(DC Comics, creative team: Marv Wolfman, Mark Guggenheim, Tom Derenick, Tom Grummett, with a cover by Jerry Ordway)
As the Crisis on Infinite Earths' crossover is now on hiatus until January 14th, 2020, viewers are wanting more to tide them over during the month off. So in the spirit of corporate synergy DC has released the Crisis on Infinite Earths Giant #1, containing two stories related to the TV mini-series crossover. Both tie-in stories are written by original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book writer Marv Wolfman (the man who dreamed up the Monitor when he was a little kid) and Marc Guggenheim, executive producer on Arrow and overseer of the entire Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover for the Arrowverse shows (and also someone with some comic book writing experience). So a tie-in done by these two creators should be essential reading for the fans of the Arrowverse and fit neatly into the crossover, right?
Spoilers for the crossover follow…
Comic book tie-ins are tricky things and rarely do they work. Comic book story-line tie-ins are often hard enough to make work and most often suffer from a lack of coordination and understanding of where in the crossover the tie-in fits. Also making the voices of the characters work and seem genuine in a supplemental tie-in is often something many tie-ins miss the mark at. Now when a comic book tie-in is being done with a television series or movie, things get far worse, as the script or elements being tied into by the comic book are changed and the tie-in writer is unaware, or any questions (such as where should my tie-in story should fit in the overall narrative) are never answered because the writers, producers, etc. from the original medium can't be consulted or don't make the time to answer such questions.
However, for this comic tie-in one of the writers is someone who created the whole concept, co-created many of the major characters (Monitor, Anti-Monitor, Pariah, Harbringer) and has written almost every character in the crossover at some point. The other writer has been executive producer and writer since the Arrowverse started, knows all the story beats, and has given lengthy interviews on the crossover.
So again spoilers for the crossover and Crisis on Infinite Earths Giant #1 follow…
The tie-in issue features moments and characters we have not, and will not get to see in the main crossover. Actors Emily Bett Rickards and Keiynan Lonsdale are not going to appear in the five-part Crisis, so their characters won't either. Crisis on Infinite Earths Giant #1 addressing both these characters as Felicity Smoak and Kid Flash appear in this issue, Felicity even narrates the entire tale.
Next, a plot point brought up by the Monitor at the beginning of Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 2 (Batwoman Season 1 Episode 9) and how Felicity Smoak helped the Monitor get information from "The Tomb of the Guardians" starts to be addressed in this issue.
The issue also brings with it the idea that Pariah has an anti-monitor opposite, someone who shows up at the beginning of when a universe first encounters the anti-matter wave, in comparison to how Pariah shows up at the end. This doppleganger, Outkast, becomes the McGuffin of the story. As Marc Guggenheim said during the second episode of Crisis Aftermath, the Paragons are the McGuffin of the Crisis crossover, something for our heroes to search for. Outkast is that for this tie-in, and according to the Monitor, Outkast knows who the Paragons (the seven people who can save reality and defeat the Anti-Monitor) are.
The story also has Kid Flash aiding our heroes from the start of the issue, working alongside his mentor, and sadly sacrificing himself for the Flash.
We also see Felicity learn that her husband had died, something the Monitor keeps from her.
Flash and Felicity also get to talk about Oliver's death.
And we get to see a larger group of heroes gathered by Harbinger including the Ray from Earth-X, and Nyssa Al Ghul from Earth-1.
And what most have thrilled about during Crisis, the cameos. Such as Superman and Lois Lane from Earth-F
Wonder Woman '77 from Earth-76
A rebuilt Red Tornado and adding in Doll-Man from Earth-X,
And the Justice Alliance from Earth-D, last seen in the Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths one-shot from 1999 at the heart of another Shadow Demon attack.
