10 Important Clues to the Conclusion of DC Comics’ Multiversity #2

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The conclusion to Grant Morrison’s survey of all the parallel Earths DC Comics has to offer is coming this week, and it’s probably the comic I’ve looked forward to the most since I started following comics with any regularity. This series has been promised for something like 8 years, and we’ve been seeing dribs and drabs of Quitely artwork for our best comic of 2014 for at least half that time.

The end product has been probably the most Morrison comic of all time: an epic, meta, love letter to Kirby and the silver age that has also been dense, occasionally impenetrable and entirely unpredictable. It took a full weekend and multiple rereadings to even get a sense of the entire picture Morrison is trying to paint. With that in mind, here are 10 clues to how it might end from the earlier issues in the series.

1. Final Crisis

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DC’s big, then not-big, crossover event of 2008 was Final Crisis, a book about Superman singing Darkseid to death while comic readers drained all the meaning out of the DC Universe. I’m exaggerating: the vampire monitors were actually editors. Final Crisis is also where a ton of seeds for Multiversity were sown: Superman Beyond had the first GMoz-canon appearances of Overman, President Superman, Earth-5 Captain Marvel and the Captain Atom who would eventually show up in Pax Americana. This is also where Overgirl dies, which is the instigating event for Mastermen. Nix Uotan, SUPERJUDGE (style note: must always be written in all caps, as befitting a name of such grandeur) saved the multiverse and condemned the other 50 still-living Monitors to obsolescence, and returns at the beginning of this series. His ship, the Ultima Thule, travels through Earth-20, Earth-17, Earth-6 (the Marvel Universe, but that changes by the time the Guidebook comes out) and Earth-51, giving us glimpses into all but 2 of the earths important to the current story.

But what can we pull from Final Crisis that’s important to how Multiversity might turn out? A couple of things. First, all the monitors except Nix look the same – same pink skin, eyes and general design. Nix, especially in Multiversity #1, is much darker skinned, even in SUPERJUDGE mode. Then there’s Mandrakk. He’s the secret big bad of the entire series and a vampire monitor, but Zillo Valla, the sprite from the Ultima Thule, feeds off of Overman in order to travel between universes. This seems to be Morrison demonstrating that stories aren’t fixed points, but that they change with context and perspective. Also, Mandrakk drains “meaning” from the universes he feeds on, but he’s defeated by representatives of those universes, as well as symbols of hope (the Pax Dei and the infinite Supermen) and creativity (the Green Lantern Corps). And finally, Uotan’s monitor ladyfriend’s name is Weeja Dell, which was his Shazam codeword in Darkseid’s gulag, and if that’s how they get him out of the Gentry’s control, that would be a total chickenshit move.

2. Action Comics #9

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This issue came out of nowhere in the middle of Morrison’s run on the then-recently rebooted Action Comics. In the middle of a Russian nesting doll of a story, we were jumped away from our Superman and back to visit President Superman on Earth-23. It told the story of the Lois, Jimmy and Clark Kent from Earth-45, who created their concept of Superman using a Blue Lantern central power battery to be a beacon of hope. But then they sold it to a giant corporation (headed by the evil 5th dimensional imp Vynktvx), who corporatized the Superman concept and set the monster that it became loose on the multiverse. Side note, in the original issue, this all happened right before an ad for Before Watchmen in the original comic. I still LOL.

In its quest to eliminate competition, Superdoom jumps into the multiverse, killing Optiman (the Superman analogue from Earth-36, where Red Racer, on the cover of Multiversity #2, is from) and li’l Superman from Earth-42 (the chibi Earth from the Guidebook) and chasing down Lois and a burned and dying Jimmy and Clark, finding them on Earth-23. President Superman shoves Superdoom back through the Transmatter Symphonic Array, the box invented by his world’s Luthor to allow him access to the rest of the multiverse, and saves Lois. Before he dies, Jimmy tells President Superman “He becomes anything you want him to be. Our world wanted [a murdering robot hell bent on monopolizing the Superman brand].” Earth-45 sounds like shit, man.

