Although the term ‘event comic’ usually denotes a publisher’s annual crossover series (you know, the one that will change everything!), the release of Multiversity actually feels like event. Writer Grant Morrison first teased the miniseries back in 2009, shortly after he finished the big Final Crisis crossover, and ever since then, I have been anxiously awaiting its arrival. The idea of Morrison, arguably the most popular and successful writer in comics today, teaming up with a murderer’s row of artists, including Ivan Reis, Frank Quitely, Chris Sprouse, and Cameron Stewart, for a series of one-shots that explore the furthest reaches of the DC Comics multiverse is certainly an exciting one. Luckily, the first issue delivers on that promise by expanding on themes, ideas, and characters from Morrison’s career with DC. It’s a big, post-modern love letter to comic books and the power of imagination.

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In the opening scene of The Multiversity #1, a young comic book fan reads the first issue of “Ultra Comics”, a suposedly ‘haunted’ issue of DC’s Multiversity crossover. “My review will be in the form of a live dissection,” he says as he literally takes the book apart, and the lines between his reality and the fictional narrative of the comic blur. The notion that the relationship between the ‘real’ world and the fictional one is a two-way street has been a central theme of Grant Morrison’s work for years –ever since he showed up as a character in his Animal Man series. However, Multiversity is a culmination of sorts of his DC work as it references Final CrisisAnimal Man, and his recent Action Comics run. That said, fans will be able be able to pick up and enjoy this new series without being familiar with those comics, although having some detailed annotations handy probably wouldn’t hurt.

In many ways, Multiversity is similar to Morrison’s 2005 Seven Soldiers of Victory series which featured 7 interconnected miniseries that each focused on a specific character. Like that series, the first issue of Multiversity offers a simple framing device that will bind the following one-shots into a larger narrative. The young fan in this first issue is actually Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors, who was first introduced in Final Crisis. For those unfamiliar with DC cosmology, the Monitors were a race of godlike beings who kept watch over the 52 parallel Earths that make up the DC multiverse. When a mysterious threat called The Gentry shows up and threatens the multiverse, Nix Uoutan (and his talking monkey sidekick, Mr. Stubbs) have to summon heroes from the various Earths to save existence itself.

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Aside from the talking monkey and the fact that Nix Uotan’s inter-dimensional ‘super-boat’ The Ultima Thule looks an awful lot like the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the plot of Multiversity is pretty standard superhero fare. What makes it unique is that way Morrison uses these familiar comic book tropes to explore deeper issues of metaphysics, narrative, and perception. Of course, you don’t have to know much about critical theory or quantum physics to enjoy the story since the real appeal of the book is the opportunity for Morrison to explore the parallel realities and alternate versions of characters: any book that features president Superman of Earth-23, Captain Carrot, and Aquawoman has got to be a fun read.

The art in this first issue is handled by Ivan Reis, whose style is perfectly suited for big superhero action. A lot of his page layouts and staging of characters is reminiscent of Jim Aparo’s work in the 1970’s, albeit with a more slick, contemporary sheen. Translating Morrison’s more complex ideas into visuals can sometimes be tricky, but Reis does a nice job here, and his designs for the many new or alternate characters manage to be both interesting and familiar. For example, the Retaliators of Earth-8 manage to look unique even though they are reminiscent of another team of mighty superheroes. MultiversityB

Even though some readers might find Morrison’s meta-narrative explorations a bunch ‘deconstructive’ hand waving, all of his work is really a celebration of the unique power of the comic book medium. In fact, at it’s core Multiversity #1 is really about a kid reading a comic book and being swept up in it. Literally.

But this isn’t just a clever post-modern twist; DC characters have always been reading comics. In the classic 1961 ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ story that introduced the concept of the multiverse, Barry Allen mentions reading an old comic book about the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. Grant Morrison is simply honoring that history while he uses it to explore the relationship between fiction and reality. If anything, Multiversity is often a little too on the nose about its theme as for example, when Captain Carrot exclaims, “I always suspected that one world’s reality in another’s fiction.” That idea is already implied by the story, so having a character just flat out state it feels unnecessary, especially since most of Morrison’s other work relies on the reader to do the ‘heavy lifting’ so to speak.

That minor quibble aside, the first issue of Multiversity is an absolutely satisfying and rewarding read totally justifies its $4.99 cover price. In an era when comics are dominated by ‘decompressed’ storytelling and trade waiting, this is a single issue that is focused on the experience of reading comic books. It really does feel less like just another comic and more like an event.

The Multiversity can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop or on Comixology.

Overall Score
95 %

'Multiversity' is like a greatest hits compilation of Grant Morrison's career with DC Comics that manages to feel fresh and exciting at the same time.

About The Author

Paul R Jaissle is a philosopher, collage artist, and musician. In his free time, he enjoys reading comics (especially ones with Batman in them), listening to power pop, and watching wrestling.

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