Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Multiversity: Guidebook #1 Review (Grant Morrison, Marcus To)

Grant Morrison’s already bloated-seeming Multiversity series gets even bigger with The Multiversity Guidebook, surpassing the lofty price-point of $4.99 per regular issue to $7.99! Well… this better be the best Multiversity issues yet, grumblegrumble… and it’s not! Damn you, Morrison!!

The chibi Batman of Earth-42 is joined by the psychotic, gun-toting Batman of Earth-17 for a fight to the death against a gathering of Dr Sivanas (Captain Marvel’s enemy) and their army of robots. Then hold onto your masks because we’re woooooahhh! off to Earth-51 for an adventure with Kamandi, Tuftan (a humanoid tiger), and Ben Boxer/OMAC! What does it all mean? The same thing every issue of Multiversity has meant: a celebration of DC’s colourful (read: bonkers) history and a bland bad guy trying to destroy the Multiverse - heroes to the rescuzzzzzz... 

I guess it’s fun to see chibi Batman because he’s so ickle and cutey-wooty and dawww, he’s got a mini-cowl! Lil Gotham was a really underrated series, even though that’s a different chibi Batman, and seeing this guy contrasted with gun-crazy Batman is an amusing pairing. I kind of want to read a comic starring the Batman of Earth-17, aka Bat-Dredd, now. 

Then chibi Batman picks up an issue of The Multiversity Guidebook - a character in each issue picks up a comic in the series because META - and we’re off to Earth-51 for a boring adventure with nobody’s favourite character, Kamandi, the last boy on whatever. 

Because Morrison really loves being trippy for trippy’s sake, Kamandi picks up some old DC comics and whoosh! we’re told a truncated history of DC’s superheroes from Golden Age Flash and the various people who’ve been Flash, right up to Crisis on Infinite Earths. This includes the many Crises there have been since then, right up to the latest, The New 52, and a glimpse at the next: this summer’s Convergence. 

So why is this such a massive issue? Well, living up to its title of “Guidebook”, Morrison “treats” the reader to 34(!) pages of factoids about the 52 DC Earths in the Multiverse. You’re either going to like this section or not, and I certainly didn’t! The format is Earth-# followed by an explanatory paragraph followed by an illustration of familiar superheroes wearing unfamiliar outfits, multiplied way too many times. Ugh. What a waste of time and money! And all for a prop that chibi Batman uses once! 

As you can probably tell, I’m not terribly impressed with this issue, or this series for that matter. The problem is with repetition and shallowness. Every issue is the same: some menacing “thing” is threatening a particular world, heroes from another universe drop by, they pick up a Multiversity comic, terrible things happen (like a formless monster gobbles up the heroes), the end. Every. Single. Issue! And the “story” is so pitifully weak - heroes fighting villains. The only differences are in their costumes!

Morrison does a couple of things to waylay the fans by presenting the fights out of sequence or taking away panels and sections to make them seem more arty and substantial. And then he dangles characters from the past and the issue descends into “who can spot the most DC trivia”! Whaaaatever. 

Marcus To draws the chibi Batman/psycho-gun-toting Batman section while Paulo Siqueira draws the Kamandi section, and both look great. There are also literally dozens of other artists who contribute art to the 34 page factoid fest. 

But at the end of this overlong comic I still found myself wondering what exactly I got out of it. Seeing Morrison put a story within a story within a story decorated with hundreds of DC characters - that’s it? Maybe the hardcore DC fans will love this for the pure superficiality of it, ditto fans of these obscure characters, but if Multiversity has shown me anything it’s that I’m not one of the red-meat base that make up the DC Nation. 

The final words of this comic are “Empty is thy hand” and empty describes the reading experience.

The Multiversity: Guidebook #1

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