The Arrowverse has been building towards "Crisis on Infinite Earths" for over four years. Crossover events have become an annual tradition for The CW's slate of DC superheroes, but it seems "Elseworlds" was effectively a prelude for what's coming next. When the story came to a close in Tuesday night's episode of Supergirl, The CW revealed that 2019 would be the year of the "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
The crossover events are always important, but this is the first time they've been announced a year in advance. It's clear that "Crisis on Infinite Earths" isn't intended to be a typical event; it's something bigger, something with the potential to redefine the entire Arrowverse. That shouldn't be a massive surprise, though; this event is inspired by one of the most important DC Comics plots of all time, a bestseller that ran from 1985 to 1986. What's more, if you look back carefully through previous Arrowverse seasons, there are signs that "Crisis" has been coming to DCTV since at least 2014.
Here, we're going to explain what "Crisis on Infinite Earths" really is, and explore the ways the Arrowverse has been building up towards next year's event.
- This Page: The Flash Has Been Setting Up Crisis On Infinite Earths For Years
- Next Page: How "Elseworlds" Set Up Crisis On Infinite Earths
What Is Crisis On Infinite Earths?
In the 1980s, writers and editors at DC Comics cast a critical eye over their entire comic book range. They realized that their continuity had become pretty messy, largely because the comics were set across a vast, sprawling multiverse of titles - and it was often unclear just which worlds events were happening on in the first place. It was impossible for even the writers to keep track of the continuity. Finally, writer Marv Wolfman hit upon the idea of simplifying matters by destroying the bulk of the multiverse, compressing it down to one single timeline. When he pitched the idea to DC Comics, Wolfman knew full well it would basically be a fresh beginning for the whole DC Comics range.
The Crisis on Infinite Earths 12-issue maxi-series became one of the defining books of the DC Comics publishing history. Written by Wolfman and with art by George Pérez, it featured every single hero in DC's range; the story swiftly became infamous for its ruthless approach, with Wolfman killing off characters liberally. Although the series got almost no promotion, it proved to be a bestseller, and in hindsight it's viewed as the turning point for DC. It was the first time in comic book history that literally everything - all of reality itself, every character and every franchise - was in danger.
The plot of Crisis on Infinite Earths was a chilling one, and the main antagonist was a cosmic being known as the Anti-Monitor. Exposed to anitmatter, the Anti-Monitor had begun destroying entire realities in order to absorb them into his own growing empire. He was opposed by the Monitor, who sought to guard the remainder of the multiverse from his opposite number, and both chose champions from across time and space; the Anti-Monitor's most notable agent was a villain named the Psycho-Pirate. In the end, although the heroes emerged triumphant, it was at a terrible cost. Supergirl and Barry Allen's Flash were among the most famous casualties of Crisis on Infinite Earths, giving their lives to save entire worlds. DC's five main alternate dimensions were merged together, resulting in a brand new, simplified continuity. With the past rewritten, precious few heroes even remembered the pre-Crisis continuity.
The Flash Has Been Setting Up Crisis For A Long Time
The Flash actually began setting up the DCTV version of Crisis all the way back in its pilot episode. Harrison Wells - a.k.a. the Reverse-Flash - possessed a secret Time Vault, and was seen contemplating a newspaper from 2024. The main headline read "Flash Missing, Vanishes in Crisis." Beneath was a second, "Red Skies Vanish." Both of these were allusions to Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the red skies were a sign of a reality's imminent destruction, and Barry Allen sacrificed himself to prevent his world being consumed by antimatter.
Over the last few years, The Flash has gradually revealed what was written in the article. It described an apocalyptic scene in which the sky turned red, and power outages rippled across Central City. Starling City's Green Arrow, the Atom, and Hawkgirl were on hand to help, as the Flash engaged in a destructive battle with the Reverse-Flash. It all ended in a blinding light followed by darkness as the night sky returned to black - and both Barry Allen and the Reverse-Flash were gone.
The premiere of The Flash season 5 revealed more details about the Crisis. Nora, the Flash's daughter from the future, pulled up a second newspaper article about Barry's disappearance. Dated 25 years after the Crisis, it included one significant paragraph:
"In the years following the crisis, accounts only grew more contradictory. Some eyewitnesses remember dozens of other heroes present, including Green Arrow, Batwoman, and Elongated Man. Others remember heroes thought lost in time, like The Atom, or from other worlds, like Supergirl. Some even contend they saw Reverse Flash leading an army of "shadow demons.""
Related: The Flash: Elongated Man Explained
This new information suggested that Crisis would be a crossover event featuring Supergirl and Batwoman. The mention of "shadow demons" is also important - in the comics, the Anti-Monitor sent Psycho-Pirate with an army of shadow demons. The article ended with a quote attributed to Psycho-Pirate himself, who claimed to remember the night's events. "Worlds lived, worlds died," he said, "Nothing will ever be the same." That was the tagline for the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book series back in 1985.
One final detail is worthy of note. In the season 4 premiere, Flash emerged from the Speed Force with his mind fragmented across time. He spoke a lot of words that seemed to be gibberish, but were either lifted from earlier episodes or proved to be linked to events yet to happen. "Nora shouldn't be here," Barry observed, pointing to his daughter's arrival in the past. "Your honor, I'm innocent," he objected, foretelling his day in court when he was accused of murder. But Barry also uttered a lot of strange words about stars falling from the sky, even melting "like ice cream." Those words are yet to be fulfilled and could point to a cosmic event like the Crisis.