Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 2

Writers: Gardner Fox, Dennis O'Neil
Artists: Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin

By Avi Green

In this review of the second collection of DC’s classic dimensional crossovers, we see a change in the writers come into play, and also a change in the artists.

The first of the four two-parters in this collection features the superheroes of Earth-2 finding themselves in trouble with four common earthly citizens, Chinese bandit How Chu, sports fan Marty Baxter, diamond lover Claire Morton (who calls herself Gem Girl), and London businessman Horace Rowland, who’ve all been overpowered by a quartet of black spheres from space, who turn them all into near-invincible super-beings, who’re invulnerable to bullets, knives and of course, even hand-to-hand blows by the superheroes themselves. To make matters worse, as even Johnny Thunder’s hex-bolt genie sidekick Thunderbolt discovers, they’re even invulnerable to his own magic. But, at the same time, he was able to learn from where the black spheres themselves came from, and, when teleporting four of Earth-1’s own superheroes, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and Green Arrow to Earth-2 to help, and the plan of action they take, when discovering some remnants of the entities’ radiation, is to add some of the same radiation to themselves, in hopes that it’ll help them to overcome the four crooks. Those who undergo this process are Hourman, Flash, Wonder Woman of Earth-2, and Green Lantern. But when journeying to deal with the black-sphered foursome, the trip is interrupted as they too are corrupted, and ways must be found to stop them, and luckily are.

This was quite an enjoyable entry in the annual crossover custom DC had at the time, and one of the most interesting parts here was the inclusion of the now grown-up Robin of Earth-2. Yep, before the Dick Grayson we know today came of age, we had the one from Earth-2 appearing in adult form, in a dark grey outfit and with a cape, and in this adventure, he joined up with the Justice Society as an honorary member, taking over for the then retired Batman of Earth-2. And we also get a good dose of comedy dished out by Johnny and his Thunderbolt.

The next part sees the arrival of Dick Dillin as the artist, and shows the title maturing as it progresses towards the Bronze Age. It was also the first appearance of the android Red Tornado, unknowingly a creation of Justice League nemesis T.O. Morrow, a criminal scientist with a future-predicting computer that he hoped would ensure his victory over his most fearless foes.

The original Red Tornado had been something of a comical figure: Ma Hunkel, a housewife who wore a costume consisting of a stirring pot for a mask, and on her first trip to the Justice Society headquarters to apply for membership, she had an accident and had to leave. The new android Red Tornado, who was initially programmed with a very limited knowledge databank, had no idea about any of that, nor that he was being used as a pawn by Morrow in his plans to defeat the Justice Society when robbing a space museum. His powers were mostly wind and tornado based, and as time went by, he learned how to put them to more effective use.

The story here is how Morrow almost succeeded in using the Red Tornado to fulfill his plans, and the latter’s efforts to mend the mistakes he’d made, and help to defeat his own creator. It’s even got a cameo by Aquaman’s wife Mera, whom I must say is one of the hottest women in comics, even in a scaly outfit. And it introduced an android who was inspired to a certain extent by the Vision over at Marvel at the time. It also features something at the end that editors at the time practiced: asking the readers what they wanted to see next!

The third two-parter here (“Star Light, Star Bright, Death Star I See Tonight!” and “Where Death Fears to Tread!”) has Denny O’Neil taking the reins of the writing chores. Unlike Gardner Fox, who dabbled in sci-fi gimmickry, O’Neil liked to work on character-driven stories. And with this story, he was taking steps to bring the Black Canary, whose popularity was building up, more into the spotlight.

The story is about Aquarius, who was essentially a living star, who’d been banished by the Council of Living Stars in a faraway galaxy for evil deeds and had his powers diminished, but not enough, and when he came within the vicinity of earth, and discovered Starman, he stole his cosmic rod from him in order to increase his powers and cause trouble anew. This he does by casting random acts of sorcery for starters (such as a neon movie advertisement coming to life, and a little boy who wants a Dr. Mid-Nite doll gaining extra strength), and then turning on the rest of the superheroes of Earth-2 who’ve arrived at Ted Knight’s observatory to battle him as he tries to destroy their plane of existence, until the superheroes of Earth-1, called to help by the Red Tornado, come to help out.

Most interesting about Aquarius is that the audience is indeed meant to hate him as a villain: he murders the Golden Age Black Canary’s husband, Larry Lance, and acts gleefully insane throughout, to say nothing of vain, so that when finally he perishes, we can only feel relieved that this awful maniac is now gone.

This is also the earliest place I can find where Dr. Fate began speaking at the time without genuine use of apostrophes. O’Neil doubtlessly wanted to give him a special personality trait of his own, and thinking about how Fate is portrayed even today, it certainly gives the wearer of the helmet of Nabu a very enigmatic, respect-commanding quality.

While it was the original Black Canary who appeared in this story, as anyone familiar with DC history then knows today, it was the daughter of the original who would be seen in DC adventures to follow, having first come around in an off-panel story that would later be revealed in 1983. But in any case, this was where O’Neil took steps to make the Blonde Bombshell a character who could be seen and used more often in the DCU, now that she would become a member of the JLA, as she moved from Earth-2 to Earth-1, unable to bear the loss of husband/father Larry Lance. Upon her arrival and becoming accustomed to the new residence, she fell in love with Green Arrow, with whom she’d have one of comicdom’s most famous superhero love affairs that would last many years.

The fourth story here finds the heroes of Earth-2 facing the menace of invading aliens armed with special electro-nets that can not only render its victims unconscious, but can also, thanks to their tampering with the Red Tornado, whom they’ve captured, to affect even the ones on Earth-1. So, when Superman of Earth-2 is struck down by the net, the Earth-1 Man of Steel too goes down for the count. And, as the activities of the destructive aliens, who’re determined to wreck havoc upon the earth for achieving a special deal with another alien race continue further, this leads to people on both earths viewing an image of their counterparts on the opposite one! Thankfully, it is the magic of Dr. Fate and Johnny Thunder’s genie that saves the day.

Dillin’s penciling here is very surprisingly impressive. It’s clear that at the time he drew this, he was more or less inspired in part by the quasi-realistic artwork of Neal Adams, one of the best artists in his time, and Dillin certainly comes close. His work on the title lasted 12 complete years, and as time went by, he certainly got better and better.

So here too are a quartet of two-part stories on both earths that provide some good fun, either in sci-fi gimmicky or even in character driven form, by two of comicdom’s most famous writers that I very much recommend for reading.

Copyright 2006 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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