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Is the DC Cinematic Universe Heading Towards CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS?

Editor’s note: This video and article contains spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so proceed with caution. Or don’t. It’s your life.

By now you’ve likely had a chance to see Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film that finally answers the question of what happens when a wealthy orphan with daddy issues and an illegal alien with daddy issues get really, really mad at each other. While Batman v Superman had its ups (Wonder Woman) and downs (Doomsday), the one thing the DC Comics superhero slugfest did was fill me with a powerful curiosity about the future. Thankfully, the film also left a trail of breadcrumbs for eagle-eyed viewers to follow. Which makes sense because, with a subtitle like Dawn of Justice, the future of the DC Extended Universe is ingrained into the film’s very DNA.

Perhaps some of our questions will be answered in the forthcoming director’s cut, which promises an R rating and 30 minutes of additional footage. But in the meantime, I have my own theories about where the DCEU is heading, and they all point to Crisis on Infinite Earths. And I’ll explain exactly what that means and what you need to know on today’s episode of The Dan Cave.


Crisis on What Now?

I know, I know. It’s a mouthful. It’s also one of the biggest and most seminal crossover events in DC Comics history. Back in 1985, DC Comics’ continuity was in shambles, thanks to 50-some-odd years of convoluted, often contradictory storytelling that left fans and creators alike deeply confused about what version of their favorite superheroes could be considered canonical. So rather than play Giles Corey to the crushing weight of continuity, DC Comics decided to hit the proverbial reset button with a 12-issue limited series called Crisis on Infinite Earths, written by Marv Wolfman, and illustrated by George Perez, Mike DeCarlo, Dick Giordano, and Jerry Ordway.

In its most basic form—and believe me, nothing about this storyline is basic; I’ll do another episode explaining all the ins and outs down the line—Crisis on Infinite Earths effectively eliminated the multiverse from the DC Universe. As the name implies, the multiverse refers to the seemingly endless series of parallel worlds, the titular “infinite earths.” The crux of the series focuses on the Anti-Monitor, an all-powerful cosmic being from the antimatter universe who is hellbent on destroying all positive matter universes.

If that last sentence gave you a headache, you’re not alone. The basic gist of the story is that the Anti-Monitor travels across space and time in an attempt to destroy reality as we know it, and it takes the combined might of practically every superhero, supervillain, and minor character in the DC Universe to stop him. Not everyone makes it out unscathed, though; both Supergirl and Barry Allen (a.k.a. The Flash) gave their lives to stop the Anti-Monitor in what have become some of the most iconic moments in DC history.


The Flash Connection

So, how does all of this tie into Batman v Superman? The answer lies within the Justice League’s own Scarlet Speedster, The Flash. In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen gives his life to destroy the Anti-Monitor’s antimatter cannon, a superweapon being used to destroy entire planets. He ran around the cannon’s core at an incredible velocity, creating a vortex to absorb its energy. However, the power proved too much for the Flash, causing him to lose control over his physical form, dying and disappearing into nothingness. It was a tragic


We’ve also had a potential taste of this exact panel already on The Flash TV series, which has already introduced us to the multiverse this season through the introduction of Earth-2. On the show, a futuristic newspaper headline reads “Flash Missing! Vanishes in Crisis,” and another headline reads “Red Skies Vanish.” The former is rather self-explanatory, seemingly referencing Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the latter is a bit more obscure. The red skies being referenced are a hallmark of DC Comics crossover events, usually used to signify that the events in the comic were a tie-in to a larger crossover.


Now. that might make you think that DC is steering their TV universe towards Crisis on Infinite Earths, but that might be wishful thinking on our part. The Flash executive producer Greg Berlanti has gone on record saying, “We’d have to be really, really blessed and lucky to actually build toward [Crisis]” on TV.

Considering that we  just saw Supergirl crossover with The Flash this Monday, I’d say we’re looking pretty blessed right now.

In a more explicit statement, DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns told Buzzfeed, “We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist.”

By that logic, these seeds planted in the TV shows could have repercussions across the film universe too. While I don’t think this is necessarily the case with Batman v Superman, it’s certainly fascinating food for thought, especially when one considers Barry Allen’s appearances in the film.

In a pair of cameos from Ezra Miller, we get a taste of The Flash’s explosive powers while Wonder Woman browses Lex Luthor’s curiously curated metahuman files (complete with neatly designed logos and sizzle reels for the rest of DC’s slate through 2020). But what’s most compelling is his appearance during Bruce Wayne’s Knightmare. (God, I hate that term.) Arriving through some sort of mysterious portal, The Flash appeared before Batman to offer a prophetic warning:

“Bruce! Listen to me now! It’s Lois! Lois Lane! She’s the key! Am I too soon? I’m too soon! You were right about him! You’ve always been right about him! Fear him! Find us, Bruce! You have to find us!”

It’s chilling stuff. The Flash is clearly imploring Batman to find the other metahumans listed in Lex Luthor’s decrypted files. Bruce needs to unite the seven because, as the Flash tells him, he was right about Superman all along. Now, some may theorize that The Flash arrived via a Boom Tube, an extradimensional teleportation device used by the denizens of Apokolips like Darkseid (more on him in a bit). However, I don’t buy that. Rather, this seemed to be a direct homage to a similar sequence in Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which a ghostly Flash appears before Batman to offer a prophetic warning before disintegrating before his eyes. If that is, in fact, the case, then this is our strongest link yet to Crisis, and one that only gets stronger the more we dig into the Knightmare sequences and comic book history.


