Monday, December 1, 2014

Pax Americana!


I picked up Multiversity- Pax Americana for the very simple reason that I love the old Charlton Action-Heroes and this is as close as we're ever going to get to seeing new adventures featuring those awesome characters.


These characters, created largely under the aegis of editor Dick Giordano were a brief but brilliant attempt to mine the superhero market which blossomed briefly during the Silver Age. Captain Atom and Blue Beetle were dusted off and revamped with new heroes such as Peacemaker, Nightshade, The Question and Judomaster brought along to fill in the ranks.


These characters of course these days are mostly remembered as the inspirations for Alan Moore's iconic Watchmen series and many dismiss them beyond that point. Alas, in this story Grant Morrison, a storyteller with stones, tries to revisit these heroes but clearly through the goggles of the Watchmen variations.


We are invited into a complex story, told by Morrison and artist Frank Quitely, which travels back and forth through time and space with all sorts of visual hijinks, all serving to create some larger mystery and make some larger point. The heroes are not as developed as individuals but merely used as elements of the one-shot story which explores the nature of heroes and justice and how the society can best make use of them.


We get good looks at Captain Atom, a man removed from his fellows by the dint of awesome power and who seems lost inside himself and the universe he sees differently from everyone else. The lovely Nightshade is a very young government agent who seeks to find the right way, but seems out of her depth most of the time. Peacemaker is a man on a mission which makes little sense for most of the story. The Question as always seeks answers regardless, while the Blue Beetle is a loyal government man.


We get glimpses of  Sarge Steel and while Judomaster doesn't make the cut, his sidekick Tiger is around for a few pages as a member of a superhero unit which has a lot of vintage fun picking out a sobriquet.


The story even has a reference to Charlton's first superhero, the Golden Age Yellowjacket.

This is a complicated yarn, a mystery which has an answer, but which demands mighty attention from the reader and frankly more than one pass through the material. At five bucks for a copy, I guess I should thank Morrison and Quitely for giving me a comic which demands to be read more than once, since the density makes the entertainment value rise.

This is a book any Charlton Action-Hero fan should read, if only to see some vintage imagery and old rather obscure Charlton references hanging around in various panels.

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10 comments:

  1. I was very curious to see your reaction to this... Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. I generally like Grant Morrison's work, though it can take some time to absorb it. Loved what he did with the JLA over a decade ago now. I saw the Charlton hero faces pop up again in that "Convergence" story due out next spring. We'll have to wait and see what happens there.

      I was glad this story was pretty much a one-off since now I don't have to follow the rest of the series.

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    2. I think you'd like the rest of the series as well, especially the "Society of Super-Heroes" one - sort of an alternate pulp Earth where many DC characters are re-envisioned as 30's adventurers (Dr. Fate becomes Doc Fate, etc.) But at 4.99 a pop, it's probably better to wait for the eventual collection.

      And JLA! That was the book that got me into comics.

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  2. The Blue Beetle was a "reboot", not a "dust-off" like Captain Atom.
    It involved killing off the previous Charlton holder of the name (who was already a semi-reboot from the Fox version) as well as a new costume and M.O. (high-tech, no mystic/alien scarab).
    Captain Atom just got a new costume (and power boost), so he was a "dust-off".

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    1. I've never heard of the "dust-off" before. It makes sense.

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    2. Actually, old friend, you used it...
      "Captain Atom and Blue Beetle were dusted off and revamped..."
      And it works in the context of "updating" as opposed to "re-imagining"!

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    3. I thought you meant it was an quasi-official phrase or something for that kind of revival. Lord knows what I say carries little cache. But if I've created a new category for revival, then so be it.

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  3. re: Neal Adams month: I especially liked his non-superhero covers, some of which harkened back to the golden age of magazine illustration. Do you have any Tomahawk covers teed up? I remember one with an American Indian on horseback that was pretty amazing.

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    1. I know which one you mean and I do believe it's on the list.

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  4. Lame. No Thunderbolt spoils the broth, but worse is the sub-Moore stylings. BB as a loyal government man?! Say what? Has Morrison even bothered to read the original Ditko masterpieces? Sounds like he's just filtering through a Moorish sieve and watering down everything that made these characters so much better than the contemporary pap from DC and Marvel. Ugh.

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