With this week’s season premiere of the final season of Arrow, the new year of The CW’s Arrowverse shows is officially in full-swing. The Flash, Supergirl, and Batwoman join the line’s namesake this fall in the run-up to the most ambitious Arrowverse crossover yet: Crisis on Infinite Earths. Worlds will live. Worlds will die. Will the CW’s DC Universe ever be the same?
There’s a lot of anticipation around what is essentially the Arrowverse equivalent of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, and if you haven’t been following along or aren’t regularly watching the full slate of CW series, there might be things you’ve missed. Every Friday leading up to Crisis, we’ll be providing a quick rundown of the info you need from that week’s new Arrowverse episodes to prepare you for the crossover. Welcome to your first Crisis Crash Course!
Previously In The Arrowverse
Arguably, we’ve known since 2014 that Crisis was coming. The end of the very first episode of The Flash featured the image of a newspaper from the future proclaiming The Flash missing, following a crisis involving red skies:
The original date on the newspaper, April 25, 2024, more than likely corresponds with the date of the show’s 9th season finale, so bravo to them for thinking big right from the jump. Since the series premiere, the newspaper has appeared sporadically, occasionally changing as events in the present change the future. The biggest change took place at the end of last season, when the date on the paper changed from 2024 to December 10, 2019—the date The Flash is set to air its Crisis tie-in episode.
The Flash has arguably been the series that’s laid the most groundwork for Crisis, establishing the existence of a multiverse in the show’s second season and regularly featuring characters from and trips to alternate earths. A Grant Gustin guest appearance during a first season episode of Supergirl even established Kara’s world as part of the CW multiverse, a move that preceded the series’s move from CBS to The CW for its second season.
The Arrowverse experienced its first full-fledged crisis back in 2017’s Crisis on Earth-X crossover. That two-night, four-hour event saw the denizens of the Nazi-controlled Earth-X, including evil doppelgangers of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), invade Earth-1 and face off against Green Arrow, The Flash, the Legends of Tomorrow, and a visiting Supergirl. The crossover also introduced the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X, which include The Ray and Citizen Cold, a doppelganger of Earth-1’s Captain Cold.
The seeds for Crisis were more firmly planted last year during the Elseworlds crossover. That event included the first appearance of Mar Novu, aka The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett), as he searched throughout the multiverse for champions capable of facing an unnamed coming threat. It also established The Flash of the early ‘90s TV series, John Wesley Shipp, as existing on Earth-90 in the Multiverse. The event culminated in Oliver Queen making a deal with The Monitor as a way to save the lives of The Flash and Supergirl, whom he had seen in the Book of Destiny would otherwise die saving the world from the influence of Doctor Destiny. The crossover also introduced the Psycho-Pirate to the Arrowverse, and closed with a tease for this year’s Crisis on Infinite Earths event.
Crisis content was sparse following that crossover until the end of the year, when The Monitor put in appearances on three of the Arrowverse’s four series. While appearing as a popcorn-eating spectator on Legends of Tomorrow, his cameos on Supergirl and Arrow were more substantial. On Supergirl, The Monitor appeared on Earth-38, first freeing the brother of J’onn J’onnz (David Harewood) from the Phantom Zone, then paying a visit to the dead body of Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) for unknown purposes. Meanwhile, on Arrow, The Monitor arrived at Oliver and Felicity’s home to collect Oliver for a mission to repay his debt, informing both of them that, before all’s said and done, Oliver will die.
This Week in Crisis Content
While The Flash, Supergirl, and Batwoman all made their season premieres last week, it wasn’t until this week that the Crisis-related elements really kicked into high gear. So far neither Supergirl nor Batwoman have featured anything directly Crisis-related, but the second episode of The Flash’s sixth season, and the first of Arrow’s eighth, were chockfull of Crisis goodies. Let’s dive in, shall we?
The Anti-Matter Wave
One of the signature visuals of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries was the anti-matter wave, an unstoppable wall of white energy that destroyed everything in its path. Surprisingly, the anti-matter wave made appearances on both The Flash and Arrow this week.
Last week’s episode of The Flash ended with The Monitor appearing to tell Barry and Iris that The Flash is destined to die, as well as the exact date it would happen because he’s so helpful. This week’s episode saw the couple dealing with that prophecy, and the first thing Barry decided to do was to run to the future to see for himself. As he neared his destination via the Speed Force, though, he was repelled by a wall of white anti-matter energy.
Traveling to Earth-3 to confer with anti-matter expert Jay Garrick (Shipp), it was determined that, while a physical body wouldn’t be able to breach the wall, the consciousness of a speedster would be. Soon Barry was hooked to a machine that allowed his consciousness to travel through time. With the machine activated, Barry witnessed the destruction of Central City by the anti-matter wall, and the deaths of all of his friends.
As mentioned, the anti-matter wave also made an appearance on Arrow…but we’ll come back to that.
The Final Fate of the Flash
Along with seeing the anti-matter wave destroy Central City, Barry Allen also witnessed another significant moment: his own death. The sequence featured The Flash literally running himself to death, disintegrating into nothing, though no context was given for what he was hoping to achieve.
In Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, the fastest man alive meets a similar fate. After freeing himself from captivity at the hands of the Anti-Monitor and the Psycho-Pirate, The Flash makes the Pirate use his powers to turn the Weaponers of Qward against the Anti-Monitor. With the big bad indisposed, The Flash destroys the Anti-Monitor’s ultimate weapon: the anti-matter cannon. Barry ran in circles around the cannon, his vibrations destroying the casing that held the anti-matter at bay, which in turn destroyed him.
(It would later be retconned that Barry had exceeded the speed of light and joined the Speed Force, from which he was eventually able to return during 2008’s Final Crisis.)
All that was left of The Flash in the comics was his costume; in the vision Barry sees of the future, even his costume disappeared.
As mentioned in our recap of the episode, a poem by William Knox was featured in the episode that also figured prominently in Crisis #8, lending the issue its title and appearing on the final page as an epitaph for the fallen scarlet speedster.
The Multiverse Map
During the meeting between Barry and Jay on Earth-3, Jay showed Barry a map he’d put together of the multiverse, saying he’d been tracking anti-matter disturbances across the multiverse for weeks. The map is not quite as complicated as Grant Morrison’s Multiverse Map, but it’s still pretty impressive work, and it includes some fun easter eggs.
- Jay’s map places Earths 1, 3, and 38 close to each other. Considering the frequency with which Jay has crossed to Earth-1 to team with Barry, and that Earth-38’s Supergirl and Superman have teamed with Barry and Oliver in the past, it makes sense that the vibrational barrier separating those worlds would be relatively thin compared to others.
- The far left of the map also includes indicators for Earth-X (“Home of the Freedom Fighters” and Earth-19 (“Breacher Agency”).
- Like Morrison’s map, Jay’s map includes at least one “unknown earth.” This one looks to be maybe Earth-27. In the comics, Earth-27 was the alternate universe featured in a six-issue Animal Man storyline by Peter Milligan and Chas Truog, which immediately followed the conclusion of Grant Morrison’s run on the title.
- Earth-15 is listed as “Destroyed (1986).” This is likely a reference to the Atomic Knights, who originally hailed from Earth-86. That world was destroyed by The Hydrogen War of 1986, an event that would come to be known as The Great Disaster, and which gave rise to the Knights. Will the Atomic Knights or Kamandi pop up during Crisis?
- Earth-51 is marked with the name “Thaddeus Brown.” Brown was a human, and the first escape artist to use the name “Mister Miracle,” before Scott Free arrived on Earth from Apokolips. He’s been previously mentioned in the Arrowverse as having trained Sherloque Welles, the Harrison Wells of Earth-221, whose name you can also see on the map. Is this a clue as to how the Arrowverse will incorporate the Fourth World?
- Jay has used red X’s to indicate areas where he’s detected anti-matter. A large black arrow points to Earth-2, with the text “Next antimatter appearance” written across that earth. This brings us to…
Dwarf Star Particles
The season premiere of Arrow takes place entirely on Earth-2, with Oliver ‘reliving’ the events of his initial return from Lian Yu. He does so as part of his first mission for The Monitor, who has sent Oliver to this world to retrieve dwarf star particles.
The reason The Monitor needs those particles is unknown at this time, but he does say these particular particles are only found on this earth, so they must be different somehow from the dwarf star particles that Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) uses as The Atom of Earth-1. Their presence does hint at an important role for Ray during Crisis, and we know that Routh is leaving Legends of Tomorrow as a series regular with the show’s next season.
Aiding Oliver in the retrieval of the dwarf star particles is Black Siren, Earth-2’s Laurel Lance doppelganger…and soon to be the only apparent survivor of that earth.
The Destruction of Earth-2
The shocking ending of this week’s Arrow had Oliver, Diggle, and Black Siren escaping through a breach as the anti-matter wave wiped out Earth-2. It’s safe to say no one expected worlds to start dying this early in the season, and it was a shocking and thrilling way to unofficially begin Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The destruction of Earth-2 is significant as a kick-off for Crisis. In the Arrowverse, Earth-2 is a world where good is evil, and evil good. In the original DC Comics multiverse, that distinction fell to Earth-3, home of the Crime Syndicate of America. In the opening pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, the Crime Syndicate tries—and fails—to beat back the anti-matter wave destroying their world, and Earth-3 is one of the first readers see fall to the Anti-Monitor. It’s poetic, then, that Earth-2 should be the first to be destroyed as part of the Arrowverse’s Crisis.
Of course, in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, there was a survivor of Earth-3: Alexander Luthor, son of that world’s only superhero, Lex Luthor. Alexander would go on to play a pivotal role in the twelve-issue series, and it’s been hinted that Jon Cryer could be playing an alternate earth’s Lex Luthor come Crisis. There’s also the question of what happened to Jesse Wells, aka Jesse Quick (Violett Beane), another speedster hero from Earth-2. Was she there when the anti-matter wave hit? Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of the fastest woman alive.
This is just the first of what’s to come in the lead-up to the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Will more worlds die before the event even begins? Be sure to check back next week, and every week until Crisis begins on Sunday, December 8th.