Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Graphic Audio

July 14th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s time to take another trip to the Graphic Audio well, this time for the audio book based on the novelization of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I’ve dealt with the Graphic Audios for Infinite Crisis and 52 on this site, which were both adapted by Greg Cox. I don’t think I’ve ever shown that guy the respect he deserves, since he’s done a rather good job with what he’s been given. He’s able to translate from art to text very well, while making the right decisions on what to cut for space reasons. I notice this mainly because he didn’t write the CoIE adaptation.

Rather, it was Marv Wolfman, the man who wrote the original comic series over twenty years ago. My feelings on Crisis is that it was average. It has its moments and the art is very nice, but it’s very boring most of the time and centers around some mostly mediocre characters. Still, it’s one of the first major epics of comic book storytelling and an important part of comic history.

You might think that having Wolfman adapt his own comic could only be a good thing. Who knows more about what was going on in Crisis than the man who wrote it? Sadly, this isn’t the case. The novelization of Crisis comes off like it’s being retold by a guy who read it once twenty years ago, but keeps getting it confused with how much he loves Barry Allen.

If you’ve read the original comic, you might be wondering what I mean by that. The Flash only got captured, died blowing up that machine and then inspired Wally West to take up the mantle. As important as the story is to him, he’s only a supporting character at best (which could also be said for Supergirl’s role).

Here, Flash is our narrator most of the time. It keeps switching back between him and usual Graphic Audio narrator Richard Rohan. Given the choice between the two, the third party narrator is far better because you can hear about what’s going on without having to hear Barry’s commentary. It’s like regular narration, but with the added “nobody could see me!” and “I wish there was something I could do to stop it!”

What am I yammering about? You see, Flash appears to be seeing the past, present and future at the same time. Sort of. While having him do the Dr. Manhattan thing would be decent enough, it’s more that he’s bouncing back and forth in time for no real reason, which includes visiting the same spot twice or thrice and having other time-traveling versions of himself there. What’s going on is that by being tortured by the Anti-Monitor, he’s having some kind of out-of-body-and-out-of-time experience. That’s really the best way I can explain it.

The Wolfman novel has three stages to it. The first third of the book falls under “boring as watching grass fuck”. Let me tell you, the comic itself started in the most fantastic way possible for such a story. We got to see the destruction of Earth-3. Not only do we see that this is such a threat that a form of the Justice League – the Crime Syndicate in this case – is wiped out easily, but that this threat is so evil and ominous that Ultraman dies in a way that’s borderline noble.

What do we get instead? About a half hour of Flash doing a monologue about all the different worlds and his relationship with Iris. The whole status quo in the comics where Professor Zoom murdered Iris and Flash murdered Zoom in retaliation is ignored here. For the entirety of the story, Flash’s mindset involving Iris is nothing more than, “I really hope Iris is safe somehow!” Once we finally get past all that boring introduction, we move on to Earth-3!

It isn’t as awesome as it should be. Instead of the nihilistic feeling of dread that comes from the Crime Syndicate failing to save their universe, we just get Lex Luthor and his pregnant wife Lois Lane talking about those red skies. Then a mysterious voice tells Lex to save his unborn son.

The CD set is six discs, clocking in at about 7 hours. This is half as long as both the Infinite Crisis and 52 adaptations. I bring that up because it takes nearly two of the discs to finish off the first issue. That should tell you the pacing issues we’re to expect on this.

Once we move forward, things start to finally get interesting. A lot of the meat of the first few issues are tossed to the side and occasionally mentioned in passing. Flash will briefly mention how Psycho-Pirate has forced Killer Frost to fall in love with Firestorm. Most of the chosen heroes vs. shadow demon fights are merely seen on a monitor.

Before I forget, I have to mention this one ridiculous moment from where the Monitor himself talks to the chosen heroes. Some of them ask the questions involving plotholes that anyone reading the story would have wondered regardless. Why did he pick guys like Blue Beetle and Solivar when he could have just brought in an army of Supermen and Wonder Women? If there are only five universes left undestroyed out of a near infinite, why the hell did it take him so long to do something about it? How are these questions answered? Lyla screaming, “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION THE MONITOR?!”

