Multiversity HAS COME BACK to…comiccccccssssss. Yes, that play off “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson was just a bit of how awesome and important this franchise means to, not only the Moody Monsignor himself, but to the DC Universe. If you didn’t know, now you know: Multiversity #1 is the first in the stream of interrelated one-shots; a collection of many of the 52 differing universes that take place in DC Comics. The concept all harkened back to 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the Multiverse collapsed at the fate of 5 universes merging into one.
Grant Morrison’s Multiversity has also been conceptualized from events that took place in The Kingdom (Hypertime a.k.a. Elseworlds universes can now be considered canon); Infinite Crisis (villains from Earth Prime, Earth-2 and 3 attempted to replace the current DCU); 52 (introduction of the Megaverse a.k.a. 52 parallel Earths); and Final Crisis (a personal favorite DC event of mine, which introduced Superman Earth-23, Calvin Ellis, now the primary protaganist in Multiversity…and a scene with a guy named Bruce Wayne bucking down Darkseid with a friggin’ gat).
Oh, and we have other books to review too. Welcome to the Fistful of Multiverse Comics. We hope your brain doesn’t grow warp right along with us.
To say this is my most anticipated comic of 2014 would be an understatement.
I’ve been waiting for this day — for Barack O’Supes and his Cosmic Cronies — since 2008, exactly the same time I returned to the world of comics. Grant Morrison (Batman Inc.) has tripped me out countless times since, but that image of a fallen Batman slumped over into Clark’s arms will never be forgotten.
Sure, there was a huge split of critical and fan reaction from Final Crisis; many even going so far as to quit comics altogether because of it. Maybe it was the 3D-rendered covers, or the 100 different Supermen that inhabited that event; or the countless tie-ins (many of which were good, including one that spawned the concept of the Red Lanterns and Blackest Night).
Thankfully for those giving Morrison a “second chance,” things aren’t so serious this time around. OK, so they are; but the dire circumstance of a god’s final sacrifice in this comic is often trumped by the names of these “heroes” alone. Thought the Guardians of the Galaxy were a bunch of ragtag “A-holes”? Try these cats on for size: President Superman. Aquawoman. Red Racer. Spore. Captain Carrot. Thunderer. Sava.. *cough-cough* Dino-Cop.
God. Damn. Dino. Cop.
Right on the first page, Morrison greets geeeeeeeeeks with a warm and welcome fourth wall, motifs (comics are drugs; so let’s get HIGH!), and instant Crisis connections (Ultima Thule, etc. etc.). A comic reader plays the role of.. well.. anyone and everyone who mentions how much a brainfuck Morrison’s comics are to read– YES, YOU ARE THE LAST MONITOR (definition: “a lost race of godlike super-beings with powers and abilities above ALL imagination!”). Or maybe Grant is. Either way, the tongue-and-cheek tone plays right on the first page, which is typically the writer’s ploy to get you on his side (i.e. Yes, my comics are trippy; but they are for YOU).
With Multiversity, Morrison isn’t afraid to toy around with the Marv.. ahem Major Universe either. Our Monithero and his squeemish pirate monkey explore an Earth-7 destroyed by disabled physics and snapped reality. After discovering the crying rage of an all-too Asgardian Aborigine — The Mighty Thunderer — Uotan & Stubbs (sounding like a cool Valiant Comic) stumble upon further and further comic pastiche. All You Need is Ultron. The barren big city decay, stoic superheroism, and disturbing Lovecraftian demigods of artists Ivan Reis (Aquaman), Joe Prado (Brightest Day) and Nei Ruffino (Green Lantern Corps) can even compare to the COIE work of the legendary George Perez. This Earth-7, no matter how dark and desperate the detail implies, is an Earth we never want to leave.
Earth-23 is DC Comics, or perhaps more apropros, Barack O’Kent, at his most All-Star. There’s gotta be a reason for the #23, correct? *Chi-town. Fadeaway jumper. Swish. Jordan! * Our more straight-forward, far less whimsical tale swiftly turns into a single page-by-page 5-minute hangout, once our President Super-Obaman discovers a furry new friend — perhaps the highlight character of the comic — and BLEEDSPACE: A high volume concept in the tradition of Hypertime, last seen in Superman Beyond. This “pan-dimensional room with a view!” is a fluid, fifth-dimensional earth that serves as its watchtower.
