Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 4

Once upon a time, it was a yearly tradition for the Justice League of America and Earth-2’s Justice Society of America to team up. Soon, it wasn’t enough for the reader to see just those two teams, so other groups became involved. Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 4 collects three of them — resulting in the best buy in comics today, if the evaluation is based on the number of superheroes that appear.

The book reprints Justice League of America #123, 124, 135-137, 147, and 148. All of the art is by Dick Dillin, inked by Frank McLaughlin. The introduction, by colorist Carl Gafford, does a good job explaining Dillin’s strengths as an artist, praising his ability with detail while dealing with dozens of characters on a page.

The first story, written by Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin, is one of the strangest in the Justice League’s history. It begins on Earth-Prime, DC’s name for the “real world”, where editor Julius Schwartz is berating Bates and Maggin over their lack of a plot for the JLA comic they’re writing. After an encounter with the Cosmic Treadmill, Bates winds up on Earth-2 as a super-villain. Turns out the Injustice Society cast a spell on his brain during his inter-dimensional trip, causing him to want to kill the JSA. Meanwhile, Maggin goes to Earth-1 to enlist the JLA’s help.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 4 cover
Crisis on
Multiple Earths
Volume 4
Buy this book

Like many stories of the era, there’s an awful lot going on in a short space, so there’s more explanation than action at times, and the reader is left to fill in any emotional impact. There’s a stab at psychology inserted, though: Bates attributes his enjoyment at his villainy to the idea that “adventure writers are just closet felons deep inside.” The resolution is lots of handwaving, magic provided by Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt and the Spectre that brings characters back to life and puts everyone back where they belong. Best of all, the last two panels are the writers and editor pointing out a huge hole in the idea and a major element that they simply left out.

The second, longest story was written by E. Nelson Bridwell and Martin Pasko. It’s a more traditional superhero event, guest-starring Bulletman, Bulletgirl, Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher, Mr. Scarlet, and Pinky. For those thinking, “Who?”, these heroes were all originally published by Fawcett Comics, whose most famous property was Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. Those better-known characters don’t appear until the end because the plot involves the gods that fuel the Shazam-based powers being captured and immobilized. Various combinations of JLA, JSA, and Fawcett heroes team up to defeat gangs of their individual enemies on the way there.

Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko write the third story, a team-up with the Legion of Super-Heroes. Their mystical foe, the wizard Mordru, first sends them on a treasure hunt before forcing them to battle each other for the lives of their teammates. The book concludes with a short piece on other comics being published by DC at this time, to give the reader an overview of the time period (1975-1977) in which these team-ups were originally published.

As I said before, these stories are jam-packed, so there’s not a lot of room for anything but characters. Using lesser-known guests gives the stories a feeling of being new and different without a lot of work on the writers’ parts — introduce them, a line of motivation, combine the characters on separate quests and fights, and you’re done!

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