(Felicity's comments on Earth-D are fun shoutouts such as how it "has an entire … League, I guess, of supers." Plus not being able to recognize the "cool guy" on Earth-D as a Green Lantern…)
This tie-in is full of great cameos and allusions to throughout the DC multiverse and history. However, this story … doesn't fit into the crossover for so many reasons, which is sad because of who wrote the story. The story seems to be written with the idea that it takes place entirely during the second part of the crossover (Batwoman Season 1, Episode 9), in particular, fitting in the space starting right after Harbinger and Heatwave (Mick Rory) have their conversation about using the Waverider. (Literally after the line "You had me at beer…")
and ending before the next scene where the Monitor tells the characters about the Paragons. After this "Crisis on Infinite Earths" (the actual title of the main story in Crisis on Infinite Earths Giant #1, as though that wouldn't be confusing) begins with Harbinger recruiting the Ray from the dying Earth-X and returning to Waverider to be greeted by the Flash (Earth-1 Barry Allen), Kid Flash, the Atom (Ray Palmer), White Canary (Sara Lance), Batwoman, and Felicity Smoak. (Flash comments "we just got here ourselves".)
Along with Nyssa Al Ghul, the group is informed about Pariah's (Nash Wells') anti-matter opposite Outkast, and that he must be captured. Joined by Pariah, as well the group, they attempt to do just that, traveling to dying world after dying world to save them.
Elements of the story make the timeline for fitting this story in the crossover, difficult. First, the comic book has the characters in costume almost the whole time, yet during the episode, it takes place during, the heroes are almost always not in super-hero attire. Felicity just wandering the Waverider is problematic, because her future daughter is also onboard, yet no mention is made of this.
Flash and Felicity discuss Oliver's death with Felicity focused on bringing back Oliver through the power of the Paragons, even though the Flash plans to take Oliver to a Lazarus Pit and is working with Mia and Sara to do so, but he makes no mention of this. Also Pariah is introduced to many of the characters in this story, before he meets them again for the first time in the actual crossover episodes. And the Flash learns of the Paragons during this story, which doesn't fit because if takes place before the Monitor tells them in the crossover and the Flash states "You're just now telling us this?" during that point … the story just doesn't fit.And if you place the story later in the same episode, there are other continuity issues. Harbinger is already falling under the sway of the Anti-Monitor and is disorientated in Batwoman Episode 9. During the tie-in story though, she is clearly not under the influence of the Anti-Monitor, serving at the transportation for the heroes. The influence from the Anti-Monitor though, starts during the scene in the Batwoman episode where the Monitor tells the heroes about the Paragons, making the story near impossible to fit into the crossover without major continuity errors.
As for the second 8-page story, continuity issues are not really an issue here in terms of readability, because this story ABSOLUTELY can't fit in the crossover. It's a well-written story with some great Easter eggs, such as Luthors from all so many multiverses (name them all if you can…
…who strangely meet on the same Earth that Batman ended up in the Kingdom Come exo-suit and killed Superman from Batwoman Episode 9). Also we get Superman's from so many multiverses (again, name them all?)
And for 8 pages, it is a great quick fun read through that fits the feel of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, in fact, for dialogue and motivation, I'd say it is better written than some parts of the crossover. The interaction of the Luthors…
…and the interaction of Earth-38 Luthor and Superman are great reading.
However, it again can't fit in the crossover because of continuity. This story again fits during Batwoman Episode 9, but there is one huge continuity sticking point because Luthor from Earth-38 is jailed at the end of the episode…
…and Earth-38 is destroyed by the beginning of that episode, and Superman is shown to be on Earth-38 at a point after Luthor is jailed on the Waverider. Plus, even if Luthor can time travel somehow, Superman knows of his imprisonment on the Waverider so this isn't the past of Earth-38 before its destruction.
One thing that can't be overlooked though is the great artwork by Tom Derrnick who does a great job with the first story, matching likeness, drawing a huge variety of locals and Earths. Also Tom Grummett, an artist who is not doing enough work for any company right now, and does a masterful job with the eight pages he has in this issue. Great, great artwork for this tie-in.
Now we'll see if the Crisis on Infinite Earths Giant #2 can somehow fix all these continuity issues, but I really doubt it can be done without completely erasing everything that has happened so far in the stories themselves. If a fan wants to read some great character moments that should be in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, this issue is a great read. If as a fan you want a side-story that fits in seams of the television episode clearly, this issue is sadly just a typical comic book tie-in that creates more problems than it solves.
Crisis on Infinite Earths Giant #1 is now on sale at Walmarts around the United States, and in comic book shops January 15th.