With Brainiac searching around the 52-Earth parameter as this particular Supes’ Jarvis mobile phone app, can you say MultiLATVARse Tower of Babel?
Speaking of “Cosmic Destroyers”, Morrison also isn’t afraid to show a diversity among his heroes that hasn’t been witnessed since Milestone Comics. Most of the Earth-2/7/9/11/23/26/36/46 Justice League is either gay or black or bunny; it’s a world that was created before Falcon America and She-Thor; it’s a gentrified world (Hi, Brother Eye Bat Monster Thing, “Gentry”!) that keeps referring to comic books; it winks at the reader; slaps the reader; hugs them; then begs to take seriously. Even their airship is made of frozen music, nearly the right type of metatextual artifact for such a metasexual world.
Stay in tune with the rest of the fresh debut of The Multiversity, and I can promise you’ll be vibing right along to a very Marvelous Earth-8 — and one ass-kicker of an ending.
So far, The Strain TV show on FX is only halfway through the first season. But, of course, our lovely Monsignor assigns me an issue explaining how The Master has taken over all of New York and is now ruling over us puny humans. Well damn ***Spoiler Alert!*** I’m into it, though. Now we’re just walking feeding-stations for the Strigoi. Many of the characters are still here from the TV show (Vasiliy, Nora, Eph) which gave me an instant familiarity and sucked me right in to the story. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan still have story credit, while comic adaptor David Lapham (Stray Bullets) delves further into the history and a touch of origin of The Master. My only personal gripe? I’m just not into the art of Mike Huddleston (Harley Quinn). Sure his style fits with the dark and grit of the show, but it’s a little messy — perhaps even flat — for my taste. And, hey… so much for sneak previews. I nearly forgot what it was like to have to wait a month once that last panel was finished. For this particular Strain, I guess that’s a good thing! 3/5 Bibles.
If you’re reading this, there’s a reasonable chance that Michael Uslan is your hero, whether you know it or not. In 1979, Uslan — writer, producer and lifelong comics fan — purchased from DC the film rights to Batman with an eye on restoring the dark seriousness cast off by the 60s TV series, and here we all are. Uslan’s entire career – from Burton and Nolan’s Batman series, to DC’s 70’s run of The Shadow, to teaching the first-ever college course on comic folklore (thanks, Wikipedia!) – draws the figure of a man tied tightly to comics’ earliest roots, which makes him the ideal candidate to bring dime-novel legends The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Avenger (no relation) together in Dynamite’s outstanding pulp throwback Justice, Inc. #1. Past and present collide — conceptually and textually — in Uslan’s story, which has present-or-slightly-future-day soldier/spy/science guy Doc Savage accidentally creating a rift in time that zaps a passenger airplane back to 1939. This sends Doc on a rescue mission back in time, where he comes to grips with The Shadow, and nearly rubs elbows with Richard Benson, on his way to the tragic origin story that will make him the Avenger. With no shortage of fun retcon-history riffs on the market (Five Fists of Science, etc.), Uslan’s romp boasts distinctive cameos from Einstein, Enrico Fermi, H.G. Wells, and Howard Hughes, while the art by Giovanni Timpano (a veteran on Dynamite’s The Shadow) deftly pivots from close-up tension to grand-scale super-science, all with vintage verve. With this much pop history being mashed up, I’m sure there are loads of mythology-nods I’m missing (though Uslan helpfully annotates some of his more obscure references), but a story of this density that’s still light on its feet makes me want to study up in time for issue #2. 4/5 Dime Novels.
“Gothamazon”, Parts 1 and 2 — from former Wonder Woman scribe Gail Simone — is a quick read with some ass-kicking Girl Power from beginning to perfectly-round rear end. While Wonder Woman battles with her biggest weakness for humanity in a fight against a super team of all of Gotham’s super villains, she truly is a woman doing a man’s job and looks damn good doing it. Ethan (Green Lantern) Van Sciver‘s artwork does justice to the DC justice league famous femme herself, and I hope to see more novels published with different heroes facing more atypical foes. Overall, I’d rate this digital double-shot a step below perfect for slightly confusing my sexuality with the perfect drawing of Ta-Tas. Let’s just say… Her lasso isn’t the only thing that might get you to tell the truth. 4/5 Bibles.