It's no secret to anyone who visits here with any regularity that I do not as a rule buy new comics. I get lots of new collections of old comics, but new stuff by modern creators -- not so much. One talent I will sometimes make an exception for is Grant Morrison. I've read plenty of Grant Morrison stories I didn't really fully understand (and sometimes understand at all) but I've never read one that didn't hold my interest. He's a great comic book writer who understands the medium as well or better than anyone who ever tapped into it.
So The Multiversity was a project long in the planning and execution but one which I really was attracted to for a host of reasons. One was Morrison who I trust. A second was the significant role the heroes of Earth-4, the heroes of the Charlton universe, played in the story. But when it came to picking up the series, I only ever picked up the Charlton installment and let the rest lay, waiting for the eventual collection. It has arrived and I've read it and as usual it was full of compelling imagery and fascinating ideas and I almost understood it. Standard for a Morrison story.
It begins with a cosmic threat which serves to bring together heroes from across a sprawling Multiverse. They are confronted by an invasion of "The Gentry", weird conceptual aliens from beyond the known realities and heroes like Superman (the President of his world), Captain Carrot, The Thunderer, Aquawoman, Dino-Cop and countless others gather under the auspices of the Monitor (sort of).
The next installment called Society of Super-Heroes (S.O.S.) is radically different and showcases pulp-like versions of heroes like Doc Fate, the Atom, Green Lantern (Abin Sur), and Lady Blackhawk to confront the evil Vandal Savage who comes from another universe. We see a five-year war which has taken the stuffing out of a society weary of it, but we meet heroes who strive on anyway.
In the next tome we meet heroes who are not up to the task. In The Just we meet second generation heroes who appear to live listless lives since their fathers and mothers have appeared to have solved all the major problems in the world. This one answers the burning question of what would the world be like if the Kardashians had superpowers. Sadly in many painful ways this story seemed the most realistic to me.
In Pax Americana (the one installment I picked up off the stands) we meet the Charlton heroes as they deal with a Watchmen-like threat, and we are pulled into a time-traveling adventure which explains why the assassination of an American President might not always be such a bad thing. Weird, but compelling stuff and beautifully rendered by Frank Quitely.
Thunderworld is the next one and we find Earth-5 heroes Captain Marvel and his associates battling an gang of deadly Sivanas as the evil scientist has found a way to add a deadly day to the week, a day when Sivana wins. This one is fun, fun, fun.
The Multiversity Guidebook is two or three things at once. There's a story of two Batmen (one Little Batman and the other from a post-apocalyptic sci-fi world) who must struggle to understand the nature of the threat to the entire Multiverse. We also meet Kamandi and his comrades as they too uncover valuable secrets. This also offers up a user guide to the fifty-two worlds with descriptions and maps and whatnot. Offbeat and useful to boot.
Mastermen is a dark dark tale of Earth-10 in which Superman arrives in Nazi-controlled territory and becomes the Uberman Hitler dreamed of. We follow the story of a world in which the Nazis won and rule and which is being threatened by Uncle Sam and his cadre of Freedom Fighters. Rockem' Sockem' action in this one.
Ultra Comics is the one I expected not to like, but I found I loved it. It's a comic book which is self-aware and serves at once as a plot device and an entertainment as well as a warning. We follow Ultra as he discovers much about himself/itself and meets other "Ultras" from the sprawling panoply of the DCU. This one also points up one of the cleverer deceits of the series, that comic books are a means of communication across universes, not at all unlike that which was revealed to many a Silver Age fan in Flash #123 with the discovery of Earth-2. I couldn't take my eyes off this one.
And finally in The Multiversity #2 we meet "Justice Incarnate", a team of cross-universal heroes who bond together to battle the threat of the Gentry and perhaps beyond. After the free-wheeling and oddball nature of the in-between chapters the two bookends seem somewhat quaint, but still good comic book reading.
And that's what I find with this series, a good comic book read which will stand up to repeated visits over the years. The Multiversity is going on the shelf and soon will be slipped off for another encounter.