Game Corner [Crossover Crisis]: Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360)


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Wednesday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Released: 16 April 2013
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Arcade, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One and Xbox Series One X/S (Backwards Compatible), Wii U

The Background:
When it was first released, Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) was a phenomenal success for Midway because of its focus on gore and violence, and it offered some real competition for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) in arcades and on home consoles. For a time, the series seemed unstoppable during the 2D era of gaming but struggled to find a footing in the emerging 3D fighter arena and Mortal Kombat seemed to be in jeopardy after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. The main reason for this was the poor reception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the first collaboration between Midway’s Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics characters owned by Warner Bros. Interactive, which was hampered by age-related restrictions.

Mortal Kombat‘s 3D struggles culminated in a disastrous crossover with DC Comics.

Luckily, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the team, now rebranded to NetherRealm Studios, immediately set about getting their violent franchise back on track; Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2011) was subsequently very well-received for its “back to basics” approach and, bolstered by the reboot’s success and eager to take advantage of the vast library of characters of their parent company, NetherRealm Studios sought to expand upon the game’s mechanics with a new, all-DC brawler. Although the game wasn’t as bloody and violent as its sister series, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a massive critical and commercial success that was followed up by not only a bunch of additional fighters and skins added as downloadable content (DLC) but also a sequel in 2017 and a critically-acclaimed comic book series.

The Plot:
In an alternate reality, Clark Kent/Superman has become a tyrant and established a new world order after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane before destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. In an effort to stop him, Bruce Wayne/Batman summons counterparts of the Justice League’s members from another universe to join his insurgency and end the totalitarian regime that threatens to subjugate the entire world.

Gameplay:
Just like Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a 2.5D fighting game; however, this time you’re able to select one of twenty-four characters from the DC Universe and battle it out in the game’s single-player story mode, one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent (both on- and offline), tackle numerous arcade-style ladders, or take on character-specific missions in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) training scenarios. Just as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat videogame, Injustice’s fights take place in a best-of-three format (although there are no longer announcements or screen text between each round) and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, such as the game’s difficulty) to your heart’s desire in the game’s options to suit your playstyle.

Attack with strikes, grapples, and combos to pummel a number of DC’s most recognisable characters.

If you’ve played the Mortal Kombat reboot then you’ll be immediately familiar with this game’s fighting mechanics and controls, although there are subtle differences: X, Y, and A are assigned to light, medium, and heavy strikes, for example, and may be either punches, kicks, or weapon-based melee attacks depending on which character you’re playing as. You can still grapple and throw your opponent with the Left Bumper (or X and Y and a directional input), dash towards or away from the opponent with a double tap of the directional pad (D-Pad), but now you must hold back on the D-Pad while standing or crouching to block, which can make blocking a bit trickier as sometimes you’ll simply walk or dash backwards when trying to block. If your opponent is crouch-blocking, you can land an attack by pressing towards and A for an Overhead Attack, and string together light, medium, and heavy attacks with directional inputs and your various special moves to pull off quick and easy combos. As is the standard for NetherRealm Studios’ releases these days, you can practise the game’s controls and mechanics as often as you like and take part in a very user-friendly tutorial to learn the basics of the game’s simple, but increasingly complex, fighting mechanics. You can also view your character’s moves, combos, special attacks, and “Character Power” from the pause menu at any time, allowing you to also see a range of information (such as where and how to pull of certain moves, the damage they inflict, and frame data).

Utilise Character Powers and the always-annoying Clash Breakers to whittle down your foe.

Each character has a range of special attacks that are unique to them; these mostly consist of certain projectiles or grapples and strikes but can also include various buffs for your character or to slow down your opponent. Each character also has a specific Character Power that is performed by pressing B; this sees Batman summon and attack with a swarm of bats, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow fire different trick arrows at his opponent, Doctor Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn gain various random buffs, and allows characters like Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Rachel Roth/Raven to switch between different fighting styles and thus access different special attacks. While some Character Powers have a cool-down period, others don’t, but they can also be detrimental to you; for example, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke can briefly give his shots perfect aim but, once the Character Power is expended, he’ll miss every shot until it refills. Another new addition to the game is the annoying “Wager” system; when the Super Meter is filled up by two bars, you can press towards and RT when blocking an attack to play a quick mini game where you and your opponent select how much of your Super Meter to gamble. If you win, you’ll regain some health; if you lose, the opponent regains health; and if you tie then you both lose. Personally, if find these “Clash Breakers” even more annoying than the usual “Breakers” seen in the modern Mortal Kombat games as I never win them and they generally just unnecessarily prolong a fight (and, even worse, there’s no option to turn them off).

Different characters attack and interact in different ways according to their strengths.

In a bridge between the differing character movesets of Mortal Kombat and the “Variation” mechanic seen in Mortal Kombat X (NetherRealm Studios, 2013), Injustice features a limited “Class” system whereby characters are split into two camps: Gadget- or Power-class characters. Gadget characters are generally smaller, faster, and rely on various tricks and weapons in fights while Power-class characters are typically bigger, often slower, and rely more on brute strength. One of the main ways you’ll notice the difference between playing as, say, Barry Allen/The Flash and Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy is that they interact with the game’s fighting stages in different ways. As in Mortal Kombat X, you can press the Right Bumper when indicated to use (or attack your opponent with) various environmental hazards, such as firing missiles at them or knocking them into the background. But, whereas Superman will wrench a car out of the air and slam it on his opponent, someone like Dick Grayson/Nightwing will rig the same car to explode or somersault off the environment to get behind their foe rather than try to crush them with a wall.

In addition to powerful Super moves, you can bash your foe into new areas using stage transitions.

As you might naturally expect, there are no Fatalities or gruesome finishing moves in Injustice (not even “Heroic Brutalities”). However, when your Super Meter is full, you can still press LT and RT together to pull off a devastating Super Move; while you won’t see bones breaking and organs shattering like in Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray Moves, it’s still pretty fun to see Hal Jordan/Green Lantern transport his opponent to Oa to pummel them with his constructs, Ares shower his foe with arrows and stamp on them while grown to gigantic proportions, Arthur Curry/Aquaman force his enemy into the jaws of a ferocious shark, and Bane demolish his opposition with a series of throws and grapples, culminating in his iconic backbreaker. Another way the game separates itself from Mortal Kombat is stage transitions; when near the far edge of certain stages, you can hold back and A to wallop your opponent through the wall or off into the background where they’ll be smashed up, down, or across to an entirely new area of the stage which often allows more stage interactions and new stage transitions available for your use.

The story involves multiverse shenanigans against corrupted heroes and features some QTEs.

You might wonder exactly how someone like Louise Lincoln/Killer Frost can survive being blasting through the brick walls of Wayne Manor or go toe-to-toe with the likes of Doomsday but the game’s entertaining story mode explains that, on this alternative world, the tyrant-like Superman has developed special pills that bestow superhuman strength and dexterity to his generals. As is also the standard in NetherRealm’s titles, the story mode is broken down into twelve character-specific chapters, which is again a great way to experience a wide variety of the game’s roster (though Batman does feature as a playable character in two chapters, which seems a bit lazy). You can replay any chapter and fight you’ve cleared at any time, which is great, and skip through the cutscenes after they’ve loaded a bit, and the story mode isn’t all constant fighting either as you’re asked to pull off a handful of quick-time events (QTEs) at various points, such as blasting cars with Superman’s heat vision. The story is a fairly standard multiverse tale of the main canon heroes fighting against their corrupted or misled counterparts but it’s pretty fun and easy to blast through in no time at all.

Fight to earn XP and level-up, unlock additional perks and modes, and take on a series of challenges.

Every time you win a fight, you’ll earn experience points (XP) that will eventually level-up your character profile. This, and performing a certain number of specific attacks, playing through the story mode, and tackling the game’s other modes and mechanics, unlocks icons and backgrounds for your profile card as well as additional skins in certain circumstances. You’ll also be awarded “Armour Keys” and “Access Cards” to spend in the “Archives”, which allows you to unlock concept art, music, more skins, and certain boosts that will increase how much XP you earn, to name just one example. Like in Mortal Kombat, you can also take on ten opponents in arcade ladders in the “Battle” mode; these range from the basic tournament-style ladder to specific challenges against heroes, villains, or battling while poisoned, injured, or with certain buffs (such as a constantly full Super Meter or health falling from the sky). We’d see a similar system be incorporated into the “Towers” modes in later Mortal Kombat games and similar scenarios exist here, such as a survival mode, battling two opponents, or being forced to fight against the computer set to the hardest difficulty.

Graphics and Sound:
Like its violent sister-series, Injustice looks fantastic; there’s almost no difference between the high-quality story mode cutscenes and the in-fight graphics (which, again, makes it all the more frustrating that NetherRealm Studios insist on having character’s endings represented by partially-animated artwork and voiceovers), though it has to be said that the graphics are much more palatable when in a violent fight. I say this purely because I am not a big fan of some of Injustice’s character designs: The Flash looks a bit too “busy”, for example, and Batman’s suit (and cowl, especially) look really janky to me, though I love the representation of Green Lantern and Thaal Sinestro.

In addition to various intros, outros, and Wager dialogue, characters also take on battle damage.

Each character gets a nice little fitting intro and outro for each fight and, between rounds, will perform and quip a variety of taunts to the opponent. In a nice little touch, different character skins get different intros and outros; when playing as the evil Superman, for example, he enters and exits the fight differently to his more heroic counterpart. When playing as different skins, like John Stewart or Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman, you’ll also be treated to slightly different dialogue and animations, which is a much-appreciated touch on the developer’s part. Although there aren’t any character-specific interactions in the intros, there are during the Wager cutscenes and, even better, both characters and the arenas will accrue battle damage as the fight progresses! This means that you’ll not only see Selina Kyle/Catwoman’s cat suit rip and her skin be blemished by bruises and blood but arenas will degenerate or change around you the more damage you dish out, which can also allow different intractable options to become available to you.

Stages include a range of recognisable DC locations and take damage as you fight.

Speaking of the stages, Injustice really goes above and beyond to make the best use of the DC license; while it’s a little disappointing to see Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor feature twice in the game, they are made distinctive by having Joker-ised and night-time variants, respectively (and also being clearly modelled after, and featuring cameos by, the Batman: Arkham (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) videogames and villains). Additionally, the use of stage transitions really helps to add a whole new dimension to combat, with some stages featuring more than others (or even none at all), to help ensure that every fight can be a little different. Stages also feature a bevy of other little cameos and DC references, such as the Fortress of Solitude being clearly modelled after Superman (Donner, 1978) while also featuring a portal to the Phantom Zone and a cameo from Starro the Conqueror. Similarly, J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter floats in the background of the Watchtower space station, Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is just hanging out at Stryker’s prison, and Amazons are preparing a boat to launch on Themyscira. Every single stage has a number of intractable elements and changes as you fight, cause damage, or smash foes around, with Gotham City being my favourite as you can battle on the roof with the Bat-Signal and then down to the grimy streets below and then blast your foe back up to the roof using a nearby truck!

Enemies and Bosses:
Injustice helpfully separates its character-selection screen into heroes (on the left) and villains (on the right) but, despite their different alignments (and that their loyalties change due to the multiverse shenanigans of the story), every single one of them will be an enemy of yours at some point as you play through the story, Battles, S.T.A.R. Labs missions, and on- or offline. Consequently, it’s worth keeping track of which character suits your playstyle as some have easier combos and special moves to pull off compared to others, or more useful Super Moves and Character Powers.

Play as, and against, the game’s characters to learn their strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

Additionally, the Class system should also be factored in; Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Solomon Gundy may be powerful and capable of gaining armour to tank through attacks but they’re also a lot slower on their feet and with their jumps. Superman and Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl are much faster Power-class characters but can also have their own drawbacks at times depending on your playstyle (Superman’s Character Power, for example, simply powers up his attacks rather than being a more offensive move like, say, Areas being able to conjure massive magical weapons). Personally, I tend to lean more towards Gadget-based characters, like Nightwing (who can switch between using quick batons or a longer bo staff to attack) or Green Arrow (whose arrows and bow allow for both ranged attacks and blindingly fast melee attacks).

Take on the corrupted Superman and banish him to the Phantom Zone for his crimes!

Unlike Mortal Kombat, Injustice doesn’t really feature any secret or hidden fights or unplayable sub-bosses or boss characters; the story mode and basic arcade ladder culminates in a battle against the corrupted Superman that is a far fairer and more competitive fight compared to the finales of NetherRealm’s recent Mortal Kombat games. While Superman is definitely a bit more of an aggressive foe, even on the game’s easiest difficulty, he doesn’t gain inexplicable armour, can be stunned, and doesn’t deal ungodly amounts of damage or spam his attacks like a cheap bitch. Additionally, he doesn’t transform into some monstrous final form and, instead, the final battle is a far better use of the skills you’ve built up through regular gameplay rather than forcing you to resort to cheap tactics and tricks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Because it lacks a “Test Your Luck” mode and “Kombat Kodes” for multiplayer fights, there aren’t really any in-game power-ups available to you outside of the various status effects seen in the Battle mode. As before, though, some characters can gain in-game buffs with their special attacks and Character Powers: Lex Luthor, for example, can erect a shield, Doomsday can cover himself in impenetrable armour for a brief period, and Solomon Grundy slows time down and drains his opponent’s health with his swamp gas. However, you’ll earn yourself additional XP if you mix up your fighting style and take advantage of stage interactions and transitions, which will allow you to unlock further customisation options for your profile card, and you can also earn additional skins and rewards by playing and linking up to the mobile version of the game.

Additional Features:
There are fifty Achievements up for grabs in Injustice, with three of which being directly tied to the story mode (50- and 100% completion and succeeding at all of the QTE mini games). Others are tied to the game’s online modes, levelling-up to specific levels, customising your profile card, and finishing Classic Battle with one (and every) character. There are also some character-specific Achievements on offer, including performing every character’s Super Move or a ten-hit combat and winning a fight using only arrows as Green Arrow, or landing at least twelve shots without missing as Deathstroke. Batman is the only character to have two specific Achievements tied to him, though, as you’ll get some G for winning a match using all of his special moves and his Super Moves and for defeating every villain as him.

Injustice included some surprising DLC fighters; even Scorpion showed up!

Another standard of NetherRealm Studios is their addition of further skins and characters through DLC; you can get skins to play as John Stewart, Cyborg Superman, and the Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) Batman, among others, and they’re all easily applicable when selecting a character (no need for extraneous “Gear” here). While the game’s DLC characters have no additional Achievements tied to them, Injustice included some fun and interesting extra fighters; Lobo, General Dru-Zod (who also sports his Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) look as a skin), Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zatanna Zatara, and the Martian Manhunter were all great choices to add to the roster and it was nice to see NetherRealm Studios exercise a little restraint and not overload the DLC with additional Batman characters. By far the most exciting DLC fighter was the inclusion of Scorpion, who sports a Jim Lee redesign and began a trend of DC and Mortal Kombat characters appearing in each other’s games.

Take your fight online or complete a series of increasingly tricky S.T.AR. Labs challenges.

When you’ve had enough of the story mode and regular battle options, you can take the fight online in a series of matches; here; you can participate in ranked and unranked fights and “King of the Hill” tournaments where you watch other players fight until it’s your turn and bet on who’s going to win. The S.T.A.R. Labs missions will also keep us offline, solo players occupied for some time; these are expanded upon when you download the DLC fighters, which is much appreciated and, similar to Mortal Kombat’s “Challenge Tower” mode, basically serve as extended tutorials for each of the game’s characters. You’ll take on ten character-specific missions, with each one getting a little bit of text and maybe a picture to set the context of the mission, and these range from performing certain combos or attacks, winning fights, or completing tricky challenges (such as guiding Catwoman’s cat through laser trip wires, avoiding damage or debris, or racing against Superman).

The Summary:
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a far better marriage of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics than Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and a fantastic expansion of the gameplay mechanics and features NetherRealm Studios revitalised their violent fighting game series with in Mortal Kombat (2009). While Injustice is obviously not as gory or violent as its sister-series, that doesn’t make it any less fun and it’s still a very brutal fighter; the Super Moves, especially, and certain character’s outros (such as the Joker’s) are definitely in the Mortal Kombat mould. With gorgeous in-game graphics, a fantastic amount of variety thanks to all of the character’s different special attacks and gameplay mechanics and the stage transitions, and a simple to learn, easy to master fighting system, Injustice is an extremely enjoyable game for anyone who’s a fan of either franchise or fighting games in general. The story is a breeze to get through (thought it is essentially every basic multiverse story ever told in comics) and nicely varied with some QTE sequences; the S.T.A.R. Labs missions and different arcade ladders are much more enjoyable and challenging than in its sister-series and there are plenty of character options, variety, and unlockables to keep you busy. Best of all, the game isn’t bogged down by endless grinding to unlock Gear, skins, or other perks and is a much more user-friendly and accessible fighting game, and overall experience, than its sequel.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Were you a fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us? What did you think to it as a blend of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics? What were your thoughts on the game’s story and its depiction of a parallel world terrorised by a corrupted Superman? Which of the game’s fighters was your favourite and why? Did you buy the base game and all the DLC packs separately or did you pick up the Ultimate Edition when it released later? What did you think to the additional DLC characters and skins? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? Which DC Comics videogame, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Are you a fan of multiverse stories and crossovers? Whatever you think about Injustice, leave a comment down below and be sure to check back in next Wednesday for more Crossover Crisis content!

Talking Movies [Multiverse Madness]: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths


In September 1961, DC Comics published a little story called “Flash of Two Worlds” (Fox, et al), a landmark story that featured in The Flash #123 and brought together two generations of the Flash: the Golden Age Jay Garrick and the Silver Age Barry Allen. In the process, DC Comics created the concept of the multiverse, the idea that DC Comics continuity was comprised of an infinite number of parallel universes that allowed any and all stories and characters to exist and, more importantly, interact and I’ve been celebrating this ground-breaking concept every Sunday of this month!


Talking Movies

Released: 23 February 2010
Director: Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Budget: Unknown
Stars: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Gina Torres, James Woods, Brian Bloom, and Chris Noth

The Plot:
In an alternate version of Earth, the Crime Syndicate (evil doppelgängers to the Justice League) rule with an iron fist. When the Lex Luthor (Noth) of this parallel world travels across the dimensions, the Justice League find themselves battling against their dark mirrors to decide the fate of all worlds.

