This article contains Crisis on Infinite Earths spoilers, in this or any universe.
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Well, the second chapter of Crisis on Infinite Earths actually managed to put the first chapter to shame in the fan service department. While this was technically an episode of Batwoman (and there’s PLENTY of Bat-related drama to be had throughout), we also get multiple Supermen, a return to Smallville, music from both John Williams AND Danny Elfman, the always welcome return of John Constantine, and even a Green Lantern tease. Holy moley that’s a lot.
Here’s the official synopsis for the episode, which honestly, only scratches the surface about all the craziness that was in store for us…
“The group uses Ray’s (guest star Brandon Routh) invention to track new recruits to help save the universe. The Monitor (guest star LaMonica Garrett) sends Iris (guest star Candice Patton), Clark (guest star Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois (guest star Elizabeth Tulloch) in search of a mysterious Kryptonian, while Kate (Ruby Rose) and Kara (guest star Melissa Benoist) head out to find Bruce Wayne (guest star Kevin Conroy). In addition, Mia (guest star Katherine McNamara) challenges Sara (guest star Caity Lotz), Rory (guest star Dominic Purcell) discovers a hidden talent, and Lex Luthor (guest star Jon Cryer) returns.”
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to work!
The Monitor needs to summon seven “paragons” of the Multiverse to help his plan come together. We know four of them after this episode: Kara Danvers, Sara Lance, the Superman of Earth-96, and Batwoman. The other three are yet to be discovered. We speculated about the identities of the rest of the Paragons right here.
Incidentally, the first seven heroes to be summoned in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comics were King Solovar of Gorilla City, Dawnstar (from the Legion of Super-Heroes), Firebrand (from the All-Star Squadron), Blue Beetle, Psycho Pirate, Arion, and Firestorm. There was no talk of paragons there, and there’s no real parallel with the heroes in this episode, I just thought you might find it interesting.
Now on to the good stuff…
It’s appropriate that the Batman we meet is from Earth-99, which is a nod to Batman Beyond, which featured a much older Bruce Wayne recruiting his successor. Batman Beyond premiered in 1999, hence the Earth-99 designation. However, this is most certainly NOT the Bruce Wayne of Batman Beyond. Instead, he bears more similarities to the Batman of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and its sequels.
His exoskeleton, however, is inspired by Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come, which also featured an older, somewhat broken Batman. Like in Kingdom Come, it’s a “lifetime of injuries” that has led him to wear this suit.
That’s Kevin Conroy playing Bruce Wayne here. Conroy is the actor perhaps most associated with Batman, having voiced him on Batman: The Animated Series and an elderly Bruce Wayne on Batman Beyond. He’s kind of doing his Batman Beyond Bruce voice here, but this isn’t supposed to be the same character. Conroy told us much more about this version of Bruce Wayne and what motivates him, and you can read that right here.
– The bloody Clark Kent glasses are particularly chilling. First of all, the dried blood on them makes them resemble the glasses John Lennon was wearing when he was murdered. The fact that the glasses are bloody implies that this wasn’t a fair fight (ala Dark Knight Returns…or even Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) but rather that Bruce ambushed Clark Kent when he wasn’t expecting it and killed him. The fact that in many versions of the story, it’s Superman who gives Kryptonite to Batman as a failsafe in case he ever loses control makes Earth-99 Batman’s betrayal here that much uglier. It also makes Kate hanging on to that chunk of Kryptonite a little bit worrisome.
– The cobwebbed Batman suit in the cave on Earth-99 appears to be the same model as the Earth-1 batsuit.
– Bruce bitterly refers to Superman as a “strange visitor from another planet, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.” That was part of the opening narration to nearly every episode of The Adventures of Superman radio show in the 1940s, as well as that decade’s Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons, and the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV series. All of these things are great, by the way.
Bruce also says “Clark always said yes to anything with a badge or a flag.” That’s a direct quote from Frank Miller’s Batman comics, where Bruce and Clark’s friendship is, at best, uneasy and Bruce never trusts him. More Frank Miller Batman quotes include “Life only makes sense if you force it to.” Oof.
