Your Guide to Infinite Crisis:

The Rann-Thanagar War

The final of the four “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” mini-series to be published, The Rann-Thanagar War is certainly not the weakest and is just as certainly the most sweeping. Its cast of characters is vast, and in an era of decompressed storylines and readers complaining of how little happens in ever more expensive issues, The Rann-Thanagar War is remarkably compressed. It’s nothing short of a rapid-fire outer space epic — and one involving the entire DC universe of outer space characters and species.

All of these strengths, however, can also be weaknesses. The story is so compressed that it can be confusing: characters often move from one place to the next between sequences in which they are seen, and important plot points are often given in brief dialogue alone. There’s a great deal going on, and one sometimes wants some room to let a scene breathe, or to develop some of the massive list of characters. In fact, it can be hard to keep track of all of these characters, particularly for those readers unfamiliar with them.

As a result of these traits, the story may well read better in collected form, where keeping track of all of the various narratives doesn’t involve remembering them from month to month. Quite frankly, in monthly publication, the reader can hardly be blamed for feeling a bit lost — so much so that it can be difficult to perceive just how much is crammed into a limited number of pages. This contrasts sharply with, say, The OMAC Project, wherein the narrative’s many surprises benefit from serial publication — or, to a lesser extent, Villains United, which relies to some extent upon the central mystery of Mockingbird’s identity.

All that said, The Rann-Thanagar War is a rip-roaring space drama — one aided by Ivan Reis’s pencils and Marc Campos’s inks. While the series sold more poorly and was less popular than Villains United, while both were more popular than Day of Vengeance and less popular than The OMAC Project, the call between The Rann-Thanagar War andVillains United can be a close one and probably has more to do with one’s preferences in terms of genre. I’d personally rate Rann-Thanagar War an eight out of ten, but I wouldn’t quibble with those who gave the series a seven instead.

The Rann-Thanagar War#1: “The Fires of War”

Dave Gibbons script; Ivan Reis pencils; Marc Campos inks; Ivan Reis and Marc Campos cover; cover-dated July 2005

We begin on Earth, as Hawkman and Hawkgirl confront a phoenix, depicted here as a bird made of flame. Cue the arrival of Adam Strange, who has just arrived via Zeta Beam. It’s Adam Strange whose subdues the phoenix, using his raygun to do so. Strange reveals that he didn’t stumble on the Hawks coincidentally: he’s come for their help.

As the Hawks recover from their injuries in their headquarters in Stonechat Museum of St. Roch, Louisiana, Adam Strange summarizes the events of his recent mini-series.

Rann’s sun experienced a supernova, and everyone thought Rann destroyed — including Adam Strange. But he discovered that it had actually been teleported away via the Omega Beam, an improvement on the Zeta Beam. Adam Strange then battled Sh’ri Valkyr, a rogue Thanagarian who wanted to use the Omega Beam to convert mass amounts of matter into energy to feed an evil entity. Adam Strange stopped her, and the Omega Device was destroyed, but she triggered the device as the died. Her intent was to teleport Rann into the Polaris system, home of Thanagar, thus triggering a war between the two worlds. But Rann’s arrival destabilized Thanagar’s orbit, which reshifted towards the sun, Polaris. The heating planet had to be evacuated, and both Rann and L.E.G.I.O.N. helped. Some proud Thanagarians actually refused to evacuate. With only a fraction of the planet evacuated, the rescuers withdrew as the atmosphere ignited.

It’s in the wake of this tragedy that the roots of war are sewn — a war that would expand far beyond Rann and Thanagar. Thanagarian fringe groups, led by The Cult of the Seven Devils, plan an invasion of Rann — and have been in discussions with the Psion Empire. Some on Rann are equally afraid of the Thanagarians, many of whom are housed in refugee camps on Rann itself. And Sardath, Rann’s scientist master, has been securing weapons from the Okaarans. Major planets like Durla, Colu, The Citadel, and Throneworld have thrown in with one side or the other. The Guardians of the Universe, creators of the Green Lantern Corps, remain an unknown factor.

Adam Strange seeks to avoid the coming war with the help of the Hawks, respected by Thanagarian and familiar with Thanagar’s cultists. The Hawks agree, but reject traveling by their starship — preferring instead to hop onboard Strange’s Zeta Beam.