The Background:
Following the much-lauded Batman: The Animated Series (1992 to 1999) and the conclusion of Batman Beyond (1999 to 2001), co-creator Bruce Timm spearheaded easily the biggest and most ambitious DC animated show of that era, Justice League (2001 to 2004), and then out did himself with the exhaustive roster of Justice League Unlimited (2004 to 2006). Both cartoons were incredibly well-received and helped contribute to the continued success and popularity of the DC Animated Universe.

Timm looked to “Crisis on Earth-Three!” to bridge the gap between his Justice League cartoons.

Originally, Timm intended to produce an animated feature named Justice League: Worlds Collide to bridge the gap between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited that would draw inspiration from the seminal story “Crisis on Earth-Three!” (Fox, et al, 1964). However, these plans were scrapped by Warner Brothers, who were in the middle of producing a series of direct-to-video animated films with no ties to any existing continuity, and the script was consequently rewritten to avoid directly referencing either show. Despite this, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths shared a very similar style to Timm’s earlier works and, considering the first issue of the ground-breaking Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was first publish in this month back in 1986 I figured this would be as good a time as any to look back at this often overlooked animated feature.

The Review:
The multiverse is quite a daunting and confusing concept, to be honest; even I, a self-confessed comic book enthusiast, struggle with the notion at times and I feel it only really works in comics, where readers are used to the idea after a few decades of dimensional-hopping antics, and television (especially cartoons), since long-running series’ just have more time to introduce and explore the concept. In that regard, Crisis of Two Earths eases viewers into the idea of parallel worlds by primarily focusing on the idea of two alternative worlds and also its opening sequence, in which we see our beloved heroes radically changed, monstrous even, and killing a heroic version of the Joker, the Jester (James Patrick Stuart), and being opposed by a far more virtuous incarnation of Lex Luthor.

Batman and the Flash get a decent amount of the film’s disparate focus.

We then switch over to our Earth, where a more recognisable version of the Justice League are finishing up the construction of their Watchtower space station and their teleportation device; right away, we’re introduced to two concepts that form the basis of the film: the Flash (Josh Keaton) is the comic relief and Batman (Baldwin) is a bit of a grouch. Flash is full of the quips and amusing pop culture references but Batman is a stubborn pragmatist; even when clearly outmatched by Superwoman’s (Torres) power, he preserves through a broken rib and is able to subdue her with anaesthetic gas, proving his capability despite his lack of super powers.

An alternative Lex Luthor recruits the Justice League to help liberate his world.

When the alternative Luthor arrives, he is immediately apprehended and brought to the attention of the League; Superman (Harmon) confirms that the duplicate isn’t their Lex and the Luthor brings the League up to speed with the issue of the Crime Syndicate of his Earth. On this alternate world, Luthor was the leader of the Justice League but the Syndicate has rendered their world a virtual dictatorship thanks to their power and maliciousness, held in check only by the threat of a nuclear retaliation. Superman, naturally, doesn’t trust Luthor but J’onn (Jonathan Adams) confirms that the alternative refuge is telling the truth. The League debate the merits, logistics, and morals of assisting Luthor’s world and, though Green Lantern (Nolan North) is opposed to it, it is Batman who is most against the mission since they struggle to maintain order on their world. Regardless, the majority agree to assist.

Owlman and Superwoman exercise the Syndicate’s diabolical will with relish.

The Crime Syndicate, specifically Owlman (Woods), are interrupted in their search for the “Quantum Trigger” by the arrival of the Justice League and a fight breaks out. This gives the film a chance to showcase a variety of evil versions of classic heroes, “Made Men”, such as Black Lightning, Vixen, and Elongated Man. Though the League are able to get the upper hand, Luthor forces them to retreat to avoid facing even more of the Syndicate’s Made Men and, in the process, they end up in a battle with the Captain Super family (evil versions of the Shazam/Captain Marvel family). This takes the battle from inside to the cloudy skies of this parallel world as Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) is able to commandeer Owlman’s ship and use its cloaking device to escape the fray.

The Crime Syndicate functions very much like a mob family.

The Crime Syndicate are revealed to run their organisation like a super-powered crime family, with Ultraman (Bloom, using a bit of a stereotypical Italian mobster accent) acting as the head of the “family”, who have thousands of lieutenants working beneath them (the aforementioned Made Men) and dividing their territories between them. Thanks to their power, they are able to bribe and forcible coerce the world’s government and other officials into bowing to their every whim but Owlman takes this to the next level by constructing the Quantum Eigenstate Device (Q.E.D.), a bomb that will give them the ability to hold the entire world hostage. While the public largely wishes to simply acquiesce to the Syndicate’s demands to maintain some kind of peace, their dictatorship is openly challenged by Rose Wilson (Freddi Rogers), daughter of Slade Wilson (Brice Davison), who is the President of the United States in this world.

Owlman has plans of his own to destroy all life on every Earth.

Unlike the League, which is a largely unified team ruled by democracy, the Syndicate is a fragile alliance of egos and greed; Ultraman rules through sheer power and intimidation but Owlman and Superwoman conspire behind his back. Owlman plans to use the Q.E.D. to destroy all life without mercy or conscious since the discovery of an infinite number of parallel worlds has shattered his grasp on reality. Believing that no decision he, or anyone, makes has any meaning since whatever they accomplish means nothing elsewhere in the multiverse, he plans to find “Earth-Prime” in order to use the Q.E.D. to annihilate all life everywhere, which Superman, a self-confessed murdering psychopath, finds to be one hell of a turn on.

Luthor insists on defeating Ultraman himself in order to humble the super-powered dictator.

Although Luthor recruits the League to help, he insists on taking on and defeating Ultraman himself since “if it’s going to mean anything after [the League] is gone, it has to be [Luthor]”. Luthor is able to match blows with Ultraman thanks to his armoured suit and having acquired a piece of Blue Kryptonite, the only substance that can hurt and weaken Ultraman. Because of this, Luthor is able to defeat and humiliate Ultraman in public and have him arrested for his crimes; however, as gallant as his actions are, he is chewed out by the President for risking further retaliations from the remaining members of the Syndicate and Ultraman is allowed to go free in a desperate attempt to keep a shaky truce with the Syndicate.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Many of the film’s action sequences, though exciting, are, understandably, all too lacking in context; thanks to the wildly different designs of the parallel worlds Made Men, it’s not always easy to tell who is cameoing when and most of them don’t have any speaking lines, making them little more than disposable grunts who exist simply to showcase the stranglehold the Syndicate have on their world and give the League someone to beat up without fighting the same handful of Syndicate members all the time. Because of the large roster and many different characters running around the film, there’s obviously not enough time for everyone to really get much to do; Green Lantern, for example, is a bit of a non-factor and, while J’onn does get an interesting side plot revolving a romantic attraction to Rose, the majority of the League exist simply to battle with the evil doppelgängers. This is exacerbated when Batman calls in heroes from his world to help fend off Superwoman and the Super family, resulting in yet more cameos and characters taking up the film’s run time; don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see so many heroes onscreen at once and all these villainous versions of normally heroic characters but I also feel like the focus should have been more on the League/Syndicate members since those are the only fights that really mean anything.

As you might expect, the film (eventually) degenerates into an all-out brawl.

Thankfully, the film does eventually focus up once Rose provides the League with the location of the Syndicate’s headquarters (spoilers: it’s on the Moon) and the two teams engage in an all-out brawl with their doppelgängers. Green Lantern’s evil counterpart, Power Ring (North), is about as useless as heroic double; Superman, for all her strength and aggression, lacks the finesse and combat acumen of Wonder Woman; and Ultraman’s sadistic focus on destruction means he not only destroys much of the environment but is easily outwitted by Superman. Of course, the battle between the Flash and Johnny Quick (Stuart) comes down to a test of their super speed but, amidst all the mindless brawling, Owlman is able to escape with the Q.E.D. to enact his insane plan to destroy all realities. Faced with the threat of mutually assured destruction, the League and the Syndicate form a shaky truce simply to save their own hides.

Batman ultimately sacrifices Johnny Quick and kills his counterpart to save the multiverse.

A side plot throughout the film is that the Flash believes Batman doesn’t like or respect him and the idea that Batman is this irritable, obstinate loner. However, when they need someone to power the Quantum Trigger, Batman has Johnny Quick take the Flash’s place as the conduit to spare his teammate’s life since he knows that the effort will kill the speedster. While this is a great way to show that Batman does truly care for the Flash and his teammates, it’s a little out of character since he knew that the effort would kill Johnny so he willingly sacrificed a life to confront Owlman and then, rather hypocritically, lectured his counterpart about his willingness to kill untold numbers of people with the Q.E.D. Somewhat unsurprisingly, given that Batman is generally the focus of all of DC’s animated endeavours, the film culminates in a battle of ideologies and skill between him and Owlman, with the depths of his doppelgänger’s psychosis revealed so completely that Batman has no choice but to doom Owlman to destruction on a desolate, barren alternate world, saving the multiverse in the process but at the cost of Johnny’s life.

The Summery:
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is a pretty decent little animated film; it’s full of action and lots of big, explosive, and visually interesting fights but the main draw of the film, for me, is the philosophical and ideological differences between the Justice League and the Crime Syndicate, specifically between Batman and Owlman, this dichotomy is given the most focus throughout the film, which is probably the right choice but it does mean that we don’t really get to see just how different the Syndicate are to their heroic counterparts beyond them being super-powered mobsters and psychopaths. If you watched any of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited episodes based around the Justice Lords, it’s arguable that you could say the film’s concept is somewhat redundant and has already been explored but I think there’s enough here to separate the film from those episodes, mostly thanks to the abundance of cameos and the iconography of the Crime Syndicate. While the film doesn’t complete align with those cartoons, I think you can easily suspend disbelief to see it as a bridge between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited since it ends with the League preparing for a massive recruitment drive but it also works pretty well as a standalone animated feature…as long as you’re already somewhat familiar with DC’s characters and some of their more complex concepts.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever seen Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths; if so, what did you think to it and where would you rank it against the other DC animated movies? Which character was your favourite and what did you think to the film’s voice cast? Which evil doppelgänger would have liked to see more of and what do you think about the concept of the Crime Syndicate and the DC multiverse? Did you ever watch the Justice League cartoons and, if so, what were some of your favourite characters and moments? How are you celebrating the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths this month? Whatever your thoughts on DC’s animated ventures, the multiverse, and the Justice League, feel free to leave a comment below.

Back Issues [Watchmen Wednesday]: Doomsday Clock


To celebrate the fact that I finally got around to reading Doomsday Clock (Johns, et al, 2017 to 2019), DC Comic’s official sequel to the seminal Watchmen (Moore, et al, 1986 to 1987), I’ve dedicated every Wednesday of this month to Alan Moore’s influential maxiseries.


Published: 22 November 2017 to 18 December 2019
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank

The Background:
Ever since Watchmen proved to be a critical and commercial hit, DC Comics have attempted to milk the property to capitalise on its popularity. A film adaptation had been in the works for decades and, when it was finally produced, spawned a videogame tie-in; finally, after years of trying to convince Moore and Gibbons to return to the franchise, DC drafted in a crop of the industry’s most talented creators (against Moore’s wishes, of course) to produce a prequel series.

After rebooting their canon (…again) , DC set about bringing Watchmen into the DC Universe.

After years of subjecting readers to the largely-awful “New 52” era, DC finally decided to relaunch and reboot their continuity with another of their trademark Crises; “DC Rebirth” not only returned a lot of characters and concepts to their pre-New 52 portrayals but also concluded with Bruce Wayne/Batman discovering Edward Blake/The Comedian’s iconic, bloodstained button in the Batcave and the first hints that Doctor Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan was observing the DC Universe. Doomsday Clock finally saw the worlds of Watchman and the DC Universe come together and, despite a questionable release schedule and wonky canonicity (the story took years to be told and its placement in the timeline is confusing, at best), was met with critical acclaim and even led to a solo book for the series’ popular vigilante, Rorschach.

The Plot:
So, like Watchmen, Doomsday Clock is quite a dense text with a lot of things happening all at once and a lot of lore to dissect so I’m going to expand upon my breakdown of the story as I did with that graphic novel. The story’s plot is split between different characters and complex concepts like the multiverse, perceptions of time, and public’s opinion of superheroes in the DC Universe.

With Veidt’s lies exposed, the world is mere moments away from nuclear destruction.

One of the central concerns of Doomsday Clock is the state of Watchmen’s alternate world, now firmly established as one of the many parallel worlds in the DC multiverse. Seven years after Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias dropped his genetically-engineered squid into Times Square and killed millions of people, his dreams of world peace have been dashed after Walter Kovacs/Rorschach’s journal exposing his actions was published. As a result, the United States is once again on the bring of nuclear war with Russia and, desperate to save the world once more, Veidt allies with the new Rorschach, Reggie Long (son of Malcolm Long, Kovacs’ psychiatrist from Watchmen), and two of Dr. Manhattan’s former enemies, Erika Manson/Marionette and her husband, Marcos Maez/Mime. The group uses a refitted version of Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl’s (sadly, once again, entirely absent from the tale) Owlship to then follow Dr. Manhattan’s unique energy signature to the mainstream DC Universe just as their world is destroyed by nuclear war.

Tensions between the public, the government, and superheroes are fragile on Earth-0.

However, life on Earth-0 isn’t exactly much better; riots and violent protests against Batman’s presence run rampant in Gotham City and the public’s perception of superheroes has soured thanks to the publication of the “Supermen Theory”, which uncomfortably pointed out that the vast majority of the world’s superheroes are white American men and suggested quite explicitly that the American government (clearly led by President Donald Trump) have manufactured their superheroes through a series of clandestine experiments and operations. The only superhero that the public and the world’s governments has any faith in is Clark Kent/Superman, who is still regarded as a worldwide icon and allowed to freely cross borders. The linchpin of the animosity towards superheroes is the outspoken and volatile Ronnie Raymond/Professor Martin Stein/Firestorm and, to compound matters, the Russian government (led by Vladimir Putin) forms their own team of metahumans to protect their borders, while Teth-Adam/Black Adam offers sanctuary to all metahumans, good and bad, in the sovereign nation of Kahndaq.

Dr. Manhattan has been manipulating and altering the DC Universe for some time.

Amidst all of this is the mystery of Dr. Manhattan himself; at the end of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan left to create some life of his own but, instead, was drawn to the DC Universe and discovers what is referred to as the “Metaverse”. The tumultuous nature of the DC Universe, which is not only populated by a wide variety of metahumans and magic but also subject to near-annual cosmic events and reality-shifting Crises, intrigues Dr. Manhattan, who begins to experiment with altering Earth-0’s history by subtly changing events in the past. This leads to the creation of multiple, widely different timelines and realities but, no matter what Dr. Manhattan does, Superman continues to emerge as the premier superhero of this world. Haunted by a vision of Superman flying at him in a rage and once again curious at his inability to see beyond this point, Dr. Manhattan observes the turbulent events unfolding around him with a morbid interest as he awaits to see if he destroys all reality or is himself destroyed by Superman.

The Review:
In the unfortunate absence of Nite Owl and Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre, and with Kovacs dead, there’s not a lot of opportunities for the iconic characters of Watchmen to interact with the mainstream DC Universe. Indeed, Doomsday Clock is less “DC Universe Meets Watchmen” and more “Some of the Watchmen characters pop over to Earth-0 alongside characters you’ve never heard of and a new Rorschach”, which is honestly a little disappointing. Like the television show, Doomsday Clock is a sequel to Watchmen but, because of its very nature as a comic book and its integration into the larger DC canon, is actually considered to be the true follow-up to the original graphic novel. Similar to the show, though, the future is depressingly bleak for Alan Moore’s characters; Veidt’s attempt at world peace was almost immediately undone and that world is quickly destroyed early into the story, making you question what the point of all that death and drama even was.

In a bid to save his world, Veidt once again lies and manipulates others to satisfy his ego.

Veidt, however, is largely undeterred by the state of his world; though he sees a macabre irony in his elaborate plan falling apart and despairs at the world’s insistence on destroying itself, he immediately concocts another desperate plot to save the world by tracking Dr. Manhattan down and convincing him to intervene. As is his way, Veidt’s scheme involves deceit, lies, subterfuge, and his unmatched intelligence; smug as ever, Veidt easily manipulates Reggie Long into assisting him by faking that he (as in Veidt) has a tumour on his brain (and feigning remorse for his actions, which led to the death of Reggie’s parents) and has him recruit Marionette and Mime to their cause specifically because he knows that Dr. Manhattan once spared Marionette’s life in a past encounter.

Veidt’s actions are openly mocked and criticised by the likes of Lex Luthor and Batman.

Upon arriving on Earth-0, Veidt attempts to recruit Lex Luthor and is met only with scorn and a surprise attack by the Comedian, whom Dr. Manhattan transported to Earth-0 moments before his death. Having read Kovacs’ journal, Batman is also less than impressed with Veidt’s actions and megalomania; Veidt, however, maintains that he did what he did in an attempt to save and unite a world on the brink of destruction and attacks his new scheme with just as much blind obsession. Thanks to a cute little clone of his lynx, Bubastis, the green lantern of Alan Scott, and the presence of another temporal anomaly, Imra Ardeen/Saturn Girl, Veidt is able to forcibly summon Dr. Manhattan, who not only refuses to help but also exposes Veidt’s lies. Veidt orchestrates a massive conflict between Superman and other metahumans in order to inspire Jon to finally intervene and, though this does result in the restoration of Earth-0, the Watchmen world, and the entire multi/metaverse, he ends up imprisoned at the conclusion of the story.

Traumatised by Veidt’s squid, Reggie comes to assume the mask and identity of Rorschach.

One of the things that disappointed me about the television show was the absence of Rorschach; I know we’re not supposed to like Rorschach but I don’t give a shit, he’s still the most interesting and compelling character in Watchmen. Although Kovacs is dead, his spirit and influence lives on in Doomsday Clock; not only was his tell-all journal instrumental in revealing Veidt’s deception, his crusade is taken up by Reggie Long, a confused and volatile young man traumatised by the effects of Veidt’s destructive squid. Like many exposed to the squid’s nightmarish psychic field, Reggie was driven to near insanity and spent a great deal of time confined to a mental hospital. There, he befriended former Minuteman Byron Lewis/Mothman, who becomes a friend and mentor to Reggie but ultimate contributes to Reggie assuming Rorschach’s mantle by purposely hiding the truth of Kovacs’ relationship with Reggie’s father.

Reggie’s crusade briefly falters, sadly removing him from the story until the finale.

