Thursday, 16 November 2017

Helena Wayne 40th Anniversary: Crisis on Multiple Earths Vols. 5 & 6

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS
Written by GERRY CONWAY
Art by DICK DILLIN
Cover by GEORGE PEREZ
The Justice League of America teams up with their heroic predecesors, The Justice Society of America, in this new collection featuring three adventures that have never been reprinted before. First, the two teams face the unexpected threat from someof DC's war and Western characters, including Jonah Hex and Enemy Ace. Then, the teams must find the traitor within their own ranks. And finally, the JLA and JSA join forces with The New Gods to stop the evil might of Darkseid. This classic crossover CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOL. 5 collects JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159-160, #171-172, #183-185.
JUNE 04 | RATED T | $19.99 | PRINT | DIGITAL





INTRODUCTION

In the past two weeks, we talked about Helena Wayne's pre-Crisis heroic journey from being the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle to being Gotham's newest protector as the Huntress, to becoming a member of the Justice Society. In this week's discussion, we'll talk about how she expands both of those roles in the annual Justice League and Justice Society crossovers that sees our favourite heroine cross the multiverse from Earth-2 to Earth-1 to Earth-Prime and back to Earth-2 again.

One of the things I enjoyed most about DC's original multiverse was how self-contained each Earth was, complete with their own rich mythologies that set them apart from each other. Earth-1 was the "main" DC Earth that started in 1956 containing all of DC's Silver Age history and continuity. Earth-2 was the original DC Earth that started in 1938 containing all of DC's Golden Age history and continuity. Earth-3 was the inverse Earth where DC's superheroes were villains and DC's villains were that Earth's heroes. Earth-4 was the Charlton Comics universe, Earth-S was the Captain Marvel/Shazam universe, Earth-X was the Freedom Fighters universe, and Earth-Prime was our Earth (aka the real world we all live in).

Each Earth in the original DC multiverse set its own tone and fans often got to visit these Earths via the Justice League and Justice Society crossovers. Sometimes these Earths would have their own comics (as Earths 1, 2, and S often did), but most of the time they were visited in the team crossover events. In addition to the constant Earth hopping, time travel was another major defining trait of the Justice League and Justice Society crossovers. Sometimes the heroes visited their own pasts, sometimes they visited their own futures, and other times they would visit the past, present, and future timelines of other Earths. The end result was always an epic event story that was well worth the annual waits.

With regards to the Huntress, the annual Justice Society and Justice League crossovers allowed her to form other relationships outside of Earth-2, namely with the Earth-1 Justice League heroes. And of course, the one Justice Leaguer she was closest to was the Earth-1 version of her father, who also considered her family. This is very much the premise for the entire Crisis on Multiple Earths trade collection, with Helena only appearing in volumes 5 and 6, but the stories you get make them worthwhile reads.


1. JUSTICE SOCIETY CROSSOVERS WITH THE JUSTICE LEAGUE

As stated in the introduction, the majority of the Crisis on Multiple Earths trades collect the Justice League and Justice Society crossovers. The stories often vary in terms of scale with some being as small as the "Murder Among Us" story that centres an entire mystery on the death of Justice Society veteran, Terry Sloane (aka Mr. Terrific), and others are pretty big like "Crisis on New Genesis." Out of all the stories told, though, I tend to enjoy the ones that centre around time travel, multiverse-hopping, and even visiting alien planets. (More on that in a bit!)

Epic storytelling aside, I would say the major selling point for me are the friendships maintained between the Justice League and Justice Society heroes. There is tremendous love and respect for each other, which makes both groups feel like an organic large extended family that visit each other once a year, kind of how like real families do around the holidays. In addition to feeling like family, the heroes of two Earths also experience their fair share of disagreements and there are times when their trust in each other gets put to the test. The story that best challenges these relationships is the "Murder Among Us" story found in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5.

"Murder Among Us" is a story that takes place in the Justice League satellite above Earth-1 for the entire story. When Mr. Terrific is mysteriously murdered on the satellite, that makes everyone present a murder suspect, and the only murder suspects are the Justice League and Justice Society heroes. Like an Agatha Christie mystery, each of the heroes tries to deduce the murderer amongst themselves while trying to keep their cool. A task easier said than done as it doesn't take long before each of the heroes starts suspecting each other without much of a clue as to who a potential intruder could be, if there is even one present at all.

