Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review: 'The Multiversity' by Grant Morrison

Title:  The Multiversity (DC Comics, Amazon, Goodreads, Wikipedia)
Author:  Grant Morrison (Official, Twitter, DC Comics, Wikipedia)

In a lot of ways The Multiversity is the book that Final Crisis should have been.  It is a grand and cosmic tale that spans universes, introduces us to renewed versions of classic characters, and does an incredible job of taking advantage of the vast storytelling possibilities that the multiverse provides.  The story takes place across a series of one-shots set in different universes bookended by two crossover (for lack of a better term) issues.  The Deluxe Edition includes all of the variant covers, early sketches, and notes from author Grant Morrison.

The genesis of this book dates back to Morrison's work on the 52 and Final Crisis series.  At the end of those series, Morrison began putting together ideas for The Multiversity.  The series focuses on characters from universes that aren't part of the central core of the DC Universe, so don't be surprised that the versions of Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Captain Atom aren't what you're used to seeing (pre- or post-New 52).  The story focuses on a threat to the multiverse from somewhere outside of the known realities.  This threat, called the Gentry, is attacking multiple Earths simultaneously and the only way that the heroes are able to know the extent of the threat is by reading comics.  In the multiverse, one universe's superheroes are another's comic book heroes.  Without giving away too much, the series ends with a team of heroes assembling to take on future threats to the multiverse.  A sequel series is in the works.

Overall The Multiversity is a bold and fascinating story that is far superior to Morrison's last take on multiverse Final Crisis.  There are times throughout where the story seems to just jump without much explanation.  This seems to be a technique that Morrison uses regularly (it plagued Final Crisis...I've read that book three times and still don't get it) but luckily it doesn't detract from the story too much here.  The issues that really stood out to me were Pax Americana, Guidebook, Mastermen, and the bookends.  Pax Americana is Morrison's take on Earth 4, the world based on the characters from Charlton Comics.  These characters made their first appearance in DC Comics in Crisis on Infinite Earths and heroes such as Blue Beetle, the Question, and Captain Atom would play big roles in the post-COIE DCU.  These were the characters that Alan Moore had originally wanted to use in Watchmen but DC had other plans for them so Moore tweaked them a bit for his story.  Morrison's take on Earth 4 originally appeared in Final Crisis with a Captain Atom that was obviously an amalgam of the original Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan.  According to Morrison Pax Americana is essentially "...Watchmen now, rooted in a contemporary political landscape" with the focus being international terrorism instead of the Cold War.  This was a compelling world and one that I'd love to see more of in the future.  The Guidebook provided a listing and breakdown of the multiverse, listing each Earth with their characteristics, heroes/villains, and so on.  This issue also includes a story on Earth 51 in which Kamandi discovers Darkseid's caged tomb.  It is here that the New Gods explain that they live in a part of the multiverse that is outside of the individual universes, thus explaining how in the New 52 Darkseid has been traveling from one Earth to another.  It also includes an excellent map of the multiverse which may very well be my favorite part of the entire thing.  Mastermen takes place on Earth 10 which is a modern reworking of the old pre-COIE Earth X, a world (containing characters originally from Quality Comics) in which World War II never ended.  In this version Superman created a utopia under the Nazi flag after he realized the true, evil nature of Hitler.  What's fascinating about this story is the conflict within Superman.  On this world he was raised by Hitler but even after a lifetime of Nazi indoctrination, his good nature come out.  The opening and closing issues both do good jobs of introducing the situation and tying up the ends (though not completely).

As with a lot of things that Morrison has written, The Multiversity left me with a lot of unanswered questions.  Hopefully some of them will be addressed in the sequel Multiversity Too or in future re-readings of the book.  What will be really interesting is to see how this plays in to Convergence, if at all.  One thing is certain, despite my occasional troubles keeping up with his writing style, Morrison is a masterful storyteller with a grand vision for epic tales.  This book is a must for those that love the DC Comics universes, cosmology, and mythology and belongs on the shelf next to COIE, Blackest Night, and Flashpoint.

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