As the three fly off to catch the beam, a device in the Hawks’ headquarters crackles to life. It’s a transmission for Katar, for Hawkman. It’s Shayera Thal, the Thanagarian officer who was known as Hawkwoman (during the Hawkworld days of the Hawkman franchise), whispering of the threat of the Seven Devils. But some members of the Cult of the Seven Devils enter, presumably taking her prisoner.

On Earth, the Zeta Beam hits, whisking Adam Strange and the Hawks to Rann — and smack into the middle of a war zone. They’ve arrived too late to stop the war, which is tearing apart a city on Rann as the three arrive. The three head to Rann’s Central Command inRanagar City, Adam Strange signaling that the Hawks aren’t a threat despite their Thanagarian appearance.

Back on Earth, Green Lanterns Kyle Rayner and Kilowog talk. After Kyle reminisces about how he’s seen the stars that once felt so distant, Kilowog gives Kyle orders from the Guardians: to remove a Khund blockade from the planet Ancar. Kilowog warns that, as per orders from the Guardians, the Green Lanterns are not to interfere in the Rann-Thanagar War. Kyle heads off into space.

Inside Central Command on Rann, Adam Strange is reunited with his family. Sardath reveals that the Thanagarian refuges rebelled as if one cue while the Thanagarian fleet invaded; the early war has gone poorly for Rann. While all the interplanetary alliances have yet to be sorted out, it seems that the Tamaraneans — led by Queen Komand’r — has sided with Thanagar. The orange-skinned Tamaraneans, the same species as the Teen Titans’ Starfire, want a new homeworld — their old one having been destroyed years before.

Just then, Thanagarian forces burst into the room, providing a quick cliffhanger ending.

It’s a decent start to the series, and the art is especially good.

But the various aliens can get confusing, especially for those unfamiliar with the outer space of the DC Universe. In fact, the species referenced are longstanding: anyone reading DC long enough to remember the Invasion! crossover will recall most. For the uninitiated, knowing these species isn’t crucial: it’s enough to know that the war is spreading beyond Rann and the Thanagarians.

So too does it help to know the various characters involved, particularly Adam Strange. Or, in lieu of this, to have read this guide.

The Rann-Thanagar War #2: “Dark Resurrection”

Dave Gibbons script; Ivan Reis pencils; Marc Campos inks; Ivan Reis and Marc Campos cover; cover-dated August 2005

The second issue opens on Throneworld — home planet of the outer space version of DC’s Starman, otherwise known as Prince Gavyn. Assisted by the cat-like Tigorr of the space-voyaging Omega Men, the two help battle against a Thanagarian attack. Tigorr, who has arrived from Polaris, reveals that the other Omega Men are trying to free the Vega system, now that the Psions who rule that system have allied with the Thanagarians. The whole galaxy is taking sides.

Cut to the ruins of Thanagar, where some surviving members of The Cult of the Seven Devils, buried underground and led by a man named Denoth, summon Onimar, the Eater of Souls. The evil god arrives and promptly snaps the neck of a woman offered to him as a sacrifice.

Cut to Kyle Rayner, arriving at the planet Ancar, a former Thangarian colony. He finds not only the Khundian blockade, but L.E.G.I.O.N. ships battling them. He decides the Guardians’ orders to protect Ancar’s independence apply to L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Khunds alike. After Kyle stops members of the two groups, battling within a ship, L.E.G.I.O.N.’s boss Vril Dox appears with Comet Man, saying that Ancar has paid their agency for protection.

Breaking into the Khundian computers, Kyle and Vril Dox find that Thanagar intends to colonize Rann, renaming it New Thanagar and exterminating its native population. Rann’s allies include the Dominion, Okaara, Throneworld, and Culu — whose holdings are to be divided among Thanagar’s allies, which include the Psions, that Tamaraneans, the shape-changing Durlans, and the Citadel. The Khunds are being paid to find Nth metal for Thanagar — which is why they’re attacking Ancar.

In response to this information, Kyle tells both the Khunds and L.E.G.I.O.N. to leave: Ancar is now under the protection of the Green Lanterns. L.E.G.I.O.N.’s Vril Dox is none too happy with this, since his organization depends on such membership dues as Ancar’s — and was being paid to do a job the Green Lanterns are now doing for free.

