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!

Back Issues [JLA Day]: The Brave and the Bold #28


To celebrate the release of Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017), DC Comics named November 18 “Justice League Day”. Sadly, this clashes with another pop culture holiday but, setting aside all the drama surrounding that movie, this still provides a perfect excuse to dedication some time to talking about DC’s premier superhero team, which set the standard for super teams in comics by bringing together DC’s most powerful heroes.


Story Title: “Starro the Conqueror!”
Published: 29 December 1959 (cover-dated March 1960)
Writer: Gardner Fox
Artist: Mike Sekowsky

The Background:
All Star Comics (1940/1941), brought together eight superheroes from a number of different publishers for the first time as the Justice Society of America (JSA). This not only heralded the birth of the first ever superhero team in comics but also allowed readers to see their favourite characters interacting all for the same price as reading any one comic. The JSA’s roster expanded and changed over the years but the team underwent their most significant change when, in the late 1950s, then-editor Julius Schwartz asked writer Gardner Fox to reintroduce and rebrand the team as the Justice League of America (JLA) to capitalise on the popularity of the American Football League and Major League Baseball’s National League.

Taking over from the JSA, the JLA became one of the most versatile and powerful super teams.

Though the team debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28, a title famous for featuring team-ups between various fictional and superheroic characters, the team’s actual origin wasn’t revealed until the ninth issue of their self-titled series, which became one of DC Comic’s best-selling titles. As with the JSA and other super teams, the JLA’s roster has changed over the years and many splinter groups and spin-offs have been introduced but perhaps there is no more iconic line-up than the JLA’s original roster that was comprised of DC’s heavy-hitters: Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Barry Allan/The Flash, and J’onn J’onzz (referred to here as “John Jones”)/Martian Manhunter.

The Review:
“Starro the Conqueror!” begins with the odd choice to not detail the first time these superheroes joined forces and, instead, starts off with the seven heroes already having agreed to come together in times of crisis (they each have a signalling device to summon the others). I kind of like this on the one hand as it suggests that DC’s top superheroes already set aside their differences for the greater good without any real fuss and it helps speed things up but, on the other hand, it feels a bit out of place to not detail the first meeting of these heroes. Anyway, the first member of the team to become aware of an impending threat is Aquaman who, thanks to information provided to him by a puffer fish, is learns of the arrival of the gigantic extraterrestrial starfish known as Starro.

Aquaman’s summons is answered by some of DC’s greatest superheroes.

This monstrous being has travelled across the depths of space to Earth with one goal in mind: conquest. To that end, Starro…somehow…transforms three of Earth’s starfish into replicas of itself and spreads them across the world to begin its mad scheme. Aquaman’s summons are immediately picked up and answered by Wonder Woman (who is in the middle of an awkward conversation with her beau, Steve Trevor, regarding marriage), Green Lantern (who, as Hal Jordan, was in the middle of a test flight), the Flash (who quickly disperses of a potentially life-threatening tornado), and the Martian Manhunter (who was simply about to start his vacation…). Each of these introductory panels immediately gives the reader and idea of what each character is capable of: Aquaman can breath underwater and talk to fish, Wonder Woman has an invisible jet, Green Lantern’s ring allows him to perform virtually any task, the Flash is super fast, and the Martian Manhunter can shape-shift. Aquaman’s signal also reaches Superman and Batman but the two are unable to respond right away since Superman is busy taking care of a potentially dangerous meteor shower and Batman is in the middle of stopping a crime spree. You might think that Superman would have spotted Starro’s arrival from space but he was dealing with a great deal of meteors (it’s also entirely possible that Starro caused the meteor shower specifically to distract Superman) and I guess it’s in character for Batman to prioritise Gotham City’s safety over a JLA summons (though a JLA-level peril is surely more threatening for Gotham than a crime spree…)

Green Lantern is able to defeat the Starro duplicate with relative ease.

Regardless, the five heroes meet at the “modernistically outfitted cavern” that serves as the JLA’s headquarters. Having been informed of Starro’s threat and where it intends to strike, the Flash, as the JLA’s chairman, orders the team to split up and it is at this point that the story diverges from the team-based format and instead switches to cover each individual mission. The first sees Green Lantern battling one of Starro’s deputies in the skies above Rocky Mountain National Park; Hal arrives in time to see the gigantic creature but is too late to stop it from attacking a passing air force jet-bomber and relieving it of its payload: nothing less than an atom bomb! Green Lantern is able to save the aircraft when it goes into a deadly freefall but is unable to keep the Starro duplicate from detonating the atom bomb! Thankfully, Hal’s energy shield protects him from the blast and he watches in horror as the creature absorbs the energy released from the bomb. Hal pursues and is nearly blasted from the sky by a scorching beam fired from the creature’s tentacle. However, Green Lantern is easily able to avoid the creature’s thrashing limbs and attacks and reduce it down to a regular starfish by scoring a direct hit on its massive eye.

Starro’s duplicate falls before the might of Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter.

Next, the story switches to “Science City” where Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter (why Diana has to team up with another hero is beyond me…) find another of Starro’s deputies abducting the “Hall of Science”, where the greatest scientific minds of the United States are gathered. The creature intends to bring the scientists into the upper atmosphere so it can absorb their brainpower and knowledge; Wonder Woman attempts to use her magical lasso to prise the creature’s tentacles from the building but ends up being yanked off of her invisible jet and onto the Hall of Science thanks to the giant starfish’s incredible strength. Meanwhile, J’onn uses his super-breath to bombard the creature with fragments of the meteors Superman is destroying and uses the same technique to cause a torrential rainfall when flames from the building threaten his life. Starro’s deputy then attempts to destroy them both by firing bolts of nuclear energy their way but Wonder Woman is, of course, able to deflect them with her magical bracelets and J’onn shields himself using the building’s conveniently lead-lined roof. Diana then whips her lasso around her jet and uses the momentum to forcibly drag the building out of the sky. The effort of battling both heroes at once soon takes its toll on the creature, which plummets from the sky and begins to revert back into a regular starfish.

The Flash makes short work of the final Starro duplicate.

When then join the Flash as he confronts another of Starro’s deputies at Happy Harbour; this part of the story is easily the worst simply because it introduces one of the most annoying and aggravating characters ever conceived: the JLA’s “mascot”, Snapper Carr. Snapper is a hip, super cool teenager with the annoying habit of constantly snapping his fingers all the God-damn time who is shocking to find his family, and the entire town, enthralled by Starro’s trance. For whatever reason (possibly due to being high, judging by the way he speaks!), Snapper is immune to Starro’s influence so he needs to be saved from certain death by the Flash. Despite Starro’s best efforts to vaporise the Scarlet Speedster, the Flash (literally) runs rings around the creature and ultimately defeats it when it tries to hide in the sea. In the process, the townsfolk are freed from their trance and Snapper’s family are able to tell Flash where they were ordered by the creature to head to: Turkey Hollow.

