To attempt to summarise the massive event that was Crisis on Infinite Earths into a handful of paragraphs seems ludicrous. It’s tempting instead to direct readers to Jonathan Woodward’s excellent Annotated Crisis website which was the main inspiration for this site as well as my own notes here. However, as I’ve done with the other series, here’s my breakdown of the story.
Issue #1: The creation of the Multiverse is recapped and a new character, Pariah, introduced before we witness the destruction of Earth-3, home to the original Crime Syndicate. Before Earth-3 is completely destroyed, Alex Luthor is sent, as a child, into Earth-1’s universe. All of this is observed by the Monitor who sends his ally Harbinger to collect various heroes and villains including the Psycho Pirate. Once aboard the Monitor’s satellite, he reveals himself and tells them that their worlds are soon to die.
Issue #2: Time begins to run out for Earth-1 in both the past and the future while in the present, Batman sees a chilling vision of the death of the Flash. The Monitor tells the heroes of his plan to halt the approaching anti-matter waves by transporting them to various times where they find vibrational tuning forks that they need to protect. The Psycho Pirate, having betrayed the heroes he travelled with, is abducted by an unseen foe who has also corrupted Harbinger. In the space of a few hours, Alex Luthor has grown to be a small child.
Issue #3: As the Psycho Pirate and Harbinger follow the commands of the hidden foe, the Flash struggles to save his adopted home in the future. In the present, the Teen Titans and the Outsiders combine forces to attack a wave of anti-matter and are joined by Superman and Batman before the Flash arrives from the future; unfortunately, he is pulled away from them and abducted. Throughout time, the Monitor’s vibrational forks are attacked by minions of the enemy and several heroes die protecting them.
Issue #4: Earth-1 suffers as the anti-matter wave approaches while on Earth-6, Pariah manages to save Lady Quark who becomes the sole survivor of her universe. The Monitor engineers the creation of the new Dr Light while Alex Luthor, now a teenager, watches the Harbinger struggle against the enemies control. As the vibrational forks are attacked once more, the Monitor brings Pariah to the satellite before being attacked by Harbinger who kills him, seemingly dooming Earths One and Two.
Issue #5: As Harbinger is released from the enemy’s control, she mourns the death of the Monitor; a recorded message plays, however, that reveals his death was part of his plan and that by killing him, all his energy has been released, allowing Earths One and Two to be brought into a Netherverse. This is a temporary solution, however, as all time has been merged and despite the Monitor calming the populace, the vibrational frequencies keeping them apart will soon fail whereupon they will destroy each other. Alex Luthor appears as a fully grown man and pledges to save the universe. The fate of the Flash is revealed as he is now the enemy’s prisoner and tormented by Psycho Pirate. Alex, Harbinger and Pariah call most of the heroes to the satellite and ask them to help; uncharacteristically, many of them doubt the seriousness of the problem but eventually they all agree to help. The enemy reveals himself at last, calling himself the Monitor but referred to by everyone else as the Anti-Monitor.
Issue #6: The Monitor’s satellite comes under attack as the heroes struggle to survive; sacrificing herself, Harbinger uses her powers to hold steady the remaining Earths and halt the anti-matter waves. Unfortunately, three of the five worlds are being controlled by the Psycho Pirate whose powers have been enhanced by the Anti-Monitor and when the heroes try to help the people of the worlds, their heroes attack them. Harbinger, however, manages to pull the three Earths into the same Netherverse as Earths One and Two where they will temporarily be held safe, but at the cost of her powers.
Issue #7: A council of heroes is called, with Pariah, Alex Luthor and Harbinger speaking to a delegation of the mightiest from each saved Earth. Between them, they tell the history of the Multiverse, the creation of the Monitor and Anti-Monitor and the battle they fought. Eventually, a gathering of heroes is assembled and Alex opens a portal to the anti-matter universe. The heroes enter and are instantly attacked by the Anti-Monitor’s living fortress before some of them are able to get to the enemy himself. Supergirl battles him and reduces him to an energy form which forces him to retreat; before he does so, he kills Supergirl. The heroes return to the Earths where a memorial service is held for the fallen hero.
Issue #8: As the Anti-Monitor flees in his ship, carrying Psycho Pirate and Flash, the Green Lantern Corps attempt to take an active role but are prevented by their masters, the Guardians of The Universe. Various heroes are aboard the Justice League sattelite when it is attacked, dispersing the heroes. The Anti-Monitor retreats to Qward where he builds a huge anti-matter cannon; Flash manages to escape and forces the Psycho Pirate to control the Anti-Monitor’s slaves, turning them against him. While he is distracted, Flash sacrifices himself to destroy the cannon, sending images of himself through time before the cannon explodes, killing the Flash but saving the universe.
Issue #9: The villains who – until now – had taken something of a back seat during the Crisis, combine to take over the worlds while the heroes meet on Earth-1 to decide a course of action. As they debate, Earths S, X and Four fall to the combined might of the villains who then turn their attention to Earths One and Two. Brainiac and Lex Luthor demand the surrender of the Earths but the heroes gather and attack the invaders, using cooperation against the villains and slowly winning. Before their plan comes to fruition, however, Psimon appears and apparently kills Brainiac.
Issue #10: Brainiac survives Psimon’s attack and instead kills him. On Earths S, X and Four, the heroes continue their fight against the opportunistic villains until the Spectre launches an intervention informing everyone, hero and villain, that the Anti-Monitor still lives. A huge gathering is called where the heroes and villains plan to travel back in time to the Big Bang and stop the Anti-Monitor. Before they leave, Superboy-Prime makes his first appearance in the Crisis series. The group travel to the dawn of time and find the Anti-Monitor waiting for them, ready to take their power and alter history so that only a single anti-matter universe is created. The Spectre battles the Anti-Monitor, however, as the universe explodes.
Issue #11: The very start of the series is reprised as it is revealed a single universe has now been created, rather than a Multiverse. Several Earth-2 heroes, however, appear to have awakened on Earth-1 and, when they attempt to return find that it no longer exists. The heroes reconvene and work out that things have changed and that Earth-2 never existed in this universe but all the heroes of all the Earths who were at the dawn of time still remember their original Earths. As they struggle to come to terms with this, the Anti-Monitor appears and drags the Earth into the anti-matter universe.
Issue #12: The Anti-Monitor plans to finally destroy the Earth and its heroes once and for all and attacks the nations of the world simultaneously. The heroes fight back, however, and with the help of magicians and even Darkseid, formulate a plan. They return to Qward where they find Psycho Pirate and the Flash’s empty costume; as one, the heroes attack the Anti-Monitor. Heroes die as the battle rages until, finally, Kal-L, the Earth-2 Superman, destroys the Anti-Monitor. He, Superboy-Prime, Alex Luthor and the Earth-2 Lois Lane – whom Alex had saved from destruction – leave the universe for paradise, never to return. The remaining heroes of what was Earth-1 begin to deal with their new lives and, eventually, Psycho Pirate remains as the last person to remember the Multiverse.