Believing that Rorschach and his father were friends and that Malcolm was able to reach and help Kovacs, Reggie is initially focused on killing Veidt for his actions but is convinced to aid him when Veidt claims to be dying and remorseful for his actions. Having read truncated versions of his father’s notes and Kovacs’ journal, Reggie assumes Rorschach’s costume and mannerisms and initially goes to Batman for help and finds himself imprisoned in Arkham Asylum for his trouble. Like in Watchmen, an entire issue is dedicated into delving into Reggie’s past and psychosis but he quickly gets lost in the shuffle as more and more characters and conflicts bog down the tale, even abandoning the mask and his crusade after Veidt’s lies are exposed. Ultimately, Alfred Pennyworth and Batman are able to convince Reggie to mask up and join the fight and Reggie even chooses to spare Veidt to see him brought to justice, claiming “Rorschach is me” but, while I appreciate the presence of a Rorschach, Reggie fails to be as compelling and instrumental as the real Rorschach and I think I would have preferred it if Dr. Manhattan had undone his actions or brought Kovacs forward in time as he did with the Comedian.

Dr. Manhattan screws with the DC timeline, creating different realities and outcomes as a result.

Speaking of Dr. Manhattan, he, too, gets another entire issue dedicated to him and his journey throughout the DC Universe. It’s basically exactly the same as issue four of Watchmen, with Jon spending a lot of time on Mars, ruminating about his origins and past with Janey Slater, and recapping the events of Watchmen. Although Jon appeared to have somewhat rediscovered his humanity at the end of Watchmen, to the point where he willingly went along with Veidt’s plan and even killed Rorschach to protect it, and his desire to reconnect with humanity was a big aspect of the TV show, in Doomsday Clock he’s basically exactly the same disconnected and emotionless demigod he was in the original graphic novel. He is despondent to discover that he feels just as out of place in a world of metahumans and magic as he did amongst mortals and takes to exploring and experimenting with the DC Universe’s fragile reality to keep himself from growing bored.

Dr. Manhattan is intrigued by his inability to see past a confrontation with Superman.

Dr. Manhattan’s perception of time is both the same as in Watchmen (he can see the past, present, and future simultaneously but cannot see anything past his vision of Superman rushing at him) but different. I always assumed from Watchmen that Jon could only perceive time from his lifetime since he never visits the past beyond his lifetime in Watchmen but, in Doomsday Clock, he can freely walk between the past, present, and future of the entire DC canon, including a multitude of parallel worlds. Fascinated by the metaverse and the role Superman plays in this world, he purposely messes with time, killing Clark’s parents before their time and causing Alan Scott/Green Lantern to die, thus removing the Justice Society of America (JSA) from continuity, intervening in Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011), and basically creating the New 52 and Rebirth continuities through his actions.

Even with the world falling into anarchy, Superman is able to inspire Dr. Manhattan to intervene.

Accordingly, Superman is a central figure in Doomsday Clock; Dr. Manhattan is curious to see whether the Man of Steel kills him for his actions or whether he (as in Jon) destroys all reality and, still vehemently refusing to even try and go against the inevitability of fate, he refuses to intervene or to help Superman when he ends up battling against a horde of metahumans. As the only superhero who maintains the trust and respect of the public and world’s governments, Superman desperately tries to keep the peace, repair relations, and to help Firestorm after he accidentally turns a bunch of people to glass. However, he ends up making things worse and escalates the tensions between the world’s governments and metahumans, leading to an all-out war. Though disgusted at Dr. Manhattan’s refusal to get involved, and his part in causing not only the events of Doomsday Clock but also the tragedies of his life, Superman is ultimately able to inspire Jon into restoring the worlds and multi/metaverse to normal through his selfless nature.

Doomsday Clock is stuffed full of characters and and cameos, more of whom derail the plot.

I mentioned before that Doomsday Clock is swamped with characters and it really is; a handful of the Watchmen characters obviously feature, including a brief appearance by the Comedian, who mainly features to try and kill Veidt for his attack on him at the beginning of Watchmen and to be a pain in the ass. Marionette and Mime, two completely original characters, feature extensively as Dr. Manhattan imbues their child with his powers in the finale to, presumably, become the Watchmen version of Superman. Additionally, a whole host of DC characters play a role in the story: Batman finally solves the puzzle of the mysterious bloodstained button but uncharacteristically chooses not to believe Reggie’s claims and has him locked up in Arkham, leaving him underequipped to intercede in the events of the story; Firestorm, here a volatile and immature character, escalates much of the tension regarding the perception of metahumans and the Supermen Theory when he is unable to control his powers; and, of course, the Joker makes an appearance but does little more than derail the main plot with an ultimately pointless side story.

Allegorical and metaphysical ruminations and canon fixes largely supplant big fight scenes.

Like Watchmen, Doomsday Clock contains an allegorical story-within-a-story, in this case the films of Carver Coleman, with whom Jon forms a strange kind of bond and how becomes his “anchor” in this new world. Carver’s hit film, The Adjournment, parallels the mystery that permeates Doomsday Clock and Jon’s own struggle against his true identity. Doomsday Clock also goes out of its way to closely emulate the art style and presentation of Watchmen but greatly overdoes its commitment to this by slavishly sticking to a rigid 3×3 panel structure. Like Watchmen, Doomsday Clock is also rather light on action and packs a whole bunch of symbolism, imagery, and references into each panel, mainly to Watchmen but also to the long and convoluted history of the DC Universe. The conclusion of the book sees the JSA returned to continuity, Clark’s parents and Alan Scott returned to life, and the restoration of the multi/metaverse but also leaves the story open ended for further continuations down the line exploring the restored Watchmen universe.

The Summary:
It seems that DC’s attempts at recapturing and revisiting Alan Moore’s seminal work are doomed to fail; just as I was unimpressed by the TV show, I can’t help but feel let down by Doomsday Clock, which is a quagmire of convoluted plot threads, self-indulgent allusions to Watchmen, and is a largely confusing and uninteresting mess. I feel like the book focuses too much on being sequel to Watchmen but it doesn’t really work since seven years have passed since the end of that book and we only spend about an issue and a half really reconnecting to Moore’s world before it’s destroyed. After that, it’s just another elaborate “Crisis” event as the few surviving Watchmen characters mingle about in the DC Universe and spend far too much time interacting with obscure characters like Johnny Thunder and Saturn Girl rather than the big guns like Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.

Dr. Manhattan’s God-like powers make him largely immune to conventional attack.

The story is framed around this epic, potentially cataclysmic battle between Superman and Dr. Manhattan, a concept that feels like a betrayal of Jon’s character as he’s largely a pacifist because of his stubborn refusal and disinterest in getting involved in the affairs of mortals. Yes, he fought crime and waged war against the Vietnamese but that was a long time ago by the present day events of Watchmen, where he was simply content to just let life play out as is preordained so, while the idea of these two titans clashing sounds good on paper, it seems like the sort of thing a child would think up while bashing action figures together. To me, Dr. Manhattan has always seemed more like Jim Corrigan/The Spectre, a being of incredible power who shapes events but only really gets involved in them when the cosmic shit is about the hit the fan, which is kind of how he ends up being in the end since we don’t really get to see him fight with Superman because the entire promise of their conflict was a big fake out. There is, however, a pretty good scene where a whole gaggle of DC’s superheroes and Green Lanterns confront Dr. Manhattan on Mars only to be easily subdued by his near-limitless powers

Sadly, there just aren’t enough interactions between the DC and Watchmen characters.

Similarly, the idea of Rorschach meeting Batman and Ozymandias meeting Lex Luthor sounds great…on paper but this isn’t the same Rorschach and, no matter how hard Reggie tries, he will never be that same character so it wouldn’t really work even if Batman didn’t just disregard him and lock him up in Arkham. Luthor is scornful towards Ozymandias and a potential team up between these two is also immediately cast aside, with Luthor mocking Veidt’s intelligence and plan as though Johns is poking fun at the very work he is so blatantly trying to homage and leech off of. The absence of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre equally hurts not just the story’s plot but also Doomsday Clock’s legitimacy as a Watchmen sequel; again, it feels less like the characters of Watchmen meeting the DC Universe and more like a handful of them dropped into the unexplainably chaotic DC Universe and struggling to make sense of it.

The attempts to recapture Watchmen‘s bleak political undertones largely fall flat.

Basically, Doomsday Clock tries and fails to emulate the unique narrative and approach that Watchmen took; Watchmen’s bleak, uncompromising and, dare I say it, adult themes don’t mesh well at all with the mainstream DC Universe and I can’t help but feel like it would have been better to supplant the Watchmen characters mid-way through the events of Moore’s book so that we could see all their recognisable and flawed heroes actually butting heads with DC’s big guns in a clash of both ideals and fists. Dr. Manhattan could have been responsible for this, manipulating events from behind the scenes to cause the two worlds to emerge, and we could have seen interesting team ups and interactions between these characters (Batman and Nite Owl and Wonder Woman and Silk Spectre spring instantly to mind) but, instead, we get this weird mess of a story that’s more concerned with turning superheroes into hated figures, destroying or leeching off of DC’s Golden Age and Watchmen’s legacy, and desperately attempting to address some of the issues with the Rebirth universe.

In the end, Doomsday Clock was just another convoluted “Crisis” event.

Ultimately, I feel like I have to recommend Doomsday Clock, though, if only to see the botch job DC makes of officially canonising Watchmen into the DC Universe. As a love letter to Watchmen, it’s not so bad; the way it evokes the imagery and atmosphere of Moore’s work is pretty astounding and the artwork is quite appealing but the problem is that, while reading it, I just felt like I’d rather be reading Watchmen or any other “Crisis” event. It’s better than the TV show, I’ll give it that, if only because it actually includes a number of recognisable Watchmen characters but it similarly fails to properly recapture the magic of Moore’s story because the characters haven’t really changed and they don’t really fit in the mainstream DC Universe. This is brought up a few times but not often enough as the story has to make way for the escalating conflict between Superman and other metahumans and its confusing ending, and I can’t help but feel like Johns dropped the ball and that Doomsday Clock failed to really live up to all the hype and potential it had.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you enjoy Doomsday Clock? Did you suffer through the comic’s long publication or did you pick up the collected edition, like I did? Were you excited to see the Watchmen characters interact and be integrated into the DC Universe and were you disappointed with how the story turned out? What did you think to the new Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan’s role in the DC Universe? Were you a fan of the interactions, characterisations, and references included in the story or do you agree that it failed to live up to its potential as a concept? Would you like to see the Watchmen characters interact with the DC Universe again in the future or do you think it’s best that it stays separate from mainstream canon? Whatever your thoughts on Doomsday Clock and Watchmen in general, drop a comment below and thanks for joining me for Watchmen Wednesday.

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Crisis on Infinite Earths


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ve spent every Sunday this month discussing multiversal crossovers in an event I dubbed “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 8 December 2019 to 14 January 2020
UK Network: Sky One and (eventually) E4
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Ruby Rose, LaMonica Garrett, Tyler Hoechlin, David Ramsey, Carlos Valdes, Chyler Leigh, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Tom Cavanagh, and Jon Cryer

The Background:
Crisis on Infinite Earths was, easily, the biggest and most influential crossover in DC Comics history back when it was first published; even now, the reality-changing events of the twelve issue series can be felt in DC and cosmic events and crossovers are an important part of the comics industry. Still, such an event seemed irrevocably tied to the comics books; even DC’s animated ventures rarely attempted to tackle an event of such magnitude so to say that I never expected Arrow (2012 to 2020), of all things, to led to, and end with, a massive crossover between not just the “Arrowverse” but also the wide spectrum of live-action DC adaptations would be an understatement, to say the least. Crisis on Infinite Earths was first hinted at in the first episode of The Flash (2014 to present) but was explicitly referenced throughout the Elseworlds (Various, 2018) crossover and revealed in the conclusion of that event.

It’s crazy to think that Arrow ended up being the first step towards a massive DC crossover event.

The Crisis then become the focal point of the entire Arrowverse, with almost the entirety of Arrow’s eighth season and The Flash’s sixth season specifically preparing characters for the oncoming Crisis, visiting and destroying parallel worlds, featuring Mar Novu/The Monitor (Garrett) as a frequent guest star, and setting the stage for the biggest comic book crossover in television history as the writers and showrunners crammed in cameos and references galore to pay homage to DC’s many live-action adaptations. The result was some of the best-received and highly-praised episodes in all of the Arrowverse and a significant change in the presentation of the Arrowverse going forward as worlds lived, died, and were forever changed by the event, which saw both Supergirl (2015 to present) and Black Lightning (2018 to present) merged into a new version of the Arrowverse Earth.

The Plot:
When a wave of destructive anti-matter threatens all life in the multiverse, the Monitor gathers seven heroes – Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Amell), Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin), Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), Sara Lance/White Canary (Lotz), Kate Kane/Batwoman (Rose), Doctor Ray Palmer/The Atom (Routh), and Clark Kent/Superman (Hoechlin) – to face the crisis. Facing overwhelming odds, the team must journey across time, space, and the expanse of the remaining multiverse to find seven “Paragons” who will decide the fate of all reality!

The Review:
Crisis on Infinite Earths hits the ground running and kicks off with a massive bang in “Part One” (Warn, 2019), which was the ninth episode of Supergirl’s fifth season and saw the devastating wave of anti-matter obliterate Argo City and threaten the very fabric of Supergirl’s world, Earth-38. In a change for these crossovers, Supergirl and her supporting cast are given a prominent role right off the bat as she is forced to watch her home and family be destroyed by the mysterious, unstoppable wave of energy. She is overjoyed to see that Superman and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) survived the destruction but deeply affected by the death of her mother, Alura Zor-El (Erica Durance), and the loss of her home, and the fact that the entire first episode actually takes place on her Earth allows her supporting characters to actually contribute in a meaningful way towards the Crisis.

Supergirl is heartbroken when Argo City is destroyed and is tempted to rewrite reality.

Faced with the impending destruction of their world, Alex Danvers (Leigh), J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), and Querl Dox/Brainiac 5 (Jesse Rath) are forced to call in every debt they are owed, and even turn to the unscrupulous Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) for help evacuating as many people as possible to Earth-1. Interestingly, it is Superman who has the crisis of conscience in this first episode and finds his resolve faltering after failing to save Argo City and out of concern for his baby son, Jonathan; despite the losses she has suffered in such a short space of time, it is Supergirl who lifts his spirits and encourages him to remain hopeful in their ability to succeed. After discovering that the Book of Destiny has been recovered, Kara, as the Paragon of Hope, makes every effort she can, despite the incredible risk, to use the Book to restore her Earth, bringing her into a moral conflict with Kate.

Oliver has spent the last season preparing for the Crisis and to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The anti-matter wave spreads throughout all of time and space, however; throughout the most recent seasons of Arrow and The Flash, Oliver and Barry have been struggling with their impending deaths since the Monitor foretold that each of them would die in the coming Crisis. This has been particularly trying for Oliver, who, like Barry, has been trying to prepare for the coming event and get his team ready to operate without him once he’s gone but has been struggling with time travel shenanigans, which saw him meet his future daughter, Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara). Normally the more grounded and pragmatic of the Arrowverse heroes, Oliver has had extensive experience not just with multiversal events by this point but also with the anti-matter’s effects thanks to his travels with the Monitor in preparation for the Crisis.

Even in death, Oliver finds a way to continue fighting and decide the fate of all reality.

Despite his lack of superpowers and being more of a tactician, Oliver plays a vital role throughout the Crisis as we seen his disillusioned Earth-16 counterpart run through some of this greatest hits (again…), and see that he is less than impressed to find that the deal he made with the Monitor to sacrifice his life in exchange for Barry and Kara’s is no longer valid. Though Oliver is angered at the deception, the Monitor purposely arranged for this to ensure that Oliver would be at his most prepared by planning for every eventuality; as if seeing multiple worlds be destroyed in short order wasn’t proof that the stakes for Crisis on Infinite Earths was unimaginably high, Oliver’s untimely sacrifice to cover the evacuation of Earth-38 certainly is. Of course, Oliver’s story doesn’t end there as he ultimately sacrifices himself again, first by taking on the role of the Spectre and then by giving his life once more to end the Anti-Montor’s threat.

Kate is horrified to see the disillusioned wreck Bruce has become on Earth-99.

Since Oliver is now well-versed in multiversal crossovers and events, and unexpectedly killed before his time, it is Batwoman who brings the pragmatic cynicism and is the fish out of water in Crisis on Infinite Earths. “Part Two” (Belsey, 2019), which was the ninth episode of Batwoman’s (2019 to present) first season (although it was the last episode here in the United Kingdom), explores her attempts to adapt to the unusual situation she finds herself in. Failing to see how her abilities, as vast as they are, can measure up to cosmic threats, Kate is distrustful of her colourful associates and begrudgingly agrees to tag along purely on Kara’s word and in the face of a clear and present threat. The revelation of the Paragons drives Kate into an unexpected voyage of self-discovery; initially, she believes her destiny is to recruit the Bruce Wayne of Earth-99 (Kevin Conroy) and, in the process, comes across a jaded and broken version of her cousin who has descended into a murderous and disillusioned crusade. Rattled by this incarnation of Bruce, and her actions in contributing to his death (to keep him from killing Supergirl), Kate is somewhat sceptical to learn that she is the Paragon of Courage.

Tired of killing Superman, Luthor compels the Earth-96 Kal to kill his Earth-38 counterpart.

The quest for the Paragons takes Superman, Lois, and Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) to first Earth-167, where they briefly encounter a depowered version of Clark (Tom Welling), and then to Earth-96 and an older, far more troubled incarnation of the Man of Steel (Routh). In possession of the Book of Destiny, Lex Luthor (Cryer), who was returned to life to play a vital role in the Crisis, travels throughout the multiverse killing Superman and, ultimately, forces Superman to fight his Earth-96 counterpart in a brief, exhilarating moment before Lois and Iris wake up and realise that they can just punch Lex out. Lex, however, gets the last laugh by manipulating the Book of Destiny to replace the Earth-96 Superman with himself as the Paragon of Courage

Although fully prepared to meet his destiny, Barry’s Earth-90 counterpart takes his place.

As mentioned, Barry has also been trying to prepare for his untimely end; he’s been aware that he disappears, most likely due to his death, in a red-sky Crisis and he is so angered at Oliver’s death and the Monitor’s manipulations that he is driven to using the restorative nature of the Lazarus Pits to bring Oliver back to life in a crazed state with the help of John Constantine (Matt Ryan). “Part Three” (McWhirter, 2019), which aired as episode nine of season six of The Flash (2014 to present), leads Barry to facing his fate in the worst way possible when he is forced to watch the Earth-90 Flash (John Wesley Shipp) sacrifice himself to destroy an anti-matter cannon. Although Barry is more than willing to fulfil what he believes is his destiny, his counterpart takes his place willingly and, in the process, allows Barry to live on for his friends and family while also providing a fantastic excuse to showcase some highlights from Shipp’s turn as the Flash back in the nineties.