The JLA defeat Starro with ridiculous ease and make Snapper an honorary member!

The final part of the story sees the team reunite to take on the real Starro at Turkey Hollow; despite the defeat of its deputies, Starro remains confident since it was still able to absorb the power of that atomic bomb, the knowledge of Earth’s scientists, and…whatever it is the townsfolk of Happy Harbour contributed to its mind (local Earth knowledge, I guess?) Starro plans to use all that it has learned to force humanity into destroying the world with nuclear weapons and then use the influx of nuclear energy would then allow it to conquer other worlds across the universe. When the JLA arrive, Starro immediately puts its abilities to good use by reading Hal’s mind and turning itself yellow to render itself immune to his power ring but the Flash notices that Starro’s awesome energy ray has absolutely no effect on Snapper (who he, of course, brought along for the ride!) Flash orders Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter to distract Starro while Hal uses his power ring as a spectroscope to discover that Snapper is covered in lime from when he was mowing the lawn earlier. Apparently, lime is deadly to starfish so Hal dumps a whole bunch of it onto Starro to weaken it. Martian Manhunter then uses his super-breath to blow a load of calcium oxide (which is, apparently, also lime) onto the creature and thus imprison it within an unbreakable shell of lime. With Starro’s threat ended, Superman and Batman return just in time to see the Flash making Snapper an honorary member of the JLA and…boy, do they look thrilled to be there!

The Summary:
I don’t mind telling you that I am a bit disappointed by “Starro the Conqueror!”; the story started pretty strong but fell off a cliff pretty quickly at the end, becoming little more than a science class rather than a big old fight between Earth’s greatest heroes and an alien menace. I suppose it speaks to the intelligence of the JLA (specifically Barry) to come up with a way to outwit, rather than outfight, the creature and the sudden introduction of lime as the might Starro’s one weakness is arguably no less lame than fire being J’onn’s weakness and yellow being Hal’s and there is a lot of action prior to the finale but still…the entire point of the comic is to see these heroes joining forces and we don’t really get that.

Aquaman is unfairly side-lined and does nothing except alert the JLA to Starro’s presence.

You might be wondering where the hell Aquaman was during this story; despite appearing to be a pivotal member of the team in the early panels, Arthur is little more than an early warning system to alert the team to Starro’s threat. Hell, when Barry is divvying out the JLA’s individual missions, Aquaman doesn’t even get to fight one of the creatures as he’s sent back to the ocean to watch out for any more of the duplicates and, when he does return to the story for the finale, he does absolutely nothing. It’s pretty sad considering the JLA were light on power with Superman out of the equation and when you consider that Arthur might have actually been really useful at Happy Harbour so could have easily teamed up with the Flash for that mission…but then we might never have gotten Snapper-fuckin’-Carr now, would we!?

Hal and J’onn are severely underutilised, with their powers reduced to the bare minimum.

Honestly, Snapper could have been dropped entirely from the story; he’s only there so the teenager readers can act like they’re fighting alongside their favourite heroes, after all, and it’s legitimately sad that he’s more important to the story than Aquaman! Seriously, drop Snapper, have Aquaman and the Flash go to Happy Harbour, and have Arthur get covered in lime while battling the creature in the water and reveal the key to Starro’s defeat. Seems like a pretty simple solution to me. Similarly, it’s pretty disappointing that Superman and Batman don’t play any part in the story at all. I can understand why as Superman’s power alone would probably be able to end Starro’s threat but it’s a bit of a let down that they don’t even join the team for the big climactic battle. Instead, we’re left with the likes of the Martian Manhunter, who is probably just as powerful as Superman if not more so and yet is reduced to simply puffing away with his super-breath. Similarly, Hal’s potential and power is also significantly reduced; his ring allows him to do virtually anything but, in the end, all he really uses it for is to fly about, rescue a falling plane, and zap at Starro with energy blasts.

Starro seems like a threatening villain but end sup being a massive disappointment.

Still, at least Wonder Woman gets a lot to do; she basically does all the work in her team-up with J’onn which, again, makes me question why she has to have a partner and no one else does. The implication may be that it’s because she’s a woman but she’s easily the most dependable and capable superheroine I’ve seen all year; she doesn’t even get bound or anything, which is refreshing. The Flash also gets far more chances to show off his abilities and competence; beyond his super speed allowing him to easily best one of Starro’s duplicates, Barry is portrayed as a decisive team leader and his intelligence is what ultimately wins the day over brute strength. Overall, Starro is just another in a long line of potentially dangerous foes that really don’t amount to a whole hell of a lot. It openly admits that its plot to conquer Earth is the first time it’s ever tried anything like that, exposing its naivety and inexperience in world conquest and battle. Its scheme seems pretty good to start with as it creates duplicates of itself and absorbs power and knowledge but it fails to really do anything with this beyond making itself yellow; it could have spewed flames at J’onn, bound Wonder Woman’s wrists, subjected Aquaman to intense heat, or slowed the Flash down with quicksand but it never does any of that. For all the power and knowledge it has, Starro ends up just being a giant alien punching bag that, arguably, the Flash alone could have defeated and, because of that, it’s simply a piss-poor excuse to see all these heroes band together and even then they spend the majority of the story working separately!

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the JLA’s debut appearance? Were you happy to see five out of the seven joining forces for the first time or would you have liked to see all seven of them getting in on the action? What did you think of Starro as the principal villain and the introduction of Snapper Carr? Which era or incarnation of the JLA is your favourite and what are some of your favourite JLA stories? Who would you like to see in the JLA some day? How are you celebrating Justice League Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on the JLA, feel free to leave a comment below.

Back Issues [Multiverse Madness]: The Flash #123


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’ll be celebrating this ground-breaking concept every Sunday of this month!


Story Title: Flash of Two Worlds!
Published: September 1961
Writer: Gardner Fox
Artist: Carmine Infantino

The Background:
In the pages of Showcase #4 (1956), writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino introduced readers to Barry Allen/The Flash, the Fastest Man Alive. However, Barry wasn’t the first character to carry the name of the Flash; back in the 1940s, Jay Garrick operated under the codename before superhero comics saw a decline in popularity due to World War Two. Interestingly, although Jay’s solo Flash title was cancelled in 1948, the character’s last appearance was in 1951, a mere five years before the character was dramatically reimagined for the “Silver Age” of comics.

The innocent meeting of two Flashes led to the creation of an infinite number of parallel worlds.

