Sunday, April 24, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Infinite Possibilities

It happens every time a big epic “world-shaking” storyline is announced. The next few months are filled with all manner of speculation, particularly when the story has a vague plotline. And perhaps the mostly highly anticipated story this year is the upcoming Infinite Crisis.

With this in mind, I put forth my own theory about the ultimate outcome of exactly what the nature of this Crisis will be. It came to me in a flash of inspiration as I was rereading Countdown this past week. And as I reread that story, I thought of other stories DC has published in the past few months that have, I believe, hinted at what is coming.

First, let us consider two recent stories by Geoff Johns, who will be the writer of Infinte Crisis.

1. Titans Tomorrow – The Teen Titans are transported to a future where they must confront adult versions of themselves that have adopted more lethal methods of fighting crime

2. Green Lantern Rebirth – We find that the Green Lanterns have been taken over by a force of pure fear, that has managed to corrupt even the most strong-willed of them all and turn them into a force of evil.

One story directly referred to a Crisis yet to happen that would change everything. The other resolved a past one, also concerning a hero who crossed the line between good and evil. What is the connection? None, unless we consider that this is not the first story Johns has written that concerned the idea of heroes falling to their own personal demons. He did the same in Black Reign, a JSA story that showed other heroes crossing the line from hero to more villainous behavior in the name of a perceived greater good.

We should also consider Identity Crisis, which drew much criticism from classic DC Comic fans for being too dark in tone. One subplot of that story, which was picked-up and developed in a later The Flash story by Johns, concerned how the JLA used the reality-altering magic powers of Zatanna to erase or alter the minds and personalities of super-villains who had either learned about their secret identities or become too dangerous. An unmitigated act of wrongness for a group of heroes dedicated to being paragons of virtue in all things.

Johns’ Flash story further explored this idea of the JLA having a darker side, profiling one villain, The Top, who had been forced to become a good guy and was driven to madness as a result ala A Clockwork Orange. Johns’ Flash has also explored the relationship between the various factions of Flash’s enemies. One group of villains turned hero (The Trickster faction). Another that are villains, but villains with an ethical code of sorts (The Captain Cold faction). The final group are the villains who have no ethics or qualms at all.

All of this points to one definite trend: the line between what is a hero and what is a villain slowly thinning. More and more the DC Comics hero, long considered to be the most old-fashioned, the most heroic… are sinking into the depths of the anti-hero.

This darkening tone in DC Comics seems to be the result of more than artistic temperament and editorial dictate, however. Consider, for example, the latest issue of Action Comics in which it is revealed that Eclipso has returned.

For those of you who don’t remember the original storyline, there was a rather big inter-company crossover a few years ago that centered around Eclipso; a long-dormant angel of darkness (and pre-cursor to The Spectre) who could possess people by drawing off of their negative emotions. Many of the DCU’s greatest heroes were possessed by Eclipso and temporarily turned evil.

Perhaps the most telling line came in DC Countdown, when Blue Beetle asks Batman if he has noticed the world getting darker.

Where is all this going? Somehow, I believe that the upcoming Crisis is not one of cosmic battles between whole worlds but a battle that will be in the hearts and minds of the heroes themselves. I believe that some force, perhaps Eclipso or perhaps something acting through Eclipso, is slowly poisoning the inherit goodness of heroes. That the heroes themselves are becoming darker and more wicked and that the big change in the Universe will be a battle for the very spirit of the DC Universe itself.

Of course I could be totally wrong, in which case we’ll all look back at this in a few months and laugh. Still, something to think about.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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