Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Crisis Times Two!

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 6: written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas; illustrated by George Perez, Don Heck, Adrian Gonzales, Jerry Ordway, Romeo Tanghal, and others (1981-82; collected 2013): When DC had multiple Earths the first time around, an annual team-up between the Justice League of Earth-1 and the Justice Society of Earth-2 started in the early 1960's. Earth-1 was home to the heroes regularly published by DC; Earth-2 was home to their counterparts who first appeared in the late 1930's and 1940's, along with a few 'legacy' heroes like Power Girl (Earth-2's Supergirl) and the Huntress (daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman).

This volume reprints two of the longest team-ups -- eight issues in all between the two. The second team-up also brings in the All-Star Squadron, writer Roy Thomas's ret-conned Justice Society of World War Two, when the Society was disbanded in favour of a larger assemblage of Axis-fighting superheroes.

In all, this is a lot of time and space-bending fun from the late Bronze Age at DC, which ended in 1985 with the Crisis on Infinite Earths. 'Crisis' is the keyword here, used in the titles of the very first JLA/JSA team-up and then forever after in the titles of subsequent team-ups. When someone says 'Crisis!' in the DC Universe, something big and bad is going down.

The great George Perez pencils the first story arc, one which pits the League and the Society against the Secret Society of Super-villains and the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3. Much punching and inter-dimensional travel ensues. Perez demonstrates his almost uncanny ability to make super-heroes seem distinct and different and razor-sharp in their delineation. Conway's script is full of cosmic absurdity and 'cosmic balance,' as the scripts of these team-ups should be.

The second story arc crosses over between Justice League of America and All-Star Squadron. The long-penciling Don Heck does yeoman's duty on the JLA sections, especially when he inks his own pencils in the last JLA issue. Over on All-Star Squadron, a young Jerry Ordway inks Adrian Gonzales in crisp, pleasing fashion. This arc jumps between worlds and times as Golden-Age Justice Society villain Per Degaton (love that name!) enlists the help of a variety of super-villains so as to rule Earth-2. Thomas and Conway's time-travel plot is a twisty one, and at one point takes us to Earth-Prime -- which is to say, to 'our' Earth, where superheroes appear only in comic books, TV, movies, and on Underoos.

In all, this is a fine collection of melodramatic, high-stakes superhero action. One of the funnier bits involves the heroes being shocked at the idea of a world without superheroes. A running bit in which the JLA's nuclear superhero, Firestorm, keeps trying to hit on Power Girl is a bit lame, though. Stop macking on Superman's cousin! Recommended.

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