Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Ivan Reis
Release Date: August 20, 2014
While predicting a Miley Cyrus meltdown that thankfully happened to Justin Bieber instead last year, news outlets quoted Elton John saying, “When your persona begins to take over your music and becomes more important, you enter a dangerous place.” As arguably the most charismatic contemporary scribe of superhero lore of the last 20 years or so, Grant Morrison faces a different version of the rock star problem. Realistically, comic creators needn’t worry about achieving Michael Jackson- or Elvis-levels of fame and its corresponding insanity. But plenty of once-outstanding comic writers have turned to mush after their personal brands began to overshadow their output. Frank Miller got really bad. Chris Claremont is horrible now. Morrison, on the other hand, stills hits more often than he misses, but the prospect of a Morrison-penned, much-ballyhooed crossover event in which heroes from several alternate Earths defend everything that exists from the omnipotent embodiments of all-things-unpleasant — that’s the gist of The Multiversity — made me nervous. The last sprawling, “high-concept,” Morrison project I read was Final Crisis, and yuck. Just yuck for Final Crisis.
Regardless, The Multiversity #1 should leave pessimists cautiously optimistic that Morrison’s new series will pan out more like splendid Seven Soldiers of Victory epic than the convoluted mess that is Crisis. My only curmudgeonly gripes with the book are the handful of moments when it thinks it’s more clever than it is. “Oooooh, hey, comic books and other works of fiction show us actual real life events from another reality!” says this comic. Yes, we know. They explained that in the final episode of the 1994 Spider-Man cartoon series when Spidey meets Stan Lee. Also: the classic Justice League animated episode “Legends,” when Green Lantern runs into his favorite comic character, the Green Guardsman. Also, I believe this concept has been covered in several previous Grant Morrison comics. “On Earth-8, everyone’s a knockoff of a Marvel character, but here they are in a DC comic! Can you believe we went there?!” says Multiversity. In a world where we can read erotic fan fiction staring Groot and Hodor, no one can be impressed by franchise crossovers ever again.
However — after the newly-formed, multi-dimensional squad of heroes accidentally lands in the barely-copyright-safe Major Comics Universe, a giant blue baby in a diaper called “Behemoth” attacks Captain Carrot. Unleashing the war cry “Behemoth Bash Bunny!” the obvious Hulk-proxy and member of “The Retaliators” squashes his adversary into a pancake-shaped humanoid rabbit. Then, Carrot swiftly recovers, reverts to his pre-smashed form, trounces Behemoth, and asks the remaining Retaliators, “Who else wants to argue with cartoon physics?”
Here, we experience an example of the awesome kind of ridiculousness that, if previews of upcoming issues are any indicator, may define Multiversity more than meta-nonsense, which is the lame kind of ridiculousness. As much as alternate realities have become a cliché device, Grant Morrison is pretty much going to write whatever the fuck he feels like at this point in his career anyway, because rock stars can do whatever they want. Best case scenario: he’ll use the Multiverse as a platform to celebrate the limitless possibilities of superhero comics in a literally limitless manner. For instance, with no winking subtlety whatsoever, Morrison has basically killed Reed Richards twice by the end of The Multiversity #1. I guess he hates Reed Richards now for some reason.
These fatalities also show off artist Ivan Reis’ versatile pencils. Mr. Fantastic’s (or his DC analogue’s) first demise occurs in a panel that introduces the reader to the harrowing wreckage that remains of Earth-7, where his corpse stretches to unfathomable limits, laid out across a smoldering city like an unholy parachute…and he may or may not be screaming. (The second death takes place at the end of the book, and falls into spoiler territory). Overall, the imagery of the book can feel generic at times, but when penciler Ivan Reis gets enough space and the right subject — like in the cases of dead Richards on Earth-7, Earth-23 Superman lifting a giant robot, and Behemoth lunging at Captain Carrot — he lays down pictures that will leave a lasting mark on more than a few eyes.