To Barry Allen, Jay Garrick wasn’t some long forgotten hero of a bygone era; he was a mere comic book character, a work of fiction, and, while the idea of parallel versions of DC’s heroes had been previously hinted at, it wasn’t until “Flash of Two Worlds” that DC began to really explore, and expand, the concept. The story led to the discovery of an infinite number of parallel worlds, regular crossovers between teams like the Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America and, of course, epic cosmic crossovers that gave DC the perfect excuse to shake up their continuity. So influential was “Flash of Two Worlds” that it’s iconic cover art has been parodied and replicated numerous times, and it directly inspired not just one episode of The Flash (2014 to present) but directly led to that series, and the entire “Arrowverse”, exploring the vast complexities of the multiverse.

The Review:
“Flash of Two Worlds” begins innocently enough with Barry Allen once again characteristically late for a date with his long-term girlfriend, Iris West. I’ve always been more of a Wally West fan when it comes to the Flash since Barry was long dead by the time I started reading comics but there are a couple of things about Barry’s Flash I always liked and which make him unique, in my eyes, compared to other heroes and characters of the same name. For one thing, he might be the Fastest Man Alive but he was constantly late in his civilian guise, which was the perfect way to keep anyone suspecting his true identity; for another, Barry actually worked for the police department as a forensic scientist and there weren’t a great many superheroes who actually worked within the system.

The Flash suddenly disappears in the middle of entertaining a group of orphans.

Like all good superheroes, of course, Barry is currently keeping his dual identity a secret from Iris and is able to use his position with the Central City Police Department to explain that he is “friends” with the Flash. This allows him to arrange for the Scarlet Speedster to make an appearance at Iris’s show for local orphans and also gives the Flash an opportunity to show off the near limitless potential of his superhuman speed but, in the middle of vibrating a rope at super speed, the Flash suddenly vanishes from sight!

Barry is stunned to find himself on another Earth where the fictional Jay Garrick was once the Flash!

Though momentarily disorientated, the Flash quickly surmises that he must have vibrated his molecules so fast that he passed through “some sort of space-warp” but, when he attempts to return to the community center, is shocked to discover he’s now in a strange, vaguely familiar place named Keystone City. Recognising the name, Barry confirms his suspicions by looking up Jay Garrick in a telephone book and paying him a visit (as an interesting side note, Garrick’s house number is 5252, which goes a long way to explaining DC’s later obsession with the number fifty-two). Rather than introduce himself and get Jay, and us, up to speed, Barry decides to regale us, and Jay, with Jay’s origin story: while a student at Midwestern University, Jay inhaled fumes of “hardwater” and, somehow, gained super speed and began a career as the Flash.

Barry explains his multiverse theory that, while ridiculous, also makes a crazy kind of sense.

Jay and his wife, Joan, are shocked at Barry’s expert knowledge of Jay’s history and even more awestruck when Barry explains that he is the Flash of a parallel world. Barry goes on to explain the basic fundamentals of DC’s multiverse: their two worlds exist in the same space and at the same time but are separated by different vibrational frequencies. He theorises that both Earths evolved almost exactly the same but that “destiny must have decreed there’d be a Flash — on each Earth!” It is only after explaining his multiverse theory that Barry brings Jay and Joan up to speed on his origin; during an experiment, he was struck by a errant lightning bolt (a common occurrence, as you well know…) and bathed in a mysterious chemical concoction. The result was the development of his own super speed but he was directly inspired to become the Flash after reading of Jay’s adventures in comic books on his world. Barry even further speculates, ridiculously so, that real-world writer Gardener Fox must have somehow been attuned to Jay’s world to dream up stories of the Golden Age Flash’s adventures.

The two Flashes join forces, unaware that three of Jay’s villains have also teamed up!

Jay is intrigued at the concept and in awe of Barry’s fourth dimensional Flash ring; he reveals that, despite no longer having the endurance of his prime years, he’s as fast as ever and in the midst of mounting a dramatic comeback thanks to a series of mysterious robberies that have been happening all over town. Ever the helpful chap, Barry offers to assist and the two solidify their partnership and newfound friendship with a hearty handshake. It’s then revealed to the reader that the perpetrators of these crimes are three of Jay’s most notorious rogues: Isaac Bowin/The Fiddler, Clifford DeVoe/The Thinker, and Richard Swift/The Shade. All three have a personal grudge against Jay for apprehending them “more than a dozen years” ago and, since their release (or escape, it’s not made entirely clear which), each has refined their abilities and gimmicks to take their revenge (the Thinker’s “thinking cap” allows him to cause anything he thinks of to happen within fifty yards of himself, the Fiddler’s Stradivarius violin allows him to generate destructive sound waves, and the Shade can conjure absolute darkness with his special cane).

Jay is alerted to the Thinker’s plot by…talking dogs…?

In the process of their revenge, the three villains are also indulging in elaborate crimes to bring themselves notoriety, fortune, and, presumably, to attract the attention of the Flash and the two Flashes immediately divide their efforts in order to uncover the culprits behind these crimes. The Thinker heads to the home of millionaire Edward Jarvis to steal the priceless Neptune Cup; he uses his thinking cap to persuade Jarvis’s guard dogs to lure the Flash into his trap and is easily able to manipulate Jarvis into handing the treasure over to him. When the Jay conveniently races past by, the dogs literally follow the Thinker’s command by talking in English!

Jay is outwitted by the Thinker’s mental images and collapses from exhaustion.

Jay rushes into the house to confront the Thinker but is shocked to find that the villain continuously eludes his grasp; driving himself to near exhaustion in the effort, Jay laments what he believes to be a by-product of his advanced age but it turns out he’s only half right. The Thinker has been conjuring “mental mirages” to distract and tire out the Flash and, with Jay too weak to pursue him, is easily able to slip away with his prize as Jay blacks out from fatigue. Why the Thinker didn’t use his special cap to control Jay like he did Jarvis is beyond me, though…

Barry is caught off-guard by the Shade’s ability to conjure darkness.

Meanwhile, at the waterfront, Barry investigates a strange black fog surrounding a private yacht and is drawn into a confrontation with the Shade. Thanks to the Shade’s ability to summon thick, pitch blackness, Barry is unable to stop the villain from stealing especially rare and extortionately expensive “historical curios”. When he spots the Shade making his escape in a speedboat, Barry gives chase by running over water but is easily knocked off balance by the Shade’s darkness and returns to Garrick’s house humbled but no less disheartened.

It’s nice to finally see some context for the issue’s iconic cover art.

Galvanised by their individual failures, the two Flashes decide to team up to stop the villainous duo but, in the process, find the Fiddler (on his Fiddle Car, no less!) causing panic and destruction in downtown Keystone City. This finally provides context for the issue’s memorable front cover as the two Flashes race to save a man from being crushed from a falling girder.

The Flashes are helpless against the Fiddler’s hypnotic music.