Both Luthor and Harbinger become brief secondary threats amidst the Crisis.

Of course, the intangible threat of the destructive anti-matter wave and the ominous fate that awaits Oliver and Barry isn’t the only threat facing the Arrowverse characters; throughout their journey across the multiverse to defend the Monitor’s Quantum Towers, they must battle against fittingly Grim Reaper-like “Shadow Demons” that, despite being easily destroyed, have the advantage through sheer numbers and their threat is escalated by the fact that Oliver was practically torn apart by them offscreen. Additionally, thanks to messing around with the Book of Destiny, Luthor manages to position himself as a man of incredible metahuman powers who first attempts to kill Supergirl in an effort to usurp the Monitor’s destiny and then, reluctantly and unwillingly, to join forces with the heroes. Lyla Michaels/Harbinger (Audrey Marie Anderson) also takes on a brief antagonistic role when she ends up falling under the influence of the crossover’s primary, physical antagonist, Mobius/The Anti-Monitor (Garrett), which causes her to betray and murder the Monitor against her will and set in motion the final days of all reality.

As secretive as the Monitor is, the Anti-Monitor craves nothing but complete annihilation.

The Monitor himself is a deceptive and mysterious character; thanks to Luthor’s manipulations, we learn in “Part Four” (Winter, 2020) that it was he, in his far more mortal form, who birthed the Anti-Monitor in a desperate and misguided attempt to view the creation of the universe. Of course, while the Monitor inspires much distrust and anger from the heroes (especially Barry), the Anti-Monitor is a form of pure, unadulterated evil; similar to other crossover threats, the Anti-Monitor is an elusive and ominous being who isn’t revealed in full until the conclusion of “Part 2”. His motivations are nothing less than pure destruction, making for a decidedly one-dimensional villain but, in truth, the Anti-Monitor has always been that way; he simply exists as a singular, cosmic force of evil for the heroes to unite against.

The stakes have never been higher or dourer than in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Fittingly, for an adaptation of the greatest and most devastating storyline in DC Comics history, the stakes couldn’t be higher in Crisis on Infinite Earths; though a prevailing concept throughout the crossover is the idea of hope conquering above all, the odds are constantly against our heroes as entire worlds are wiped from existence, killing many of the supporting characters, and leaving the handful of remaining characters trapped at the Vanishing Point with no hope of escape and alongside Luthor, of all people. In their darkest hour, Oliver, as the Spectre, comes to them with a vague shot in the dark at reversing their fortunes but, even then, the cost is high. This, again, gives the crossover another excuse to run through some of Arrow’s greatest hits so that the disparate parts of his personality can be reunited in the speed force and empower him to transport them to the anti-matter universe and the inevitable showdown with the Anti-Monitor. I won’t lie; I can’t say that I’m a massive fan of the grim, gritty, grounded vigilante ultimately being to one to save and restore the entire multiverse and being the saviour of all humanity but even I have to admit that it’s an almost peerless heroic end for the character.

At great cost, reality is saved and the Arrowverse’s Justice League officially forms.

In the end, with all seven Paragons gathered and united (however reluctantly, in Luthor’s case) and the Spectre locked in a dual with the Anti-Monitor, the heroes are able to light the spark that reignites a new version of not just Earth-1 but the entire multiverse. Though he dies in the process, Oliver is finally at peace and leaves the future to his friends and family who, in “Part Five” (Smith, 2020), find their world has radically changed as a result; for one thing, many characters and locations are now on an amalgamated world dubbed “Earth-Prime” and, for another, Luthor is a world-renowned hero, and no one has any memory of what happened except the seven Paragons. Thanks to J’onn’s psychic powers, they are able to piece together what happened but, while they are able to ultimately banish the Anti-Monitor to the microverse, they are heart-broken to discover that Oliver is not among those restored by the entire process. In celebration of Oliver’s sacrifice, the Flash, Supergirl, J’onn, Batwoman, and Black Lightning hold a memorial service for their fallen comrade and officially give birth to the Arrowverse incarnation of the Justice League that, sadly, will look decidedly different in the near future.

The Summary:
For such a large and ambitious crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths does pretty well when it comes to its special effects; again, as we’ve seen in the other Arrowverse crossovers, some of these hold up better than others (Ray Terrill/The Ray (Russell Tovey) still looks terrible even in his brief appearance, as does Lyla’s teleporting effects and the “temporal zone”, but the destruction of the infinite worlds is disturbingly effective) but I’d say the CW did really well, especially when you consider that Marvel Studios spent billions of dollars on its big screen crossovers and it’s frankly ludicrous that they ever decided to greenlight an adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths. As you might expect, costume design is absolutely spot on; Nash Wells/Pariah (Cavanagh), the Monitor, and Anti-Monitor look a little goofy but I can’t fault the fidelity to the source material and the crossover delivers an absolutely fantastic adaptation of Bruce’s exoskeleton armour and the Kingdom Come (Waid, et al, 1996) Super-suit.

It probably should have been called Cameos on Infinite Earths…No? Just me?… Okay…

Of course, one of the most appealing and entertaining aspects of Crisis on Infinite Earths is the sheer abundance of cameos and references to other live-action adaptations of DC Comics; most of these are fleeting, appearing onscreen simply to be destroyed in seconds, but some are prominent aspects to the crossover’s massive narrative. Accordingly, we get much-appreciated and surprising appearances by Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) from the Batman sixties show, Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) from Batman (Burton, 1989), Hank Hall/Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Jason Todd/Robin (Curran Walters) from Titans (2018 to present), Helena Kyle/The Huntress (Ashley Scott) and Barbara Gordon/Oracle (Dina Meyer) from Birds of Prey (2002 to 2003), Alec Holland/Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) from Swamp Thing (2019) and the cast of both Stargirl (2020 to present) and Doom Patrol (2019 to present). The crossover also splices in surprise appearances by Wil Wheaton, Wentworth Miller, comic creator Marv Wolfman, and even Ezra Miller alongside numerous references and allusions to comic book arcs such as the Death of Superman (Jurgens, et al, 1992 to 1993), and even setting up a potential spin-off for John Diggle (David Ramsey) after he appears to find a Green Lantern ring.

Sadly, not every character gets a large role in the massive crossover…

Interestingly, despite all these cameos (and more) and the myriad of characters from across the Arrowverse, Crisis on Infinite Earths does a surprisingly good job of balancing its pace, action, and cast; in the beginning, things are very rushed and frantic but, once everyone is gathered together, the story focuses up quite nicely. The stakes stay high and ominous throughout as we’re constantly reminded of the impending doom but there’s still time for a few amusing character moments, such as Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) realising his paternal instincts. Of course, with so many characters included and so much at stake, Crisis on Infinite Earths features a wide array of action and fight scenes; to make the best use of the many powers and characters in the crossover, these are largely ensemble pieces that truly unite the Arrowverse in a way we haven’t seen before. Even those who are largely side-lined throughout the crossover, like Diggle, for example, get something to do (he is incensed at Oliver’s death and joins Constantine, and Mia in journeying to Purgatory to retrieve Oliver’s soul) and many of the supporting characters contribute to the overarching plot even though their efforts are ultimately in vain. Some cameos, however, are all-too-brief; many of the Legends and Team Arrow get short-changed this time around, Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) was a welcome and unexpected inclusion but, sadly, the crossover chose not to bring Emmett J. Scanlan back as Jim Corrigan and, despite Ryan Choi (Osric Chau) and Black Lightning’s pivotal roles in the larger narrative, they’re not as heavily showcased as the more recognisable and established Arrowverse characters.

Such an elaborate crossover would never have been possible without time and dedication.

I said at the start that I never expected to see Crisis on Infinite Earths ever be the basis for an adaptation, much less a live-action adaptation; it barely works in the comics, to be honest, as it requires quite a lot of knowledge about DC Comics and outlandish concepts like the multiverse. Thankfully, the Arrowverse version of events focuses its adaptation by concentrating on the main Arrowverse characters, surrounding them with a myriad of cameos and references, and buildings its concept around these familiar aspects. If you’ve never watched an Arrowverse show before then of course it’ll be quite a daunting first start but, like its comic book namesake, it is clearly not intended for casual fans or newcomers. It’s interesting watching these Arrowverse crossovers back-to-back as Invasion! (Various, 2016) feels so rushed and frantic in comparison and Crisis on Infinite Earths does a much better job of balancing a far bigger and more diverse cast, which I honestly wouldn’t expect considering how daunting its concept is. Of course, this crossover would never have been possible without the long-running, episodic nature of the CW shows and that’s exactly why it works in a way that DC’s cinematic films often fail; rather than trying to cram everything into a couple of films, or tossing it all into a four-hour long epic, the Arrowverse was able to naturally build towards this crossover and deliver from start to finish and it’s honestly a shame that the films couldn’t have followed suit and that the Arrowverse is basically coming to an end now.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on Crisis on Infinite Earths? Did you ever expect to see the Arrowverse culminate in an adaptation of one of comics’ biggest crossover events? How do you feel the adaptation was handled? Which cameo was your favourite and which would you have preferred to see be featured more prominently? How did Oliver’s death affect you, if at all, and which of the CW Arrowverse shows is/was your favourite? Are you sad to see that the Arrowverse has changed following this event or do you feel it’s time for it to move on? Do you agree that building towards such an elaborate crossover is a matter of time, patience, and character development or were you not bothered by Zack Snyder’s attempts to cram it all into a couple of movies? Which of the many multiversal crossover events was your favourite, whether in comics, videogames, TV, or movies? Whatever your thoughts, go ahead and drop a comment down below and check back in again for more superhero content throughout the year.

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Elseworlds


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ve been taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Sunday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 9 December 2018 to 11 December 2018
UK Network: Sky One
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Jeremy Davies, Tyler Hoechlin, David Ramsey, Carlos Valdes, Chyler Leigh, and Ruby Rose

The Background:
The “Arrowverse” may have started as a grim, gritty reimagining of the life and times of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Amell) but it soon expanded to include all kinds of elaborate, comic book plotlines: time travel, metahumans, and parallel worlds were now all par for the course and annual crossovers with other superhero shows on the CW were a regular occurrence. After executive producer Marc Guggenheim noted that the cast and crew were pretty burned out by these massive crossover events, the CW relented that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present) would not have to be included in the next crossover. Elseworlds was heavily inspired by a comic book concept from the mid-to-late-nineties which, in the absence of the usual infinite parallel worlds, allowed writers and artists to tell out of continuity tales of popular DC characters. The event was also primarily constructed to finally introduce Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne/Batman, to the Arrowverse and setup a new Arrowverse show, Batwoman (2019 to present) through the introduction of Rubt Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman. Each of Elseworldsthree episodes were received very positively and the production of the crossover not only saw a Batwoman spin-off take off not long afterwards but also brought the entire Arrowverse, and most of DC’s live-action adaptations, together for perhaps the biggest superhero crossover ever attempted the following year.

The Plot:
When psychiatrist John Deegan is gifted the Book of Destiny by a mysterious individual and begins rewriting reality to his every whim, Oliver Queen and Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) inexplicably switch bodies! After seeking help from Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), the three travel to Gotham City to track down Deegan, who plans to use the Book’s power to assume the powers and abilities of Clark Kent/Superman (Hoechlin).

The Review:
Elseworlds begins in earnest with, appropriately enough, “Part 1” (Tancharoen, 2018), which was the ninth episode of season five of The Flash (2014 to present). At that time, The Flash was knee-deep in the confusion and drama of Barry and Iris West-Allen’s (Candice Patton) daughter, Nora West-Allen/XS (Jessica Parker Kennedy), coming back in time to meet her father before his fated disappearance during a mysterious “Crisis” and to help Team Flash track down the big bad of the season, Orlin Dwyer/Cicada (Chris Klein).

Oliver is extremely out of his depth when he suddenly finds himself living Barry’s life.

The central concept, and humour, of the crossover begins immediately after John Deegan is gifted the Book of Destiny by the mysterious Mar Novu/The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) and Oliver Queen wakes up in the body of Barry Allen. Confused and disorientated, Oliver attempts to adapt to the confusing situation on the fly but, while he does blag his way through breakfast with Iris, he struggles to adjust to Barry’s superspeed and metahuman abilities. It’s amusing and entertaining to see Oliver struggling for a change; for all his training and preparation and adaptability, he’s totally out of his depth hanging around with Team Flash and having to be more open and honest with his feelings.

Barry is ecstatic to be in Oliver’s body and his enthusiasm rubs Ollie the wrong way.

Similarly, Barry finds himself without his superspeed and at the mercy of a beating from John Diggle/Spartan (Ramsey) and suddenly involved in Team Arrow’s campaign against Ricardo Diaz/Dragon (Kirk Acevedo). While Oliver struggles with his newfound powers and the bright, chippy nature of Barry’s team and city, Barry revels in having Oliver’s physical abilities; he only becomes motivated to get to the bottom of it all when Iris exhibits no recognition or belief in him. Normally, I’m not a massive fan of body swap storylines but seeing Barry and Oliver having to adapt to each other’s specific abilities and attitudes was an amusing twist for both; Barry has to dislocate his joints and adopt a far darker approach to his actions since Oliver’s focus and determination come from all of the anger and torment he’s been through. Conversely, Oliver must try and master (or, at least, stumble through) picking up Barry’s metahuman abilities and learn to act out of his feelings of love and positivity from his team and family.

Barry and Oliver recruit Supergirl and Superman to help resolve their body swap dilemma.

To try and get to the bottom of the body swap, which has also caused disconcerting red skies to cover the city, Oliver and Barry manage to escape and travel to Earth-38, where Kara is reconnecting with her cousin, Clark, and his partner, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch). This includes not only a fantastic little homage to Smallville (2001 to 2011) but also an amusing scene where Barry is in awe of Clark and Oliver puffs his chest out, and in which Oliver attempts to teach Barry how to actually use his abilities rather than relying on his powers and his team. Annoyed at Barry’s pranks, Olivier tries to get a rise out of him but finds that he’s equally handicapped by Barry’s superspeed; in the end, the two are forced to admit that they are two very different people, with different motivations and experiences, which literally places each one in the other’s shoes.

Even with Superman’s presence, it takes the entire team to defeat A.M.A.Z.O.

This forms the main conflict of the first episode and the crossover, leading to a lot of digs and points of contention between the two. Luckily, the two are able to focus their issues on a common enemy: the Anti-Metahuman Adaptive Zootomic Organism (A.M.A.Z.O.). Even better, Supergirl and Superman accompany them back to Earth-1 to battle the android, which can adapt to and counter their attacks and has absorbed a multitude of metahuman abilities. This means that Superman and Supergirl aren’t enough, by themselves, to defeat the android, which helps to emphasise the new teamwork dynamic of the crossover, and that actually gets to play a vital role in a crossover for the first time, a role that only increases in prominence and danger when Deegan takes over his body in “Part 3” (Warn, 2018).

Elseworlds finally brought Gotham City into the Arrowverse.

Deegan is largely absent for a great deal of Elseworlds but his ominous presence is felt through Cisco Ramon/Vibe’s (Valdes) visions and the chaotic events of the crossover. For the majority of Elseworlds, the heroes are on the backfoot, forced to adapt to new situations and constantly chasing tangential leads about the source of their body swap. “Part 2” (Bamford, 2018), which was episode nine of season seven of Arrow (2012 to 2020), leads Barry, Oliver, and Kara to Gotham City, a location often hinted at in the Arrowverse but never seen or explicitly referenced beyond cheeky allusions. A great deal of focus in the second episode is placed on the urban legend of the Batman; similar to how he felt emasculated in Clark’s presence, Oliver is annoyed and frustrated at the idea that he isn’t the “original vigilante”. Barry, however, continues to exhibit his crossover-characteristic enthusiasm for visiting Gotham and potentially meeting the Batman, whom Oliver is convinced is merely a myth used to scare criminals.

With Batman having been gone for three years, Gotham’s streets are haunted by a Batwoman.

After a run-in with some muggers (including one of my favourite characters and stuntmen, Daniel Bernhardt), the three are arrested (mainly because Oliver’s identity as the Green Arrow is public knowledge by this point) on the corner of “Burton and Nolan” but are bailed out by Kate Kane. Stoic and unimpressed with their presence, Kate is only interested in getting the three out of Gotham as quickly as possible; it’s through their interactions that we are brought up to speed with the state of Gotham, which is noticeably different compared to what we see in Batwoman. Bruce Wayne is gone, having been missing for three years, and with him the Batman; the Crows are nowhere to be seen and the Gotham City Police Department are still in full force; the Bat-Cave looks entirely different; and Kate is already Batwoman, making this episode’s placement in Batwoman’s continuity a bit difficult to judge.

Sadly, Kara’s bond with Kate was destined to end before it really got a chance to develop.

Supergirl mainly acts as peacemaker between Barry and Oliver throughout the crossover, painting her in a noticeably different role than in other crossovers, where she’s generally the optimistic and polite ace in the hole (one thing I continuously find odd is that Kara insists on wearing her glasses when on Earth-1, which may be out of habit more than anything). However, Kara gets a chance to shine by connecting with Kate, mainly due to Clark and Bruce being friends on her Earth, and is able to learn a little more about both Kate and Bruce and get a more definitive lead on Deegan at Arkham Asylum (which includes a number of references to famous Bat-foes and even Guggenheim himself). Despite Batwoman’s callous attitude and no-nonsense approach, she is won over by Kara and the two end the second episode having taken the first steps towards what would, unfortunately, be a friendship fated not to last thanks to behind the scenes drama and shenanigans.

Deegan wrecks havoc with the Book of Destiny as part of the Monitor’s plan to test Earth’s heroes.

While Barry and Oliver deal with their identity crisis and, alongside Supergirl, attempt to track down Deegan, Team Arrow and Team Flash join forces to try and get to the bottom of the chaotic red skies that seem to follow Barry and Oliver everywhere they go. Team Flash, especially, are more of a hindrance than a help in the first episode as they lock Barry and Oliver up and refuse to even consider the possibility that they have switched bodies; Team Arrow are, surprisingly, more open to this suggestion, meaning the three get far more co-operation from the likes of Diggle, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), and Curtis Holt/Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum) than they do from Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man (Hartley Sawyer). Eventually, however, the teams are able to pool their resources, which leads to them making contact with the Flash of Earth- 90 (John Wesley Shipp) and discovering the source of Deegan’s powers: another, far more powerful and manipulative individual, the Monitor, a mysterious, enigmatic figure that appears to be behind not only the Book of Destiny and Deegan’s actions but also the disconcerting tumultuous red skies. Despite appearing to be a threatening, antagonistic force, the Monitor is eventually revealed to be simply “testing” Earth’s heroes for an oncoming, far greater Crisis by putting them up against overwhelming odds in preparation for a far more powerful threat.

