Saturday, December 2, 2017

TUBE REVIEW: Crisis on Earth-X (Part II)

So, here were are, on Part II of my four-part review of the epic four-part CW event, CRISIS ON EARTH-X (COEX). If you URLd here directly, you can find the other three parts in the archive widget to the right of this column.

But for now, lets get right back at it with my likes and dislikes for this second annual crossover of the CW tv shows SUPERGIRL, THE FLASH, ARROW, and DC'S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.

And, please, do not be put off by the number of "dislikes" below. Mostly, I'm just fanboy nitpicking. I admit that. Overall, I LOVED the show, giving it five out of five dimensional vibes.

I think this is the first time we've been told there are only 53 realities in the CW/DC multiverse. The 52 we supposedly already know about, based on everyone's reaction, plus a 53rd, called Earth-X, because "nobody wants to go there." Oh, so? I guess Earth-22, the post-apocalyptic home to Wells 2.0 is a real cake ride, then?

Let's make no bones about it, I HATE the idea of a finite multiverse. The Schwartzian concept was supposed to be "infinite diversity in infinite combinations," and that's the multiverse I grew up with. I  said in 1985, and have said every year since, and will continue to say until somebody finally listens to me, that the worst mistake DC Comics ever made (and, lordy, they've made a few) was amalgamating all of its Earth's into one, single reality at the end of the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. What it should have done was restore all of the realities, even the ones destroyed during that limited series, and simply moved its main focus to a new Earth-1 where Superman was just emerging into public view. That would have left all the other Earths as places that could still be visited from time to time, while establishing the precedent, that, "Hey, every generation or so, we're going to reset and update things by moving to a new Earth," without telling any fan, "Hey, that favorite story you liked so much from when you were 12 and cherish still — it never happened."

But even when DC grudgingly gave us back our multiverse, it limited it to 52 iterations, which has caused them to continue hoop-jumping as needed to make certain changes work. Like, "Oh, hey, people like the family dynamic of the post-Crisis Superman. Cool. So, here's the thing — Superman and Lois are old enough now, and have been together long enough, to have a 10-year-old son, even though that completely involutes the entire New 52/Rebirthed timeline." But, hey, maybe it helps explain how Batman has gone through so many partners in so short a time.

Anyway, I would think the CW writers would not be quite so married to the number 52, and would have realized how quickly constraining 52 realities can be. In fact, while I can't prove it, I swear we've already been given reference on THE FLASH to earth numbers higher than 52. I guess those realities don't exist anymore, eh?

So, not only is the Eobard Thawne of this COEX event the Earth-1 version, The Ray tells us he's also from Earth-1. Why? Because, reasons. We are given absolutely no explanation for how, why, or when he made the jump to Earth-X. It just is. And that's stupid. Now we are forced to wonder, "Okay, so where is The Ray of Earth-X then?" And if he's Ray Terrill, where is his father, Lanford "Happy" Terrill, the previous Ray, on either Earth?! Why not just have The Ray be an Earth-X character? It seems the only reason for having him be from Earth-1 is because that's how it is in the comics.

Except it's not.

That was a retcon, and one I always hated. See, I grew up with the original FREEDOM FIGHTERS series. It was one of my favorites of the pre-DC Implosion 1970s.