Thanks to the Fiddler’s outrageous vehicle, the Flashes are easily able to track him down to the Keystone City Museum, where the villain is in the process of stealing the “European crown jewels”. Despite the partnership of the two Flashes, the Fiddler is easily able to subdue them with his magical music, much to the shock of his fellow villains, who rushed over to assist as soon as they figured out that there were now two Flashes. The Fiddler rubs salt in the wound by compelling the Flashes to steal the jewels for him and plans to cover their escape by freezing the Flashes solid for twenty-four hours.

The Flashes subdue the villains and Jay is left pondering the secret of dimensional travel.

Somehow, though, the spell doesn’t work and the Flashes break free; in the blink of an eye, Jay sends the Shade spinning like a top, Barry handcuffs the Fiddler, and the two Flashes disassemble the Thinker’s thinking cap to subdue and summarily defeat the three villains. The Flashes then reveal that they escaped the Fiddler’s spell through a convenient and obtuse loophole (he never specified that they shouldn’t try to escape and they placed tiny gems not their ears to distort the effects of his fiddle). With the villains defeated, Barry and Jay part ways amicably, with Jay admiring Barry’s ability to vibrate between dimensions and vowing to learn the secret of dimensional travel to visit Barry’s world in the near future. Barry is so ecstatic to return home that he doesn’t even mind getting an ear-bashing from Iris for leaving her, and the orphans, in the lurch and the issue ends with Barry breaking the fourth wall to encourage readers to write in with their appreciation of the story and the Golden Age Flash.

The Summary:
“Flash of Two Worlds” is a pretty fun, if incredibly random, little tale; the way that Barry just happens to slip between dimensions whilst performing the most minor of tasks is extremely convenient and underwhelming and it definitely feels like Barry could have been undertaking a better, more exciting physical feat. It’s also incredibly opportune that Barry, a forensic scientist, is apparently an expert in dimensional theory; I get that he’s smart and scientifically minded but I would argue that quantum mechanics and multiverse theory is a little outside of the training for a forensic scientist.

The issue wastes time recapping Barry’s origin rather than having Jay fall under DeVoe’s control.

Like many comics books at the time, the issue also suffers a little by stopping to catch readers up not just on Barry’s origins but Jay’s, too; I get recapping Jay’s origin since he had been absent from DC Comics for about five years but it seemed a bit unnecessary and a waste of time to recap Barry’s in such detail. Still, the selling point of the issue is the return (or introduction, depending on your experience) of Jay Garrick and the discovery of a parallel world. The logistics of the multiverse are a bit hokey but I can chalk this up to Barry’s conjecture and the concept being in its infancy and it’s still pretty cool to see Jay, now a bit older and more seasoned, teaming up with Barry. I find it interesting that Fox decided not to have to two come to blows or even engage in a race to find out who was better; he had the perfect opportunity to do this when Jay was defeated by the Thinker but declined, preferring to focus on the two Flashes co-operating amicably instead.

The issue’s three villains are largely portrayed as being quite formidable and competent.

The villains are an interesting dichotomy; technically, the combined abilities of the Thinker, the Fiddler, and the Shade are quite formidable and the three are shown to be more than a match for both Flashes, both separately and as a group. Indeed, any one of the villains seems capable of subduing the Flashes and this really helps to keep the stakes reasonably believable and high. Sadly, the Flashes are able to defeat all three in no time at all with a pretty laughable plot convenience; it might have been more interesting to have the Thinker control Jay and turn him against Barry and then have the two overcome this and turn the villains’ gimmicks against each other but I get it, the comic is more about the gimmick of the two Flashes meeting and the exploration and re/introduction of Jay and his world over anything else.

The Flash is a colourful, appealing character and seeing the two team up is pretty cool.

While I am a fan of the Flash, like I said I generally prefer Wally and his adventures in the mid-nineties to early 2000s so, as a result, I haven’t really read that much of Barry Allen, especially his early adventures. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed “Flash of Two Worlds”; the Flash is such a unique character, one that is, at times, more overpowered than even Clark Kent/Superman, and it’s interesting seeing him balance his dual identity and come up with new ways to use his powers. Flash stories also tend to be much more whimsical and wacky than other superheroes so it’s not too surprising that he was able to pass between dimensional barriers; I could definitely see the all-powerful Superman of the time being capable of such a feat as well but it’s somehow more charming when the Flash does it and seeing him be awestruck at meeting his hero and inspiration and the two generations of heroes immediately getting along is refreshing, despite my belief that the story may have been improved by them coming to blows at least once.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever read “Flash of Two Worlds”? If so, what did you think of it? Were you a fan of DC’s decision to introduce the multiverse or do you find the concept daunting and overwhelming? Which of the two Flashes is your favourite; perhaps you prefer a different Flash or speedster, if so who is it and why? What is your favourite Flash story? Which of DC’s infinite parallel worlds is your favourite? How are you celebrating the birth of the DC multiverse today? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and be sure to check back in next Sunday as Multiverse Madness continues!

Talking Movies: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Talking Movies

Released: 18 March 2021
Director: Zack Snyder
Distributor: HBO Max/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Budget: $70 million (on top of the original $300 million production costs)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, and Henry Cavill

The Plot:
Following the death of Clark Kent/Superman (Cavill), Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) scrambles to bring together a team of super-powered heroes when the disgraced New God Steppenwolf (Hinds) arrives on Earth and begins violently searching for the mysterious “Mother Boxes”.

The Background:
Oh God, where to start with this? Okay, so, after the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) became this super successful juggernaut, Warner Bros. scrambled to try and catch up and craft their own cinematic universe. The first step was Man of Steel (ibid, 2013); Zack Snyder was picked to helm the project and steer the direction of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and, initially, the results were promising. Despite some mixed reviews, Man of Steel was a financial success but the cracks in Snyder’s vision started to form with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (ibid, 2016). Despite the presence of acclaimed superstar Ben Affleck and reaping a hefty box office, the film divided many due to its pace and bleak tone and Warner Bros. started to get cold feet regarding Snyder’s vision for the DCEU. As a result, they brought in Joss Whedon to lighten the follow-up’s tone and ultimately replace Snyder after the tragic death of his daughter. Despite a similar box office gross to its predecessors, Justice League (Whedon/Snyder, 2017) released to scathing criticism and the film was disowned by even DCEU collaborators.

After years of speculation, Snyder returned to complete and enhance his original cut.