Deegan becomes a corrupted version of Superman whose defeat requires strategy…and sacrifice.

The ninth episode of Supergirl’s (2015 to present) fourth season sees the culmination of this storyline and the shift to another altered timeline where both Barry and Oliver, lacking their abilities, are wanted criminals and Deegan has cast himself in the role of a hero as a black-suited version of Superman. Already an unhinged character even before he acquired the Book, having performed immoral experiments on the inmates of Arkham Asylum, Deegan is driven to near insanity by the Book’s magics and revels in Superman’s unmatched power. Deegan perverts not just Superman’s image and symbol but also the Team Arrow/Team Flash dynamic by usurping their friends and resources; although he paints himself as a hero, he’s a near-tyrannical despot but is, ultimately, handicapped by his lack of control, arrogance, and turbulent emotions that make him an aggressive and unpredictable, but easily out-witted, foe. One of the downsides to the previous crossovers was how easily the big bads were defeated and Elseworlds changes that, somewhat, thanks to Superman’s incredible powers being put to evil and the reality-changing powers of the Book of Destiny requiring a little more than just an anti-climatic fist fight this time around.

The Summary:
Elseworlds, despite dealing with shifting realities and timelines, is a much less crowded and elaborate crossover than Crisis on Earth-X (Various, 2017) and, although the body swap storyline is a central focus of the crossover, action is still frantic and varied throughout Elseworlds; we get comically over the top fight scenes involving the likes of A.M.A.Z.O. and Superman but also gritty, down to Earth scuffles during the breakout in Arkham Asylum. Thanks to effects of Johnathan Crane/The Scarecrow’s fear gas, we also get brief cameos by Eobard Thawne/The Reverse-Flash (Cavanagh) and Malcolm Merlyn/The Dark Archer (John Barrowman) when Barry and Oliver believe that they are their greatest foes.

Elseworlds offers a different spin on the Arrowverse characters and relationships.

Elseworlds is also a far more amusing and entertaining crossover thanks to its central focus on the identity crisis between Oliver and Barry; this dynamically changes their understanding of each other and the nature of their teamwork and allows them to understand each other a little more intimately. The fact that they spend pretty much the entire crossover either struggling with each other’s powers, abilities, and supporting cast, or depowered entirely, means that there is no easy solution to anything this time around. They are constantly on the backfoot, having to adapt on the fly and find new ways to figure out what’s going on, which makes for a decidedly unique dynamic for each character and those around him. Once again, Supergirl gets shafted quite a bit, with only Alex Danvers (Leigh) really having a significant role outside of Supergirl and Superman; while Supergirl doesn’t really get a whole lot to do besides be the straight woman in the bickering banter between Oliver and Barry, she finally comes into her own, appropriately enough, in the final part when she is able to reach her rewritten sister and stand up to a corrupted version of her cousin.

Though a more grounded crossover, Elseworlds set the stage for an even bigger Arrowverse event!

One thing I enjoyed about Elseworlds, and the majority of the Arrowverse crossovers, is how each of the heroes has a significant role to play no matter how powerful they are; Superman and Supergirl may have incredible powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men but they alone are not enough to turn the tide against Deegan or to stand up to the Monitor’s power. Oliver, faced with incredible situations and God-like beings far beyond his comprehension and experience, struggles to adapt and, yet, still finds ways to not only be relevant but also forever affect not only this Crisis but the coming Crisis as well by bargaining with the Monitor. In the end, Elseworlds was an enjoyable crossover that was both amusing and action-packed, gritty and elaborate, and managing to both be an interpersonal drama in a unique way while also setting up a far bigger, more insane crossover than I, for one, never expected to see.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think to Elseworlds? Did you enjoy the body swap plot and the introduction of Batwoman? Were you disappointed that Supergirl didn’t have a slightly bigger role or were you happy to see her and Superman showing different sides to their personalities? What did you think to John Deegan and the ominous presence of the Monitor? Did Elseworlds leave you excited for its far bigger crossover? What are some of your favourite Elseworlds stories from DC Comics? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and check back in next Sunday for my review of the final Arrowverse crossover and the last week of Crossover Crisis!

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Crisis on Earth-X


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’m been taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Sunday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 27 November 2017 to 28 November 2017
UK Network: Sky One
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Caity Lotz, Carlos Valdes, Dominic Purcell, Chyler Leigh, Brandon Routh, Franz Drameh, Victor Garber, and Tom Cavanagh

The Background:
After the success of Invasion! (Various, 2016), the scope and interconnectivity of the “Arrowverse” began to steadily grow; The Flash (2014 to present), in particular, began to explore more and more of the multiverse while DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present) exclusively dealt with concepts of time travel and alternate timelines. Invasion! ended up being the first of many annual crossovers between the CW shows and, accordingly, development of the next big crossover began in 2016. This time around, the showrunners were able to better plan and prepare for the crossover; however, while this allowed for Supergirl (2015 to present) to be included in the line-up, Black Lightning (2018 to present) was notably absent from the event, which drew inspiration from the annual crossovers between the Justice Society and Justice League of America in the Silver Age of DC Comics.

The Plot:
When the long-awaited wedding between Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) and Iris West (Candice Patton) is interrupted by evil doppelgängers from Earth-X, a dystopian world populated by Nazi versions of the Arrowverse heroes, they must call upon Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Amell), Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), and the time-travelling Legends in a desperate battle to save their world from becoming over-run by their totalitarian doubles.

The Review:
Crisis on Earth-X begins, appropriately enough, in “Part 1” (Teng, 2017), which was the eighth episode of the third season of Supergirl and introduces us to Earth-X, a parallel world that is under the iron grip of a Nazi regime. Oliver Queen/Dark Arrow (Amell) is the Führer and leader of the ruling cabal, the New Reichsmen, who use brute force and murderous tactics to spread fear amongst the populace and rule largely unopposed except for a band of plucky Freedom Fighters who are hopelessly outmatched. Hungry for new worlds to spread their regime to, they seize a temporal gateway and travel to Earth-1 in search of further conquests.

The large majority of the Arrowverse gathers together for Barry and Iris’s long-awaited wedding.

Most of our heroes from Earth-1 are concerned primarily with the impending marriage of Barry and Iris; the daily routine of our multiversal time travelling heroes is given a comedic background as Green Arrow, the Legends (Sara Lance/White Canary (Lotz), Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Purcell), Jefferson Jackson (Drameh) and Doctor Martin Stein (Garber)/Firestorm, Ray Palmer/The Atom (Routh), Nate Heywood/Steel (Nick Zano), Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe), and Amaya Jiwe/Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers)), and Supergirl (Benoist) put their individual issues and missions on hold to travel to present day Earth-1 for the wedding, bringing these characters together for a happier, more social event rather than an impending crisis.

Interpersonal drama is, as always, a prevalent sub-plot throughout the crossover.

Amidst this, Kara is still reeling from the return of Mike Matthews/Mon-El (Chris Wood) and her sister, Alex (Leigh), is struggling with a recent breakup. The revelation that Mon-El is not only alive but also already married has shaken Kara’s usually positive outlook; like any good CW/TV lesbian, Alex decides to throw herself at the nearest bisexual character (Sara); and Oliver is motivated by Barry’s plunge into marriage to (unsuccessfully) re-propose to long-term love interest Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). Additionally, Stein and Jackson are facing the sudden realisation that their time as Firestorm may be coming to an end thanks to a cure developed by Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Valdes) and the Earth-2 Harrison Wells (Cavanagh). While Stein is overjoyed at the prospect of returning to his family and a normal life, Jefferson is struggling with the idea of losing their partnership, friendship, and the bond that Firestorm brings the two. Characteristically, Stein misinterprets Jefferson’s feelings regarding the situation and attempts to fashion a way for Jax to continue being a super-powered Legend without him or Firestorm.

Evil Nazi doppelgängers interrupt the wedding and plot to attack Earth-1.

With all this drama hanging in the air, tensions are a little highly strung on the morning of the wedding and it’s something of a relief (for everyone but Barry and Iris, that is) when Kara Zor-El/Overgirl (Benoist), Dark Arrow, and Tommy Merlyn/Prometheus (Colin Donnell) gate crash the ceremony with their troops. Of course, a massive fight scene breaks out (it’s super lucky and convenient that guys like Oliver and Mick brought their weapons to the church…), the main focus of which pits Overgirl against Supergirl, Oliver against Dark Arrow, and Sara and Alex against Prometheus in a bit of a mirror match, of sorts. Of course, it isn’t until the fight is concluded and Prometheus is captured that the true identities of their opponents are revealed since all the Earth-Xers are sporting bad-ass masks.

Oliver is shaken when the Earth-X Prometheus turns out to be an evil version of his dead best friend.

“Part 2” (Bamford, 2017), which took place in season six, episode eight of Arrow, delves into the consequences of this; as always when he comes face to face with Tommy Merlyn, Oliver is shaken by the appearance of his long dead best friend. Harry also offers a quick bit of exposition into the background of Earth-X, a 53rd Earth that is so horrific that it lacks the usual numerical designation; unlike in Invasion!, Oliver is now far more adjusted to the concept of the multiverse and metahumans but his emotional attachment to Tommy (which is fuelled by his own feelings of grief and guilt at his Tommy’s death) blind him to Prometheus’s uncompromisingly cruel nature. Oliver’s already dramatic and brooding life is further complicated by Felicity’s unexpected rejection of his proposal, which kind of just exists simply to add to the character’s aggro; it’s a common thing in Arrow that seemingly every time Oliver tries to grow as a character and a person, normally dependable people suddenly let him down and then he’s the one who has to learn a lesson to adjust to this before things just work out anyway, which is kind of how the Arrowverse likes to handle its dramatic moments: needless conflict amidst actual, tangible conflict.

In a crossover full of cameos, Wally and Diggle are unfortunately given the shaft.

Crisis on Earth-X also features an appearance by Jessica Parker Kennedy, who would later be revealed to be Barry and Iris’ time-travelling daughter, Nora; once again, though, in a crossover featuring a slew of cameos and characters, Wally West/Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale), John Diggle/Spartan (David Ramsey), J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), and Mon-El are completely side-lined but the event has time for appearances by Ray Terrill/The Ray (Russell Tovey), the Earth-X Leonard Snart/Citizen Cold (Wentworth Miller), Metallo (Frederick Schmidt), Red Tornado, and even a much welcome appearance by Paul Blackthorne as SS Sturmbannführer Quentin Lance. Perhaps the best thing about Crisis on Earth-X’s large cast of characters is the return of Cavanagh as the Reverse-Flash, still the most charismatic and memorable of all the Flash’s villains. Thawne is, it turns out, the actual Thawne from Earth-1, having cheated death thanks to complex (and convenient) time travel shenanigans. While Green Arrow and Supergirl are naturally disturbed and disgusted with their evil counterparts, Barry’s fight against Thawne is far rawer and emotionally charged given their history and Thawne’s sadistic vendetta against him.

Good or evil, Oliver finds a way to be relevant and keep up with his superpowered allies.

Once again, despite neither him or his Earth-X doppelgänger sporting superpowers, Oliver manages to find a way to make himself relevant and useful in the explosive conflict; his Kryptonite arrow, however, is far less useful than one might expect but Dark Arrow ends up being skilled and competent enough to take on Heat Wave, Doctor Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), Curtis Holt/Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum), Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), and Dinah Drake/Black Canary (Juliana Harkavy) all at the same time. This is especially evident in “Part 3” (Helbing, 2017), which aired as the eight episode of the fourth season of The Flash), when, trapped on Earth-X alongside Barry, Sara, Alex, Stein, and Jefferson, Oliver is the only one able to break free of their power-dampening restraints thanks to his ability to freely dislocate his thumb.

With the heroes missing or captured, it’s up to Iris and Felicity to rescue Supergirl.

While this quickly becomes a moot point as they are soon rescued by the Earth-X Snart, who introduces them to the pitiful Earth-X resistance movement, Oliver is able to (briefly) successfully impersonate his doppelgänger to infiltrate a convenient, if well-guarded, facility that offers their only chance of returning home. Concurrently, their Earth-1 allies are trapped in the anti-metahuman cells at Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) and Kara is held captive under power-dampening red sunlight. For all the power, greed, and conviction of the Earth-Xers, their motivations come down to a desperate need to save Overgirl from dying through a heart transplant with Supergirl with only Felicity and Iris left behind to help her. It’s interesting, and surprising, for a crossover between the Arrowverse’s greatest heroes that two non-powered supporting characters end up being the key to turning the tide against the Earth-Xers as they rescue Kara using little more than their grit and ingenuity and the foresight to summon the remaining Legends.

Stein dies to save his team and, more importantly, Jefferson’s life.

The finale, “Part 4” (Smith, 2017), was the eighth episode of the third season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; similar to the final episode of Invasion!, saving the Legends episode to last causes a sudden and noticeable flood of characters to join the already inflated cast. The timely intervention of the Atom saves Kara but, unfortunately, even Gideon (Amy Louise Pemberton) is not capable of saving Stein’s life from a fatal bullet and he dies having sacrificed himself to return everyone to Earth-1 and to keep Jefferson alive. It’s an emotional and dramatic moment for the entire team but, especially, for those two, whose relationship has developed into a fantastic father/son dynamic amidst the dysfunctional family of the Waverider and would forever change the Legends dynamic going forward.

With the defeat and death of their generals, the Earth-X invasion is averted.

Though hurt and grieving following Stein’s death, Oliver and Sara’s pragmatic attitude galvanises the heroes into uniting against the Earth-Xers and their own version of the Waverider, the Wellenreiter, which they use to launch a devastating attack on Earth-1 unless Kara turns herself over to them. Rather than go gallivanting off through time and space, the Legends join their fellow heroes for an all-out counterattack against the Earth-Xers, resulting in a massive brawl in the streets. In the end, the day is won through a combination of teamwork and co-ordination to disable the Wellenreiter and Overgirl succumbing to her solar poisoning. Her explosive death directly leads to Oliver executing his counterpart and, thanks to Barry suitably scaring off Thawne, the crisis is averted, and Barry and Iris are finally married.

Including evil doppelgängers gives the cast a rare chance to showcase their range.

Invasion! was a very rushed and lacklustre excuse to bring together the Arrowverse against a simple extra-terrestrial threat; while the spirit of each show was evoked as best as possible and each episode did its best to focus on a core group of characters amidst a bloated cast, the crossover was let down by a frantic pace and some dodgy CGI. Crisis on Earth-X, in comparison, is a far more well balanced affair and, in many ways, seems like a much easier and more simpler concept to bring together the CW shows as it doesn’t require fully CGI characters or entirely new ideas; it’s simply a fight between the heroes of the Arrowverse and their violent and sadistic doppelgängers. Of course, it’s not the first time many of these heroes (especially Green Arrow and the Flash) have fought against dark versions of themselves but it’s a pretty simple and effective narrative device; plus, not only does it allow characters to literally fight against their own dark nature, it’s fun to see the actors portraying such radically different versions of themselves. While Dark Arrow isn’t that much different from Green Arrow, Overgirl is the exact opposite of Kara’s normally optimistic and enthusiastic nature, allowing Benoist to flex her range into sadistic bitch territory.

The Summary:
There’s a definite sense in Crisis on Earth-X that the Arrowverse was really beginning to hit is stride and becoming much more ambitious with its characters, concepts, and crossovers; the shows have come a long way from the relatively grounded Arrow (2012 to 2020), almost being unrecognisable with their fragrant and frequent use of obscure and complex sci-fi concepts such as time travel, aliens, and the multiverse. Thanks to having the time to properly focus on these concepts in shows like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, crossovers such as these were not only able to occur in the first place but actually felt like a natural and inevitable inclusion rather than being a rushed and desperate attempt to catch up to the competition like in the movies.

Dodgy CGI is kept to a minimum but the costume design is as fantastic as always.

Of course, dodgy CGI does raise its head once again in Crisis on Earth-X, particularly in the scene where Green Arrow helps Flash and Supergirl reinforce a collapsing superstructure by firing a load of CGI arrows and lines across the girders and whenever the Ray’s powers are on show. Still, these moments are far less intrusive and noticeable than in Invasion!, which is surprising considering Crisis on Earth-X features far more super-powered individuals and a much bigger scope. Once again, the costume design is absolutely spot on; the Earth-X Schutzstaffel-inspired uniforms give the normally bright and colourful heroes a dark and menacing look that is only exacerbated when the narrative switches to Earth-X and we see just how different the totalitarian parallel world is to Earth-1 and the rest of the multiverse.

Crisis on Earth-X certainly outdid its predecessor in terms of stakes, standards, and scope.

Something I really enjoyed about this second crossover was that there was a lot more for everyone to do this time around and far more dynamic and varied character interactions, largely thanks to the fact that the pacing and focus of the crossover is much better this time around; each episode feels like a part of a larger, unified narrative that is the geared towards serving the purpose of the crossover rather than being a regular episode of its main show with the crossover plot shoe-horned in. The ramifications of the crossover had lasting effects on the Arrowverse as a whole as well; not only did it end with the long-awaited marriage of Barry and Iris, and open the doors for bigger and better multiversal events in the future, but it forever changed the dynamic of Legends of Tomorrow, and Jefferson’s character, through the sudden and dramatic death of Stein. Invasion! had the suggestion of high stakes but the plot was so concerned with focusing on the interpersonal drama rather than actually depicting the Dominators as a meaningful threat that there was never really the suggestion that the heroes could fail or lose in any way. This time around, the loss of Stein and the depiction of a dystopian alternative world where many have either died or are pure evil raised the stakes for future crossovers, allowing for a degree of unpredictability to permeate subsequent events.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

How did you find Crisis on Earth-X? Did you prefer it to Invasion! and where would you rank it compared to the other Arrowverse crossovers? What did you think to the concept of evil, Nazi versions of the Arrowverse heroes? Were there any characters you would have liked to see have more focus in the crossover or were you, like me, far more impressed with the pacing and balance this time around? How did you feel about Stein’s death and which of the four shows is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Crisis on Earth-X, be sure to leave a comment below and check back in next Sunday as Crossover Crisis continues!

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Invasion!


