It’s going to be a long month before “Crisis on Infinite Earths” changes everything, again. This week, the five-part crossover of DC’s shared universe on The CW, the “Arrowverse,” began after years of anticipation (The Flash first hinted at a “crisis” in 2014 episode.)
But do we already know how “Crisis on Infinite Earths” will end? We have an idea based on what happened over 30 years ago in the original namesake comic book miniseries by Marv Wolfman and George Peréz, but due to the mile-wide differences that separate the comics from the Arrowverse, the comics can’t be the be-all, end-all of the story.
Here’s how the original “crisis” ended in the comics, and how that will (or won’t) change in the final two episodes.
How Crisis on Infinite Earths ended in the comics
To understand the actual ending of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, one needs to understand the circumstances that influenced DC Comics, Marv Wolfman, and how people consumed media in the mid-‘80s.
Crisis on Infinite Earths came at an opportune time: 1985 was DC’s 50th anniversary. By then, DC’s comic book continuity had grown overly complex and was hard to understand for anyone who wasn’t already keeping up with the stories each week. So to commemorate fifty years, the creatives at DC decided to use Crisis on Infinite Earths to celebrate five decades and overhaul the universe for newbies to join in. Crisis was a 12-issue reset button, one that allowed DC to begin anew.
It had to be a crossover. Before 1985, comic book crossovers were familiar territory, but there had been nothing equal to the scale that fans would see. In his 1998 foreword to a trade paperback reprint of Crisis, Wolfman revealed he was inspired by his favorite Justice League of America and Justice Society of America crossovers, stories that often capped at over a dozen characters. But he wanted something bigger and grander than he’d ever seen.
Between his childhood dreams and his creative ambition for attempting something with a miniseries format, which in the mid-‘80s had become a hot trend on television, Wolfman eventually came to Crisis on Infinite Earths, a crossover miniseries with hundreds, not dozens, of his favorite superheroes. It was ambitious, unthinkable, and completely unhinged.
The premise of Crisis is about the same as the TV version: The Monitor, an alien being, is trying to stop his evil twin brother, the Anti-Monitor, from destroying the multiverse. The Monitor recruits superheroes from all throughout the multiverse to band together against a common enemy.
Some live, others die. All are heroes in the end.
One hero who is key is the Spectre. Jim Corrigan, a hard boiled cop killed in cold blood, becomes the Spectre when a supernatural entity known only as “The Voice” resurrects Jim and gives him superpowers in order to fight evil.
In the comics, the Spectre appears towards the end of the story to unite the heroes (and some villains) one last time before standing up to the Anti-Monitor. Later, the Spectre uses the absolute limit of his powers to consolidate the last five remaining Earths in the multiverse, merging them into one, single Earth.
There’s another battle against the Anti-Monitor, but by that point the new status quo for the DCU was officially set. There was now one Earth with one history, and “leftovers” from other Earths find their lives upended.
Our guess how “Crisis in Infinite Earths” will end in the Arrowverse
Not unlike DC Comics in the mid-‘80s, The CW’s Arrowverse has become a complicated tangle of shows set in various continuities, some of which interlock while others exist in isolation. Even diehard fans struggle to keep up. it might be time for a reset, but what might that look like? And what will happen along the way?
First, we can rule out the deaths of Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El, a.k.a. The Flash and Supergirl respectively. Although these two characters were the biggest casualties in the comics, they can’t die on TV. Not with their shows still on the air. (Also, the death of The Flash of Earth-90 neatly fulfilled the prophecy of Flash “vanishing” in a crisis.)
Similar to his role in the comics, the Spectre will apparently play a very important role in the TV version. A big change is that Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, who spent years of his show Arrow as the dark vigilante Green Arrow, is now the wielder of the powers of the Spectre. And it will likely be Oliver who merges the different Earths of the “Arrowverse” into one.
How else Oliver can use Spectre’s powers is unknown. While we can trust that Oliver will use such powers responsibly, we’ve yet to fully grasp what it means that the Green Arrow now has powers equal to a god.
For years Oliver was one of the few “non-meta” superheroes of the Arrowverse, outclassed by peers like The Flash and Supergirl. But the harrowing, emotional ordeal Green Arrow’s undergone from the Monitor in the final season of Arrow means we shouldn’t expect to see Oliver take his powers for a joyride. We can surmise this based on the cliffhanger “trailer” that aired at the end of “Part 3.”
For a moment, we see Oliver, in a suit, standing with authority as he tells Barry, “You’re in the Speed Force.” The Speed Force historically has been a place where Barry sees loved ones, living or dead, as physical embodiments of the Speed Force itself. So the “Oliver” Barry meets in the Speed Force might just be the Speed Force using Oliver’s face.
But because Oliver is also the Spectre now, it is just as likely that Oliver has the power to get into the Speed Force on his own.
Oliver as the Spectre, merging all (or some) of the surviving Earths in the Arrowverse into a single continuity, is probably how “Crisis on Infinite Earths” will end on January 14. We know enough that the Arrowverse will not be the same after the crossover, but just how unfamiliar it will look is the big unanswered question between now and the premiere of “Part 4” and “Part 5.”
No matter what happens though, one thing is always certain: Earth will always need heroes. It’s just a matter of how many Earths.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” will conclude on January 14, 2020 on The CW.