On Polara, Queen Komand’r awaits a Thanagaran ambassador, but she reveals her real plan is to steal Rann away from the weakened Thanagarans. The Thanagarian ambassador arrives with a gift: none other than Shayera Thal, the Hawkwoman seen captured early in the previous issue.

Cut Adam Strange, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl — who, annoyingly, have escaped last issue’s cliffhanger off-panel and flown to Polara. Sardath, who has taken Adam’s family elsewhere, has confiscated Adam’s Zeta Beam lest it fall into enemy hands. Now they strike — on Queen Komand’r's meeting with the Thanagaran ambassador.

In the commotion, Shayera Thal gets free and, while shooting some of her cultist Thanagarian captors, immediately turns to repel Adam and the other attackers. As she puts it, she’s no traitor: she’s a Thanagarian, through and through.

Cut to Ancar, where Kyle’s ring gives him a lesson on the powerful Nth metal the Khunds were procuring for Thanagar. The ring sort of digresses to Omimar Synn, the Eater of Souls and one of Thanagar’s seven devils. Captain Comet arrives, having left L.E.G.I.O.N.’s employ to tell Kyle that the last message in the Khunds’ computers came from Thanagar… “after the planet hadburned.” But Thanagar was supposed to have had no survivors. The ring continues its digression, recalling how the JSA most recently battled Synn and thought the devil destroyed. Kyle and Captain Comet fly off to Thanagar — in defiance of the Guardians’ orders to stay away, which Kyle justifies as extending logically from his current mission on Ancar.

Speak of the devil… On Thanagar, Onimar Synn and the cultist Denoth walk along the devastated planet’s surface, while corpses reanimated with Synn’s powers can be seen in the background. Synn drains the soul out of a Thanagarian in what looks to be a wooden coffin — but which we’ll later find out is part of the rations Denoth has prepared for Synn. Synn wants off-planet, and Denoth promises a Thanagarian ship will arrive for them before nightfall. Synn swears he’ll destroy Rann, then use Rann’s technology to take the whole universe.

It’s a somewhat confusing issue, all in all. The cast is certainly huge, and while that’s a prerequisite of such space epics, one wishes they had a little more introduction. Take Onimar Synn: his reanimating powers are tangentially referenced in his dialogue at the end, but that barely gestures towards explaining the reanimated corpses walking and flying around.

The cliffhanger of the previous issue is simply dropped: the heroes’ escape is unseen. This is a classic literary no-no: how are readers supposed to believe in a cliffhanger if the next issue picks up some unknown time later? Making this worse is the fact that Sardath and Adam’s family don’t appear in this issue: we’re told they escaped as well, but we never see them despite the previous issue ending with them under attack. It’s pretty distancing to the reader. While writer Dave Gibbons does point out that Sardath was spooked by the invasion of Rann’s Central Command, this leads into us being told that Sardath took away Adam’s Zeta Beam — a potentially important plot point that again occurs off-panel.

It’s also curious how easily Kyle Rayner and Captain Comet head off to Thanagar. While the ring’s tale of Onimar Synn is curious, it hardly justifies a trip into a war zone. In fact, as presently written, there’s no connection between Synn and the desire for Nth metal — the ring only arrives at discussing Synn through pointing out that statues of Thanagar’s seven devils were sculpted out of the powerful Nth metal. While Kyle might be looking for an excuse to disobey the Guardians, his and Captain Comet’s quick pursuit of Synn suggests more a writer’s convenience than anything.

All that said, it’s still a fun issue if you like space epic. The sheer number of locations and characters can be staggering — that’s the main reason why it’s so hard to keep track of. And the artwork, typical of Reis’s work, is quite good indeed.

The Rann-Thanagar War #3: ”Planetfall”

Dave Gibbons script; Ivan Reis pencils; Marc Campos inks; Ivan Reis and Marc Campos cover; cover-dated September 2005

The third issue begins with a Coluan spaceship in outer space, being attacked by one of the shape-changing Durlans’ organic ships, complete with tendrils. The Coluan ship uses “neural disruptors” against their organic opponent, but the Durlan ship wraps itself around the Coluan ship — and then explodes, apparently to escape the pain caused by the neural disruptors.