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Sunday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 29 November 2016 to 1 December 2016
UK Network: Sky One
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Caity Lotz, Carlos Valdes, Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Willa Holland, and Victor Garber

The Background:
In October 2012, Arrow (2012 to 2020) premiered on the CW; a successful first season saw the show not only continued for another eight years but also herald the start of the “Arrowverse”, a series of interconnected superhero shows that kicked off with The Flash (2014 to present), explored time and space in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present), and delved into the multiverse with the advent of Supergirl (2015 to present). Characters and concepts from each show would often cross over and, in time, the Arrowverse became a surprisingly complex continuity that, inevitably, led to a massive three-episode crossover.

After numerous cameos and crossovers, the Arrowverse collided in a big way for Invasion!

The event, titled Invasion!, was heavily inspired by a DC Comics event of the same name from the late-eighties, united the Arrowverse heroes against an external, extra-terrestrial threat. The three episodes were shot concurrently and gave the CW its most-watched week in six years. Invasion! was met with largely favourably reviews, with each series’ episodes ranked amongst the highest for their respective seasons. The success of Invasion! led to further, increasingly elaborate crossovers between the CW shows, all of which I’ll be covering throughout April.

The Plot:
When an aggressive extra-terrestrial race known as the Dominators (Micah Fitzgerald) arrive on Earth looking to conquer the planet, Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) and his team at Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) team up with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and his allies, Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), and the Legends, led by Sara Lance/White Canary (Lotz), to combat the threat of invasion!

The Review:
Each of the three parts of Invasion! are, quite helpfully and naturally, titled “Invasion!”. The crossover begins in media res with season three, episode eight of The Flash (Downs, 2016) before flashing back to ten hours earlier, where Team Flash are in the middle of testing out Wally West’s (Keiynan Lonsdale) recently acquired super speed. Though he shows a great deal of potential and promise, his sister, Iris (Candice Patton), urges the team not to encourage his dreams of following in Barry’s footsteps out of worry for his safety.

Still struggling with the fallout of Flashpoint, Barry turns to Oliver when the Dominators invade.

The team is in a bit of a fractured state as Cisco/Vibe (Valdes) is having trust issues with Barry after his time travel shenanigans in the “Flashpoint” episode (Warn, 2016); Barry’s main arc in the crossover was trying to live with the ramifications of his selfish actions, which caused numerous alterations to the timeline and affected his confidence and relationships. In the midst of this, the Dominators suddenly arrive on Earth, which surprises even Barry, who by this point has already travelled to other parallel worlds. Thanks to information provided by Advanced Research Group United Support (A.R.G.U.S.) director Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), the team learns that the Dominators have been arriving on Earth since the 1950s, attacking and abducting humans and then disappearing seemingly at random. Lyla asks the team to stand down, believing they would be no match for the Dominators so, obviously, Barry immediately ignores that decision and goes to Oliver for help.

Invasion! balances its large cast by focusing each episode of a certain number of characters.

Against Oliver’s wishes and Felicity Smoak’s (Emily Bett Rickards) objections, his sister, Thea/Speedy (Holland), and John Diggle/Spartan (Ramsey) agree to help rendezvous with the Legends at an abandon S.T.A.R.S. warehouse. Barry then immediately jumps over to Earth-38 to recruit Supergirl and the first tentative meeting of the Arrowverse super friends takes place. Thanks to the inclusion of the Legends, Invasion! immediately becomes compounded by an influx of characters: there’s team leader Sara, Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), Doctor Martin Stein (Garber) and Jefferson Jackson/Firestorm (Franz Drameh), and Ray Palmer/The Atom (Routh), amidst all the supporting characters from both The Flash and Arrow. While this threatens to bog the narrative down a bit and can be overwhelming for newcomers, each episode smartly places much of its focus on the main cast of their main series. Accordingly, much of the Flash part of the crossover focuses on Wally’s resentment of the team’s distrust in his abilities, Cisco’s issues with Barry, and Doctor Caitlin Snow’s (Danielle Panabaker) struggles with adjusting to her newly discovered ice powers, which Stein helps her reconcile.

Despite her power and optimism, Kara is met with some scepticism for being an alien visitor.

Supergirl brings a modicum of background knowledge of the Dominators from her Earth but, by virtue of Oliver’s suggestion, Barry is named the team leader; Oliver, however, is largely distrustful of Kara upon first meeting and, as the more serious and grim of the entire group, pushes her, and the entire team, not to hold back in order to fight with peak efficiency in the coming battle. Because of her unmatched superpowers, she is made the guinea pig for the team to test their skills and teamwork out on and this (and the frosty reception she later receives in crossover) causes some notable friction between her and Oliver since she isn’t impressed at being treated like an alien. A cautious, distrustful character by nature, Oliver characteristically take some time to warm to others as it is but his relationship with Kara is particularly unique as, just as he was forced to adapt to and accept “metahumans” (DC’s name for superpowered individuals), he initially struggles to trust and accept aliens and the idea of a multiverse. Because of this, and her status as an outsider to the remainder of the cast, Supergirl’s optimism and enthusiasm is tested during Invasion! as she must work to prove herself in the eyes of her new team mates but, thankfully, her drive and abilities are enough to win over even her most ardent doubters.

Barry and Ollie must subdue their friends when they fall under the Dominators’ control.

The tension is only exacerbated when Cisco pressures Barry to reveal the implications of Flashpoint to the team, which drives a wedge between them; while Kara still trusts Barry regardless, it’s only through a tough love pep talk from Oliver that Barry snaps out of his self-doubt and realises that he can still make a positive difference despite the mistakes of the past. Ultimately, these plot points converge somewhat when the Dominators force Oliver and Barry to fight their mind-controlled friends, wherein the unique and surprisingly effective teamwork of the two is enough to free them from the control of the Dominators.

Rene echoes Oliver’s mistrust of metahumans but comes to accept them in time.

The second part of the crossover, which takes part in season five, episode eight of Arrow (Bamford, 2016), is probably the weakest of the three since it doubles as an anniversary episode of Arrow; with Oliver trapped in a virtual reality dreamland, Team Arrow (Curtis Holt/Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum), Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), and Rory Regan/Ragman (Joe Dinicol)) work with Cisco and Felicity to figure out how to locate and free Oliver from his prison. Fittingly, given the largely more grounded and practical nature of Arrow, Rene echoes Oliver’s scepticism and distrust of metahumans but, nevertheless, agrees to pool their resources for the greater good just like Oliver.

Oliver is trapped in, and tempted by, the Dominators’ dream world.

Normally a grim, pragmatic, and focused individual, Oliver is overwhelmed by the fantasy world the Dominators have placed him into but, because of the horrors of his past and the trauma he has lived through, is quickly able to sense and recognise that he is living in a dream world. Despite being reunited with his mother (Susanna Thompson), father (Jamey Sheridan), and deceased former love, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Oliver ultimately chooses to reject the promise of a peaceful, “normal” life in favour of returning to his never-ending fight because he is driven to atone for both his sins and those of his father through his work as Green Arrow.

Ollie ultimately rejects the fantasy to return to his grim, never-ending vigilante mission.

Sadly, as heart-breaking as the Arrow-centric episode is (and as fun as it is to get cameos from Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough)), the focus on this dream world is a jarring left turn for Invasion! and seems more like a regular, standalone episode of Arrow rather than a continuation of a big crossover event. As a result, the Dominators and the larger plot basically disappear from the crossover until the very end of the episode in favour of focusing on reliving all of Arrow’s greatest moments and characters in celebration of the show’s 100th episode. While I’ve never been the biggest fan of Legends of Tomorrow, the final episode of Invasion! (Smith, 2016), which takes part in the seventh episode of Legends’ second series, at least gets the crossover back on track towards the larger Dominator plot.

While the Legends investigate 1951, Stein struggles with the implications of time travel.

After regrouping with the rest of the super friends, and returning to Lyla’s intel from the first episode, the team splits into groups, with one group travelling back to 1951 in the Waverider to interrogate a Dominator and another group staying behind to work on a way to defeat the Dominators with the resources they have. Interestingly, none of the primary superheroes travel with the Legends; this allows Heat Wave, Nate Heywood/Steel (Nick Zano), and Amaya Jiwe/Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) a chance to shine in battle with the Dominators while Cisco works through his aggro with Felicity and, back in the present, Stein attempts to adjust to the sudden appearance of a daughter (Christina Brucato) in his life after the events of “Pilot: Part 2” (Winter, 2016). This time-travel jaunt, and these concurrent plot threads, converge in the revelation of the Dominators’ physiology, capabilities, and true mission: the destruction of all metahuman life because the aliens have deemed them a threat.

Each character brings a different approach and skillset to the fight.

A couple of things that are generally quite consistent about the Arrowverse are the interactions between characters (which usually strikes just the right balance between humour and drama but, quite often, steps a bit far into one side or the other as the narrative demands) and the action and fight scenes. Each character fights and approaches battles in a different way, with the Flash being very innovative, Green Arrow utilising his hard-hitting and efficient martial arts, Supergirl ploughing ahead with her peerless strength, and each of the Legends showcasing equally unique strategies in battle (Atom uses his robotic suit, Canary her weapons and martial arts, Firestorm their nuclear powers, and so on). The result is a wide variety of individual personalities and abilities who, while often clashing, work really well together; the actors have a great rapport with one another (some more than others, like Barry, Oliver, and Kara, for example), which allows for some great moments of levity and drama, and it’s a thrill to see these colourful and distinct superheroes all coming together in the face of a greater threat.

Despite the bloated cast, the spirit of each show is evoked throughout the crossover.

I also really like that the conflicting dichotomies of each show is held intact; accordingly, Arrow’s Star City is ominous, dangerous, and constantly shown at night-time and characters like Oliver and Rene are stoic and distrustful, especially of metahumans since they (as in Team Arrow) are comprised, largely, of normal, non-powered individuals and somewhat resent the abilities of those with superpowers. Although none of Supergirl’s supporting cast make an appearance in this particular crossover, she brings an almost naïve and near-boundless enthusiasm and positivity despite the rough welcome she receives from some members of the cast. This is echoed in Barry and the more vibrant, colourful world of Central City, all of which are presented as a thematic parallel to Arrow throughout the Arrowverse. The controlled chaos of Legends of Tomorrow is similarly evoked; Legends has always focused more on the dysfunctional family dichotomy that the crew of the Waverider share as, while they’re all very distinct and opposing personalities, they are able to function as a time-travelling team and take their mission to police and protect time very seriously (even if they don’t necessarily act serious 100% of the time).

The Dominators are a formidable, if questionably rendered, force to be reckoned with.

However, one of the main things holding back Invasion!, much like many of the CW’s shows, are the special effects; for a television budget, the shows have always been ambitious and done pretty well, especially when it comes to costume design. Unfortunately, Invasion! decides to use CGI to render the Dominators rather than practical or more traditional effects, which does knock the quality of the crossover down quite a bit since they don’t hold up too well. The Dominators, for all their obscurity, make for a relatively formidable threat to bring the Arrowverse together; sporting advanced technology, mental capabilities, super strength, and a vicious, bloodthirsty nature, they are as cruel as they are fearsome, the Dominators are able to turn friends and allies against each other and place their victims into a virtual reality dream world in order to manipulate their thoughts and steal their knowledge.

The Summary:
For the first proper crossover between the Arrowverse shows, Invasion! is decent enough but a far cry from the crossover events that would follow; I think the main issue with the crossover is that it feels very rushed and clearly takes place in the middle of a number of unrelated and conflicting storylines for each character and show in the Arrowverse. As if the Arrow-centric episode wasn’t proof enough of this, the fact that Supergirl isn’t included with the crossover is and it all comes down to the simple problem of time. Later crossovers handled the placement and build-up of their crossovers a lot better, either purposely writing them to be standalone events or spending a great deal of time building up to them; Invasion!, though, is tonally all over the place, moving at a near breakneck pace and yet also being jarringly slow when it should be far more action-packed.

There’s not much to the Dominators but it’s a good enough excuse to unite the Arrowverse.

Still, it’s not bad for a first attempt; the Dominators may not be a particularly well-known threat in the DC universe but they serve their purpose here. Their design, while suffering from dodgy CGI, is ambitious, impressive, and suitably horrific and they are depicted as a significant threat. While we never really get a sense of their actual limits or power, they are certainly perceived as a force formidable enough to bring all these heroes together and even have Barry volunteer to sacrifice himself to end their threat. Their danger comes, mainly, from their intricate and advanced technology, their unique approach to warfare, and their sheer numbers, all of which hang over the crossover like an ominous cloud, making the Dominators as much an existential threat as an extra-terrestrial one. Essentially, they exist as the perfect excuse to bring together the Arrowverse super friends, so they’re mainly there just to be defeated (with an anti-climactic amount of ease, it has to be said) but at least they don’t operate on a hive mind, which is a refreshing change of pace.

Invasion! brought together the Arrowverse and cemented its version of the DC Trinity.

I’ve complained a bit about Invasion!’s conflicting focus and pace and, while that is an issue, it does allow the crossover to focus on something that is a big part of the Arrowverse: interpersonal drama. Despite the powers, abilities, and experience of each hero, these are all flawed and vulnerable characters and, if there’s one thing regular watching of the Arrowverse will teach you, it’s that our protagonists must learn new lessons about themselves, the world, and their team as much as they must battle against more tangible, often overwhelming, odds. The best thing about the crossover, beyond seeing all of these superheroes coming together for the first time, is the development of the Arrowverse Trinity (Kara, Barry, and Oliver), which would be the tentpole of further Arrowverse crossovers going forward and opened the door for so many new stories, characters, and possibilities which, as we’ll see in the coming weeks, the Arrowverse explored far deeper than I ever expected at the time.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

How did you find Invasion!? Which character, cameo, and part was your favourite? Which of the CW Arrowverse shows was your favourite and why? What did you think to the Dominators as a threat? Are there any DC characters you’d like to see used in the Arrowverse or, perhaps, get their own show? Did you ever read the comic book Invasion! is based upon and, if so, how do you feel the crossover handled the story? Which of the Arrowverse crossovers was your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Invasion!, and the Arrowverse in general, feel free to leave a comment below and check in again next Sunday as Crossover Crisis continues!

Screen Time: Batwoman (Season One)

BWLogo
Season One

Air Date: October 2019 to May 2020
UK Network: E4
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, and Dougray Scott

The Plot:
Three years after Bruce Wayne (Warren Christie) disappeared from Gotham City, taking his vigilante persona Batman with him, Kate Kane (Rose), Wayne’s cousin, returns to Gotham to confront her childhood demons and ends up becoming Gotham’s newest vigilante protector, Batwoman.

The Background:
Ever since the “Arrowverse” began with the first episode of Arrow (2012 to 2020), we have seen hints and references towards Gotham City and its resident bat-themed vigilante. Nowhere was this more explicit than in Arrow, where Oliver Queen/The Hood/The Arrow/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) mostly occupied himself not with being a left-wing protector of the socially handicapped and more with being a pseudo-Batman, adopting not only many of the Dark Knight’s more grim and stoic mannerisms but also the majority of his rogue’s gallery. By the time the Arrowverse eventually swelled to the point where they were actually able to pull off a pretty decent adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985 to 1986), things had changed quite considerably. Not only had an unconnected show, Gotham (2014 to 2019) delved into the origins of almost every one of Batman’s popular villains, Batman (Alain Moussi and Maxim Savarias) and Bruce Wayne (Iain Glen) had appeared and featured quite prominently in Titans (2018 to present) and, prior to the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (2019 to 2020) crossover, Kate Kane/Batwoman had been introduced in the CW’s previous crossover, “Elseworlds” (2018).

BWShadow
The Arrowverse has long been under the shadow of the Bat.

Unfortunately, like many other DC television projects, the Arrowverse is slightly handicapped by not currently being able to include Bruce Wayne or Batman in any direct capacity. I honestly feel like, were The CW allowed to use Batman, we would have gotten nine years of the Caped Crusader rather than the Emerald Archer but, despite this block (which, to be honest, makes no sense because of Titans and Gotham), the Arrowverse had been able to make sly nods to familiar elements of the Batman mythos. Kevin Conroy even appeared as an aged, disillusioned alternative version of Batman in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” but it’s safe to say that the shadow of the Bat loomed heavily over not just the Arrowverse but, somewhat obviously, over Batwoman especially.

The Review:
It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of Batman and, yet, I’ve struggled a bit with the way he’s represented in live-action. I got into Arrow quite late into its run but really came to resent how it transposed Batman’s characteristics and rogues onto Green Arrow, even though it worked in the context of the Arrowverse where Oliver’s more stoic and serious approach to crimefighting juxtaposed with the more optimistic approach of Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin). While I am also somewhat familiar with Batwoman from the comics, I can’t say I’m a massive expert on her beyond the basics and basically went into Batwoman hoping more for an interesting female-led superhero show. I couldn’t really get into Supergirl (2016 to present), despite how good Melissa Benoist looks and is as the titular Supergirl/Kara Danvers or the inspired decision to cast Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor in its later seasons; honestly, the show seemed to be filled with way too much sexual tension between Supergirl, her female co-stars, and basically between every female character in the show…which is weird as I never got that vibe from the male-led Arrowverse shows.

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Ruby Rose is great as a tough-as-nails Batwoman.

Batwoman, however, has the distinction of already being a lesbian character; not only that, she’s quite a guarded, tough character, meaning that the show is less about her desperately trying to repair failed relationships with her friends to the point where you suspect she is in love with them and more about her standing up, loud and proud, as being an equal to the men in her life. As such, Ruby Rose is a great choice for Kate Kane/Batwoman; she looks fantastic in the suit (when its shot in minimal lightning and kept in shadow), and has a tough-as-nails demeanour about her made all the more apparent by her signature snark, scowl, and abundance of tattoos. Unfortunately, like Supergirl, Batwoman faces many comparisons to Batman throughout the show; episodes are frequently intercut (and, in my view, ruined) by voiceovers from media gossip Vesper Fairchild (Rachel Maddow), who comments on Batwoman’s hair, wardrobe, and effectiveness compared to Batman and Kate is constantly asking Luke Fox (Johnson) for input on how Batman would handle certain situations (she even had to have her Batarangs “recalibrated” to account her for having shorter, weaker arms).

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Batwoman‘s main plot is adapted from the “Elegy” story.

Despite this, Kate is very much her own character; she never sought to become Batwoman and, instead, utilised a modified version of Bruce’s suit and technology to assist in her investigation into Alice (Skarsten), a mentally unstable maniac who themes her crimes after her namesake from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll, 1865). You might think having the show’s main villain being a knock-off of D-list Batman villain the Mad Hatter is a mistake but, it turns out, that the link between Batwoman and Alice was a big part of the “Elegy” (Rucka, et al, 2009 to 2010) storyline during Batwoman’s time in Detective Comics (1937 to present).