And here we may need a quick history lesson. See, one of the early comic book publishers was an outfit called Quality Comics (corporate name, Comics Favorites, Inc.), which was founded in 1937 by printer Everett "Busy" Arnold. The company outlived the Golden Age of comics books, surviving right up to the dawn of the Silver Age, finally closing its doors in December 1956. At that time, Quality sold its trademarks to DC Comics, which continued publishing four Quality titles still running at the time: BLACKHAWK, G.I. COMBAT, HEART THROBS, and, with less success ROBIN HOOD TALES. But Quality had introduced a number of popular super-heroes in its day, many of which, like Blackhawk, were either created, or co-created by Will Eisner, an acknowledged master of the artform. In 1966, DC had a brief go at reviving Jack Cole's Plastic Man, the biggest Quality character without Eisner's fingerprints on it. That only lasted 10 issues. Finally, in 1973, DC brought back five of the biggest Quality super-heroes — Uncle Same, Black Condor, Doll Man, The Human Bomb, The Ray, and Phantom Lady — as part of that year's Justice League/Justice Society cross-over event (in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, Nos. 107-108)), establishing that they all lived on Earth-X, a world on which the Nazis won World War II. That outing went over well enough that, in December 1975, DC gave this team, dubbed the Freedom Fighters, their own title. Sadly, that title, which lasted 15 issues, operated under DC's editorial mandate that all titles must be set in the main DCU. Note that evenLegion solo series — KARATE KID, COSMIC BOY, and TIMBER WOLF — similarly transported those characters from their time to the present day. And yet, while being on the run from a lobotomized Silver Ghost was fun and all, I always longed for the FF to get back to Earth-X and continue the battle against Nazi oppression.

But then cometh Roy Thomas. Now, I love me some Roy. And Roy Thomas, he's the kind of fella who can write an entire completely compelling story arc based on nothing more than explaining why one characters boots were colored wrong in one panel of one comic 40 years ago. So, normally, I'm all over whatever Roy wants to do. But when he up and decided in ALL-STAR SQUADRON circa 1983 that the Quality Comics characters were not born on their own Earth, but rather started out on Earth-2 and traveled to Earth-X in order to help that world, which had no super-heroes of its own — well, that was a step too far. To my mind, it was a completely unnecessary change to the mythos as it had existed up to that point. For one thing, he just up and killed off a bunch of Quality characters that, I thought, had potential for a series set on Earth-X, including the Red Torpedo, the Invisible Hood, Magno, and Neon the Unknown. And really, the whole story wasn't so much about establishing the Freedom Fighters, but Hourman's addiction to his Mirclo pills. So, it just never set well with me.

But unfortunately, some CW suit appears to have been more familiar with ALL-STAR SQUADRON than FREEDOM FIGHTERS (even if the latter name was dropped during the COEX event), and so, The Ray has to be from Earth-2, except that world doesn't really exist anymore as we knew it from pre-Crisis comics. So, Earth-1 then. Which is where The Ray and his son Ray, the second Ray, were from in the amalgamated post-Crisis world, which we established in Part I of this review was also dumb. And, again, making The Ray hail from CW Earth-1 just does not seem to serve any storytelling purpose, and only further convolutes what we do know about the various characters of that world.

All of that aside, I did like The Ray as a character, both as portrayed by Russell Tovey and as a CGI effect when using his powers in flight. I don't know that I super-duper loved his costume — Diggle has already proven that those plastic helmets are a hard thing to pull off — but you can't have everything, I guess.  I don't really know what CW Seed is. I'll have to check with DISH to see if I get it. But I wonder how closely the character we saw here will track to the upcoming cartoon. Maybe that show will better explain why and how The Ray ended up on Earth-X (as I think I've read the show will be set there).

So, a lot was made about how many heroes this event bought together. But was it really all of them? Well, no. What about Gypsy and her dad Breacher? Well, you may say, they're from Earth-19, so, they're a little outside the context of this big production. Well, sure, except for one thing, they both work specifically to track down and punish other breachers — people who make unauthorized travel between Earths. So, by the internal logic of these shows, they should have been here, and gunning pretty hard for Thawne and The Ray, to boot.

So, we now know for certain that Storm Troopers are indeed based on Nazis, because neither can hit the broad side of barn from inside a barn side factory. Or inside a church, for that matter. All that machine gun fire and not so much as one nick or cut. A-mazing! In fact, the only casualty was Cisco, who was rather unconvincingly knocked unconscious, not by Nazis, but when Supergirl came crashing through the roof. That particular scene was not at all convincing, but it might have been easier to buy if one or two of the other heroes had gotten bonked, or if any had been shot, in an arm or a leg, or even just grazed. I mean, c'mon, at range that close, someone should have got their hair parted at the very least. But it's clear why Cisco needed to go down — because the plot required it.

