Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Multiversity #1 Review (Grant Morrison, Ivan Reis)

I sometimes think that reviewing a Grant Morrison comic is as much deciding on a position to take on reviewing it as it is reviewing the comic itself. Like, do you adopt the position that he’s a genius and then try to academically (ie. drearily) deconstruct everything in his work, or do you shrug and smile weakly, “well, he’s too brainy for me to ever understand!” and avoid doing any kind of heavy lifting in the review? 

Such is the case with The Multiversity #1, Morrison’s years-in-the-making comic that apparently makes Final Crisis look like a spelling test for five year olds. The Multiversity will span 52 worlds in the DC Universe while celebrating the esoterica of DC’s many, many years publishing weird and wonderful superhero comics. You won’t see Batman or Superman here (or will you?), but you’ll see characters who look similar to them. 

TM#1, as broadly as I can put it, is about a comics reviewer called Nix Uotan who becomes a superhero, then sacrifices himself to save everyone, and ultimately becomes a supervillain. He also has a chimp sidekick dressed as a pirate called Stubbs (hey, it’s a Grant Morrison comic!). Obama Superman makes an appearance as does Captain Carrot, Aquawoman, and an assortment of familiar uniforms on unfamiliar people. 

I’m not going to go into which characters pop up from what era or what comics from the Silver Age, etc. because, really, what’s the point? I guess if you enjoy playing spot-the-easter-egg, and you have as encyclopaedic a knowledge of the DC Universe as Morrison does, you’ll be wetting yourself in excitement, but otherwise? I’m in this for a good story. 

And you kind of get that in this issue. There’s some great Morrison bounds of imagination like flying a spaceship playing strings like a guitar, which crop up here and there, and calling this comic “haunted” is funny, but there’s a lot of meta-textual stuff that’s supposed to wow you that instead feels tired and unimpressive. For example, Nix is reviewing a comic that’s the comic he’s in, the pages of the comic in his hands looking exactly like those on the previous pages in our hands. Or later on when Obama Superman reads an issue of Morrison’s New 52 Action Comics starring him - woah. Like, dude. 

Hmm... no. That kinda stuff might seem brilliant to a teenager who’s never read Morrison but for longtime readers this stuff is expected of him. And when he throws out captions like “Stop Reading” at the end of the page and you do stop reading because that’s the end of the page, what’s the point? To make you feel that he’s in control? To make you more aware of the present and what you’re doing? The effect is actually more irritating than anything else. 

The story itself is actually your standard superhero plotline - there’s a powerful threat, the superheroes unite to stop it, and lots of big action scenes happen, though, of course this being the first issue, the villain won’t be defeated just yet. Ivan Reis’ art adds to that feeling of standard DC superhero fare, having worked on other big DC titles like Justice League. I was hoping Morrison would utilise more unusual artists for this project but he went with a DC regular for the opening issue which is a bit disappointing. (Can you imagine if Jim Woodring drew this? The only man in comics weirder than Grant Morrison - it’d be perfect!)

And that’s it for this extended, bookend first issue in The Multiversity. I expect that we’ll see a lot more variety in forthcoming issues but I also hope Morrison doesn’t forget that most readers will be expecting a story worth reading amidst the weirdness and easter eggs. He’s an ambitious writer and that’s great but he can disappear up his own arse a bit! 

The Multiversity #1 is a very Morrison-esque, somewhat enjoyable read that’s quite uneven throughout. Morrison fans will be tickled with it, but critics of Final Crisis would do well to stay away from this, lest they wind up with flashbacks from the last controversial Morrison event comic! Recommended if you want a challenging superhero comic to read.

The Multiversity #1

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