Cut to Sardath and Adam’s family, watching the scene in one of Rann’s old nuclear bunkers. Sardath despairs, but Adam’s wife Alanna encourages him. The blue-skinned warrior Okaarans appear on the monitors, informing Sardath that their promised weapons are just days away and that their fleet has departed for Polaris. The Dominators — on another monitor with their tall teeth, yellow skin, and caste-indicating red circles on their forehead — express more concern over their alliance’s position and want to secure Rann’s technology, particularly the Zeta Beam. Sardath assured the Dominion that all Zeta Beams have been recalled and secured in a secret location. The Dominator expresses concern about the Thanagarian cultists having infiltrated their species’s command structure, but Alanna has heard enough and explodes at the cold Dominator, pointing out that her husband is presently fighting. Sardath commands Alanna to apologize, but instead she walks off to care for her daughter.

On Polara, Hawkwoman Shayera Thal engages Adam Strange in the air, but Hawkman interferes, putting himself between the two. With Hawkgirl, all four head to the ground to talk. Below, Queen Komand’r has been holding back from helping her Thanagarian allies. Now she switches sides, blasting and killing the Thanagarian ambassador.

On Throneworld, Prince Gavyn aids in the defense of the planet’s palace, which the Thagarians have entered. Tigor wonders if the Thanagarians are after the palace’s stockpile of gems, but a soldier reveals that the invaders are heading to the Great Hall of Science — where Gavyn reveals houses a Zeta Beam, a gift from Sardath during one of Throneworld’s emergencies. While Gavyn leads the frontal assault on the palace, Tigor leaps into the sewers to sneak inside.

Back on Polara, Rann and her allies have won. Queen Komand’r says she was only meeting with the Thanagarians to broker peace between Rann and Thanagar, but rejected Thanagar’s religious cultists and now wants to throw in with Rann, preferring science over religion. Shayera Thal, who opposed the cultists, still blames Rann for the war. Hawkgirl intercedes, delivering an oration about how the Thanagarian cultists are the real enemy, bringing only death. Adam Strange and Hawkwoman shake hands, joined by Komand’r. Adam Strange discusses with Hawkman whether to bring Komand’r back to Rann, and they decide it will let them watch her while keeping her separate from her soldiers. They head into a spaceship, ordering the remaining Rannians and Tamaraneans to hold the location.

On Thanagar, we reconnect with Kyle Rayner and Captain Comet, who have arrived to find a lifeless, burned out planet without oxygen. Suddenly, Captain Comet faces a psychic attack: it’s Onimar Synn, and he makes a number of zombies who attack the heroic pair. After defeating some zombies, Onimar Synn himself emerges from beneath the ground.

On Rann, Adam Strange, the three Hawks, and Komand’r have to enter the passage to a deeply buried bunker without letting their Thnagarian pursuers see the entrance. To do so, they turn their ship around and ram it into the Thanagarians, covering their emergence from the ship — confused by the pursuing Thanagarians with dropped bombs.

Below, as the explosions above rock the bunker, Alanna fears they’ve been discovered. On screen, the Okaaran’s signal is breaking up — but not before she shouts that their fleet has been intercepted in the Vega system by Psions and the Spider Guild. Sardath sees the writing on the wall: without Okaaran weapons, and with so many Rannian cities having already fallen, Rann is lost.

But as Adam Strange and crew arrive, he assures Sardath that the war is far from over.

It’s another decent issue following a massive cast through a space epic with massive scope. Some characters get only a few pages; others get more, but no one character dominates.

Even with this compression, however, there can still be a feeling that not much is happening — precisely because so many narratives must be followed. The story constantly has to avoid dwelling on a certain scene or character, making such subtler scenes few and far between. But because it has so many narratives to follow, the reader can find himself jarred, losing track of the story — especially when reading the chapters in monthly publication.

Still, it’s a worthwhile, entertaining pulp space drama — and Reis continues his exceptional artwork.

The Rann-Thanagar War #4: “Deadly Harvest”

Dave Gibbons script; Ivan Reis and Joe Prado pencils; Marc Campos and Joe Prado inks; Ivan Reis and Marc Campos cover; cover-dated October 2005

The fourth issue opens on Thanagar as Kyle Rayner and Captain Comet confront Onimar Synn, who they quickly put back underground. But Onimar’s ride off-world arrives, complete with scores of gun-toting Thanagarian cultists. Onimar emerges from the ground and flies to his ship, tossing what looks like wooden coffins at the duo — the same sort of coffin-like box that Onimar broke open to feed at the end of issue #2. As one coffin crashes to the ground, the pair of heroes see the terrible truth: that the boxes are life-support pods carrying living people who die, struggling to breathe, as their boxes hit the ground.