The DCEU chugged along regardless but, very quickly, reports of Whedon’s reprehensible behaviour surfaced alongside rumours that a “Snyder Cut” was all but completed in Warner’s vaults and fans all over the world began campaigning hard for the release Snyder’s original version. While this did lead to a toxic community that I cannot condone, the movement gained serious traction when members of the cast voiced their support and Snyder finally returned to complete the film and was even afforded additional money and resources to film new scenes for his four-hour epic for the HBO Max streaming service. To the delight of Snyder’s fans, Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally released and drew a lot of attention to HBO Max. The general critical consensus, however, was mixed; though reviews praised the film as a coherent story and the culmination of Snyder’s vision, its length and excess were criticised. After the film’s release, Warner Bros. made the decision not to capitalise on its success and fans immediately campaigned to complete Snyder’s vision for the DCEU, despite his lack of interest in returning to the property, proving that some fans are just never satisfied.

The Review:
When I reviewed the original, theatrical cut of Justice League (no, I will not call it “Josstice League”), I gave it a ten out of ten. This was primarily because I am a massive DC Comics fan and, after years (literally decades) of DC’s live-action characters always existing in their own self-contained bubbles, I was just happy to see them all onscreen together and co-existing and felt that this was the most positive thing to take away from Snyder’s rushed attempt to build DC’s cinematic universe. Time, however, has changed this perspective; Justice League is by no means perfect but it was honestly never going to be. Warner Bros. scrambled about trying to play catch up to the MCU and, in focusing on cramming everyone together as quickly as possible and sucking the fun out of many of their most popular characters, they lost me a little along the way.

Snyder jumped into Multiversal shenanigans way too fast and put everything into his cut of Justice League.

So to say I was excited for the Snyder Cut is to lie, honestly. As much as I enjoyed Man of Steel, Snyder really dropped the ball with Batman v Superman, which was more a collection of ideas and themes than a coherent movie, and I took massive issue with his grandiose vision of the DCEU which jumped from Superman’s origin all the way to Multiversal shenanigans in, like, two films. Still, as a rule, I generally do enjoy a longer director’s cut as you get more bang for your buck and, in that regard, Snyder certainly goes above and beyond to present the closest version of his vision for Justice League as possible, even going so far as to present the film in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Superman’s death cry activates the Mother Boxes and calls Steppenwolf to Earth.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League begins with an egregiously slow-motion recap of Superman’s dramatic (and, in my view, unnecessary) death in battle against Doomsday. His death rattle (which seriously goes on for about six minutes), echoes all around the world, activating the Mother Boxes stored in Atlantis and Themyscira and sending a beacon out into the void of space with a simple message: Earth is vulnerable. Steppenwolf (now dramatically redesigned into a hulking creature wearing razor-sharp armour that honestly looks just as ugly as his original design but for different reasons) once again arrives to reclaim the Boxes; this time, however, his slaughter of the Amazons is much more brutal, featuring far more Parademons and presenting Steppenwolf as a formidable and imposing force.

Steppenwolf not only looks more fearsome but is a far more interesting character now.

Indeed, compared to his theatrical counterpart, Steppenwolf is a much more well-rounded and interesting character; in the original cut, he was little more than a means to an end, an obscure and generic bad guy for the titular heroes to unite against in order to save the world but, here, he’s a driven, focused, and aggressive foe who is motivated not just by loyalty to his master and devotion to bringing about “the great darkness” but also desperate to regain his place among the New Gods after losing favour centuries before. Owing Darkseid (Ray Porter) a debt of fifty thousand worlds for his failures, Steppenwolf has been ostracised and forced to toil in endless conquest to regain his place at his master’s side; this desperation and motivation transforms Steppenwolf from a mere disposable hulk and into a surprisingly complex villain who seeks redemption and validation in the eyes of his master and will do anything to appease the will of Darkseid.

Superman’s loss affects each of the characters in different ways.

While the Man of Steel’s loss was felt in the theatrical cut, Superman’s death is a much bigger aspect of the Snyder Cut; carrying the guilt of Superman’s death on his shoulders, Bruce Wayne sets out to build an alliance of metahumans to combat this threat. While Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot) is reluctantly onboard with the plan and Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) signs up immediately and enthusiastically, Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) basically laughs in his face and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Fisher) is busy struggling to reconcile his humanity after a horrific accident leaves him part machine. Furthermore, Superman’s loss is embodied here not just in Bruce’s guilt and desire to honour Superman’s legacy with a team of superheroes but in both Lois Lane (Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), both of whom struggle to adjust to life without Clark. Since Bruce has already been told that “Lois [is] the key” to reaching Superman, it makes sense to give Lois and Martha a little more prominence in the film, especially as her death is what causes Superman’s corruption in the dark future that looms over Snyder’s films.

Batman is now absolutely focused on bringing together a team to honour Superman’s memory.

Bruce Wayne is, of course, extremely different compared to his characterisation in Batman v Superman. Now driven by an obsessive desire to make good on his promise to unite Earth’s heroes in Superman’s name, he works himself tirelessly to track down the metahumans from Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) file, much to the continued chagrin of his faithful butler and father-figure, Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). Since he works closely with Diana to find and appeal to these metahumans, there’s even a little (microscopic, even) bit of romantic chemistry between the two and there’s now a nice little scene of Alfred making tea with Diana and showing her Batman’s new Parademon-absorbent gauntlet (which replaces the original cut’s side plot regarding Batman luring the Parademons out with “fear”). Mostly, though, Bruce remains the same character as in the theatrical cut; he’s still blinkered in his focus on bringing the team together, resurrecting Superman, and preparing the world to face escalating threats but all of his weird little attempts at humour are thankfully gone (sadly, that God-awful “I’m rich” line remains but, thankfully, we get the return of his “I’m real when it’s useful” line).

Wonder Woman now warns the team of Darkseid’s intentions for Earth.

Wonder Woman, however, is noticeably different this time around; more time is spent showing her as a willing ally of Bruce’s and she is also part of a pivotal extended scene that explores Steppenwolf’s previous campaign against the Earth. This sequence, which expands upon the prologue seen in the theatrical cut, shows the forces of man, Gods, Atlantis, Themyscira, and beyond uniting not just against Steppenwolf and his Parademons but also their exalted and imposing leader, Darkseid. Darkseid received only a passing mention in the original cut but, here, Diana’s obvious fear of the New God helps to establish early on that an even greater threat looms behind Steppenwolf’s actions. Furthermore, when out in the field with the team, Wonder Woman directs the fledging Justice League in the best way to attack Steppenwolf and his Parademons, which places greater emphasis on her capabilities as a warrior and leader.

The Snyder Cut retains Aquaman’s characterisation but explores a little more of his world.