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The less said about this flashback the better…

As a result, the main plot of Batwoman focuses on Kate’s discovery that Alice is actually her long-lost, long-presumed-dead twin sister, Beth. Like Arrow, the story of Kate and Beth’s childhoods and pasts is told through flashbacks, through which we see how Batman (in broad daylight, the first of many issues this show has) failed to properly secure the car young Kate (Gracyn Shinyei) and Beth (Ava Sleeth) were in, resulting in the death of their mother and Beth ending up a prisoner of the sadistic August Cartwright/Dr. Ethan Campbell (John Emmet Tracy and Sebastian Roché) and forced to befriend his disfigured son, Jonathan Cartwright/Mouse (Sam Littlefield). Unfortunately, after only a few episodes, I kind of lost interest in Alice as a character and a villain; she’s just crazy for the sake of being crazy and is more annoying than anything, especially as she often flip-flops between being a full-on murderous sadist and being a scared girl desperate for help. As a villain, she’s just not that compelling and it gets very annoying how she is constantly captured, only to escape, or seems to be on the road to rehabilitation only to immediately do a 180 and Kate falls for her act every. single. time.

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Dougray Scott is a welcome addition to the cast.

Left mentally unbalanced by her time in captivity, Alice leads the Wonderland Gang in targeting her estranged father, Commander Jacob Kane (Scott); quite how Batwoman managed to snag Dougray Scott is beyond me but he’s a great addition to the show, lending a gravitas and feeling of professionalism that is sorely missing due to Batman, Alfred Pennyworth, and Commissioner James Gordon all being absent. Jacob heads up a private security agency known as the “Crows”; for all intents and purposes, they are Gotham’s police department as, while they work with the Gotham police, they’ve basically transplanted them in Batman’s absence. Scott has great chemistry with Rose; the two have a frosty relationship with many wrinkles and a lot of friction as Kate believes her father gave up on Beth and turned his attention to blaming, and hating, Batman instead. She also strives to be seen as an equal and beneficial to his cause, though repeatedly turns down his offers to join the Crows as she comes to accept her role as Batwoman. Eventually, their relationship improves but his views and opinions on Batwoman begin to sour, with the season ending with Kane declaring all-out war on Batwoman and any who aid and abet her.

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Kate and Sophie’s sexual tension is a major part of Batwoman.

Rounding out the cast, and the drama, is Kate’s ex Sophie Moore (Mandy), who denied all knowledge of their same-sex affair in order to graduate from military academy and join the Crows. Kate is heartbroken when she returns to Gotham and finds Sophie married to fellow Crows agent Tyler (Greyston Holt) and much of the show’s wonky relationship drama hinges on their “will-they, won’t-they” back and forth as Kate attempts to move on to other relationships and finds a decent distraction in her vigilante activities. This becomes more complicated when Sophie’s relationship breaks down after her past with Kate is revealed to Tyler and when Sophie inexplicably becomes attracted to Batwoman (who publically outs herself as a lesbian, thus becoming instantly attractive to all lesbians).

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Julia is pretty and bad-ass but ends up being a bit of a stereotype.

The seeds for this were planted a few episodes in with the inclusion of Alfred’s little-know-of daughter, Julia Pennyworth (Christina Wolfe), a semi-cockney, bad-ass spy who Kate has a past sexual relationship with, because if it’s one thing that is true across not only the Arrowverse but all fictional television, all gay people are immediately and uncontrollably attracted to each other. This is exemplified further when Julie starts making semi-regular appearances; circumstances see her working alongside Sophie and growing closer to her and, of course, a sexual relationship builds between them.

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Alice drives a wedge between Kate and her step-sister, Mary.

We’ve also got Kate’s younger stepsister, Mary Hamilton (Kang), who operates perhaps the most well-known illegal clinic where she treats castaways from Gotham’s hospitals and basically functions as Batwoman’s medical support as the show goes on. Once Alice is revealed to be Beth, Mary and Kate’s relationship begins to suffer and comes to a breaking point after Alice fatally poisons Mary’s mother (and Kate’s stepmother), Katherine Hamilton-Kane (Elizabeth Anweis), and she dies in Mary’s arms. Kate is then torn between her desire to both reach Beth, bring Alice to justice, repairing her relationship with Mary, and the fact that Alice has ensured that Jacob is framed for the crime, which shakes the city’s faith in the Crows and has them clamouring for Batwoman instead. Eventually, however, Mary figures out Kate’s dual identity and feels slighted for some time at her step-sister keeping her in the dark about her actions; this relaxes somewhat after she is officially let in on the secret and then desperately tries to become part of Kate’s Bat-Team. Honestly, far too many people find out Kate’s identity over the course of the season, which really compromises her integrity as Batwoman for me.

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Batwoman becomes a media sensation thanks, in part, to her brief association with “Slam” Bradley.

As a result, Batwoman becomes a far more public figure than I am honestly comfortable with for a Bat-branded vigilante. It is very heavily implied that Batman was just as publically celebrated and the subject of news reports but Batwoman straight-up ends up plastered all over social media and even explicitly outs herself as gay when the city begins to “ship” her with Samuel “Slam” Bradley (Kurt Szarka), an attractive hero cop who makes a brief appearance. Other characters from the Arrowverse also appear in the series’ tie-in to the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover which, honestly was the only reason I actually watched this show week to week.

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Batwoman‘s Bat-Signal is pretty pathetic.

Moving on from the casting, I have to talk about the show’s aesthetic; first, while the Bat-Signal is present, it has to be the lamest iteration I’ve ever seen. Normally, it’s this massive floodlight but, in Batwoman, it’s this piddling little thing that looks like it’s struggle to light a hallway much less cast the iconic Bat embalm into the night sky. Second, like Arrow, much of Batwoman takes place in cityscapes. This means there’s a lot of offices, conveniently abandoned warehouses, and scenes that take place on the city streets. Despite the fact that Gotham has been without Batman for three years, the city has, arguably, never looked cleaner and more well-kept; similar to how Gotham appeared flawless during the daytime scenes of The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008), Batwoman’s Gotham seems like a relatively safe place to life for the most part. This is implied to be because of the presence of the Crows and the convenient absence of Gotham’s more colourful super criminals but, still, I kind of expect my Gotham to be just as dark and dirty as Star City was in Arrow, which was rarely ever shown in the daytime.

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Batwoman‘s Batcave is like an updated version of the 1960’s ‘cave.

Speaking of Arrow, like all of her fellow Arrowverse cohorts, Batwoman has a secret base of operations where she can suit up and monitor events in the city. You might have heard of it; it’s called the Batcave. Batwoman’s Batcave, though, is perhaps the cleanest and most simplified version of the ‘cave I’ve ever seen. Even the Arrow’s Arrowcave, with all its obnoxious high-tech furnishings, looked more like a Batcave than Batwoman’s, which seems to be a cross between the Bat-bunker from The Dark Knight and the iconic Batcave from the 1960’s Batman television series (1966 to 1968) with its sixties-style flashing lights and terminals (it even has a little toy Tyrannosaurs rex which, to be honest, is a nice little allusion to the impractically gigantic T-Rex Bruce likes to keep in he Batcave).

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Luke adapts the Batsuit to fit Kate’s…specifications…

Luke Fox practically lives in the ‘cave, functioning as Batwoman’s tech support and “guy in the chair”; you’d think this would be a great way to introduce the wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon/Oracle and inject some sexual tension between her and Kate but, instead, we have a hybrid of Lucius Fox and Alfred. In the comics, Luke became the Bat-themed vigilante Batwing and I wouldn’t be surprised if Luke doesn’t take up this codename at some point in the show’s run; hell, if Jimmy (sorry, “James”) Olson (Mehcad Brooks) can suit up as the vigilante Guardian over on Supergirl than anything is possible. While Fox is initially relegated to Batwoman’s tech support (developing her gadgets and suit, monitoring and communicating with her when she’s out in the field, and so forth), he gets a bit more focus as more and more people join their team and, especially, when he feels compelled to confront the man who killed his father (yeah, Lucius Fox is also dead in this series…) right when Kate is struggling with having taken a life. Fox is apparently some kind of genius as Batwoman’s suit is apparently so sophisticated that it’s full of technology that monitors her heartbeat, oxygen levels, and all kinds of stuff that I find difficult to believe is weaved into a far more form-fitting outfit than anything Batman is known to wear. Initially, Kate wears a modified version of the standard Batsuit as she takes to the streets and is thought to be Batman but, after she sees all the good she’s doing and the hope she’s bringing, she has Fox alter it further to include a wig and her signature red colouring and is officially announced as Batwoman.

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The Bats are publicly celebrated as heroes and saviours rather than myths.

This is one of the things I actually have an issue with in the show; when Batwoman was introduced in “Elseworlds”, Batman was a myth so powerful that even Oliver Queen didn’t believe that he was real. Jump over to Batwoman, though, and not only is Batman openly the subject of media gossip and coverage, he’s a widely known and celebrated hero of Gotham City. The Crows, especially Jacob, despise Batman for his anonymity and for abandoning the city and even Kate was distrustful of the Caped Crusader until she found out who he was; once she did, she was inspired by his legacy and began continuing Bruce’s journals to chronicle her own journey. My issue here is the idea of Batman as a “hero”; as I prefer Batman to be an urban legend, feared by criminals, distrusted by the police, and a figure of mystery to the general public, something about gossip columnists openly discussing his methods and the entire city acknowledging his presence and celebrating him as they would the Flash rubs me the wrong way. Even Arrow handled this aspect of its titular vigilante better, with Oliver’s hooded alter ego not really being publically acknowledged or celebrated for some years so it’s a bit weird for me to see Gotham’s citizens “crying out” for their hero’s return.

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Bruce designed a gun to stop his own Batsuit...

And then there’s Batwoman’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne; through dialogue with Fox, Kate learns more about Bruce’s motivations, how he handled the burden of his duel identity, and the reasons behind him walking away from Batman and Gotham. To begin with, Bruce/Batman is almost this mythic figure, some lofty ideal that Kate can only dream to live up to, much less match. But then some cracks begin to form, the first being when Fox reveals that Bruce commissioned the creation of a gun that could penetrate the Batsuit, with the implication being that, were his technology to fall into the wrong hands, Bruce would be happy to kill the perpetrator. The second, and most egregious, is the revelation later in the series that Bruce quit being Batman after he killed the Joker (here also referred to as Jack Napier).

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Kate ends up choking a maniac to death.

Let that sink in for a second: Batman was not only willing to kill to stop someone who stole his Batsuit, he also killed the Joker, and felt he had to quit being Batman because of it. While I don’t actually mind Batman killing, it’s unsettling when so much emphasis is put on Bruce’s uncompromising moral standing only to throw it all away by him creating a gun and killing his greatest enemy. Worse still is that Fox only reveals this to Kate after she has strangled August Cartwright to death for what he did to her sister and mother. Now, again, I don’t mind Batman killing under the right circumstances; I grew up with Michael Keaton’s fantastically haunting portrayal of the character so I’m used to a Batman who is willing to cross the line now and then and fully believe that, in his line of work, casualties and fatalities are bound to happen. It’s also worth noting that Batwoman is a former soldier and, especially in the comics, is not adverse to killing when it’s absolutely necessary. Over the space of three episodes or so, though, Kate struggles with her actions in a way that, again, Oliver Queen never really did; when he first returned to Star City, Oliver killed specific targets and his enemies without a second’s thought. Later on, he tried to “do better” by not killing but easily went back to shooting arrows through people’s hearts not long after and he’s no less a hero for it, so why would Batwoman (or Batman, for that matter) be?

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Batwoman wasn’t too shaken when she killed the alternate Bruce Wayne…

Still, Batman’s code against killing is an important aspect of the character and going against that is always going to ruffle a few feathers; it also seems like a really lame, super easy excuse to write Bruce/Batman out of the show. It’s also worth noting that it was taking a life that led to the aged Bruce becoming a remorseless killer in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and that Kate killed him (whether by accident or design) during a fight and showed very little remorse over this.

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Batwoman featured a few of Batman’s D-list rogues.

Moving on, though, the show features a small selection of Batman’s D-list rogues; though she has no ties to the Mad Hatter, Alice’s mere presence alludes to his existence; the Joker, as mentioned, is disappointingly dead; and a version of the Executioner (Jim Pirri) also appears. Being that this is a female-led show, and a lot of the show’s plot is focused on female empowerment, there are a few female villains in Batwoman (the oft-forgotten Magpie (Rachel Matthews) and Nocturna (Kayla Ewell), for example) but most episodes revolve around Alice in some way, shape, or form, and her efforts to get revenge on Kate and her father and temptation towards redemption.

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Hush eventually makes an appearance.

Thomas Elliot (Gabriel Mann) also shows up early in the season as a friend and rival of Bruce’s but is quickly revealed to have deduced Bruce’s identity as Batman and to be as crazy as a bag of cats so he ends up in Arkham Asylum. Thankfully, though, Batwoman is full of face transplants and glorified plastic surgeons and, through the influence of Alice and Mouse, Elliot breaks out of Arkham, gets his face sliced off, and ends up wrapped up in bandages and taking on the persona of Hush. Unfortunately, though, Elliot is both just another crazy guy and another rich guy in a suit, so he’s far from the physical or intellectual threat as the comic book Hush, though the season does end with a massive cliff-hanger as Elliot applied a patchwork skin to his face to assume Bruce Wayne’s identity.

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Batwoman‘s fights are decent enough, when they actually happen.

Something Batwoman likes to employ, for whatever reason, is the implementation of licensed songs to punctuate its more dramatic (read: soap opera) moments. Songs like these may have fit into teen dramas like Smallville (2001 to 2011) but they seem massively out of place in a Bat-centric show. Luckily, Batwoman takes its lead more from Arrow for its action sequences and fight scenes; generally, episodes will open with some kind of chase, kill, or action sequence. Kate (and/or Jacob) will then investigate something, or have some kind of confrontation, and then she’ll hit the streets as Batwoman, maybe take out some goons, before working towards a finale against whomever is the main threat of the episode. Fight scenes are far more hands on and up close and personal than in Arrow, though, as Batwoman favours hand-to-hand combat over a bow and arrow. Like Green Arrow, Kate masks her voice with a voice synthesiser, which I always prefer over the idea of the Bat-characters putting on a voice (despite how good these voices have been), but this doesn’t stop multiple characters guessing or knowing her identity within only six episodes.

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The Summary:
Ultimately, the season started off quite well and had a lot of promise but fell off a cliff very quickly; after a few episodes, Batwoman becomes very formulaic, makes some questionable decisions regarding Batman’s legacy and the inclusion (or exclusion) of famous Bat­-characters, and ended on a massive cliff-hanger that, by the looks of it, we either won’t get resolved in a second season or it will be significantly different because of the behind the scenes shenanigans. After flip-flopping about a hundred times, Alice decides she hates Kate and Batwoman as they betrayed her and got her locked up in Arkham Asylum. Thankfully, she makes fast friends with Thomas Elliot, who has snapped and basically believes Bruce Wayne to be his best friend, and she and Mouse concoct a bizarre plan to cut off Elliot’s face (and have him disguise himself ((because face transplants are super easy and impossibly convincing in Batwoman)) so they can get out of there. The remainder of the season focuses on Alice trying to acquire, and then decode, Lucius’ journal so she find out how to penetrate the Bat-Suit and kill Batwoman…despite the fact that she had a means to do this earlier in the season.

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Batwoman ends on quite a cliffhanger that will probably have a poor resolution in Season Two.

In a contrivance that makes my head spin, it turns out the Kate’s suit is so incredibly bullet proof that the only thing in the world that can penetrate it (beyond the special bullet introduced earlier in the season that the writers forget about) is…Kryptonite. This presents a problem as Supergirl (whom Batwoman has a very rushed but quite charming, friendship with) entrusted Kate with a shard of Kryptonite to use against her if she ever went rogue. Although Luke compresses the only other shard into powder, Alice is heartbroken when she is forced to kill Mouse as he threatens to leave without her and swears to kill Kate once and for all. This coincides with Elliot assuming the role of Bruce Wayne and Jacob’s vow to end the Bat infestation in Gotham City to keep vigilantes from supplanting his organisation and leaves Batwoman on a massive cliff-hanger but most likely will get swept under the carpet when the series returns to television. I was interested in Batwoman for a couple of reasons: first, I wanted to see the second part of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and the legendary Kevin Conroy as a live-action Bruce Wayne and, second, I was interested to finally see a Bat-themed show as part of the Arrowverse. Unfortunately, despite some decent casting, action sequences, and costume design, Batwoman started to lose me around the third episode (basically the moment it was revealed that Bruce had developed that Batsuit-ending gun).

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Seriously, these two need to just get a room!

It wasn’t as annoying as Supergirl or as pointless as DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to 2020) but it’s still not on the same level as The Flash (2014 to present) or even Arrow; I pretty much only dip in and out of Legend of Tomorrow because they made the smart decision to put John Constantine (Matt Ryan) on the team and completely gave up on Supergirl after the show devoted all of its runtime to Kara desperately trying to repair her relationship with Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), which descended to the point of parody when it seemed like they were desperately in love with each other but in vehement denial over it. Yet, I feel the same thing is going to happen with Batwoman; it wasn’t as explicit with its comparisons of Batwoman to Batman or at pushing its pro-female agenda, so it’s much easier to watch than Supergirl, but a lot of its narrative decisions were questionable. Not having Bruce Wayne/Batman in the show really hurts it, in my opinion; this would have been a great opportunity to combine the Arrowverse series with Titans and have Iain Glen reprise his role in an older, mentor role after being incapacitated. Instead, Bruce is just…gone and, while his retirement kind of worked for Nolan’s films, it never sits well with me when Batman just gives up his life-long crusade. And what about Dick Grayson? Jason Todd? Tim Drake? All the rest of Batman’s cast of characters, both friend and enemy? Where are all of them in this world? The questions Batwoman raise far overshadow any of its positives and I can’t say that Batwoman really impressed me in its first season and, considering that Ruby Rose has decided to walk away from the show and the role will be completely recast and supplanted, I doubt that it’ll be a suitable replacement for Arrow, no matter how many seasons it runs for.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Terrible

What did you think of season one of Batwoman? Are you interested in seeing subsequent seasons and appearances by Ruby Rose in the Arrowverse or would you rather the CW pulled the plug on this show? What are your thoughts on the way Batwoman handled the portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Gotham City? Whatever you think about Batwoman and the Arrowverse, feel free to leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Super-Suits

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With over eighty years of continuous publication behind him, it’s no surprise that, over the many years and through numerous alternate realities and reality-shattering Crises, Superman has gone through more than a few wardrobe changes. Initially debuting in what amounted to a traditional strongman costume, Superman soon adopted the iconic “S” shield to uphold his values of “truth, justice, and the American way” but has, over time, mixed up his colour scheme about as often as he’s developed strange new powers. Today, I’m going to go through ten of my favourite looks for Superman; a lot of these featured solely in out-of-continuity tales or were worn by Supermen from parallel Earths but some were, however briefly, an actual part of Superman’s canon.