Another story I personally like that shows how the Huntress in particular interacts with members of the Justice League is the "Crisis from Yesterday/Tomorrow" mega story in which a villain from the future known as Epoch (aka the Lord of Time) seeks to control the spacetime continuum in order to commit multiple robberies across all of human history. In this story, half of the Justice League and Justice Society heroes are knocked unconscious, leaving only a select few--the Huntress included--to take on the villain. Along the way, the heroes also encounter various time displaced villains and dangerous paradoxes. But what does the Huntress contribute to this story?

Throughout this story, Helena Wayne shows that she's still the same confident and determined team player she is with the Justice Society, but she also doesn't allow anyone to condescend her or talk to her as if she is a child. This especially played out in Helena's interactions with Ralph Dibney (the Elongated Man) who unwittingly undermined her level of experience by implying her young age as a factor in her being easily surprised by things like time paradoxes. Helena obviously didn't take too kindly to this level of insult that she basically threw his own logic back at him by implying his "old age" as a significant factor in making stupid comments of that nature. This subsequently upset Ralph, and for the remainder of the story, Helena tended to keep Ralph at arms-length, even literally.

While Helena does tend to maintain a good amicable relationship with each of the Justice League heroes like she does the Justice Society, she also has a favourite partner that she prefers working with on Justice League missions. Whereas her default partner for Justice Society exclusive missions is always Power Girl, with the Justice League, her default partner is always the Earth-1 Batman.


2. HUNTRESS TEAM-UPS WITH THE EARTH-1 BATMAN

Of course, it should be a given that if the Huntress is going to pair up with any other hero in the known multiverse, it's going to be with someone she has a personal connection with. In Helena Wayne's particular case, it's always someone that she shares a familial history with. On her native Earth-2, her default partners are always Dick Grayson and Kara Zor-L, both of whom are family to her in some capacity.

Dick is her father's ward and therefore the closest person Helena has to an actual brother. Kara on the other hand is the cousin of her father's best friend (Superman), and since Helena grew up thinking of Clark as her "uncle," Kara is the closest person she has to an actual cousin. Given that pattern that already exists with Helena's partnerships on Earth-2, it's anything but surprising that her constant Justice League partner would be the Earth-1 version of her own father.

The unique relationship that exists between the Earth-1 Bruce Wayne and Helena is both endearing and weird at the same time. On the one hand, there is a natural familial love and respect between these two characters as a multiversal father and daughter team. Ironically, it is also this very "multiversal father and daughter" dynamic that makes this relationship so weird. It's weird in the sense that they are in fact closer to each other's age and lack that natural imbalance of power that would normally exist between a parent and a child. As such, they are really each other's equals in a way that's more comparable to them being cousins, even siblings. This actually kind of leads to the other reason this relationship is handled in ways that are strange.

Despite being well aware that Bruce and Helena are still technically family even if they exist on separate Earths, that didn't necessarily stop writers from occasionally romanticising their encounters. In much the same way that male writers in particular love to flirt with the idea of Batman and Wonder Woman as a couple, male writers tended to do the same with Bruce and Helena, taking full advantage of the multiversal nuance. As Waynes, they are family, but as the daughter of the Earth-2 Bruce Wayne, Helena wasn't technically the daughter of the Earth-1 Bruce Wayne, providing the much needed wiggle room for romantic imagery.

This weird romanticisation of the pair mostly manifested in the "Murder Among Us" story where Bruce and Helena got drawn and posed in ways that hint at romantic attraction. First in the scene where Bruce comforts Helena after he learns of the recent death of his Earth-2 counterpart (discussed in the last post), then later in the scene where Helena is caught in an explosion and Bruce quickly rushes to recover her body. In both scenes, there is one panel where Bruce is posed in a way that makes him look like he wants to kiss Helena, which is always weird to look at. Fortunately, however, this is the only time in the Justice League/Justice Society crossovers that something like this ever occurs. The rest of the time, Bruce and Helena are handled like equal partners who also happen to be multiversal family.

Of all the stories that best showcase how Bruce and Helena work together as equal partners, the "Crisis on New Genesis" mega story makes the top list for me. There's a lot that I love about this story from the premise of seeing the Justice League and Justice Society heroes on Apokolips, to the way the story is carefully planned and executed, to the way each individual character is used in the story. With regards to Bruce and Helena, this is the one story where we truly see both characters strategise together, which is incredibly fun to see. They both meticulously evaluate and weigh in every situation they're in and tend to take turns in the decision-making process.

When the two heroes are not busy fighting villains and manage to have some down time, Helena's presence makes Bruce think of his own future in a meaningful way. This idea is especially explored in the opening pages of "Crisis from Yesterday/Tomorrow" when Bruce finds himself thinking about the fact that his Earth-2 counterpart achieved what he feels is impossible for him. Though Bruce prides himself in being Batman and the work that he does as Batman, part of him also wonders if he'll ever learn to move on from his need of Batman.

