Welcome to Vanishing Point, a monthly column about the more outré continuity problems in the DC Universe, and my personal *non-canon* attempts to make sense out of them. This month's column is:
Crisis on Earth-0
Barry Allen died in Crisis. This fact, known to nearly everyone in the DC Universe, thanks to the now-public identity of Wallace West, is beyond dispute. However, from our perspective, the question is always asked "What do people remember?"
Well, the crack staff at Vanishing Point (me, in other words) have researched the question, and offer the following suggestion. Periodically, I'll include text in italics, marking events that _did_ happen, Pre-Crisis, but could not have post-Crisis.
First things first: Dateline 1994 (or thereabouts) For the past several months, a mysterious figure called the Monitor has been supplying villains in the DCU with manpower. He, and his assistant Lyla, were well on their way to becoming indispensable.
On worlds throughout the universe, waves of antimatter were spreading across the land, devouring all they touch. The alien scientist Mossa, who believes that his work caused the antimatter eruptions, finds himself catapulted from world to world, watching them die, always an outsider.. a Pariah.
On one such world, another scientist uses his vast knowledge to project his infant sun through the antimatter wave, sending him to a world where other heroes live where his son may survive.
Unfortunately, his target, the JLA satellite, had been abandoned, but in a nearby orbit, the Monitor's HQ detected the arrival, and rescued the baby. While the Monitor examines his new guest, he sends Lyla, in her multiple forms of Harbinger, across the past and present of the DCU, gathering those heroes and villains required for the first stage of his plan.
Of course, the infant was originally from Earth-3, the son of Alexander Luthor, but clearly that cannot be the case. He, like the Crime Syndicate, cannot exist in the post-Crisis DCU.
From 1940's New York come Firebrand. From modern-day Hub City, the Blue Beetle. In ancient Atlantis, a Harbinger is possessed by a shadowy figure, but succeeds in recruiting Arion. Meanwhile, another Harbinger recruits Psycho-Pirate, Firestorm, and Killer Frost.
At the Monitor's satellite, they meet the other recruits: Obsidian, Doctor Polaris, Green Lantern John Stewart, Geo-Force of Markovia, Cyborg, and Psimon.
Since Kal-L, the Earth-2 Superman, doesn't exist, I suspect the others in his group, Solivar and Dawnstar, also did not exist in this scene. The Kamandi arc, in which they participated, is deleted.
After repelling an attack of shadow demons, the assembled guests meet their host the Monitor.
Meanwhile, on prehistoric Earth, a temporal ripple sends a herd of mastodons temporarily to the 30th Century, while in the present, the Batman is visited by a timeswept image of Barry Allen. The Guardians of the Universe detect rising danger, but are routed before they can act. Batman and Superman, meeting to discuss the vision, also see Pariah, whining as usual :)
On the Monitor's satellite, the group is split into several teams, and sent to ancient Atlantis, 1940's Markovia, the Wild West, the age of King Arthur., and predictably, modern-day NYC. In each realm, they meet native heroes, and battle shadow demons anew. One new hero joins them the second Dr. Light, created by the Monitor's power. Each team is sent to protect one of the Monitor's devices, massive and mysterious.
However, Harbinger holds a secret. Corrupted by her possession, she now serves the as-yet unrevealed enemy, and plots to kill her former master. Of course, he's perfectly aware of this. While all this occurs, the infant rescued from the JLA satellite ages at an astonishing rate.
The heroes battle on, in the past, present, even the future.
While John Constantine smokes a cigarette, Pariah rescues Lady Quark from the destruction of her own world. Unfortunately, her husband and child perish. Psycho-Pirate meets the force behind the attacks, and joins his cause, and the second Red Tornado, snatched by this shadowy foe, is transformed. Said foe also snatches Barry Allen, from his retirement in the early 30th century.
Pariah meets the Monitor, and discovers that _he_ is behind Mossa's eternal torment. Furthermore, the machines are linking all times together, in hopes that he may save reality.
Then Harbinger kills the Monitor, and Pariah cries. Everything fades to white, then black.
Even here, however, Lyla serves the Monitor. His energies, released by his death, activated the machines, drawing Earth into a netherverse. But in his haste, all time has become one. Earth is in chaos, as the past and the future collide.