But the MOST telling quote that indicates just how far gone this Bruce Wayne is, comes when he mocks Kara as she’s suffering the first effects of the Kryptonite poisoning, referring to the alien rock as “a little souvenir from the old hometown.” Lex Luthor used that exact line to describe it in Superman: The Movie.
– After informing Kara and Kate that the Kate of Earth-99 died five years ago, he mentions two supervillains who could be capable of taking her form. The first is Clayface, who is essentially dead, as Bruce describes him as “a puddle of mud.” The other is Jane Doe, a serial killer adept at assuming the identities of her targets.
– When we visit Earth-99, you can hear hints of the Batman: The Animated Series theme.
– Luke Fox was first introduced in a Batman Beyond comic book, so his presence here makes perfect sense.
– The Batmobile from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie is visible under a tarp!
– In Batman’s trophy case there’s a (bloody) Joker card, the Riddler’s staff, a snow globe that probably belonged to Mr. Freeze, and possibly a plant under glass that may signify Poison Ivy. Something tells me that they’re all…not doing so well these days.
– The Gotham Gazette remains the newspaper of choice on Crisis on Infinite Earths. What the hell, doesn’t anyone read the Gotham Globe anymore?
– Kara calls Lex a “poisonous snake.” That’s a direct quote from the end of Superman II, after Lex Luthor betrays Superman and Lois to the three Phantom Zone villains. Supes knew it was coming, but he reacted appropriately anyway, with “Luthor, you poisonous snake!”
– Also, Jon Cryer is the best Lex Luthor ever and I will not be taking questions at this time.
The Monitor refers to “the Tome of the Guardians.” That, boys and girls, would be the Guardians of the Universe, the beings who created the Green Lantern Corps. John Diggle needs a ring, and he needs it right now. At the very least, Diggle or otherwise, it’s time for a Green Lantern to appear in the Arrowverse. Maybe we’ll see it before Crisis completes!
Harbinger appears to have been infected by Shadow Demons and is thus vulnerable to the Anti-Monitor’s influence. This happened in the very first chapter of the comics version of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but to say more right now would be a spoiler.
While Mia is searching for Earths with a Lazarus Pit, we see Earth-67 and Earth-3 on her monitor screen. I don’t believe we’ve had a designation for Earth-67 just yet, but Earth-3 is the home of Jay Garrick, played to perfection by the legendary John Wesley Shipp whenever he arrives. I hope we get to see him during this crossover, but considering that The Flash of Earth-90 is set to show up in chapter three, that seems somewhat unlikely for the moment.
Earth-18 is so named because it’s a Wild West style Earth, hence the 1800s.
The Death of Superman
It’s appropriate that Lois and Clark witness the death of a world’s Superman on Earth-75. Why? Because Superman died in (wait for it) Superman #75 in 1992. His death here, with Lois crying over his outstretched body and his tattered cape flapping in the breeze, is an homage to Dan Jurgens’ brilliant spread in that issue. However, in that story, Superman was killed by Doomsday, not Lex Luthor.
It’s always great to see John Constantine, even (perhaps especially) when he feels a little out of place in a traditional superhero adventure such as this one. Still, Constantine’s second ever appearance was in Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, so the character has always had pretty deep ties to the wider DC Universe…even though he’d never admit it to anyone.
Legends of Tomorrow
– The AI of the Waverider on Earth-74 is “Leonard.” As in “Leonard Snart.” And yes that was Wentworth Miller doing the voice. And it was glorious.
– Is Earth-74 supposed to be a thing? Help me out!
– I need to get a better look at the cover of “Caged Passion.”
Yep, that sure is the original Kent Farm from Smallville, and that sure is Tom Welling as Clark Kent chopping wood like a regular person. But there’s plenty of other Superman mythology packed into these few minutes spent back in Smallville with Tom and Erica Durance.
– The first thing we see are a series of Daily Planet headlines, among them “Caped Wonder Stuns City” and “I Spent the Night With Superman.” Both of these were headlines glimpsed in 1978’s Superman: The Movie.
