REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES THE MONITOR
Worlds lived, worlds died, and the DC Universe was never the same. And no, I'm not talking about the "New 52". In that instance, I'd have to say, "Worlds lived, worlds died, and the DC Universe was turned into -- " well, never mind.
I'm speaking, of course, of 1985's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, an epic 12-issue saga the likes of which had never been seen in the history of comics, and which I don't believe has been equaled since, despite various attempts. Arguably the two closest would be INFINITE CRISIS, a direct follow up to the original Crisis, and JLA/AVENGERS, a cross-company epic if there ever was one.
Crisis on Infinite Earths accomplished several things. For one thing, it introduced a group of heroes previously owned by Charlton Comics to the DC Universe. This included Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question, and several others. Secondly, it undid the DC multiverse. And that requires a bit of explanation.
DC Comics' Golden Age consisted of the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, and others. However, a number of these, including the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Atom, were not the characters that were later so well known in the 60's and beyond. The Flash was Jay Garrick, not Barry Allen. Green Lantern was Alan Scott, not Hal Jordan. The Atom was Al Pratt, not Ray Palmer, and he couldn't shrink. He was just notably short.
Although the big guns, like Superman and Batman, continued to be published straight through, many of these heroes more or less retired during the 1950's. In the late 1950's, DC Comics' Julius Schwartz thought it was time to revitalize these characters, but also made them entirely different individuals. And along came the Silver Age versions that would go on to be so prominent thanks to the likes of cartoons and other assorted merchandising.
At one point, it was decided to bring back the Golden Age heroes. But how? No reference to them had ever been made in the modern titles. But ultimately, the Golden Age Flash and the Silver Age Flash met, and it was determined that they existed on different Earths, slightly set apart from each other across vibrational dimensions, that at that time only the Flashes could overcome. The then modern-day Earth became Earth-1, and the Golden Age Earth became Earth-2.
Before long, the entire modern day Justice League met the Golden Age Justice Society, setting off a series of highly-popular annual team-ups.
Other Earths came along. Earth-3 was home to the Crime Syndicate, villainous versions of the Justice League. Earth-X was home to the Freedom Fighters, heroes such as Uncle Sam and others, who had been fighting World War II for twenty years (and who had been owned by another comics company). Earth-S was home to -- SHAZAM! -- Captain Marvel and company, who had also been owned by another comics company before coming under the DC umbrella. In fact, in the 1940's, Captain Marvel had outsold Superman, leading to no small amount of consternation and a few lawsuits given the similarity of the two characters.
The Charlton Universe picked up the designation of Earth-4, but that didn't last terribly long. It was felt at the time that a multiverse simply was too complicated a place, and so over the course of the Crisis, the multiverse was undone, resulting in a single universe, on which all of the heroes had always existed. Many of the characters who more or less overlapped each other between Golden and Silver Ages were killed off or otherwise reworked.
The Crisis was also notable for two especially distinct deaths. Supergirl died. There was a plan to make Superman the only surviving Kryptonian, so that was the end of Supergirl -- for a while. And Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, perished, and Wally West, known until then as Kid Flash, took on the role. Allen would return much later. Eventually, even the multiverse was restored.
Overseeing the events of the Crisis was a conflict between two beings known as The Monitor and the Anti-Monitor. Although within the Crisis, the Anti-Monitor was the more major player, The Monitor had been mentioned or had appeared throughout the DC Universe for quite some time before the Crisis actually took place.
Mattel, a couple of years ago, turned out a line of 4" scale DC Universe action figures called DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES. The package design for these figures featured the CRISIS logo, which seemed a little odd, but I've always thought that the reason it did so, was to indicate that heroes from across the DC Universe/Multiverse were welcome within the line, and indeed the line did feature a wide range of characters, including some that were in fact distinct to the Crisis. One special mail-order figure was that of the Anti-Monitor. Another figure pack featured Harbinger, the Monitor's assistant, and a pair of Shadow Demons, destructive entities that played a vital role in the story.
There was also a four-pack available, that featured The Monitor, Psycho-Pirate, a villain who played a key role in the Crisis, and, to put it charitably, battle-damaged versions of Supergirl and The Flash.
I never ordered that set. I was interested in The Monitor and Psycho-Pirate, but I wasn't as interested in these "verge of death" versions of Supergirl and The Flash.
Well, you just never know what will turn up sometimes. I recently visited a clearance-type store that sometimes has a halfway-decent toy department, and what did I find? Figures from this particular four-pack, being sold individually and I found -- THE MONITOR.
But who is The Monitor? Let's consider that, and then have a look at this figure.
The Monitor was created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez as one of the main characters of DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series.
The character began appearing, along with his assistant Lyla, in numerous DC Comics titles beginning in 1982, three years before the Crisis began in July 1985; these appearances made it seem that he was some sort of weapons dealer for supervillains.
This was all part of the setup Wolfman and the staff of DC Comics planned for the Crisis, showing the Monitor currying favor with a wide range of super-villains prior to calling on the heroes.