Aquaman is largely the same as in the theatrical cut except, unsurprisingly, more haggard and bleak rather than being an obnoxious jock. Though he claims to have no interest in Bruce’s crusade or working with others and has turned his back on Atlantis, he continues to do good and help those in need in his own way to get his hands on more whiskey. Bruce’s warning, though, compels him to return to the ocean and converse with Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), his former mentor, and ultimately to arrive all too late to help Mera (Amber Heard) defend the Mother Box from Steppenwolf. A couple of odd continuity issues are raised with all this, however, that fly in the face of DC’s directors wanting to align their movies with the Snyder Cut; first there’s Mera’s accent, which jumps from British to American to whatever the hell she likes, and second is the Atlantean’s ability to communicate using dolphin squeaks rather than just talking underwater as they do in Aquaman (Wan, 2018). Regardless, this version of Justice League does a far better job of setting up Aquaman’s solo film by showing more hints towards his world and Aquaman remains the film’s breakout character for me for me thanks to Momoa’s charismatic portrayal of the character.

Though still very neurotic, Barry plays a pivotal role in the film’s events and finale.

Barry Allen also gets a bit more time to shine this time around; this includes the restoration of his encounter with Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) and just more time to explore his awkward, energetic, and socially inept character traits. Barry was very much the comic relief of the theatrical cut and those who disliked many of his annoying character traits will be disappointed to find most of them intact and given more prominence in his increased screen time but I can’t fault Snyder’s attention to detail in showcasing Barry’s superspeed: his shoes and clothes disintegrate, the street is wrecked by his footfalls, and he experiences time in extreme slow motion when utilising the Speed Force. While the Flash loses one of my favourite scenes from the original cut (the “Just save one” moment), he plays a far greater role in not just the rescue of scientists from Steppenwolf’s clutches but also the film’s finale where, faced with defeat at the hands of Steppenwolf’s forces, he summons all of his super speed to travel back in time using the Speed Force and ensure that the invasion is halted.

Cyborg’s role is greatly expanded, making him the heart of the film and fleshing out his character.

Of course, the character who benefits the most from the Snyder Cut is Cyborg; in the theatrical cut, Cyborg is a stoic, confused young man who resents his father, Doctor Silas Stone (Joe Morton), for transforming him into a machine-monster in order to save his life. While this remains at the start of Cyborg’s character arc in the Snyder Cut, Snyder restores not just Cyborg’s importance to the film as the “heart” of the Justice League but also his eventual reconciliation with his father and showcases excised scenes of his promising career as a college football player, his natural aptitude for hacking (which he used to help those in need), and the horrific accident which left him near death. While I’m personally not a fan of Cyborg being on the Justice League, it was clear that there was originally more to his inclusion and importance to the film’s plot; since he’s literally comprised on a Mother Box and Apokoliptian technology, he is afforded numerous abilities and insights into the invading New Box forces and, here, Silas actually guides and mentors him in exploring these abilities (which includes his ability to access every technological device and network and essentially makes him the most powerful man on Earth).

Superman returns, now in a black suit, and galvanises the team.

Finally, there’s Superman; as you might expect, Superman is absent for a massive amount of the film on a small account of being dead. Like Darkseid, Superman looms over the film but as a hero lost and much needed as a symbol for the world’s heroes to properly rally behind. Bruce’s plan to resurrect Superman with the Mother Box is discussed (and edited) far more competently this time around; although there’s doubt about the moral and ethical implications of the plan (mainly from Alfred this time around), Bruce and Diana don’t come to blows like in the original film but the outcome remains the same. Like before, Superman is disorientated upon returning to life and attacks the fledgling Justice League in his confusion; his confrontation with Batman is a little different (and not as good as in the original cut, in my opinion) and there’s more to his return to the Kent farm but, upon regaining his senses, he returns to action as the team’s ace in the hole for the finale. Cavill is an absolutely fantastic Superman and Justice League finally got the character to a place where he is the charming symbol of hope and strength that the world needs and, despite his new black suit, Zack Snyder’s Justice League only expands upon that (of course, Cavill’s natural charisma and the absence of a horrible CGI face play a huge part in that).

The Nitty-Gritty:
One word to describe Zack Snyder’s Justice League (apart from “long”) would certainly be “epic”; Snyder pads the film’s runtime out with not only an abundance of never-before-seen footage, alternate takes, and new content but also an overuse of slow-motion and long establishing shots. To help make the film more accessible to viewers, the film is also split into six chapters, which was probably a great way to view it on HBO Max, and the DVD version of the film is split across two discs but, either way you slice it, this is a slog to get through and I have to believe that Snyder simply milked the extra time and money he was afforded just to capitalise on all the hype surrounding his version of the film. The closest comparison I can make is with his director’s cut of Watchmen (Snyder, 2009), which was similarly epic and ambitious in its scope, presentation, use of music, and its presentation of its costumed adventurers.

Some shots effects, and inconsistencies negatively affect the Snyder Cut.

It has to be said, though, that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has quite a few faults; some of the new special effects shots understandably look worse than others (and Cyborg still looks like dog shit), it’s pretty crazy that Darkseid and his forces just forgot where Earth was for hundreds of years (especially considering how badly he wants the secret of the Anti-Life Equation), the score has been completely reworked to remove Danny Elfman’s contributions (though, thankfully, Wonder Woman’s kick-ass musical theme remains), and many of the new scenes shot exclusively for the film suffer from poor lighting, inconsistent editing, and stand out like a sore thumb to the point where I’d much rather Snyder hadn’t bothered including the likes of the Joker (Jared Leto) when it makes little sense narratively (you’re telling me that in a grim, apocalyptic future where Superman has gone bad the Joker is alive but Aquaman isn’t?) Personally, I have never been a fan of Snyder’s “Knightmare” timeline; it made no sense in Batman v Superman and, thanks to Warner Bros. having no interest in allowing Snyder to fully explore this alternate timeline in Justice League sequels, it makes even less sense to me that he chose to continue pushing this dark vision of a future ruled by Darkseid and a corrupted version of Superman in the Snyder Cut (but, at least, it’s mainly confined to the film’s final moments rather than being awkwardly wedged in the middle of the film like in Batman v Superman).

Snyder’s cut expands and recontextualises many of the film’s existing scenes and characters.

Although many scenes and sequences may be familiar to anyone who has seen the theatrical cut of the film, the Snyder Cut expands upon every single one of these and, in many cases, recontextualises them into this larger narrative. This includes a longer scene of Bruce Wayne meeting and attempting to recruit Aquaman (accompanied by a lengthy song of reverence for the Atlantean), an expanded version of Wonder Woman’s introduction (including the first of a handful of pointless f-bombs), a longer version of Steppenwolf’s attack on Themyscira and the recap of Darkseid’s defeat centuries ago, more scenes of Steppenwolf and his Parademons’ search for the Mother Boxes (including torturing Atlanteans for information and a far better sequence where he acquires the final Box), and even recontextualising the interactions between Lois and Martha with the reveal that General Calvin Swanwick (Harry Lennix) has been J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter all along.

The Snyder Cut restores and dramatically changes excised characters.