– Of course Clark gave up his powers in this world, he never really wanted them in the first place. However, the fact that he gave them up in order to have children is reminiscent of how he renounced his Kryptonian birthright in Superman II in order to be with Lois. They’ve got two children, both girls. Maybe we’ll revisit this Earth in the future at some point!
– Lex Luthor is President of the United States on Smallville’s world, something which had been foreshadowed on the show several times.
– As it turns out, Earth-167 is designated as such for the birth year of Smallville co-creator, Al Gough, who was born in 1967.
– It’s perfectly on brand for Lex Luthor to lose interest in killing Superman the minute Superman no longer has powers. “You took all the fun out of it.” It’s a great nod to how Lex could probably be a good person (well, at least…a better person) if he wasn’t so insanely jealous of Superman and racist against aliens.
Kingdom Come Superman
Brandon Routh isn’t just wearing any ol’ Superman costume here, he’s wearing the Superman costume designed by Alex Ross from Kingdom Come. In that story by Ross and Mark Waid, Superman goes into a kind of self-imposed exile after the death of Lois Lane at the hands of the Joker. When he returns, he’s wearing that “S” with the black field, both to indicate that he means business and also as a note of mourning for Lois Lane and others who have died in his absence.
We can see that something similar happened to this Superman via the Daily Planet headline, and the green gas emanating from the Planet offices in that photo would seem to indicate that the Joker was indeed involved.
Designating this as “Earth-96” is a nod to the year Kingdom Come was published.
Giving Brandon’s Superman gray hair at the temples isn’t just a Kingdom Come reference, it’s a crucial piece of DC history, as well. In the original Crisis on Infinite Earths story, the Superman of Earth-2 was a central character. While Earth-2 is now long gone in the Arrowverse, it served a very different purpose in the classic DC Comics, where it was the home of the original versions of their heroes and villains as they were first published. So the Superman of Earth-2 was the one who first appeared in Action Comics #1, he eventually married Lois Lane, became editor-in-chief of the Daily Star (as Clark is here with the Planet), etc. His hair was gray at the temples and his “S” was slightly more stylized to make it easier to distinguish him from his younger Earth-1 counterpart. Brandon’s Superman seems to be filling that role here.
But this is most certainly intended to be the same version of Superman Routh played in Superman Returns. Clark’s taste for brown suits is a tell, for starters. But later in the episode he says that Jonathan Kent looks just like his son Jason. In Superman Returns, Jason Lane was the child he had conceived with Lois.
But if the Superman of Superman Returns was always vaguely intended to be the Superman of the Christopher Reeve movies, that is driven home here with one line: “This is actually the second time I’ve gone crazy and fought myself.” He’s referring to one of the only good scenes in 1983’s otherwise regrettable Superman III, where synthetic Kryptonite caused Clark to first go bad and then split into two Supermen fighting for dominance.
Oh yeah, and the John Williams music probably helps, too. We get both the main Superman march and strains of “Can You Read My Mind,” the Lois and Superman love theme from those films.
One last bit of proof, this Superman’s heat vision looks like what we saw in the Richard Donner movies and Superman Returns, rather than the energy that Earth-38 Superman emits.
– One of the names visible on the Daily Planet wall of the dead is Ron Troupe, a character who has yet to make it into a live action portrayal. Hopefully that will change when the Superman and Lois TV series comes around next year.
– In one last nod to Kingdom Come, the photo on the Daily Planet page detailing the horrific tragedy at the paper’s offices appears to be Alex Ross art. I can’t quite be certain, though. Can anyone confirm?
– A Superman vs. Superman throwdown has happened plenty of times in the comics, but notably in Infinite Crisis, the sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Don’t ask, it’s a long story. And not a great one.
– The Daily Planet globe does seem to resemble the one from Superman: The Movie.
– Lois clobbering Lex reminds me a little of the climax of Superman II when she tells Ursa, “you’re a real pain in the neck” before delivering a right hook to the Kryptonian villain’s jaw.