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Cosmos Ex Machina

by Captain Havok


The word took on its own life after Marv Wolfman and George Perez destroyed the DC Multiverse in the 1980ís, becoming legends in the process. The colloquialism has even carried over to in-universe dialog, referring now to the first and second crisis. These events are not married to DC, however, as events such as Marvelís Civil War or Annihilation could be called Crises, having irreparably changed that universe. Many of these events have one factor in common: a previously unknown celestial occurrence or being stirring and shaking our universe like a martini in a Bond movie.

While the Monitors in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and Alexander Luthor in Infinite Crisis were well developed and written, selling books like pancakes in a church, many times these cosmic events or characters seem to cheapen a story. JLA/Avengers comes to mind. Mind you, without cosmic characters, it is difficult to find a reason for cross-universe characters to mingle, but a new cosmic character was created for this event, the vast array of cosmic entities from both universes were not enough. A little game between The Specter and The Living Tribunal would have sufficed, but instead a previously-unknown third party was created to bring the universe's greatest heroes against each other.

52 is the most recent instance of this cheapening. Now, I greatly enjoyed 52, but I felt the climax was the World War III section of the title, culminating with the changing of Black Adamís magic word. Skeets became a surprising and frightening villain in 52, devouring the Phantom Zone. Skeets as a villain would have been a great change to the universe, giving us a rival for the like of Superman, Green Lantern, and of course an arch-nemesis for Booster Gold. Instead, Morrison pulled back to tell us Mr. Mind, a b-list Captain Marvel villain had possessed Skeets and was behind a previously unknown plot to devour the multiverse. A strange ending was crapped out because a nice, tidy ending couldn't be found. Mr. Morrison, you can't give us the excuse you gave for the X-Men. You knew when your run on the title was ending, you had a full year to give us a good one.

The Secret War events are possibly the most confusing of all. Some otherworldly being summoned the heroes of the Earth to fight, the events of which are undone once this challenge is completed. Somebody is trying to tell us this is a genuine, in-continuity story, though itís really a crazy What If? cleverly disguised as a crossover event. Spider-Man ends up with a black, symbiotic alien costume (because an artist was too lazy to draw the webbing) and some other crazy stuff happened. Comic book fans are very accepting of obfuscating events, stories, and characters; but the Secret War is one that even has us wondering what drunken Antarctic camel wrangler thought up this experiment in pointlessness.

A truly great crisis is one that can change the universe with the tools already made available. Brad Melterís Identity Crisis and Mark Millarís Civil War were dramatic character pieces that shook up our worlds, forever changed some characters, and kept the cosmos out of it, making it mean more to us and keeping it relatable. Itís difficult to relate to Nova being the last Nova Corps member after the first issue of Annihilation, but we all understand Ralph Dibnyís pain at the loss of his wife. We canít relate to the death of Jade in front of Alexander Luthorís giant hand in space in Infinite Crisis, but too many of us have experienced the rift between great friends that formed between Iron Man and Captain America in Civil War.

There are so many wonderful characters handed down to comic book writers today. Men like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditka, Bob Kane, Jerry Seigel, and Joe Shuster created some of the most timeless characters in fiction, with all their foibles and humanity laid out. Continuity has formed friendships, rivalries, grudging alliances, and fierce foes. There will always be the cosmic crises, extraterrestrial events, and Watchers coming down to tell us something bad is about to happen, but it is the personal crisis that I will truly treasure.

DC Comics images copyright 2006 DC Comics or Respective Owner. Marvel images copyright 2006 Marvel Entertainment or Respective Owner.
All other images copyright 2006 Respective Owners.