Harbinger, Pariah, and the now adult Alexander hold a funeral for the Monitor, then gather every hero of the DCU (probably it's hard to say, even with Perez's excellent art). Freed of her possession, she explains what has occurred. She asks for their help.
Some agree, some disagree. They are returned to Earth to ponder their decision as prehistoric beast roam the cities. The transformed Red Tornado, now a full Air Elemental, is driven temporarily insane, but is defeated through the sorceries of Doctor Fate, Sargon, Zatanna, and Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt. The heroes (and even a few villains) decide. They will help. Before they are given a task, the satellite is attacked, and the Anti-Monitor reveals his face.
From here on in, it gets tricky, as Earth's M (Marvel), X (Quality), and 4 (Charlton) join the battle. Some great scenes must be deleted, simply because they don't fit. I'll try my best.
Using the Psycho-Pirates power, the Anti-Monitor attacks an already unstable populace. While the satellite crumbles, Harbinger releases her ultimate ability, destroying the satellite. The heroes find themselves back on Earth, battling those few heroes who, for various reasons, were not summoned by Harbinger, and are now maddened by the Pirate's emotional projections. However, his powers are stretched to their limit, and starting to weaken. Throughout time, the image of Harbinger appears, focusing her energies, shattering the Pirate's power completely.
Yeah, I know more than that happened but the Marvel family didn't exist yet, and the Freedom Fighters never went to Earth-X.
Harbinger calls a meeting to give the heroes their task. She tells the tale of Krona, who wished to see the universe's beginnings, and in his hubris, sundered it in two (see my History of the Guardians, available in the archives, for details.). She tells of two beings, the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor, created near Oa and Qward.
The Anti-Monitor craved conquest, and soon had the entire antimatter universe in his grasp. Only then did he realize the presence of his twin, opposite and equal, whom even he could not destroy. Rendered immobile by simultaneous attacks, they slept for 9 billion years.
Mossa, in his own pride, attempted to duplicate Krona's experiment, but succeeded only in destroying his world, by linking it to Qward.. This awoke the Anti-Monitor, feeding his power. Simultaneously, the Monitor awoke, and began his plan. But with each world destroyed by antimatter, the Anti-Monitor gained strength, while the Monitor weakened. Time was short.
Using his unique abilities, Alexander opens a gateway to Qward, sending the most powerful team of heroes in history to the Anti-Monitor's realm, where Pariah uses his power to detect evil to track the Anti-Monitor's lair.
In Qward, powers work differently, but the team does not despair. Living creatures of rock attack, and are destroyed, only to rise again. Slowly, however, Superman makes it through, along with Pariah and Doctor Light. Pariah, predictably, isn't much help but the others meet face to face with the Anti-Monitor, and force him to flee.
This part hurt the most. There's no way to replace Supergirl in the storyline, no way to honor her sacrifice. No one remembers.
Throughout the universe, plans are made. On the Anti-monitor's ship, a burned out Psycho-Pirate obsesses. On Apokolips, Darkseid plots. On Oa, the Guardians debate. On Earth, the warp zones created by the temporal merging are turning into tourist attractions, while the JLA study a drastically different Red Tornado. Reddy explodes, the only casualty being Firehawk's costume. Blue Devil, summoned to help decipher Reddy, ends up near Vega.
Back in the Anti-Matter universe, the Anti-Monitor, in a new suit of armor, oversees the construction of an anti-matter cannon. Unfortunately, the Flash has freed himself from captivity, and with the aid of a cowardly Psycho-Pirate, turns the Anti-Monitor's army against him.
While they attack their master in vain, the Flash pushes himself to the limit, outpacing time itself to destroy the cannon, at the cost of his very existence. Suffused with rage, the Anti-Monitor absorbs his entire universe, a move so drastic that the Spectre himself cries out in fear.
Back on Oa, Guy Gardner finally earns a ring. Guy Gardner earns his ring. And on Braniac's ship, villains assemble. At a press conference at the UN held by Harbinger, Pariah, and Alexander, Brainiac appears, indicating that certain warped areas are now under the direct control of his supervillain army. However, with the aid of Wallace West, Jay Garrick, and a specially enhanced cosmic treadmill, the heroes pierce the temporal barrier, and attack. Psimon's temporary betrayal doesn't help the villains much.