10 The Black Recovery Suit

Superman’s black suit first appeared right at the conclusion of the “Reign of the Superman” (Jurgens, et al, 1993) storyline, the conclusion to the infamous “Death of Superman” (ibid, 1992 to 1993) storyline. After the Man of Steel was beaten to death by Doomsday, his body was placed into a Kryptonian regeneration chamber, which restored his cells to life and, when he emerged, he was forced to wear this suit while his powers recovered. Honestly, this was just an excuse to get Superman’s mullet on the list but I also dig the simplicity of this suit (and I always love a black variant); it’s just plain black with a silver symbol. It also lacks a cape, giving Superman a far more streamlined and serious look that, considering all of Superman’s replacements bore dramatically different suits of their own, cast more doubt on the identity of this new Superman. The suit made a brief return in Countdown to Final Crisis (Dini, et al, 2007 to 2008), when it was worn by Superman-Prime, and was donned by the pre-Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) when he showed up (rocking a beard!) to replace the crappy New 52-Superman (whose suit will, spoilers, not be making this list), and was also set to appear in Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) before Warner Bros. re-edited the film.

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9 Speeding Bullets

Bit of a cheat here as this suit was worn a violent and brutal version of Kal-El who was raised by Thomas and Martha Kent and, thus, is actually a composite of Superman and Batman who leans far more into Batman’s characterisation than Superman’s. Still, this is a great combination of the Bat- and Super-Suits, featuring a cowl that covers Kal’s entire head and a amalgamated version of both character’s iconic emblems. If you’re a bit annoyed by me basically using a Batman suit on a Superman list, there was a more traditional Super-Suit featured in this story right at the end, when Kal is convinced to turn away from the darkness and be a symbol of hope. But, as this is a dreadful looking costume that looks way too much like the awful Injustice suit (NetherRealm Studios, 2013; 2017).

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8 Lantern Superman

Let’s face it: any time Superman gets a power ring, we are treated to an awesome variation of his suit. Whether it’s in an alternate reality where Superman operates as Green Lantern (and sports a lovely white cape and an amalgamated “G”/Green Lantern symbol), or the original, super-powerful, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985 to 1986) Superman, Kal-L being reanimated as a zombified Black Lantern in Blackest Night (Johns, et al, 2009 to 2010), or Superman-Prime joining the Sinestro Corps, there’s something about mixing Superman’s suit with the Lantern’s attire that always results in gold. Superman’s also been decked out as a dazzling beacon of triumph as a White Lantern and we’ve even seen a glimpse of what his suit could look like spewing blood from his mouth during Supergirl’s brief stint as a Red Lantern. Hands down, my favourite is the Black Lantern Superman though; there’s just something about a zombified Superman in a black suit with a tattered cape that is really striking to me, like all of his values and morals have been cast aside in favour of ripping hearts from chests.

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7 Overman / Red Son

I’m lumping these two together as I honestly cannot pick between the two; both suits were worn by alternative versions of Superman who were raised and indoctrinated with anti-American principles, making for a complete reversal of Superman’s traditionally patriotic views. Overman, a Nazi version of Superman, appeared during the God-awful Final Crisis (Morrison, et al, 2008 to 2009) event, while the communist version most famously appeared in Superman: Red Son (Millar, et al, 2003). Both wear a fascist symbol in place of the traditional “S” and favoured big buckles on their belts and a darker, subdued colour scheme, with Overman’s costume fittingly being reminiscent of the Schutzstaffel  uniform.

6 The Dark Side

Continuing the theme of alternative versions of Superman raised by tyrannical dictators, Superman: The Dark Side (Moore, et al, 1998) presented a version of Superman raised by Darkseid to be a ruthless soldier in the New Gods’ war against the peaceful New Genesis. Once again sporting a corrupted version of the “S” symbol (which was almost exactly the same as the Schutzstaffel symbol, something that, ironically, even Overman was missing…), Dark Side’s Superman had a haircut you could set your watch to, and a fittingly grim and stoic personality that was more akin to Darkseid’s actual son, Orion. He was also decked out in sweet jet-black armour forged from the fire pits of Apokolips, carried a sword and had no compunction about slaughtering his enemies without mercy in the name of his dark overlord.

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5 Superman Prime (DC One Million)

The Superman Prime (not to be confused with his genocidal counterpart of the same name) that appears in DC One Million (Morrison, et al, 1998) has lived for so long thanks to his Kryptonian physiology that he’s seen all his friends and family die. Despondent, he left Earth in the care of his heir, travelled the universe for a few centauries, and eventually went into self-imposed exile in the centre of the sun. Unlike the previous Super-Suits, this Superman is a glowing, golden beacon of hope and serenity; his powers amplified to almost God-like levels, this Superman is decked out entirely in gold to match his new divine stature.

4 Brutaal (Earth-2)

This version of Superman is a Bizarro-like clone engineered by Darkseid to mirror his Earth-2 counterpart, Val-Zod (another contender for this list) in very way…except for being absolutely ruthless and lacking in mercy. Very much like by his Dark Side incarnation, Brutaal stands out by wearing a suit that closely resembles versions of the Eradicator or Cyborg-Superman, favouring a largely black-and-red colour scheme (that just works for alternative, evil takes on Superman) and some wicked chains to hold his cape in place.

3 Electric Superman

Probably the most controversial choice for this list, in the late-nineties, DC Comics apparently decided that Superman needed a complete shake-up (despite the fact that he’d already returned from the dead!) and had him transform into a purely energy-based lifeform. He could now travel at the speed of light, emit energy blasts, and become incorporeal but also (for some inexplicable reason) would become completely human when he transformed back into Clark Kent! As if this wasn’t mental enough, he was then split into two beings, a red variant and a blue one, each with different personalities! None of this changes the fact, though, that the suit he wore during this time was awesome! Lacking a cape and featuring a streamlined design comprised of blue (…or red) and white and a new, more radical logo. Honestly, I feel like the suit’s design and Superman’s new powers were pretty great…just maybe not suitable for Superman. This suit actually cropped up again in the early-2000s when it was worn by Strange Visitor (Sharon Vance) but I would love to see it recycled for the likes of the Eradicator, who’s always been more energy-based in his powers anyway.

2 Rebirth / Man of Steel

After subjecting us to a God-awful characterisation of Superman throughout the five years or so of the “New 52” reboot, DC Comics finally saw sense and killed off that jerk and ditched his dreadful quasi-armoured costume in favour of not only the definitive version of Superman (pre-Flashpoint, of course) but also a far more traditional version of the Super-Suit. This suit, largely reminiscent of the equally-fantastic costume worn by Henry Cavill in the DC Extended Universe movies (Various, 2013 to present) took all the dramatic changes made by the New 52 suit and merged them with Superman’s more traditional styling. This meant that Kal again ditched the red trunks and yellow belt but also dropped the overly busy and unnecessarily detailed nature of the New 52 suit. Eventually, the trunks and the red boots would make a return but, either way, for a modern take on the classic Super-Suit, they don’t get much better than this.

1 Kingdom Come

For me, the definitive alternative version of the Super-Suit is the one designed by Alex Ross in the gorgeous and seminal Kingdom Come (Waid, et al, 1996). Taking place on Earth-22, where Superman has largely separated himself from humanity, which has begun to favour more aggressive superheroes, this Superman sports not only a streak of white hair but also a sleek, traditional Super-Suit with one noticeable different: a diagonal line against a black background in place of the traditional red-and-yellow “S” shield. It’s a small change but one that speaks volumes of this Superman’s current mindset; he’s lost faith in humanity and is in mourning. This costume has endured over the years, inspiring numerous revisions of Superman’s costume (generally whenever depicting an elderly or despondent version of Kal) but, most notably, the Earth-22 Superman later paid a visit to the mainstream DC universe to team with the Justice Society, Superman adopted a very similar version of this shield after the “Our Worlds at War” (Loeb, et al, 2001) storyline, and even prominently featured in the Crisis on Infinite Earths (Various, 2019 to 2020) crossover event that saw Brandon Routh reprise his role from Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) wearing an incredibly faithful rendition of this iconic outfit for his portrayal of a similarly-beleaguered version of Superman.

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Which Super-Suit is your favourite? Did it make the list or was there one I missed? What do you look for in a Super-Suit? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on what makes the quintessential Super-Suit.

Back Issues: Whatever Happened to Kyle Rayner!?

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Ah, the nineties! What a time to be alive for comic book fans! We saw Clark Kent/Superman die and be replaced by four imposters before returning…with a mullet! We saw Bruce Wayne/Batman get his back broken and be replaced with a Frank Castle/Punisher-like nutjob. We saw Arthur Curry/Aquaman get his hand bitten off by piranhas and replaced…with a harpoon! And we saw Hal Jordan, the premier Green Lantern, go mental, kill a bunch of his fellows, and take on an antagonistic role as Parallax. Yet, the legacy of Green Lantern lived on in a new, young, sexy replacement who was to take the title in a bold new direction; a character who, though he exists today, is a shadow of his former self, prompting me to ask…

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DC Comics like to paint Hal Jordan as the greatest Green Lantern that ever lived; literally almost every time the character appears, text boxes, character dialogue, or story events are geared towards this agenda. This was especially obvious in 1992 when, after being replaced buy Guy Gardner, Jordan decided that he had had enough of bitching, moaning, and moping about and forced Guy to relinquish the Green Lantern power ring and reclaim his mantle.

Hal, the Green Lantern golden boy, was devastated by Coast City’s destruction.

This was sold to us as a miraculous return; characters, including Guy’s Justice League teammates, openly gushed at Hal reclaiming the mantle and trashed Guy; I mean, sure, Guy was no saint and was a massive pain in the ass, but for everyone to talk so much shit about him was jarring. Things went from bad to worse, however, when Mongul and Hank Henshaw/Cyborg-Superman obliterated Hal’s home town, Coast City, during the ‘Reign of the Supermen’ arc that saw Superman return to life. Hal, unable to cope with the loss of his friends and family, tried to recreate the city and was admonished by the Guardians of the Universe. Incensed at what he saw was a betrayal after years of loyal service, ‘Emerald Twilight’ saw Hal fly to Oa, relieving multiple Green Lanterns of their rings, killed Kilowog and Thaal Sinestro (later revealed to be an illusion), and absorbed the entire power of the Central Power Battery. This immediately depowered every Green Lantern in the universe (it is implied that the majority of them died, though this was also later retconned) and transformed Hal into Parallax.

Kyle was severely tested at the start of his career.

While Parallax went out into the cosmos to acquire yet more power and would eventually attempt to rewrite all of time itself in Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (Jurgens, et al, 1994), the last remaining Guardian, Ganthet, travelled to Earth and, seemingly at random, presented the last power ring to the first person he saw: Kyle Rayner. Kyle, a young freelance artist, was initially characterised as being cocky and irresponsible; a rookie who received no training or instruction, he struggled to get to grips with his newfound power and responsibility. Attacked by enemies of Jordan’s who mistook him for the former Green Lantern, Kyle endured a trial by fire made all the more testing when Clifford Zmeck/Major Force infamously killed his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, and stuffed her into a refrigerator! For a long time, this was a constant source of guilt and angst for Kyle; it seemed that he would openly mention it to anybody at the drop of a hat, even amidst battling Parallax, saving the universe, and joining perhaps the strongest incarnation of the Justice League ever. In time, though, Kyle was able to master his emotions and his power; unlike other Green Lanterns, Kyle’s ring did not carry a weakness to yellow (later revealed to be because the weakness was a result of Parallax being imprisoned within the Central Power Battery), did not need to be recharged, and could only be used by him, which effectively made him the most powerful Green Lantern ever seen at that point.

Despite making a name for himself, Kyle was constantly overshadowed by Hal.

As part of the Justice League, Kyle struck up friendships with Wally West/The Flash and Connor Hawke/Green Arrow, just as Jordan had been friends with Barry Allen and Oliver Queen in the past, and voted to keep BruceWayne/Batman (one of his strongest supporters) in the Justice League following the ‘Tower of Babel’ storyline in 2000. As his career progressed entered into a romantic relationship with Alan Scott’s daughter, Jade, and evolved into a leader when he fought off the Circle of Fire. After Parallax sacrificed himself to reignite the Sun in the ‘Final Night’ storyline, Kyle received a massive power boost and was rechristened Ion. Wielding God-like powers, he eventually restored Oa, the Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe, and the Green Lantern Corps in order to relieve himself of the burden of his newfound powers. Restored to a regular Green Lantern, but still unrestricted by the yellow impurity or the need to recharge, went from being the last of the Green Lanterns, and a God, to be one of many Green Lanterns. His status was further damaged when writer Geoff Johns took over the Green Lantern title and orchestrated Hal Jordan’s return in the ‘Rebirth’ storyline; Jordan, who had since become the Spectre, was absolved of all his previous crimes by the revelation that Parallax is actually a parasitic fear entity that latched onto his soul and drove him to evil. Thanks to the efforts of Kyle, Guy (who also had his recent years of messy writing undone), and John Stewart, Jordan returned to life as a Green Lantern once more and promptly took over the Green Lantern title.

Kyle has assumed a number of different forms and identities over the years.

Despite transforming back into Ion during Infinite Crisis (Johns, et al, 2006) following Jade’s death, Kyle was possessed by Parallax during the ‘Sinestro Corps War’ storyline and continued to operate as just one of four (five, if you count Alan Scott) Earth-based Green Lanterns, even after being promoted to ‘Honour Guard’ status. He even found his very existence branded as an anomaly during ‘Countdown’ and ‘Countdown to Final Crisis’ and spent most of 2007 bouncing around the Multiverse with little rhyme or reason. He found himself on the frontlines during Blackest Night (ibid, 2010), which saw Jade restored to life, and sacrificed himself to destroy a bunch of Black Lanterns. He, too, was restored to life and, during War of the Green Lanterns (ibid, 2011) assumed the role of a Blue Lantern after Parallax infected the Green Lantern rings. Unfortunately for him, Blue Lanterns are pretty useless; they only real do anything when Green Lanterns are around, making him the weakest of the rag-tag group (obviously led by Jordan) that stood against the renegade Guardian, Krona. As much as I hate to praise it, The New 52 actually returned some semblance of importance to Kyle; while Sinestro and Jordan dominated the main Green Lantern titles like it was the late-eighties, Kyle was the focus of the New Guardians title. When power rings from all the different corps are drawn to him, Kyle goes on a universe-spanning pilgrimage to master the entire emotional spectrum and once again reaches the levels of God-hood he enjoyed as Ion by becoming a White Lantern. Oddly, The New 52 also put Kyle in a romantic relationship with Jordan’s long-term love interest, the Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, which only further bogged his character down with unnecessary ties to Jordan’s legacy. It wasn’t to last, though, it soon became apparent that the powers of the White Lantern were too much for any one person to wield and, as of Rebirth, Kyle has returned to being a lowly Green Lantern.

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What the hell is this nonsense!?

It gets worse for Kyle outside of the comics; although his name and profession were used, he looked exactly like Hal Jordan when he appeared in Superman: The Animated Series, and even had Hal’s origin! With John Stewart acting as Green Lantern in Justice League, Kyle was relegated to brief cameos and bit-parts in Justice League: Unlimited. While Stewart is generally included as an alternative costume for Hal in various DC videogames, this luxury is rarely afforded to Kyle; he appears as a skin in Justice League Heroes (Snowblind Studios/Warner Bros. Games, 2006) and is featured in DC Universe Online (Daybreak Game Company/WB Games, 2011) and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Traveller’s Tales, 2014) but barely gets a mention in the Injustice (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013; 2017) videogames due to being unceremoniously killed off in the prequel/tie-in comic books. I remember, many moons ago, reading an article in Wizard around the same time that the ‘Emerald Twilight’ storyline happened; whomever was being interviewed at DC said something along the lines of “DC reserve the right to not give their characters happy endings” and basically said “Hal is evil; Kyle is Green Lantern – deal with it!” as I mentioned, DC was all about major character changes in the nineties; Wally West had become the Flash following Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985), Dick Grayson became Nightwing in the ‘Judas Contract’ storyline, and Tim Drake succeeded him as Robin, in addition to the aforementioned Connor Hawke and even Roy Harper progressing to Arsenal.

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A generation of heroes doomed to obscurity and irrelevance.

Kyle was supposed to be the next in line of these young new legacy heroes; his costume was bold and striking, a far cry from the regimental style favoured by most Green Lanterns, and his constructs were often infused with manga and anime imagery. As a young, untested hero, Kyle made reading Green Lantern was perfect for newcomers at the time who got to learn about the Green Lantern mythos through fresh eyes. However, once DC’s editors and writing staff switched hands and decided that they wanted to bring back Silver Age characters like Barry Allen and Wally West, the writing was on the wall for characters like Kyle. Once the sole Green Lantern and the figurehead for the Corps, Kyle was relegated to being just another face in a sea of green once Hal came back; even his costume and haircut changed and became far less interesting.

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You’ll always be my Green Lantern, Kyle!

For my money, DC massively dropped the ball by not keeping Kyle bonded with Ion and carrying that codename; at least then Kyle would have been set apart from Hal Jordan and the other Green Lanterns. In these modern times, where we have a Corps for every colour of the emotional spectrum, there really is no excuse for Kyle, Hal, Guy, John, and newcomers like Simon Baz to all be Green Lanterns. I would have kept Kyle as the White Lantern, Guy as a Red Lantern, and John as an Indigo Lantern if only to mix things up and keep everyone different and relevant. Instead, with Hal still at the forefront of the Green Lantern titles and constantly being branded by DC writers, editors, and characters as the greatest Green Lantern of all time, there doesn’t seem to be any room for Kyle these days. Once upon a time, DC vowed that characters like Kyle and Wally were the new standard but, now, they’re pale imitations living in the shadow of the apparently far superior Silver Age counterparts and that’s just sad for people like me, who grew up in the nineties reading about Kyle’s adventures and growing attached to his character, rather than that of Hal Jordan.