One of the main selling points of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, however, is the restoration of scenes and plot threads excised from the theatrical version. This includes characters removed from the original film, like Doctor Ryan Choi (Ryan Zheng), Vulko, Iris, DeSaad (Peter Guinness), Cybrog’s mother, Elinor Stone (Karen Bryson), and more time devoted to side characters like Silas (who now gives his life to mark the final Mother Box) and the origins of the Mother Boxes. One of the benefits of this is that we actually get to see an in-depth look into Cyborg’s expansive abilities (which includes a deep dive into the way he now perceives reality). Much of the Snyder Cut’s hype was also built around the inclusion of Darkseid but, in truth, the character is little more than a cameo; he simply takes Steppenwolf’s place in the flashback of the war between the allied forces of Earth and Apokolips and looms over the film like an ominous shadow as the ultimate threat for the united Justice League. Sadly, despite Snyder choosing to push his Knightmare future throughout the film and concluding it with a tease of Darkseid’s impending retaliation against the Justice League, it seems like we won’t be seeing Darkseid (or any of the New Gods for that matter) in the DCEU again any time soon.

Snyder’s muted colour palette and bleak presentation makes an epic return.

Snyder’s vision of the DCEU remains extremely bleak in its presentation; for all the characters’ talk of “hope” and the better nature of men, Snyder continues to suck all the life and colour out of these vivid characters. One thing I liked about Justice League was that it did a fantastic job of bringing some life and colour to this world, allowing the costumes to pop out on screen but, here, everything retains the same muted look and sombre tones of Batman v Superman. This is best exampled in Snyder’s instance on garbing the resurrected Superman in his black suit; Superman wore this in the comics after returning to life for about three issues and it was later stated to have helped aid his recovery but, here, no real reason is given for his choice of attire and it honestly would have made more sense for the evil Knightmare Superman to have worn the suit instead. Additionally, Snyder removes the red tint and tumultuous skies from the finale of the film, which admittedly does make the climatic battle against Steppenwolf’s forces easier to see but I feel the original colouring worked a lot better as a reference to the red skies that were are of DC’s various Crises.

Thanks to the team, and time travel shenanigans, Darkseid is left humiliated.

Speaking of the finale, Zack Snyder’s Justice League slightly recontextualises the ending. Although there’s still an implication that Batman is heading into battle with the intention of dying, it’s not as explicit as in the theatrical cut; what is much more explicit, though, is the feeling of team work between the Justice League as they each play their part in breeching Steppenwolf’s defences (Flash, again, gets way more to do in using his Speed Force charge to help Cyborg interact with the Mother Boxes) before Superman dramatically shows up to again completely lay waste to Steppenwolf. I’m glad that this beatdown is maintained as it was always a glorious showcase of Superman’s return and of the team coming together against a common enemy but, here, things go slightly differently as the heroes fail to stop the unity between the Mother Boxes and prevent Darkseid’s arrival. With no other choice, the Flash enters the Speed Force and reverses time in a beautifully surreal sequence, allowing Cyborg to reject the Apokolips’ influence and Wonder Woman to decapitate Steppenwolf right before Darkseid’s eyes.

The Summary:
I went into Zack Snyder’s Justice League with low expectations. Toxic fans and a rabid, almost cult-like online community had beaten any sort of excitement and wonder out of me. I quite enjoyed the theatrical cut; it wasn’t perfect but, news flash: none of the DCEU has been perfect and few films really are. Knowing that Snyder got so screwed over by Warner Bros. stung and it definitely frustrated me that we didn’t get a concise and more accurate version of Justice League years ago so that maybe the DCEU would be in a slightly better place but it was hard for me to feel invested in the film when it was so self-indulgent and so clouded by negativity and entitlement.

Bigger and more epic, Snyder’s cut is the definitive version of Justice League.

In this case, though, I am glad to be wrong; there are many benefits to Zack Snyder’s Justice League. For one thing, it actually feels like a coherent story (even more so than Batman v Superman) and each member of the team is given so much more time to shine and showcase their powers and personality. Thus, when the Justice League unite for the finale, it means that much more as we actually get to know them all a little better and see them grow as a team through their interactions; it’s still a rush job as so much had to be crammed into so few films but, as a big fan I am of DC Comics and these characters, it remains a real thrill to actually get to see Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg all in a big budget, live-action film rather than constantly existing in self-contained bubbles (which seems where the DCEU will be heading again going forward). I’m not a massive fan of Snyder’s vision for the DCEU or many of the decisions he made but it’s better than nothing and not seeing an interconnected series of DC films so, while I was initially hesitant to enjoy Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised in the end. Had Warner Bros. not interfered and screwed things up, we probably would’ve gotten a two-and-a-half-hour long film that would have satisfied everyone enough to justify at least one more team effort but it is what it as and at least we got to see the closest approximation of Zack Snyder’s true vision of the film in the end and that’s something to be celebrated rather than simply, selfishly, demanding more.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think to Zack Snyder’s Justice League? Do you think it lived up to all the hype or was it all style and no substance? What did you think to the additional, extended and recontextualised scenes from Justice League and how do you feel the Snyder Cut compares to the theatrical version? Which of the characters was your favourite and what did you think to their extended screen time? How did you watch the film; in sections or as one long movie? Would you like to see more from Snyder’s DCEU or are you happy with the direction Warner Bros. is taking? What did you think to the whole Knightmare timeline Snyder tried to push and were you a fan of Superman donning the black suit? Whatever you thought about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, good or bad feel free to leave a comment below (even if it is super toxic).

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)

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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).

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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.

BatwomanFinale
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: Dark Doppelgängers

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If there’s one thing any hero can count on it’s that, at some point in their illustrious career, they’re going to have to face off against themselves. Sometimes, like with the classic Demon in a Bottle (Michelinie, et al, 1979) this is a metaphorical battle against their own inner demons and foibles but. More often than not, it’s a literal battle against an evil version of the themselves.

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Sometimes they’re from another world or a parallel dimension, perhaps they’ve used stolen technology or been cloned from the hero; other times, they are of the same race or seek to replicate the hero’s powers and usurp them. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed a good doppelgänger, generally because they’re just like the hero but dark and edgy or more violent and, being as I grew up in the nineties, I like that kind of stuff. An evil version of a hero can help to elevate the hero by allowing them to overcome their failings and, sometimes, will even edge out of villain territory and become either a full-fledged hero in their own right or a line-towing anti-hero. In either case, today I’m going to run through ten of my favourite dark doppelgängers; evil versions of heroes who are just cool through and through.

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10 Dark Link / Shadow Link

First appearing in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo EAD, 1987) this shadowy version of the heroic Link gets the number ten spot purely because he isn’t really much more than a glorified henchmen for main series villain, Ganon. In true Peter Pan (Barrie, 1902) fashion, Dark Link often takes the form of a pitch-black shadow or a dark, distorted reflection and is able to perfectly mirror all of Link’s attacks and abilities. In recent years, he’s appeared more as a phantom and been given more definition but he’s generally relegated to being a sub-boss for a game’s dungeon and never the true threat to the land of Hyrule.