Prioritizing the people coming out of life support, the heroes have to let Onimar Synn depart for Rann. Kyle synthesizes oxygen from the planet’s ash for those emerging from their boxes. But Captain Comet senses that the boxes tossed from the ship are just the tip of the iceberg: hundreds are waking up below them.

On Throneworld, Prince Gavyn continues the battle within the palace as he tries to stop those Thanagarian cultists trying to steal the planet’s gifted Zeta Beam. But as the cultists break into the Hall of Science, Tigorr is waiting for them, having emerged from the sewer system into which he crawled last issue. He’s rigged the rooms devices in preparation for this moment, and they make short work of the last of the palace’s invaders.

Tigorr wants to go help out on Rann, having seen the dire situation on the palace’s monitors, and wants to use Throneworld’s Zeta Beam to teleport himself there. But he also would like some gems he picked up on his way through the palace — a request Gavyn grants with a healthy laugh. After Tigorr teleports to Rann, Gavyn destroys the Zeta Beam, thus destroying Thanagar’s interest in Throneworld.

In Dyss City on Rann, Adam Strange, the Hawks, and Komand’r join the Rannian attack upon the Thanagarian headquarters. Breaking through the Thanagarian line, the heroes make it into the headquarters, where Komand’r saves Hawkwoman’s life. They want to extract intelligence from the computers on Thanagar’s allies. But they see Onimar Synn on the monitor as he lays waste to Ranagar City, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl recall battling him with the Justice Society.

Back on Thanagar, Kyle Rayner and Captain Comet enter the cult’s underground chambers and find rows and rows of life support modules, all prepared to nourish Onimar Synn. They’re now reviving in the devil’s absence, but reviving in a deadly atmosphere. As the pair prepare to save the reviving Thanagarians, Kilowog of the Green Lanterns appears, having sought out Kyle. Though Kilowog’s upset that Kyle’s disobeyed the order not to interfere, the three save the conversation for later and turn to saving the reviving dwellers of the life support pods.

In Ranagar City, Onimar Synn sits like a conqueror on a throne. Prostrate before him is the Grand Mor, the proper leader of the Thanagarians who the cultists have been undermining. As Onimar Synn collects offerings of Nth metal, he has the Grand Mor taken back to his cell.

But Adam Strange, the Hawks, and Komand’r are watching from nearby, helpless to battle Onimar Synn. They decide to rescue the Grand Mor in hopes to turning the Thanagarians against their cultists.

Elsewhere, in Kallanoor Refinery, over the bunker where Sardath and Adam’s family are hiding, cultist S’ri Denoth leads a group of zombies in an attack on the bunker, pumping it filled with nerve gas. Denoth, a Rannian by birth, knows the bunker’s location from his days in Sardath’s government. Arriving in the bunker, however, Denoth and crew find it empty — save for little Aleea’s abandoned doll.

As Denoth orders Sardath and company pursued, we see the former bunker-dwellers in the mountains, hiding from nearby Thanagarian fliers and spaceships.

The issue is very much in line with past ones, forcing the plot forward in compressed narrative space. Characters repeatedly travel vast distances between sequences — all has been cut but the essential. And while the epic can feel like one thing after another, Onimar Synn now sits in charge of Ranagar City after first appearing in the series only in the second issue. Put simply, a lot is happening.

Joe Prado’s assistance on the artwork is barely detectable, and Reis’s work continues to shine.

Now That You’re Up to Date, The Rann-Thanagar War #5 is slated for early September publication and promises to reveal a traitor among Adam Strange’s group.

Read the Rest

This article continues here.

“Your Guide to Infinite Crisis” attempts to spell out and outline the whole of this sprawling, complicated crossover. It has several other installments, organized by the narrative thread under discussion:

The OMAC Project

Day of Vengeance

Villains United

The Rann-Thanagar War

The Return of Donna Troy

Crisis of Conscience

PowerTrip

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

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