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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Random Thoughts On... The Multiversity

I think I’m going to make this “Random Thoughts On…” section a thing now. It’ll give me a chance to talk about stuff that aren’t really reviews of different stuff. Heck, I may even go into another tangent like I did with the subject of a black James Bond. I probably won’t go too random with this new thing. I will say that today’s subject may slip into review territory though. 

Today’s subject is actually on The Multiversity by Grant Morrison. It was a limited series that was released around 2014 and 2015. It was basically Grant Morrison’s way to expand on DC’s Multiverse and basically tell a story within it. It’s kind of a sequel to Final Crisis in that he uses some characters and certain ideas in it. He apparently had this idea for years going back as far as 2010. I heard stuff here and there about it but I wasn’t really interested in it until it was officially announced. I also think the fact that I’m more of a fan of Morrison’s work these days helped too. I added it to my pull list and read it as it came out each month. I will admit that I was a little lazy with the last issue though. I’ve been going through my collection lately and I thought I’d re-read this on a whim.

Morrison wrote all nine issues. The art team varies with each issue since most of the series take place on different Earths in the Multiverse. We had guys like Ivan Reis, Frank Quitely, Chris Sprouse, Ben Oliver, Jim Lee, Cameron Stewart, and Doug Manhke handling the art in the miniseries. I’m not even going to mention the rest of the art team for the mini. There are too many names to mention. I heard that this series’ plot structure is similar to another series that Morrison worked on called Seven Soldiers. I haven’t read that yet but I’ve heard things about it.

The plot is simple and yet not simple at the same time. This is Grant Morrison after all. Basically, the Multiverse is under attack by beings from outside the Multiverse called the Gentry. Being led by one called the Empty Hand, they do their best to corrupt the Multiverse through dreams and a haunted comic book called Ultra Comics. Because of this, Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors, gets involved with this attack to the Multiverse. Something happens to Nix and other superheroes from the different Earths are called to the Orrery of Worlds to combat this menace.  It’s the “Battle For All Creation” as the heroes team up to save the Multiverse.
One of the best stories in the series and I'm not that big a fan of Captain Marvel.

The main plot of the series is more or less told in The Multiversity #1-2. Between those two issues are seven one-shots which take place on an Earth in the Multiverse. There’s a story that’s told on that Earth and it’s sort of tied to what’s going on in the main plot:
  • The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors from the Counter-World – The heroes of Earth-20 end up in a world war with the villains of Earth-40. Doc Fate leads the charge against the Vandal Savage of that Earth.
  • The Just – Earth-16 houses the legacy heroes of the DCU. The old guard have made the world into a literal paradise and that leaves their old sidekicks and offspring with little to do. Things heat up when one of the heroes suddenly commits suicide. Think Young Justice mixed with Jersey Shore or (ugh) Keeping up with the Kardashians.
  • Pax Americana – It’s basically a Watchmen-ized version of the Charlton heroes of Earth-4. For those who don't know, the characters in Watchmen were supposed to be these characters. The President of the United States is assassinated and we find out what led to all of this happening. We also run into Captain Adam who was first seen in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond.
  • Thunderworld Adventures – It’s pretty much a story featuring Captain Marvel and his team on Earth-5. Doctor Sivana has teamed with other versions of himself in the Multiverse and tries to take down Shazam and the Marvels. Even though this Sivana fails in his mission, the other Sivanas in the Multiverse end up becoming a problem for the rest of the series.
  • Guidebook – This teams up the Batmen of Earth- 17 and Earth-42 as they try to evade the Sivanas’ robots. They learn about the battle in the Multiverse through the comic itself. We also get a glimpse of Earth-51, the home of Jack Kirby’s creations like The New Gods, Kamandi, and OMAC. We even get a better detail on how the Multiverse looks now.
  • The Mastermen – This is an Earth (Earth-10) where Superman’s ship landed in 1938 Germany and Adolf Hitler influenced him to become Overman. This was the same Overman who showed up in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond and lost his “cousin”, Overgirl. We find him disillusioned with the Nazi Empire he’s created especially when the Freedom Fighters are causing trouble in the neighborhood.
  • Ultra Comics – Here, we see the origin of Ultra, the hero from Earth-33. It’s supposed to be the “real” world. We find out why his story is basically “haunted.”
Doc Fate is delivering some good medicine: The Prescription of Pain.

So, what can I saw about this series? I guess “weird” would be the thing to say about it. It’s like Morrison decided to go all out in terms of weird ideas. I mean, you have grotesque extradimensional beings who want to corrupt the Multiverse, weird takes on familiar heroes, and comics actually being used in-story to send information or corrupt a world. Add the fact that he tries to throw in ideas on society and culture. Somehow, Morrison makes it all work and that isn’t a shock. I did enjoy the series even though it’s not one of my favorite works of his.

I felt like everything gelled for the most part even with the weird plot structure. The main plot of the heroes fighting against the Gentry was not necessarily the best thing about the series but it worked. I liked seeing these heroes come together. I thought it was weird that we don’t get any superheroes from Earth-0 (the main DC Earth) and the newer Earth-2. I guess those were off limits from Morrison and I can get why. Luckily, they weren’t needed to enjoy this since we had other versions of those heroes running around. We even got some heroes that were analogues to other heroes/villains from other companies.

The thing that makes the series work for me is the one-shots on different Earths. They all worked for the most part. They all were interesting worlds. They were also standalone stories that centered on a certain subject. Guidebook and Ultra Comics are probably exceptions to that rule since they tie into the main plot a bit. Morrison had originally envisioned the one-shots to be kind of like backdoor pilots for the different universes and that kind of shows here. They varied in tone and style.  Some were simple and straight-forward while others were complex and full of some meta-textual gobbly-gook. My favorites were Pax Americana, Thunderworld, The Mastermen, and The Just.

The artwork is top-notch. All of the art teams put their best on paper for this one. I really have no complaints there.  Frank Quitely’s work on Pax Americana is probably the one that stands out when compared to the rest. The ways how all that was laid out fit the story Morrison was trying to tell. Even Though Quitely’s work was really good, I will have to hand the MVP to Ivan Reis and his team on the main plot. They handled the majority of the work on the series since they started and ended the series with The Multiversity #1 and #2. I’d say that Reis and his team got the “Full-Morrison” since he had to handle the stuff with the Gentry and about 100+ heroes/villains.
Now this is cool.

While I do really enjoy it, I did think it had a couple of issues. While the Gentry were interesting in a weird type of way, we didn’t learn too much about them. Their leader, the Empty Hand, was also a little lackluster. In fact, I think that last issue felt kind of rushed in itself. All these heroes and ideas are thrown at us and it felt that the space Morrison had to tell his story wasn’t enough. I also felt like this about a couple of the one-shots. Society of Superheroes and The Mastermen were ones that felt rushed in places. Then, it could also get a little too weird at times. I can look at Ultra Comics for that. For a “haunted” comic, that was too weird even for me. At least Doug Manhke made it look good.
The Empty Hand: Excuse me while sit here and do nothing! Muhahahahahaha!

Overall, The Multiversity was good as a whole even though it did get a little too weird at times. It packed a fine story with some weird ideas and good visuals. Do you need to read any of his previous work like Final Crisis to understand it? Not really, but it would help in getting introduced to some of the characters we see here. Plus, it’ll give ya an idea on the weirdness of Morrison’s storytelling. I have heard that Morrison will do more with the Multiverse and it involves the Flash. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take four more years to come out. Well, that’s all I got for now. Peace and God Bless.

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