In particular, Bruce thinks about whether or not he could one day marry and have a child of his own. He especially thinks about whether or not he can have a future with the Selina Kyle that's native to his Earth, and whether or not Helena could one day be his own child. Part of him envies he fact that his Earth-2 counterpart achieved the kind of happiness he wants for himself, but he also sees the way his Earth-2 counterpart raised Helena, and feels hopeful that she could one day be his reality.


3. EPIC STORIES INVOLVING TIME TRAVEL AND MULTIVERSE HOPPING

I simply could not end this post without discussing the constant multiverse-hopping and time travelling shenanigans that is Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6. Of all the stories that utilise these two tropes, there was no major story in any volume of this series that did it best than the Per Degaton mega story that spanned across four Earths and literally occupied the entire second half of the trade. This was the Justice League and All-Star Squadron crossover known as "Crisis on Earth-Prime."

The way this story was setup required significant planning and especially careful execution. This was a story that had two authors (Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas), three artists (Don Heck, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jerry Ordway), four participating teams (Justice League, Justice Society, All-Star Squadron, and Crime Syndicate), four Earths (1, 2, 3, and Prime), and ONE time travelling Justice Society villain: Per Degaton.

The premise for this story was really simple. Literally every Per Degaton story that didn't involve the Injustice Society had him do the same thing every time: conquer the world via time travel. In fact, every story he's appeared in always started the same way. It always began with him obsessing over the fact he was squandering his potential working as a lab assistant when he could achieve greater power. In every attempt he makes to achieve this goal, it always involves stealing Professor Z's time travelling technology.

In this story, Per Degaton does exactly what you expect him to do, but takes it to a whole new level. Instead of relying on the same method that always got foiled by the Justice Society, he modified his plan. In addition to time travel, he decided to travel the multiverse as well to steal technology from other Earths that don't exist on Earth-2 to better accomplish his goal.

Along the way, Per Degaton met some new allies in the form of the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate that was previously imprisoned by the Justice League. Per Degaton released them from their prison in order to assist in his goal, but in doing so, he threw the Justice Society in particular off course. By sending the modern, more experienced Justice Society to Earth-Prime, he successfully conquered Earth-2, dramatically altering its present history in a way that prevented progress from 1942.

When the Justice League especially arrived to Earth-2 in the present (1982), they noticed the significant change and knew they had to travel to 1942 in order to prevent the changes that happened. By the time they got to that year, they met with the original All-Star Squadron from 1942 as well as the 1982 Justice Society, effectively creating a dangerous paradox. There were now two Justice Society teams operating at the same time, with one of the teams being time displaced. The rest of this story was a race against time to prevent Per Degaton from permanently altering Earth-2's history.

Of all the multiversal crises Helena Wayne had been involved in, this was the big one that had the potential to erase her from history before Crisis on Infinite Earths even happened, which means that she dealt with significantly different challenges. Whereas the previous "Crisis from Yesterday/Tomorrow" posed no threat to her immediate past, present, and future, Per Degaton posed an immediate threat to those things on Earth-2. His actions had the potential to prevent Bruce and Selina from marrying, effectively erasing her out of existence.

If not for the fact that she was transported to Earth-Prime on her way to Earth-1, she could've very easily been erased. Though she still made it back to Earth-2 in 1942 in order to help prevent Per Degaton's plan from seeing fruition, she was still not out of the dangerous paradoxical woods. She was still a time anomaly in 1942, which meant she still had to be mindful of how her actions and even interactions with people in that year could still damage her own timeline. She had to avoid meeting with her own parents in 1942 and she had to avoid revealing any details about the future to the All-Star Squadron for the same reason. Even by the time the original timeline was restored, Helena remembering any detail from this adventure still risked altering her own future if her memory wasn't entirely erased.

On the whole, Crisis on Multiple Earths continued to take Helena's journey in new and interesting directions that added to her growth as a character. Huntress: Dark Knight Daughter established her origin, her personality, and raison d'être as a hero, and Justice Society Vol. 2 continued those developments within the context of a team. Crisis on Multiple Earths Vols. 5 & 6 continued her developments from Justice Society Vol. 2, but pushed her further into different frontiers that took her places she wouldn't have gone before.

Next up, legacy with Infinity Inc: Generations!

1 comment:

  1. There is also JLA#219-220, the infamous retconned Black Canary origin (the BC that joined the JLA is actually her daughter with her mother's memories). Helena and Kara get downplayed, getting defeated at first until getting rescued by the JLA, although both give the final strokes of defeat to their opponent.

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