But like I said, the audio book gets better midway through. This is because of all the central characters, who finally get a chance to shine. Let it be said that Crisis on Infinite Earths was a breeding ground for boring characters who mostly went on to do a big pile of nothing. There are moments here and there that give the characters some strength. A big example is Monitor and Lyla.

In the comic, Lyla was so generic it hurt. The novel gives her relationship with the Monitor more background. When he tells her how much he loves her in his posthumous video recording, you can actually respect the emotion in the scene. A lot of this has to do with her voice actress, Elisabeth Demery, who does a wonderful job. Between Lyla and the Monitor, you get this feeling that they both knew that they were just pawns of fate, walking an already-determined path, but the family bond they felt for each other made up for their feelings of being used.

Alexander Luthor only gets a few scenes to shine in, but he’s nice to have around during those scant moments. Though brilliant and fully adult physically, he has a very easy-going and childlike quality to him. As he tells it, the Monitor used some kind of technology to educate him on all of the five surviving Earth’s cultures and languages in the few days of his existence. There’s a part where he’s setting himself up for self-sacrifice as part of the Monitor’s plan, but he doesn’t mind in the slightest, as he hasn’t been alive long enough to be attached to life.

Pariah is a fun guy to listen to. His overly dramatic rantings are exactly what you’d expect from reading the comic. It still doesn’t sit well with me that they never explain just why he is forced to watch each and every Earth crumble firsthand, only to survive and be tossed into the next dying world. At first you get the idea that it’s his penance for unleashing Anti-Monitor on the multiverse, only it’s revealed later on that he is essentially blameless. So… why exactly is he being punished then? Why is he forced to watch trillions of people die over the course of eons? That question is only answered by the Anti-Monitor with a hearty laugh that appears to be him changing the subject. If he was given immortality as a punishment/reward from Anti-Monitor, that would make sense. It would show off how much of an evil bitch he is. There’s some later dialogue with the Monitor that suggests that Pariah is merely playing a part in God’s plan. Wow. Way to be a bigger asshole than you were with the Job incident, God.

Lady Quark… hoo boy. She sounds like you’d expect, with her deep, mature female voice. That’s all well and good. The problem is how pointless she ultimately is. She’s introduced and her world is destroyed so that she can go on for the rest of the story, seething at Pariah for being the cause of her family’s death. She has Phantom of Krankor Syndrome, where she keeps wanting to kill Pariah, even though it’s stated and shown again and again that it isn’t possible. Then when Pariah’s name is cleared, she realizes that she was mistaken. Who cares? It’s not like it would have made any difference!

The Monitor is played by Mort Shelby, who sounds like a caring, overgrown grandfather who’s on his last legs. He certainly sounds friendly. One cool bit with him is how throughout the story, it’s insinuated that he’s able to see or sense Flash watching him. Meanwhile, the same guy is voicing the Anti-Monitor, who comes off sounding like Darth Vader after somebody dented his brand new Camaro. Hearing Anti-Monitor talk is always a treat, especially when paired with his top henchman.

Psycho-Pirate makes everything worthwhile. Voiced by Christopher Walker, Psycho-Pirate brings life to every scene he’s in. He’s like an extremely nervous Joker, with the knowledge that everything he says and does will have dire consequences on his mortality, only if he says and does nothing, it’ll only be worse. It’s really turned me onto how fun the character can be.

They keep referring to him as “Psycho-Pirate of Earth-1”. Don’t know what that’s about.

Unfortunately, they removed a couple of his key scenes. One being his introduction, where he refuses to join Lyla because he knows what being the Psycho-Pirate will do to him. Then they removed his final scene. What?! Come on! That was one of the smoothest scenes in the comic! The idea that despite everything being wrapped up, Psycho-Pirate still knows about the multiple Earths is the best final page cliffhanger of any event comic. Think about it. Infinite Crisis, Sinestro Corps War and Secret Invasion all end with a final page revelation that outright states what the heroes will be up against sometime in the near future. Not CoiE. There’s something ominous about Psycho-Pirate’s rantings, but we can’t exactly pin down what kind of threat it’s going to lead to.

