Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Getting A Mutliversity Degree!


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.

Highly recommended.

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7 comments:

  1. I got this collection for Christmas, even though I already own the single issues. It is so, so good, and even though I am always in the bag for anything Grant Morrison does, I believe this is his magnum opus. It's kind of a shame, really--Morrison sets up so many concepts and potential series here, and DC has done almost nothing with any of them.

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    1. Unlike most new writers who seem to want to do minimal things, I always feel I get my money's worth with Morrison. I have to read and read him again to really grok what he's laying down making the entertainment really a bargain relatively speaking.

      I read somewhere (Comic Book News I think) that the Justice Incarnate team will be showing up in Superman stories coming out soon.

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    2. I think it starts in a new 3 part story arc in Superman comics called "Multiplicity" that is out today.

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  2. Well, I haven't read this, but as a rule, I tend to think that if the reader doesn't fully understand a comicbook (or book or movie for that matter), then it's either because the writer hasn't done his job well enough, or is being deliberately vague in the hope that the reader, in an attempt to comprehend it, will imbue it with some sort of significance or profundity that it doesn't actually possess. So if the reader is super intelligent, he'll probably see all sorts of hidden layers that the writer never intended (or imagined), but gets all the credit for. What, me cynical?

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    1. Not at all! Hah! I get your point and know that I've read a few comics which seem to be overwrought messes as the writer and or artist seemed more interested in impressing than communicating, but I don't get that vibe from Morrison's work. He seems to respect his audience but just has things moving in new ways, sometimes way I don't immediately grok.

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  3. I never knew this was an actual comic as such I only ever picked up the first guidebook (in a 50p bargain bin) and though that was all it was. I do like Grant Morrison's work in general but at times I have also found some stories hard to understand (saying that as a kid I was totally lost with all the Earth 2 stuff from DC) I have seen these in the bargain bins so might pick a few up when in Glasgow's West end later today (hey I might even bump into Mr Morrison himself who lives in that area)

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    1. I think Morrison would be infinitely pleased in some ways that you thought that. The idea of a series which appears to be largely unconnected stories is part of the vibe here I think. The guidebook one is a ton of fun too.

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