The Monitor was depicted in the shadows for all of his appearances in DC's mainstream superhero titles, and his face was first revealed in one of their few remaining non-superhero titles, the war comic G.I. Combat issue #274., which to this day is considered one of the oddest debuts for someone who was arguably more suited to the super-hero sci-fi genre.
As to this origins -- Thirteen billion years ago, the Multiverse was born due to tampering with the creation of the universe by Krona, a scientist from the planet Maltus who was attempting to see the beginning of the universe. As a result of his actions, an infinite number of parallel universes were brought into existence side by side, separated only by minuscule vibrational differences, none of them as strong as the single universe that existed earlier would have been.
Monitor was born on Oa's moon, apparently as the living embodiment of all positive matter universes. One of these universes was composed entirely of antimatter, and on the moon of Oa's counterpart, Qward, a hideous mockery of life was born from its very soil, a being that would come to be known as the Anti-Monitor.
As the evil Anti-Monitor conquered his universe, the Monitor watched him, and when the Anti-Monitor sensed his presence, they began battling across the dimensional barrier in a war that lasted one million years.
A simultaneous attack rendered them both unconscious, and they lay unmoving for more than nine billion years, until the Monitor felt his evil counterpart awaken, as a result of another experiment on the creation of the universe by another scientist, which resulted in the destruction of that scientist's universe. He found this scientist, a man who would become known as Pariah, and used him to follow the Anti-Monitor's path of destruction in his newly-created spaceship.
As the Anti-Monitor consumed worlds with his destructive antimatter, thus increasing his power as his antimatter universe expanded to fill the 'gap' that had been left by the loss of one universe after another, the Monitor grew weaker. He studied every universe for the means to fight the Anti-Monitor, but even though countless universes were threatened, he took the time to save an orphaned girl, the only survivor of a shipwreck, and raised her on his ship.
That girl, Lyla, grew up to become Harbinger, having been granted great powers by the Monitor.
The Monitor went so far as to provide supervillains with technology, supposedly for money but in reality as a way to test the heroes and villains of Earth and find out which ones might help his cause.
When the Anti-Monitor's anti-matter wave began approaching the main Earths of the Multiverse, the Monitor directed Harbinger to track down an initial force of fifteen specific heroes and villains the Monitor needed to fight his foe. This initial group featured Kal-L (Superman of Earth-2), Doctor Polaris, Dawnstar, Firebrand, Geo-Force, Obsidian, Cyborg, Killer Frost, Firestorm, Psycho-Pirate, Solovar, Blue Beetle, Psimon, Green Lantern, and Arion.
He explained to them what was going on, and sent them to protect giant tower-like devices that he had created on several places across space and time; his plan was to merge the surviving Earths into a single one that could resist the Anti-Monitor's attack. He also sent Harbinger to recover the infant Alexander Luthor, Jr., the sole survivor of Earth-Three, whom he believed would be of invaluable assistance.
When Harbinger returned, one of her incarnations had been attacked by one of the Anti-Monitor's shadow demons, and that corruption caused her combined self to attack and kill the Monitor. However, he had foreseen the attack, and used his death to power the machines that would pull Earth-One and Earth-Two into a netherverse created from the energies liberated by his own death, saving them from the Anti-Monitor's unstoppable antimatter wall. He left Lyla a recorded message explaining this, trusting that she and the Multiverse's heroes would complete the job and preserve the worlds before their vibration slowed down to an extent where they would destroy each other as they existed in the same place simultaneously.
Harbinger followed the Monitor's legacy, using up her powers to draw the last three Earths (Earth-4, Earth-S, and Earth-X) into the Netherverse. With help from Pariah, Alexander and all the surviving heroes and villains from the various Earths, she eventually defeated the Anti-Monitor at the dawn of time, and then in his own antimatter universe, saving the reborn universe from his predations. These actions resulted in a "reboot" of the multiverse as a single universe, creating an amalgam of the five surviving Earths which possessed the strength to resist the Anti-Monitor's attack.
Ironically, the existence of the scheming but benevolent Monitor has apparently been forgotten by everyone except his closest associates as a result of the change in history.
Interestingly, as part of the events surrounding Infinite Crisis and the restoration of the Multiverse, an entire group of Monitors, one representing each Earth in each Multiverse, was revealed.
They are a group that watches all aspects of the Multiverse, past and present. Most importantly, they seek to prevent crossovers between the universes, as was common before "The Crisis." The Monitors first appeared in the Brave New World special.
One of the Monitors appears in shadow on the cover of the DCU: Brave New World comic; the first few pages show the Monitors' satellite appearing over New Earth. In the final pages of the comic, five Monitors are revealed, one of whom calls the group "the Monitors." One of the five is noticeably different from the others; although his back is turned, he resembles the Anti-Monitor. This Monitor is later shown in Supergirl to only dress like the Anti-Monitor.
In Ion #9, the Monitors are shown to be a society of many different Monitors. There are 52 in total, one from each of the new universes. In Countdown to Final Crisis #48, when a large group of Monitors gather together, it is shown that each of them is physically different from the others in at least a small way. The most extreme example, apart from the one dressed like the Anti-Monitor, is one who appears to be a humanoid giraffe, suggesting he is the Monitor of a modern equivalent of Captain Carrot's Earth-26.