The Death and Return of Superman

So, let’s try and dissect this shall we? Batman’s initial assumption about the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman was that a being with Superman’s power should not be allowed to operate unchecked. With his superhuman strength and nearly limitless power, Kal-El could easily destroy humanity on a whim. So, like any rational adult who dresses up as a bat at night, Bruce puts Superman in his sights. Ultimately, they realize that they need to work together to defeat the greater evil of Lex Luthor and Doomsday, and their final fight leaves Superman dead and buried. Of course, the only thing less shocking than Superman’s untimely demise is the dirt floating above his coffin in the film’s final frames.

In “The Death of Superman” comic book arc, Superman perishes after his fight with Doomsday. But like any good comic book character worth his salt, he rises from the dead not too long afterward. In the comics, Superman is brought back to life after a villain named The Eradicator, who was masquerading as a Superman knockoff named The Last Son of Krypton, put his body in a device called a Kryptonian Regeneration Matrix, which began healing the Man of Steel. At some point during the healing process, the Matrix broke open, freeing a revived, albeit severely depowered (and be-mulleted) Superman.

Now, I sincerely doubt you’ll see The Eradicator (or any of the other jokers from “Reign of the Supermen”) on the big screen, but we could see s0me version of this story play out. Someone could exhume Superman’s body and place it in a Kryptonian Genesis Chamber, like the one at the Fortress of Solitude that General Zod sought to use to repopulate Earth with sweet, sweet Kryptonian babies. Alternately, Supes’ body could be put in whatever pomegranate-seed-filled Kryptonian device Lex Luthor used to create Doomsday. Except instead of turning into a murderous hellbeast, Superman would emerge restored and under the thrall of Darkseid and his agents.


Wait, Darkseid?!

You read that right. Darkseid. The tyrannical ruler of Apokolips who is determined to eliminate all free will in the universe. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Weren’t you just talking about the Anti-Monitor?” Yes, yes I was. The Anti-Monitor is the main villain of the Crisis on Infinite Earths comics, but the DCEU is putting its chips in Darkseid’s corner. And adding another gigantic cosmic despot with murder on the brain would be too much too soon.

Still not convinced? Think back to Batman’s other Knightmare, which takes place in a seemingly ravaged future version of Earth. Batman stands resplendent in a billowing trench coat, overlooking a devastated city and massive Omega symbol burnt into the ground, the emblem of Darkseid and his armies.


Leading a small resistance force, likely a reference to the Sons of Batman from The Dark Knight Returns, Batman soon finds himself doing battle with soldiers wearing Superman “S” patches, as well as winged parademons swooping down from the sky. Overpowered and outgunned, Batman and his friends get captured by Superman’s forces. When the Man of Steel arrives, he stalks down a hallway, murders Batman’s friends, then unmasks the Dark Knight.

This isn’t the Superman who rescues innocent bystanders; this is a Superman with murder in his eyes. Thankfully, it’s all a dream, right? But what if it isn’t? What if this is a vision of the future, one in which a mind-controlled Superman is serving as Darkseid’s soldier? It would likely take the combined might of the Justice League to take him down. But that’s only half the equation. Remember Flash’s warning? He told Superman to find Lois Lane, because if there’s anyone who can bring Superman back to the side of the angels, it’s the love of his life.

Further adding credence to Darkseid’s impending arrival is what Zack Snyder confirmed to be a Mother Box in the Cyborg/Red Room sequence. For those not in the know, a Mother Box is basically a small, sentient supercomputer used by Darkseid and the denizens of Apokolips to summon Boom Tubes, create forcefields, or, as we’ve seen in Cyborg’s case, restructure molecular matter. The Mother Boxes make another appearance in a recently released deleted scene, which features Lex Luthor standing on the crashed Kryptonian ship. Standing in front of Lex is a massive, hulking beast with a horned head that bears a striking resemblance to Steppenwolf, Darkseid’s uncle and one of his elite military commanders. Using three Mother Boxes, the creature disappears as soldiers rush to Lex’s presumed rescue.

So, how does all this tie into Crisis on Infinite Earths? Well, I maintain that it would be genuinely shocking to see the Anti-Monitor get introduced into the DCEU alongside Darkseid. But having the tyrant of Apokolips simply supplant the Anti-Monitor’s role in Crisis wouldn’t be enough. Rather, I think that Warner Bros. and DC will cherry-pick elements from multiple storylines to create something more cohesive. For instance, I could imagine a weird Frankenstein-ed together storyline that includes parts of Crisis on Infinite Earths, as well as something like Grant Morrison’s “Rock of Ages” arc from JLA, which saw Darkseid conquering Earth and New Genesis by solving and constantly broadcasting the Anti-Life Equation, a formula that allows the user to dominate the will of any who hear it. Using the Anti-Life Equation would certainly explain how Darkseid could control someone as strong-willed as Superman. But in this version, Darkseid wouldn’t settle for conquering just one Earth; he’d be after the entire multiverse. And that is how he would become the primary antagonist of not only Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the DC Extended Universe as we know it.

But what do you guys think? Am I on point? Is it actually based on Injustice: Gods Among Us like some people think? Are there other connections I left out? Let me know what you think the future of the DCEU holds in the comments below.

Images: DC Comics/Warner Bros./The CW

Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter and ask him about his DCEU fan theories (@Osteoferocious).

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