By Marv Wolfman & George Pérez & various (DC Comics)
There are a number of books I’ve held off reviewing for – I thought – obvious reasons. If a reader comfortable with the superhero genre hasn’t read certain landmarks like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns by now then surely I’ve been largely wasting yours and my time here. Nevertheless I’m reliably informed that many readers, new and old alike, have “never got around to” some of the most significant graphic narratives ever produced so here I am metaphorically poking the negligent with a stick until they do…
In 1985 the Editorial Powers-That-Be at DC Comics were celebrating fifty years of publishing, and on a creative upswing that had been a long time coming. As part of the festivities, and in a purported attempt to simplify five decades of often conflicting stories, a decision was made to concoct a truly epic, year-long saga that would impact every single DC title and reconstruct the entire landscape and history of the DC Universe, with an appearance – however brief – by every character the company had ever published. Easy-peasy, Huh?
Additionally, this new start would end the apparent confusion of multiple Earths with similarly named and themed heroes that had been deterring (sic) new readers. The hefty result of these good intentions was a huge success, both critically and commercially, and enabled the company to reinvigorate many of their most cherished – if moribund – properties. They’ve been trying to change it back ever since.
Plotted long in advance of launch, threads and portents appeared for months in DC’s regular titles, mostly to do with a mysterious arms-and-information broker known as The Monitor. With his beautiful assistant Harbinger he had been gauging each and every being on every Earth with a view to saving all Reality. At this time that Reality consisted of uncountable variations of universes existing “side-by-side”, each with differences varying from slight to monumental. It transpires that at the very beginning of time an influence from the future caused Reality to fracture…
Now a wave of anti-matter was scything through the Cosmic All destroying these separate universes. And before each Armageddon a tormented immortal named Pariah materialised. As the book opens he arrives on an Earth, as its closest dimensional neighbours are experiencing monumental geo-physical disruptions. It’s the end of the World…
Just in case you haven’t experienced this phenomenal example of superhero spectacle by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, aided and abetted by Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Jerry Ordway, suffice to say that there is villainy behind the catastrophe and the action is tinged with tragedy – as many major heroic figures, from the grand to the nondescript die valiantly – fall in the struggle to preserve some measure of life in the doomed multiverse.
Full of plot twists and intrigue this Cosmic Spectacle set the benchmark for all future crossover publishing events, not just DC’s, and is still a qualitative high point seldom reached and never yet surpassed. As well as being a superb blockbuster in its own right and accessible to even the greenest neophyte reader, it is the foundation of all DC stories since 1985 and absolutely vital reading before attempting such modern epics as Infinite Crisis.
© 1985, 2001, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.