What Crisis on Infinite Earths Is Really About

On Sunday "Crisis on Infinite Earths," the long-teased and eagerly-anticipated adaptation of the same-named comic book maxiseries from Marv Wolfman and George Perez, will arrive in The CW's Arrowverse. The five-night event kicks off on Supergirl and will see the heroes of the network's DC TV shows come together, just as the heroes in the comics did, in a battle for reality itself. It's an exciting prospect, as Crisis is a story that fans have long wanted to see adapted in live-action format in part due to the epic action of the story and the impact the event had on DC Comics from that moment forward. It's a story that changed everything for DC and continues to have reach into present day for how it "cleaned up" the tangled multiverse to create a single continuity.

That was, of course, Crisis' primary goal. Wolfman and Perez very superficially went into Crisis with the goal of simplifying DC's convoluted continuity. It's something that Wolfman goes into great detail about in the introduction to the collected volume of Crisis. But beyond the stated goal of the story, Crisis on Infinite Earths is in many ways about something more than just continuity and cleanup. It's even more than just an epic adventure that brings to life some of the most incredible feats of comic book superhero teamwork seen to date. At its heart, Crisis is a story about sacrifice and the true nature of what it means to be a hero and that's what makes it a perfect story for The CW's Arrowverse to adapt.

Fans of the original Crisis comics can likely easily identify the main "sacrifices" within the story. Even many very casual readers can likely point them out and rightly so. Crisis on Infinite Earths stunned readers with the death of Supergirl on the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 and then doubled down on that tragic death with another major loss in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 when Barry Allen also died. Both of those heroes willingly and deliberately gave all in order to give the rest of the heroes a chance to save reality from the Anti-Monitor. At the end of the story, even Earth-2's Superman gives all to put a final end to the Anti-Monitor's threat -- though he does not die per se.

Echoes of those comic book page sacrifices are going to be felt in the Arrowverse as well. Fans already know that Oliver Queen/Green Arrow is going to die in "Crisis". The hero's sacrifice is one that Arrow has been preparing for not just for all of Season 8 thus far but did so during the finale of Season 7 as well when Oliver's fate was revealed just as the hero had finally settled down into what fans may hoped would be a happily ever after. Fans have also been told that Barry Allen/The Flash will die in "Crisis" as well, a heartbreaking reality that has been teased since The Flash's very first episode in 2014. However, what The CW has the opportunity to do is tell a larger story of how there are other forms of sacrifice that can elevate the ordinary to heroic status.

It's this idea that could truly separate The CW's "Crisis" from its comic book inspiration. The Arrowverse's event isn't about cleaning up continuity because, in the large scale of things there isn't a need to do so. In very broad terms. the Arrowverse is already a fairly well-streamlined universe where there aren't a lot of pockets that don't fit or make sense. Sure, Supergirl does exist on Earth-38, Black Lightning isn't even officially part of the universe no matter how badly fans wish it were, and The Flash has at times bordered on campy with its inclusion of characters from alternative Earths -- especially when it comes to Tom Cavanagh's delightful but seemingly never-ending versions of Harrison Wells. "Crisis" will likely in some way address those things. Black Lightning, for example, will be coming to join the Arrowverse heroes in their fight and various teasers and scenes from Sunday's Supergirl have hinted that the heroine and people from her world might be coming to Earth-1 as a last-ditch attempt to survive their own Earths' destruction. And we've already seen worlds die which likely reduces the number of Wellses.

It's a handy bonus, but the event is so much more than that. Much like the comics saw Wally West make his own kind of sacrifice by taking up his fallen uncle's mantle, The CW's "Crisis" is going to see other heroes rise. Specifically, we expect to see this most clearly with Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara). The adult daughter of Oliver Queen, fans have gotten to know Mia through extensive flash forwards on Arrow over the course of the seventh and eighth seasons and while we've seen her journey take her towards truly being a hero in the 2040 timeline, we'll see her fight alongside her father in "Crisis". With Oliver fated to die, it's not hard to imagine a Wally-esque situation in which the young woman picks up her father's mantle to continue his fight and, in the process give life to the idea of legacy -- especially with a spinoff series featuring Mia already in the works.

The event is also going to see other characters step up and make their own heroic sacrifices. Perhaps the character for whom that appears to be the clearest is Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton). Iris is set to lose her husband, Barry, in "Crisis" and yet at the end of The Flash's mid-season finale even as the skies over Central City go red with impending doom she is set to be by her husband's side, ready to fight to the end even though she knows what is set to come. We've also already gotten a taste of Iris stepping up in an active role in "Crisis" thanks to photos the network has already shared from the event. Iris might not be fighting the Anti-Monitor and his forces directly, but we know she and Lois work together and, at some point, have the Book of Destiny in their hands. Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim has also already given fans an idea of Iris' larger role, telling fans in an impromptu Twitter Q&A last month that Iris recruits the seventh Paragon -- one of the heroes necessary to try to save reality.

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This rise of heroes and the sacrifices they make, the legacies they will carry long beyond the events of the crossover are ultimately what Crisis is about. In a larger sense, that's one of the main reasons the Arrowverse works so well. Each show that makes up the Arrowverse has given audiences so many characters to love and identify with. Crisis allows those characters -- especially the ones who perhaps aren't always seen as true heroes -- to prove themselves in a way that feels earned, genuine, and deeply human. In comics, Crisis is the moment DC “grew up” in a sense and it’s something that is poised to happen in the Arrowverse as well. It’s a story about sacrifice, humanity, and the ways in which we rise when called upon. Worlds will live and worlds will most certainly die and there’s no doubt that the universe – the Arrowverse – as we know it will never be the same, but we’re going to gain so much more.

"Crisis on Infinite Earths" kicks off tonight, Sunday, December 8 at 8/7c on The CW.