Everyone loves a comic book cross-over event. When CW’s shows The Flash and Arrow did their first cross-over event in 2015 viewership shot through the roof. Movie goers around the world love Iron Man’s, Captain America’s, and Thor’s solo movies, but we go ape shit for The Avengers – and rightly so. The upcoming Justice League movie has DC fans in fits awaiting it’s summer release. There is just something about seeing a bunch of superheroes in action that we can’t get enough of, and comic fans are no different. Nothing gets a collectors pulse racing like the words “company-wide cross-over event”. Of course, it’s also true that the worst thing about collecting comic books are cross-over events, especially company wide cross-over events. DC’s 2005 company-wide cross-over Infinite Crisis is a perfect example of both.

Infinite Crisis was a big deal. After having rebooted the company’s complex and cumbersome continuity in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earth’s. The result was a single universe and a shared continuity through all DC books, just as Marvel had done since the 1960’s, with great success. Well, 2005’s Infinite Crisis returned the DCU to a multiverse comprised of fifty-two separate Earths.

In retrospect, Infinite Crisis is a very well crafted story that at it’s heart questions the decisions of Earth’s heroes as contributing to a dark and morally ambiguous universe. Sensing a need to correct things, the lone survivors of the original Crisis – Kal-L, Earth-Two’s Superman, Earth-Two’s Lois Lane, Alexander Luthor Jr. of Earth-Three, and Superboy of Earth-Prime – attempt to change reality so that they could be free of their paradise dimension turned prison. It plays on subjects such as nostalgia vs reality, and a sense that DC’s superheroes, much like America, had become a more grim nation in the wake of George W. Bush’s presidency, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and two wars: in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

If you were trying to collect Infinite Crisis when it was being published you would have found it one of the most frustrating experiences in your life. The event was overwhelmed by its lofty ambitions and so many important story beats were published out of order making it one of the worst reading experiences I have ever had. It was so large in scope – nearly 300 comics over two years – that it hobbled itself.

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The Adam Strange eight issue limited series, published between December 2004 and July 2005, was not marketed as a crucial Infinite Crisis miniseries because Infinite Crisis was a nearly a year and a half away and the company hadn’t even begun it’s media push for 2014’s major event: Identity Crisis. However, Adam Strange is just as important as any of the official Countdown to Infinite Crisis tie-ins, and The Return of Donna Troy. In fact, Adam Strange is so essential that without having read it, Countdown to Infinite Crisis: The Rann-Thanagar War will make zero sense.

I set it aside for a blog post because of how essential it is to Infinite Crisis, and because of how easily it can be overlooked.

The plot summarized quickly is a mystery tale. The defender of Rann, Earthman Adam Strange, travels back and forth between the two planets via Rannian teleportation technology known at the zeta-beam. The problem was that after a while the zeta-beam would send him back to Earth for short periods of time, but Strange would always be on the next z-beam back to Rann, his wife Alanna, his daughter, and his father-in-law, Rann’s chief scientist, Sardath.

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Only, one day, that zeta-beam didn’t arrive. Days, weeks, even months passes and Adam Strange slid further and further into depression. Superman returns from space to inform Adam that Rann appears to have been vaporized by a supernova. As the series develops we learn that the Thangarians – the long time enemies of the Rannians – are unaware of what has happened, but are held suspect by the vast majority of the intergalatic planets. After being held in custody and nearly executed by the Thangarians, Strange escapes and eventually finds a clone of his father-in-law on the planet Maltus. The clone gives Strange, who has teamed up with the Omega Men, the new co-ordinates for Rann.

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In a hugely important scene in the overall narrative of Infinite Crisis the reader learns that it was in fact Sardath who teleported Rann to another “long dead universe” and replaced it with a supernova from the Nebula System. The “long dead universe” is the first published mention of the multiverse still existing, in any state, since it’s collapse in twenty-years earlier in 1985. He was able to do this based on recent upgrades to the zeta-beam technology he invented. The new device was called the omega beam and it good teleport planets: it immediately became a draw for an old Rannian god known as Starbreaker, who with the help of Thangarian traitor and Wing Commander Sh’ri Valkyr, has come to bring an end to the universe and all life in it.

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A lot happens throughout the eight issues, but at the end of the series, Sardath uses his omega-beam to teleport Rann away from the Dead Universe and back into Rannian space. However, the omega-beam misses its mark and instead teleported Rann into the Nebula System, and entering an orbit that will sling-shot Thanagar out of its orbit and into its sun. The events that transpire in the limited series are carried on in Countdown to Infinite Crisis, and The Rann-Thanagar War. None of what happens in The Rann-Thanagar War makes sense without having read Adam Strange.

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As Infinite Crisis progressed readers would learn that something or someone intervened to prevent Rann from arriving at its intended destination and caused the planet to threaten Thanagar’s survival. This big reveal is a really crucial part of Infinite Crisis‘s narrative was lost on me the first time because I had not read Adam Strange.

Part of what makes Infinite Crisis such an amazing epoch is that it was clear that the current universe was coming to an end, and given that 2005 was the twentieth anniversary of the original Crisis, I remember feeling a sense of sadness at the thought of the DCU I grew up with going the way of the pre-Crisis DCU: dumped from continuity for another generation of collectors. However, the stakes being so high, so permanent this time – in a way that no event or death since the original Crisis could – that was also part of the draw.

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Infinite Crisis is also a comic nerds trip down nostalgia lane. Each of the tie-in limited series – The O.M.A.C Project, Day of Vengeance, Villains United, The Rann-Thanagar War, and The Return of Donna Troyreach back to the early years of what I call the ‘Inter-Crisis’ era. Each of DC’s publishing categories: the magical realm, returning organizations like Checkmate to the forefront, various space sagas such as L.E.G.I.O.N, the Darkstars, and the Omega Men get mixed up in this major war between Rann and Thanagar. Even the barely resurrected Green Lantern Corps sends Kyle Rayner to try and broker a peace between the warring planets. Even recent continuity developments such as the revelations that the Justice League not only routinely erased the memories of their villains, they also erased a part of Batman’s memory.

Everything went into Infinite Crisis! I have begun to fill in the holes of my Infinite Crisis run. I started with Adam Strange. I hadn’t read it when it came out, so I read it and The Rann-Thanagar War immediately after and more then a decade later I finally have the missing pieces to make sense of the later. Make sure you read Adam Strange if you are going to invest the time in reading Infinite Crisis.

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