“Someday this war’s going to end,” laments Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore to conclude his memorable joyride through 1979’s Apocalypse Now. Similarly, as we come to the final issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths, I find myself longing (just a little) for more panels overstuffed with characters, more conversationally-expository dialogue, and even more stakes-raising plot twists.
Still, Crisis had to end sometime. Last issue introduced the singular timeline and its history. It was the first step into an era that continues to inform DC’s superhero comics. As such, issue #12 — which appeared in comics shops some thirty years ago, during the first week of November 1985 — is about cleaning up the miniseries’ last bits of clutter and getting the merged timeline ready for all its prospective readers. It’s 42 pages of wall-to-wall action, executed skillfully by the creative team.
Speaking of which, credits: Crisis On Infinite Earths issue 12 was co-plotted, scripted, and edited by Marv Wolfman, co-plotted and pencilled by George Pérez, inked by Jerry Ordway (who also pencilled one page), colored by Tom Ziuko, and lettered by John Costanza. Robert Greenberger was the associate editor and Len Wein was the consulting editor.
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The issue follows a few basic tracks, including Earth invaded by shadow-demons and the final fight with the Anti-Monitor. However, it opens with the Forgotten Heroes, a group of (at the time) C- and D-listers: Animal Man, Adam Strange, Dolphin, Captain Comet, Rip Hunter, and the Atomic Knight. Last issue they came across Brainiac’s skull-ship, drifting listlessly through space; and this issue they see that Earth’s not where it should be. After Brainiac wakes up and is convinced that he needs to help save the universe (again), he realizes they need a more powerful ally — so naturally, he sets a course for Apokolips.
Meanwhile, the Earth and Moon are still in the Anti-Matter Universe, with Anti-M’s giant heavenly holo-head talking smack. He recounts his efforts to “enlarge” the AMU and “have it replace all other universes,” only to be stymied by the Earth’s superheroes. Now, though, it’s time for the Earth to die, just like Supergirl, the Flash, and “so many others” died. Various reaction shots show stoic heroes, except for Kid Flash, who’s all “the Flash [really] is dead?” Clearly this is the next step in Kid Flash’s own subplot, but since it comes at the end of Anti-M’s speech (and isn’t followed up for several pages) it’s a little jarring.
Anyway, as Harbinger summons various heroes and they start making plans, darkness covers the Earth. Super-senses allow the Earth-Two Superman to hear and see all of New York City descend into panic and chaos, and he gets a little rattled. As it turns out, the darkness is really the collective effect of millions of shadow demons, who (not two pages later) start swarming over the globe, picking off random civilians left and right.
It’s portrayed very effectively. Wolfman’s narration uses phrases like “this place of death,” but he dials back the melodrama just enough to emphasize the creepiness of it all. Pérez and Ordway’s storytelling, combined with Ziuko’s colors, create a somber, spooky mood. Even a scene involving the ultra-bright Doctor Light contrasts the darkness with harsh yellows; and when the darkness “shatters” into shadow-demons, they spread out against a sickly pink sky.