The story continues to move forward and we get the Supergirl death sequence, which is rather nicely done. Though all the Dr. Light II character development is thrown right out of the window. She’s merely there for a couple scenes and that’s it. Which reminds me, there’s a scene where Wonder Woman argues with her mother over whether or not the amazons should help fight the Anti-Monitor, which is itself pointless, since Wonder Woman only gets a couple more lines and does nothing of note. She doesn’t even get killed like in the comic.

Flash’s phantom travels through the story’s history catches up to the present and he escapes captivity because he and the other versions of himself who have visited this point in time multiple times in their travels all vibrate together. I have no idea what I just typed.

Flash dies at the end of the fifth disc. That means that the last third of the comic’s story – four issues – is retold over the course of an hour. It took them about two discs for the first issue and one disc for the last four. Let me remind you, the last four issues was where it got exciting.

The entire subplot about Brainiac and Lex Luthor putting together a villain army is done away with. Brainiac doesn’t even get a single appearance. Everything involving Darkseid and the heroes who seek him out is gone. After Flash “dies”, he merely exists as energy and informs the heroes that the Anti-Monitor is hanging out in the dawn of time. We get a very rushed form of the rest of the story, leading up to Earth-2 Superman vs. the Anti-Monitor in the Anti-Matter Universe.

I said before that the story is split into three parts. The first part is where everything’s boring. The second part is where everything gets interesting. This third part, even when you ignore Marv Wolfman’s blatant rushjob, is flat out bonkers in how much it bugs me.

Now, you have to remember that while the Graphic Audio book is recent, the novel itself came out in 2005. It came out around the time of the Infinite Crisis comic series, which is a direct sequel to CoiE. It would make sense to maybe try and link the two. For instance, Geoff Johns recently did a storyline that retold Hal Jordan’s origin, but found ways to link it to both Rage of the Red Lanterns and Blackest Night. Wolfman could have easily tossed in a scene or line that would have foreshadowed Infinite Crisis.

Could have.

He goes the opposite direction. He goes out of his way to prevent any links between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. Alexander Luthor doesn’t remain in the Anti-Matter Universe with Earth-2 Superman. Instead, once the portal closes, he presumably returns to Earth-1 and is never heard from again.

Earth-2 Superman dies fighting the Anti-Monitor and meets up with Earth-2 Lois in Heaven.

And Superboy Prime? Not even a single mention of Superboy Prime.

All those characters like Alexander Luthor, Lyla, Pariah and Lady Quark do very, very little for the last part of the story. The last stretch of the story is more of Wolfman’s whacking off to how awesome Barry Allen is. You might be saying, “Hey, come on! That’s not fair! You shouldn’t hate on the guy just because he made Flash narrator most of the time!”

In the original comic, Flash’s only moment of usefulness was to beat up Psycho-Pirate, force him to turn Anti-Monitor’s army against him, then die while destroying Anti-Monitor’s universe-killing gizmo. Wolfman decided that that wasn’t nearly enough. Over the course of this revised story, Flash’s phantom self has a bunch of ill-defined powers that only appear one each time for the sake of plot device.

– When the Monitor’s chosen heroes and villains fight the shadow demons, Flash momentarily takes over Solivar’s body and fights through him.

– When Psycho-Pirate has all the heroes trying to kill each other, they’re saved from the mind control by Flash running through all their bodies. They don’t even try to give this any attempt at an explanation.

– At the dawn of time, you have Anti-Monitor with all the powers of the fallen heroes vs. the Spectre with all the powers of the mystic heroes. That was good enough for the Spectre in the comic. This time, he’s losing the fight. Flash realizes that he’s pure energy now, so he runs circles around the mystics, giving them more power to feed to the Spectre and therefore winning the battle.

