DC Comics on The CW: Elseworlds Crossover Event (2018)

Elseworlds

I haven’t been watching Arrow this season, except for this year’s crossover event, but I’m still a steady viewer of The Flash and Supergirl. For whatever reasons, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow was left out of the crossover this year. Perhaps that series is on shaky ground, renewal-wise: I really don’t know. I stopped watching the series last year, before Victor Garber left.

The crossovers of these CW shows have been an uneven affair since the beginning, and this one was no exception. I have enjoyed every crossover, though, and I enjoyed this one as well. Keep that in mind as I write about the things I didn’t like about it.

In the weeks leading up to these episodes, the events were heavily foreshadowed with a clip showing John Wesley Shipp as the Flash (a nice ’80s flashback, there) being tormented by a character that those of us in the know realize was The Monitor, from the Wolfman/Perez Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book miniseries. Since the Crisis on Earth X crossover seemed to have little to do with the comic book, this turn of events definitely seemed to be for the fans.

The Elseworlds crossover, however, didn’t have the grand scope of the Wolfman/Perez opus, the presence of the Monitor notwithstanding. Without knowing about the Infinite Earths storyline (which I read only recently myself, and reviewed, of course), the Monitor—Mar Novu, as he is named here—is just another villain with some sort of magic book. The events of this crossover are laying the groundwork to tell the entire Crisis story, perhaps in next year’s crossover event, though I seriously doubt we’ll see all of the DC superheroes that were featured in the comic book.

If I understand what happened in this three-episode arc (and that’s not a certainty), reality is altered when the Monitor gives the magic book to Dr. John Deegan. One of the changes that we notice is that Barry Allen and Oliver Queen switch powers and identities. This is played largely for comic effect. It is funny. The actors seem to enjoy playing against type. Stephen Amell gets to lighten up on the gravitas a little bit, while Grant Gustin gets to go darker and use a gravelly voice. But, this Freaky-Friday hijinks stuff seems to belong in a two-part crossover between Arrow and The Flash, because it mostly leaves Supergirl out of the loop.

Oliver and Barry concoct a reason to go to Earth-38 (I keep forgetting that Supergirl and Superman don’t exist in the world of Flash and Green Arrow; at least, not on TV). The changes affecting Oliver and Barry’s Earth aren’t affecting Kara’s. So, that’s why we go to see Supergirl at all. But, even in this, Supergirl gets somewhat upstaged by bringing back Superman, and introducing a new Lois Lane (this time, played by a Grimm’s significant other). There was a great moment when we got to hear the Smallville theme song again as we get the establishing shot of the Kansas farm where Clark Kent grew up. I was a fan of that show, and really want Michael Rosenbaum to shave his head and play Lex Luthor one more time.

I don’t know that our trip to Earth-38 really accomplished anything, but somehow we end up in Gotham City (on which Earth? I can’t be bothered to keep up with such facts), because the man responsible for the changes that affected our heroes, Dr. John Deegan, works at Arkham Asylum there. Batman is, of course, nowhere to be found in Gotham, although we get a ton of Batman Easter Eggs, including the names of a few of the asylum inmates on the doors: O. Cobblepot, P. Isley, E. Nygma . . . you know the names and their villainous counterparts. We also get Victor Fries’s cold gun and Scarecrow’s hallucination gas.

Most importantly, we are introduced to Kate Kane’s Batwoman, wonderfully portrayed by Orange is the New Black‘s Ruby Rose. This version of Batwoman is being touted as the first openly lesbian lead superhero on television. Since her name isn’t on the show, I don’t think that’s true. Black Lightning‘s Thunder certainly came before her. However, I understand a Batwoman series is currently in pre-production, to air in 2019 if green-lit. I’d give it a try. I like Ruby Rose in the role, but I’m not a fan of the wig on her uniform/armor.

Ultimately, the Monitor gives Dr. Deegan the opportunity to change reality again, for reasons a mere mortal such as I cannot understand. This leads to Deegan assuming the guise of Black Superman (who just wears a black suit, and is not black himself). In the ultimate showdown, Barry and Kara must travel really, really fast in opposite directions around the Earth to stop time, a mini-shoutout to the first Superman movie. Oliver makes some sort of deal with the Monitor after discovering it is Barry and Kara’s destinies to die during this attempt. They are saved, but the implication is that someone else—Oliver, maybe—will have to die to restore balance. Maybe during next year’s crossover.

Again, those of us who read Crisis on Infinite Earths realize that Flash and Supergirl did die in that story. Odds are, they won’t die in their own series crossover, but Arrow is getting pretty long in the tooth. It wouldn’t be a bad way for that series to end. Just sayin’.

There was just so much cool stuff in these episodes. I haven’t even mentioned the hallucigenic fight, under the influence of the Scarecrow fear gas, with Malcolm Merlyn and the Reverse Flash. That was a blast from the past. I also failed to talk about Superman proposing to Lois in the Fortress of Solitude, or Barry finally getting to shoot Oliver with his own arrows the way Oliver shot him during his initial training. Good times.

But, where this crossover falls short is in its lack of cohesion. We get a lot of shiny, interesting things and scenes cobbled together (oh, yeah, they defeat Amazo as well), but the story is muddled, Supergirl seems mostly sidelined, and the whole shebang seems to be little more than a prologue to next year’s event.

While I continue to celebrate comic book television in all of its forms, I would give this storyline a begrudged grade of B, for its better moments. But, honestly, it’s all over the place, from A+ moments to the occasional D-.

Never a complete failing grade. So, there’s that.

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