually avoid such crossover events. Every now and then I try one, and I’m almost always disappointed. Successful crossover events are rare. I greatly dislike the way DC and Marvel try to make money through large events crossing over many titles, making readers feel as if they must buy issues from series they aren’t even interested in. Crossover events are messy, and the results are almost always terrible. So in writing this series of reviews about Infinite Crisis, I’m making a major exception to my general rule. It’s difficult to write about this series because of all the titles involved, and it’s difficult for you to track them down: But it’s worth it, and I’m going to make it easy for you by explaining clearly what to read and in what order. Just follow my reviews. I’ll give trade paperback info, as well as monthly comic book info, and I’ll even let you know what is and is not available via Comixology.
First, you need to purchase the book The Omac Project by Greg Rucka (or purchase the single issue on Comixology: Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1. There is not a #2, by the way). I recommend the book if you can track down an affordable copy because it has a single-page intro that gives some useful background on: 1. Checkmate, which is a top-secret, government-run operative group led by Amanda Waller (who is currently in the new Arrow TV series). Checkmate, for example, runs Task Force-X, or the Suicide Squad, among other questionable operations. 2. Maxwell Lord, a shady, but incredibly successful and extremely wealthy, businessman who has helped fund one incarnation of the Justice League, even while not being clearly on the side of good. He is not to be trusted, particularly since he has some power of mind-control that he uses for selfish purposes. 3. Sasha Bordeaux, one of my favorite characters from this time in DC’s history. She was once a bodyguard for Bruce Wayne, and eventually she became a part of his secret Bat-world and even his love interest. She took the rap with Wayne when his ex-girlfriend was killed, and he was framed for the murder (covered in the excellent Batman story arcs: Batman: Murderer? and Batman: Fugitive). Bordeaux, imprisoned, was eventually taken in by Checkmate who faked her death and took her in as an operative. She’ll be a major player in the post- Infinite Crisis series Checkmate by Greg Rucka. 4. Events in Identity Crisis are summarized as well, but I won’t give spoilers here. Please read Identity Crisis before reading any Infinite Crisis-related events.
Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 is the first long story included in The OMAC Project collection. It’s important to stop reading once Blue Beetle finishes telling his story. After this one long issue, the story jumps to other volumes before continuing in the rest of the book, which includes The OMAC Project monthly comics issues #1-6. So, read this one story, and then set the book aside.
This issue is fantastic. I’ve never known much about, nor have I cared much about, Blue Beetle. And this issue makes clear that he knows people perceive him as a bit of a nobody, a bit-player who rarely gets a part to play when the main roles always go to “real” heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. And here’s the genius of this series I’m writing about, all the way from this introductory issue to the 52 issues of the weekly series 52: The entire thrust of these stories is to answer one key question. That question is: What would the DC universe look like without their star players, without the DC Trinity of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman? This main question leads to other related ones: Doesn’t Blue Beetle, a guy with no super powers, have a role to play, even though he makes mistakes? Don’t those who don’t normally stand out, who don’t make the first cut, have something to contribute? We’ll find out the truth to the cliché: The bigger they are the harder they fall. And we’ll learn that because of this truth, sometimes it’s the ones who seem less perfect who are needed most.
This issue is told from Blue Beetle’s perspective, and through his perspective we get to meet in passing a large number of important characters as he is dismissed by Batman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and so on. He is given more kindly attention from Barbara Gordon, currently Oracle*, and Booster Gold, perhaps his closest friend. This story is in the genre of spy-thriller. It opens with Blue Beetle, Mission Impossible-style, sneaking into Checkmate. After this three-page intro, his story jumps back four days in time as he is talking with Barbara Gordon. And the story then keeps jumping back and forth between Blue Beetle spying in Checkmate and the events leading up to his decision to infiltrate Checkmate. Those events will introduce us to Maxwell Lord, as Blue Beetle and Booster Gold go to him for help. We also get a glimpse of some major villains teaming up with Lex Luthor: Deathstroke, Talia (Ra’s Al Ghul’s daugher), Black Adam, Doctor Psycho, and Doctor Light.
The story ends, of course, with the conclusion to Blue Beetle’s mission at Checkmate, where he meets operative Sasha Bordeaux and discovers who the secret leader of Checkmate is. His other discoveries are shocking, and we wonder what could have been if only even one major superhero had really listened to Blue Beetle’s warnings. But they didn’t, and Checkmate is making moves on the board before the other superheroes even know there’s a game in progress.
Part two of my series will continue with the first three issues included in the trade paperback Day of Vengeance. Those issues tell the three-part “Lightning Strikes Twice” story from Action Comics #826, Adventures of Superman #639, and Superman #216.
*Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, was once Batgirl. In a famous storyline by Alan Moore, The Killing Joke, she was shot by the joker and paralyzed. She became Oracle, the communications and technological hub for those in Gotham, as well as often assisting others in the Justice League when needed.