– Earth-2 Superman is no longer tough enough to defeat a weakened Anti-Monitor. In this version of the story, Flash is pulled into Heaven, where he discovers that everyone who no longer existed thanks to the Earths merging is now in the afterlife. He’s able to absorb the strength of the Crime Syndicate and all the others killed by the Anti-Monitor before reappearing in the Anti-Matter Universe, jumping into Earth-2 Superman’s body and killing the Anti-Monitor with one punch. The resulting explosion sends both Flash and Earth-2 Superman to Heaven.

– He still isn’t done yet! Flash is pulled back in time to meet with the Monitor, where they shoot the shit about fate. Flash goes back in time again to Earth-3, revealing that he’s the one who warned Lex Luthor about how he had to save Alexander. Earth-3, which no longer exists in the timeline! It doesn’t make sense! I think my nose is bleeding from listening to this!

Finally, Flash is allowed his reward for being so awesome and saving the universe all by himself. He gets to see the future, where Wally is the Flash, Iris is still alive and Bart Allen is apparently voiced by a 3-year-old. As a ghost, he kisses Iris on the cheek and is finally allowed into the afterlife.

Hoo boy. That was an ordeal. The boys at Graphic Audio really tried their hardest with this one and it’s rare to find a genuinely awful moment of voice acting, but trying to make the Crisis on Infinite Earths novel into a good audio book is like making lemons into lemonade when you found the lemons buried in George Wendt’s asscrack.

And now, let’s listen to some choice audio clips.

First off, Earth-3 Lex Luthor is the densest man in the multiverse.

[MEDIA not found]

Life sucks for Pariah.

[MEDIA not found]

Some Ted Kord voice-acting.

[MEDIA not found]

Kamandi meets Solivar

[MEDIA not found]

Lyla becomes Harbinger and goes to kill the Monitor

[MEDIA not found]

Alexander Luthor uses technology to its fullest

[MEDIA not found]

Psycho-Pirate’s freaked out

[MEDIA not found]

Psycho-Pirate goes into a creepy monologue about how loyal he is to Anti-Monitor

[MEDIA not found]

Anti-Monitor and Psycho-Pirate talk about their favorite bands, chicks who have broken their hearts, the Matrix…

[MEDIA not found]

Psycho-Pirate loses it yet again, including his nervous laugh

[MEDIA not found]

Sgt. Rock teams up with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters

[MEDIA not found]

The Death of Supergirl

[MEDIA not found]

The Death of Flash

[MEDIA not found]

Earth-2 Superman vs. Anti-Monitor

[MEDIA not found]

Hey, you know what would be great? Get the Anti-Monitor to do a recording for a Lewis Black audio book. That would rule!

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6 comments to “Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Graphic Audio”

  1. Haha, the first one, with the patient mentorish old male voice going “Alexander did this. Alexander did that.” reminds me of Kings Quest 6.

  2. So Flash didn’t die, he just turned into Electric Superman? Rad.

  3. Crisis on Infinite Earths is just. I mean. I tried, once, to read it, and I just couldn’t. Sometimes You Have To Have Been There is the moral of that one.

  4. I find it odd that most of the comics that get adapted into novels are event books, which usually require much more than the basic pop culture understanding of the characters. Additionally, they are so tied up in the language of comics that they don’t particularly translate that well. It doesn’t seem like a good way of getting a different type of readership interested. I’m not saying they should be exclusively for that audience, but someone who has a minor interest in superheroes is more likely to discover the storyline through a novel than a comic.

    How cool would a Gotham Central novel have been?

    I hear there’s a Kingdom Come novel out there that’s pretty decent, but supposedly it has the same problem of glossing over important events and emphasizing trivial plot points. Kingdom Come does make more sense as an adaption, though.

    There’s an audiobook version too. Maybe that should be your next review?

  5. It’s funny you mention that…

  6. I like it.
    id buy it if i could find it.
    might download a mp3