On Earth-X, the heroes needed to access a big breacher machine — one that operates totally unbeknownst to Breacher himself, natch. Seriously, entire armies crossing over from one Earth to another and Breacher and Gypsy nowhere to be seen?!? Not even so much as a, "Gee, I wonder what's going down with Gypsy and her dad right now that they're not all over this?" from Cisco? And, of course, had he not been unconscious, Cisco could have easily brought his teammates back from Earth-X. And, oh, look, as soon as the drama is over and they're all back safe and sound from Nazi death camp, bingo! Cisco wakes up in full fighting form just in time for the final showdown.

Bitch, please.

But, hey, I get that they had to incapacitate Vibe somehow, in order to have our heroes trapped on Earth-X, however briefly, so they could miraculously survive a hail of machine gun fire there, as well. And, just as important as not being able to get the Earth-1 heroes off Earth-X, they also needed to not have Cisco be able to just vibe over Superman from Earth-38. It was sorta like back in the day when they had to invent the Time Trapper — to give Superboy and Mon-El something to keep them busy so they couldn't just instantly solve whatever scrape the Legion got itself into. So, yeah, I get it. I just think we either needed to have Cisco get shot good and well enough to really be operating under duress when he did show up again in Part IV, and/or have other heroes also get injured in the wedding crash battle, so it was not quite do obvious why Cisco wasn't available when needed most, then okey-doke-good-to-go when not.

I have to admit, I've been kind of hard crushing on Melissa Benoist since her days on GLEE. And, yes, I know that makes me kind of creepy, having just been booted like Logan from the bubble this past week upon falling out of television's coveted 18-49 demographic. But hey, I'm hardly a Harvey over here. Grabbing pussy, I am not, to paraphrase. I just think she's great, is all.

But her trademark is playing adorkable. When it was revealed that there would be an evil Overgirl — sadly, a certain faux-taxi company forestalls use of the more accurate Ubergirl — I got kind of nervous. Could she pull it off, or was she only really capable of a certain type of character? If so, that's not necessarily a bad thing. My all-time favorite actor is Jimmy Stewert, but it can by argued that, with the possible exception of his human companion to a very different, non-rapey kind of Harvey, Jimmy only ever played one character. Really, there's not a lot to differentiate Jimmy as George Bailey in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE from Jimmy as Lin McAdam in WINCHESTER '73. He's basically playing the same guy under different circumstances. Or, that is to say, he's just Jimmy being Jimmy, giving really great line readings. So, my doubt does not at all mean I don't I think Benoist is a good actress.

But no worries. In fact, I think Benoist outdid Stephen Amell. After all, his Ollie-Fuhrer was basically ARROW Season 1 Oliver. Again, not a bad thing when the line readings are good. But Benoist seemed to be doing more than just playing me-so-angry Supergirl. She seemed to have genuinely found something that helped her portray a different, if similar person, in emotion, stance, facial expression, and speaking cadence. At any rate, while not quite on par with Tom Cavanagh, I'll admit, Benoist nonetheless truly convinced me she was playing the same person raised on two different worlds under two widely divergent scenarios — enough so that Melissa Benoist th actress disappeared for me and I soon saw just Supergirl, and Overgirl. And isn't that the point?

Aaaaand, they went there. Thawne says all 53 earths of the not-so-infinite multiverse have a Supergirl. Now, why? Why go there. Don't they know we as fans are already wondering why there is no Supergirl or Superman on Earth-1, just as we wonder why there is no Flash or Green Arrow on Earth-38?  They could have easily just let it be. Not every Earth is an exact match. Some are quite different, up to and including having no Supergirl. But they just has to pick that scab. And now, with Thawne's confirmation, we have to wonder, where the hell is Earth-1 Supergirl!? Is she somewhere still in hiding? Is she still en route to Earth? What's the deal??? And if every Earth has a Supergirl, each one must also have a Supeman. So, why no Superman on Earth-X? If the question wasn't on the forefront of viewers minds already, that one scene sure put it there now. And that means two things:

1) The writers all but have to answer the question now, and
2) The fans will almost certainly nor like whatever explanation they come up with.

Okay, that's it this outing. More likes and dislikes in Part III.

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