Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 Review (Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke)


Hey - hey, you! Yes, you! The one reading this review right now. Isn’t it weird to meet like this? My voice - or maybe your voice, or what you think my voice sounds like - is in your head right now. Right. Now. Inside your head. The most personal space there is. And even though I wrote this before you’re reading this now - maybe you’re reading this the same day, maybe a few days later, months, whatever - it’s like we’re talking across time, right here, right now. Scroll down to the next paragraph. 

Is this sounding a bit weird? A bit irritating, a bit smug? Yeah I’m starting to hear it now too. But that’s what this entire comic is: one long fourth-wall-breaking dialogue between Grant Morrison/Ultra Comics (which is a character, the comic, and YOU!) and the reader. Y’know, I remember a time when Morrison didn’t need to rely on gimmicks for his comics...

The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 is the penultimate issue to the series and the big bad is about ready to invade Earth Prime. The question is whether the audience is fed up at this point or still interested. Me, I’m pretty much in the former, glad to see the end of this overlong ride. 

I’ll give Morrison this: it is attention-grabbing to have a character, even one as paper-thin (pun intended) as Ultra Comics, talking to you directly. But the format works against it, even though it’s reliant upon it. I expect it’ll work better in the collected edition but in this single issue there are ads for other DC properties dropped in at the most inappropriate times. 

For example: one of the early pages after the prologue introduces the main story with “Activate Ultra Comics’ debut adventure! A nakedly allegorical tale we just hadda call…”

and then you turn the page… to an ad for “The official prequel to the upcoming video game - Batman: Arkham Knight written by Peter J Tomasi, etc…” 

and then on the next page you get the second half of that sentence: “... Out of His Box!”

It really takes you out of the story and shatters the effect Morrison’s trying to create. 

But a lot of the captions addressing the reader - “Don’t Read This Comic!”, “Don’t Turn The Page!” - present the reader with a false sense of control that Morrison is pretending to give them. If you’ve read this far in the series, what, you’re not going to read this issue? You bought the comic but you’re not going to turn the page? And if you don’t, will that mean the next issue won’t come out because you’ll have saved the world? It’s like button prompts in games - you have to press “x” to continue the game or you won’t get any further, so why have the button prompt at all? The illusion of control. 

Furthering the meta-narration, Morrison has the audiences’ opinions (mostly negative, so he’s self-aware at least) written into Ultra Comics’ thought-stream. “That’s it, I’m OUT.” and “This guy’s raped my wallet WAY too many times!” are just a couple of the comments but they carry on in that vein. Didn’t see any that reflected my thoughts: “Lame gimmickry never made for good comics, Grant. Don’t think I’m mistaking any of this shallow nonsense as fresh, ground-breaking or brilliant - this is disappointing stuff from a writer as gifted as you. You wrote All-Star Superman, dude, how did you get from that to this!?” 

And that’s Ultra Comics - another weak addition to Multiversity, though the end is thankfully near. Still reading this review? Ok, I’ll end it in a similar self-satisfied tone Morrison does this issue. Stop reading this review… now.

The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1

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