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With Crisis on Infinite Earths, The CW is finally bringing the giant insanity of comics to TV
When the tantalizing tease of a "Crisis" was dropped all those years ago in the series premiere of The CW's The Flash, it was hard to imagine we'd be staring down the barrel of a true multiverse-busting event six years later.
But here we are — and the Arrowverse is poised to deliver something bigger, wilder, and weirder than even the vaunted Marvel Cinematic Universe has pulled off over the past decade or so in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The CW's modern superhero line-up launched with Arrow and has been growing for eight years. It now encompasses six live-action series (not to mention an animated show or two over on The CW Seed streaming service) plus a Justice League-and-a-half's worth of superheroes and sidekicks spread across all of them.
During that time, these series have also introduced some ambitious world-building, ranging from a time-traveling space ship full of C-list heroes to a full-fledged multiverse with alternate heroes and villains filled with everything from an Evil Nazi Universe to comic-style steampunk doppelgängers. The Arrowverse has also never shied away from the goofy, gimmicky stuff that makes the comics so much fun in the first place, where there's room for boxing glove arrows alongside the grimdark. The breathing room provided by television is a better mirror to what makes comics books so fun, weaving seamlessly from one-off stories to mini-arcs, and back to longer narratives — all while bringing characters in and out and sharing them between titles.
As any Arrowverse fan can attest, that's how it's worked for years. Diggle or Lyla will pop up over on The Flash (with Diggle usually getting nauseous at the super-speed), or Arrow will make a reference to the happenings in Central City. Or the Legends will pop up in an alt-future where Star City has fallen into chaos and Felicity is dead.
That's not even mentioning the biggies: The annual crossover episodes. What started as a few meetings among heroes quickly grew into epic clashes. These small-screen heroes have faced down alien invaders, reality-reshaping villains, those aforementioned Nazi doppelgängers, and a whole lot more. They've gotten bigger every year, with the creative teams testing the waters of just how many episodes, and shows, they can fold into these massive events.
And now we're getting arguably the biggest comic event in DC history brought to live-action. An event so wildly big that even the film side has nary considered a swing at trying to adapt it.
Which makes sense, because realistically there's no way you could do Crisis justice — true justice — in any form other than what The CW has built here. It was a way to weave together years upon years of disparate stories and characters and realities into something cohesive, and it only worked because it was so ambitious at its core. It was only big because it had worlds on top of worlds to play with (and more specifically, destroy). It was monumental because it had dozens upon dozens of established, beloved characters slammed together to face something bigger than they had ever faced. Over the better part of a decade, the Arrowverse has put in the work to create something that mirrors the essence of comic books more than you could ever do in film, even as Marvel Studios does it so darn well in its own right.
We've had years upon years of big arcs, and one-off stories, to get to know all these characters. These aren't people we've only known for one or two two-hour movies. We've seen them grow up and become heroes for hundreds and hundreds of hours, and hundreds and hundreds of stories. We've lived in this multiverse. We've walked the streets of National City, we know Barry and Iris' Central City apartment, we've gotten dinner at Jitters and Big Belly Burger — we know the difference in the Glades and Star City. In the comics, Crisis worked because it tore apart worlds that fans knew and loved. The CW has more than built plenty of worlds that fit that criteria, and it's poised to throw it all in a big, world-smashing blender.
The closest comparison in modern history is Marvel Studios' Infinity War and Endgame saga, which wrapped up a decade of superhero movies and rewrote its own reality with a few time travel MacGuffins. Yes, we all know and love the characters Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, and the like have grown into over all those solo movies and team-ups. But even with all the flicks Marvel has rolled out on the big screen, the 10-plus hours we've spent with Tony Stark is nothing compared to the 150-plus hours we've spent watching Oliver Queen try and save his city, and himself, all these years. Not much can compete with the effects and scope of a $200 million Marvel movie, sure, but the Arrowverse went the long way to make us fall in love with all these characters.
And after spending the better part of a decade making this huge, beautiful, and sprawling world — The CW is getting to tear it all down. It'll almost certainly make for one hell of a show.