Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Multiversity #2: The Society of Super-heroes: Conquerors of the Counter World #1 Review (Grant Morrison, Chris Sprouse)

Can someone explain to me the appeal of retro pulp in so many contemporary comics out these days? Is it purely an aesthetic thing, with the cool designs? Because I’ve read pulps from way back when and they were never any good. They were badly written, stupidly plotted - in other words, pulp. But apparently its cool these days to do comics in that style for some reason. 

So it is with Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity #2, or The Society of Superheroes: Conquerors from the Counter-World #1 (because they’re all going to be #1 comics in this series). On Earth-20, Doc Fate assembles the Society of Superheroes or S.O.S: the Immortal Man, Al Pratt aka The Mighty Atom, Lady Blackhawk and the Blackhawks, and Abin Sur aka Green Lantern. They face an incursion from Earth-40 led by the evil Vandal Savage with an army of Necro-Men, Blockbuster, Parallax, and Lady Shiva. 

Despite Morrison’s usual sharp cuts and jumps - the war begins, then suddenly we’re five years in the future, then we’re in the middle of the final mission - it’s a fairly straightforward story of good guys vs bad guys done in the usual over-the-top superhero style. It’s presented in a retro/pulp/post-modern (ow, my brain!) style that sees 1930s/40s style craft alongside super-advanced robots and whatnot that’s not that interesting to see, despite Morrison’s attempts to make it so - its just been done so much lately. 

Multiversity must be hell for readers totally new to the DC Universe because Morrison barely bothers to introduce the characters’ backstories. It’s all rushed and very surface level. I’m fairly well versed in DC’s stuff, but there were a number of characters I completely blanked on and even more references I’m sure I didn’t get. At any rate, I was ambivalent throughout as to whether or not Earth-20 prevails against Earth-40, and that’s the real failing of the issue. 

Because here’s the thing: you can’t instantly create dramatic tension or fully-involved interest in the reader just by concocting situations that seem dramatic/etc. If I wrote “the end of the world is happening” without setting up a story where that statement would mean something to the reader, then its totally ineffective - just like it is here. I’m totally detached from what’s happening in the comic and couldn’t care less about anything in it at all. 

The connections to the first issue are the reappearance of the “haunted comic” called The Multiversity and the mention of Nix Uotan, the comics reviewer who gave his life to save the universe, and of course the various DC worlds colliding, but it’s early days yet to understand what it all means besides boring DOOM!

It’s Chris Sprouse’s turn to draw an issue (a different artist will draw a different issue in the series) and he produces some good-looking pages. The lines are very clean, the outfits, as you’d expect, are very retro and uncomplicated - the Mighty Atom’s outfit is just a mask over slacks and a sweater! - and while there’s nothing incredible about his work here, it’s still well-drawn and strong. 

I’m a bit disappointed with how Multiversity is turning out. It’s really nothing new, it’s just Morrison telling generic superhero stories with obscure, little-used characters with the gimmick of parallel worlds colliding (yeah, never seen DC deploy that hacky trick before!). It’s Morrison so the stories are told in a more advanced, less-straightforward way, and sure it’s ambitious, but it’s also unsurprising and dull to read - completely at odds with the hype that built it up. 

So far I’ve yet to see anything truly original in this series and The Society of Superheroes #1 continues that trend - it’s all sizzle and no steak.

The Multiversity #2: The Society of Super-heroes: Conquerors of the Counter World #1

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