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9 Wario

Debuting in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992), this bloated, disgusting, twisted version of Mario is everything Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascot isn’t: he’s rude, crude, mad, bad, and dangerous. Where Mario jumps on blocks and Koopa heads to save a delightful Princess, Wario barges through walls and tosses his enemies at each other to steal, loot, or recover treasure. Wario even has his own version of Luigi, Waluigi (who exists more for the sake of existing, I would argue) but, while he crashed onto the scene in a big way by taking over Mario’s castle, Wario has softened over the years. He’s transitioned from an anti-hero and begrudging ally to simply a master of ceremonies as Nintendo moved him away from being the star of his own series of unique games and more towards party games and mini games.

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8 Black Adam

Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, Teth-Adam was originally gifted the magical powers of the wizard Shazam and chosen to be his champion, Mighty Adam. After being bewitched and corrupted, however, Adam was stripped of his powers and withered away to dust but, centuries later, was reborn when his ancestor, Theo Adam kills Billy Batson’s parents to lay claim to Adam’s power. Black Adam possesses all of the same powers as Captain Marvel/Shazam but is also gifted with a pronounced mean streak and tactical genius; he briefly reformed for a time, even joining the Justice Society of America and building a family of his own, but his quick temper and deep-seated contempt for humanity generally always drives him into a murderous rampage that few heroes can hope to oppose.

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7 Alec Trevelyan / Janus

Appearing in what is still probably the best James Bond film ever made, GoldenEye (Campbell, 1995), Alec Trevelyan (masterfully portrayed by Sean Bean) was one of MI6’s top 00 agents. However, wanting revenge against the British government for the death of his family and comrades during World War Two, Trevelyan faked his death and formed a criminal organisation named after his new alias, Janus. Trevelyan makes the list because he’s everything James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was but twisted towards villainy; he and Bond were close friends and partners and his “death” weighed heavily on Bond’s conscious for nine years, making his betrayal even more sickening. In facing Trevelyan, Bond not only faces his biggest regret and mistake but also himself and what he could easily become if the fates were different.

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6 Slash

First appearing in ‘Slash, the Evil Turtle from Dimension X’ (Wolf, et al, 1990), Slash was originally an evil violent mirror of the heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who often appeared in Turtles videogames and merchandise as a sub-boss for the Turtles to fight. For me, his most iconic look is when he’s sporting a black bandana, some spiked apparel, razor-sharp, jagged blades, and a heavy, armour-plated, spiked shell. Slash’s look and characterisation have changed significantly over the years as he’s gone from a somewhat-eloquent villain, to a rampaging monster, to an ally of the Turtles depending on which version you’re reading or watching.

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5 The Master

Originally (and, perhaps, most famously) portrayed by Roger Delgado, the Master was a renegade Time Lord who rebelled against his overbearing masters to freely wander through time and space. While this closely mirrors the story of his childhood friend, the Doctor (Various), the Master was the Doctor’s exact opposite: evil where the Doctor was good, malicious where the Doctor was kind, and wanted nothing more than to extend his lifespan, conquer other races, and destroy (or break) his oldest rival. Though sporting a deadly laser screwdriver and able to hypnotise others, the Master gets the number five spot simply because he’s been overplayed to death in recent years. Time and time again we’ve witnessed the Master at the end of his regeneration cycle, or destroyed forever, only for yet another incarnation to appear and wreck more havoc. He’s even redeemed himself and turned good before, and yet still returns to his wicked ways to plague the Doctor even when his threat should long have ended.

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4 Metal Sonic

Speeding onto the scene in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), Metal Sonic stands head-and-shoulders above all over robot copies of Sonic the Hedgehog simply by virtue of his simplistic, bad-ass design. A fan favourite for years, Metal Sonic has made numerous appearances in multiple Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) videogames, comic books, and other media. Sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design, chrome plating, and a massive jet engine on his back, Metal Sonic did something no one had done at the time of his debut and not only matched Sonic’s speed, but outmatched it on more than one occasion. While Sonic CD is far from my favourite Sonic title, it’s hard to downplay the iconic race against Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway or his impact on the franchise.

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3 Reverse-Flash

Versions of the Reverse-Flash have plagued DC Comics’ speedsters over the years, most notably Edward Clariss (The Rival), Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash), and Hunter Zolomon (Professor Zoom). Sporting a yellow variant of the classic Flash suit and shooting off sparks of red lightning, the Reverse-Flash is generally characterised as using his powers to torture the Flash out of a twisted desire to make him a better hero. Reverse-Flash’s threat is increased by his tendency to travel through time, evading death and plaguing different generations of the Flash; Professor Zoom was even able to manipulate the Speed Force to jump through time and appear to be faster than the Flash. Reverse-Flash has also been the cause of numerous agonies in the lives of multiple Flashes; he’s killed or threatened those closest to him (including Barry Allen’s mother) and delights in bringing the Flash to the brink of his moral code.

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2 Judge Death

Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself is a crime (as crimes are only committed by the living), Judge Death is the dark counterpart to no-nonsense lawman Judge Dredd. First appearing in 1980 and created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Death assumes the appearance of the Grim Reaper and uses his demonic powers to kill with a touch. Rocking a metal design (recently evoked by the Batman-Who-Laughs, another contender for this list), Judge Death takes Dredd’s uncompromising enforcement of the law and ramps it up to eleven. Alongside his fellow Dark Judges, he once slaughtered over sixty million citizens of Mega City One and, despite his corporeal form being destroyed or trapped, has returned time and time again to bring judgement upon the living.

1Venom
1 Venom

Perhaps the most popular (or, at least, mainstream) of all dark doppelgängers is the alien symbiote who, when bonded to Eddie Brock (or others), is known as Venom. Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Venom began life as a black alien costume that absorbed Spider-Man’s powers and abilities and sought to permanently bond with him. When Spidey rejected it, it turned to Brock and, through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, Venom was born. Sporting a super simple design (pitch-black with a white spider logo, emotionless white eyes, deadly fangs and claws, and a long, drooling tongue), Venom plagued Spidey for years. Immune to Spidey’s Spider-Sense and sporting all his powers, but double the strength and viciousness, Venom has evolved from a sadistic villain, to an anti-hero, to all-out hero over the years but, thanks to their equally violent offspring, has been the source of much death and woe to Spider-Man since day one.

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What dark doppelgänger is your favourite? Were there any I missed off this list, or do you, perhaps, feel the evil copy is a played out trope? Drop a line in the comments and pop back for more lists and articles.