Alternate Earths? Whazzat?
Across the world heroes fight.. some win, some lose, some die. The battle rages on, until the Spectre, his voice echoing around time and space, bids them cease. Like Parallax would a few years later, the Anti-Monitor has fled to the dawn of time, to redirect history itself.
His word is accepted. After a somber speech by Uncle Sam, one team of heroes and villains is sent to the dawn of time, while the other, to Krona's laboratory. For the first time in history, every metahuman on Earth works together.
At the Dawn of Time, the Anti-Monitor waits the arrival of the heroes. After revealing that Mossa is essentially innocent, having only opened a gateway, he gloats a bit. In Krona's lab, the villains bicker, their lack of unity enabling history to follow it's course.
The Anti-Monitor defeats every hero. Using their life energies, he stands poised to shape reality to his whims, but finds one being holding him back. The Spectre, backed by the combined will of several sorcerers, has come to meet him. The great minds collide. The Spectre screams. And the universe explodes.
All seems peaceful on Earth. Heroes awaken in their own beds. Most of the population has forgotten the bizarre events of the past several days. One group that hasn't, a team of space explorers, finds Braniac's ship in orbit, power drained. The Phantom Stranger finds a comatose Spectre. The sky turns red. And then the shadow demons attack.
The universe gapes, and Earth is drawn into the universe of Qward. The Anti-Monitor still lives.
And boy, is he angry.
The sky turns black. Harbinger gathers Superman, Doctor Light, and several others into a strike force. The blackness sunders into thousands of shadow demons, attacking the battered Earth. Once again, heroes fight, some to win, some to die.
Joined by the greatest mages in the world in the Salem tower of Doctor Fate, the Stranger casts a spell to tap the immense power of the Spectre. Alexander opens a portal through the barrier around Earth. Harbinger's team, joined by an uninvited Kid Flash, attack.
Brainiac, reactivated, takes the explorers to Apokolips, where they tell their tale to Darkseid.
On Qward, Kid Flash finds the insane Psycho-Pirate, as well as the costume of the Flash.
The Stranger's spell is released. Every shadow demon on Earth is drawn into a single mass, and sent through the barrier. There, the heroes have been keeping their foe off balance, doing little damage, until Doctor Light absorbs the energy of an entire star. The Anti-Monitor staggers. Alexander drains his energies. He staggers further. The Negative Woman weakens his armor.
And the Anti-Monitor falls.
Doctor Light releases the energy, blasting the Anti-Monitor into the landscape as the imprisoned shadow demons arrive. Alexander stretches his powers to their utmost, transporting the entire Earth back to its proper home.
The Anti-Monitor, greatly weakened, absorbs the demons. Alexander seals the rift, trapping himself in Qward. Unfortunately for him, the demons were enchanted, and begin destroying him from within. As Alexander watches, he feels something take over his mind.
Darkseid, knowing that Apokolips may someday become a target, taps into the conduit that is Alexander, and lets loose the greatest weapon in his arsenal the Omega Effect. Weakened as he is, the Anti-Monitor cannot resist, and is wiped from creation. It is believed Alexander died in the process.
Yeah, I left out much of the battle but the idea that Darkseid is responsible for saving creation has a certain dark irony.
All returns to normal, as the heroes bury their dead, while in Arkham Asylum, a gibbering Psycho-Pirate remembers a history that never was. The Crisis is over.
"We don't do it for the glory. We don't do it for the recognition We do it because it needs to be done. Because if we don't, no one else will. And we do it even if no one knows what we've done. Even if no one knows we exist. Even if no one knows we ever existed ."
--"Kara", Christmas With The Superheroes #2, "Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot", 1989
[A note from the author: This is the final Vanishing Point column. It's fitting, that for a column devoted to retroactive changes to continuity, that we end with the greatest retcon of them all. You aren't getting rid of me that easily, however. Starting next month, I'm taking over the "Hall of Justice" column, and periodically, I'll be doing "Elsewords" columns, on stories and heroes that once were, but are no more. Until then, farewell ]
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Mario Di Giacomo.