When the tower that Alexander Luthor used to recreate the original Multiverse during the events of Infinite Crisis was destroyed, a "seed programming" was activated that created a Monitor for each of the 52 Earths of the new Multiverse born in that moment. Since this new Multiverse consisted of 52 identical Earths at the time of its forming, all 52 Monitors would have been identical. However, following the events of 52, the Monitors began to evolve and acquire increasingly divergent identities in physicality and disposition.
In Final Crisis #7, Superman uses the Miracle Machine to restore the Multiverse to the way it was before Darkseid interfered, and in doing so also brings about the end of the Monitors.
Obviously this figure is based on the original Monitor from the original Crisis, but I thought it valuable to go into a little more detail as to the further appearances of the character, or his -- revisions, however you want to describe them.
As to his powers and abilities, Monitor's powers were never well-defined, but he was able to sense his counterpart's existence in the Anti-Matter Universe and fight with him from Oa's moon using energy powers (though the feedback of the attack placed him in suspended animation for eons). He was able to save Pariah (and possibly empower him to never die and be always drawn to where the Anti-Monitor was about to strike next) and create an entire satellite headquarters out of nothingness. Apparently, he could not create the protective netherverse without dying first, although this may have been because he did not have the time to come up with a less lethal plan. He obviously possessed highly advanced technology. And he can, as told by Metron, "Create with a thought."
So, how's the figure? Really very well done. I'm truly delighted to have him in my collection, even if the means by which I found him were certainly a bit unusual.
The figure stands about 3-7/8" in height, which is right in line with the other figures in the line, although he is shorter than the Anti-Monitor figure that was made for this line. But perhaps that's nothing unusual. I don't recall that we ever saw The Monitor and the Anti-Monitor standing directly side-by-side, and it might well be that The Monitor was, for some reason, slightly shorter. Besides, the version of the Anti-Monitor that was made for this collection was encased in armor to protect what was left of his physical form. He might have just made it bigger.
The Monitor is humanoid, but not human. He has dark pink skin, larger than average ears, an extremely prominent brow, and deep-set, black eyes. His hair is an intertwined grid of "corn rows" on the top and sides of his head, and he has facial hair on the sides of his face. The hair is a very complex design -- what else would one expect from George Perez -- and has been very effectively rendered on the figure.
The Monitor's costume is just as complex as his hair. Once again, this is what one would expect from George Perez, especially when creating such a significant cosmic-level type of character. The Monitor is wearing a dark blue bodysuit, with a huge, somewhat metallic white, armored-looking collar with intricate silver details, and broad gold shoulder armor. This has been molded as a separate piece, and attached to the figure during assembly. This piece also includes a large purple cape, very impressively sculpted, that drapes behind The Monitor almost to his ankles, and flows outward very effectively.
He has a lengthy white tunic that starts at his waist, and extends approximately to his knees. This is also rather metallic white in color, with silver details, including some ridged sections, and a gold, segmented disc in the center, as if part of a belt. One portion of this tunic extends upwards slightly covering part of The Monitor's abdomen.
The Monitor also has gold wristbands, and gold boots. For the most part, the figure uses the standard male body molds from what should be considered the second generation of DC Universe Infinite Heroes figures. The initial assortments were widely (and in my opinion excessively) criticized for their limited articulation. This, despite being nicely poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waists, legs, and knees -- which is frankly more than you can say about some similarly-scaled action figures available right now, unfortunately.
Mattel reworked the body design for a limited number of additions to the line, before the line regrettably came to an end. Swivels were placed in the elbows and knees, and the legs had more movement at the hips, and wrist and ankle articulation was added. For the most part, it worked, although it did tend to make the figures a bit more fragile. I had the arm of an Earth-2 Robin figure snap off at the elbow with barely trying to move it.
Needless to say, The Monitor has an excellent range of motion, but I would be rather careful with him. Admittedly, the waist tunic does hinder leg movement somewhat. He's not going to be sitting down in that get-up. Of course, offhand, I don't recall that he had a Monitor-Mobile to sir down and get behind the wheel of, anyway.
So, what's my final word? It's not often that I'm surprised in the action figure world these days. This was a very pleasant surprise, and as of this writing, I'm keeping my eyes out for a Psycho-Pirate. Now, admittedly, I tend to prefer my super-heroes a little bigger. I've been very pleased with Mattel's DC Universe Classics line, and its current incarnation as the DC Universe Signature Series. But there was nothing at all wrong with the smaller-scale Infinite Heroes line, and in fact there's a number of characters in that line that have yet to be made in the larger size. One holds out some hope that some of them will.
The Monitor is one of these, and given the admittedly limited one-figure-a-month scope of the Signature Series, I'm not expecting him to turn up there anytime soon. So I'm very content with, and truly delighted to have, this impressive figure of The Monitor, one of the crucial characters from the epic saga that is CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, in the DC Universe Infinite Heroes line. And if you're able to find him, I believe you will be pleased with him as well.
THE MONITOR from Mattel's DC UNIVERSE INFINITE HEROES series definitely has my highest recommendation!