History of the DC Universe
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: George Pérez
Distributed By: DC Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, I read the trade paperback, Crisis on Infinite Earths from DC Comics. Writer Marv Wolfman knocked the DC Universe on its collective arse, single-handedly rearranging and reordering the entire history of the DC Universe in one fell swoop. In 1986, with the help of penciler George Pérez, Wolfman brought order to the newly reformed DC Universe via a new graphic novel, History of the DC Universe.
As told in the introduction written by Marv Wolfman, History of the DC Universe had initially been intended to be the final two comics in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, an epilogue of sorts. However, events conspired against this and the idea was put on hold for a while. As Wolfman explains, what started out as something he thought would be easy to write turned into a nightmare. The fact that the graphic novel is written in a different style than Wolfman was used to contributed greatly to that fact. Instead of having George Pérez draw his art around Wolfman’s writing, it was instead Wolfman, drawing around the art of Pérez. Thus, it took Wolfman some time to adapt the story he had already written to fit in to the spaces provided within Pérez’ elaborate artwork.
The History of the DC Universe is told to us by Harbinger, as seen through her eyes and as taught to her by her mentor, The Monitor. Harbinger begins by telling us the history of heroism in the universe from its very creation. She summarizes battles waged on Earth and different worlds and finally ends her tale with the future of heroism in the universe, describing future superheroes and their counterparts. Throughout the tale, Harbinger wonders what it is that makes heroes what they are – what drives them to be heroic in the first place?
Though the artwork is excellent, the fact of the matter is that History of the DC Universe doesn’t really tell anyone anything they didn’t already know. Wolfman tries to simplify the new and reordered history that occurred as a direct result of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he doesn’t really quite get there. Instead, what we get is a look at the former, present and future superheroes through the eyes of a central character from the Crisis on Infinite Earths series. There is really nothing new here. If you read the series and didn’t find yourself confused beyond belief at all of the old-world, new-world and other-world superheroes and villains joining forces, then you would already know whose histories were completely erased from existence and whose had begun during the Crisis. The History is not even written in a completely chronological order – it often jumps from one age to the other and back again. The fact that Harbinger barely discussed those who lost their lives during the Crisis was irksome as well.
All-in-all, this graphic novel was a waste of time and certainly not worth the $9.95 U.S. price tag unless you bought it simply for the artwork. Perhaps the folks at DC Comics should have gone with the original idea of making History of the DC Universe a two-part epilogue to Crisis on Infinite Earths. And yet, maybe they knew that the fans would feel cheated. In any case, DC comic book fans won’t miss out on anything if they skip History of the DC Universe. In fact, I wish I had done exactly that!