3. Multiversity #1

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The first issue of the series proper laid out the structure of the story and introduced what we all spent about 7 months thinking were the real villains of the story. SUPERJUDGE gets a copy of Ultra Comics and a distress call from Earth-7, the DC analogue of the Ultimate universe. He finds the Thunderer (think aboriginal Thor) and the team causing the issues in the multiverse, named the Gentry – Dame Merciless, a screaming ghost woman; Hellmachine, a pink, betentacled, toothy glob; Lord Broken, a crooked house with eyes peeking out of every window; Demogorgunn, a pile of bodies; and Intellectron, a talking, evil easter egg with batwings. Each of them features heavily into later issues of the series, getting at least one issue where they’re the driving evil behind it.

Nix sacrifices himself to let the Thunderer escape to the Hall of Heroes (the H Dial from the center of the map of the multiverse), where he meets up with a team from the various different earths – Dino Cop, a Savage Dragon analogue; Red Racer, one of the heroes supposedly killed by Superdoom in Action Comics #9; President Superman; Aquawoman; and Captain Carrot. They eventually take the Ultima Thule to the Marvel analogue universe (now Earth-8, a change from Final Crisis) where Lord Havok opens a cosmic egg, unleashing EVIL SUPERJUDGE and the Gentry on their world.

The important takeaways from this issue are the identity of the villains and the identity of the heroes. Each member of the Gentry represents something specific that’s wrong with cape comics – Demogorgunn could be popular appeal, Erik Larsen’s silent majority; Intellectron is overanalysis; Lord Broken an overreliance on structure; Dame Merciless the unpleasant grimness of the “what if heroes were real” movement; and Hellmachine, the mindless consuming of completists.

The idea of the Gentry is also important. I know Morrison has said that they represent a kind of “gentrification of comics,” but the word is also traditionally defined as the aristocracy. If a small, privileged caste are the bad guys, then who’s going to save the day? And finally, the breakout character from this issue is Captain Carrot, whose line about cartoon physics actually made me stand up and cheer when I first read it. Truly we are in a golden age of anthropomorphic animal superheroes.

4. Society of Super Heroes #1

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Earth-20 was first seen in Superman Beyond, one of the worlds that Superman passed through trying to stop the Ultima Thule’s careen through the multiverse. It’s a world of pulp heroes, matched to Earth-40, a world ruled by pulp villains. The Blackhawks, Doc Fate, the Immortal Man and Al Pratt, the Atom, are all defending this world from invasion by its inverse, and the story jumps in the middle from the setup of the invasion to its end. The Immortal Man stabs Vandal Savage, shedding immortal blood and causing its presumed corruption. The issue plays as commentary on the violence of late ’90s and early aughts comics: Fate’s helmet whispers about Dax Novu, the monitor corrupted by Mandrakk, and the characters talk about how Vandal Savage, the leader of the invading army from Earth-40, likes “…to see schools blown apart, children sold into slavery, women abused and degraded…” The Atom, who had mastered the Flex Mentallo Iron Munro course but refused to learn the final move, the deadly Atom punch, is the only character to read Ultra Comics, the book that corrupts Uotan and keeps showing up in other issues. He later shows how he’s corrupted by that comic when he uses that Atom punch to kill Blockbuster, as Fate goes to torture Felix Faust.

Points of note in this issue are that there’s no obvious Gentry baddie influencing events – you could make the case that Demogorgunn is represented in Faust’s zombie army, but they don’t really move the plot. The issue ends with a temple with SUPERJUDGE (God that’s so fun to type) built into it, but the other issues all have an obvious Gentry character moving the plot. It’s also worth noting that there’s no Superman analogue here. The cover of Multiversity #1 has Abin Sur on it, and it’s pretty strongly implied that he goes through the transmatter array at the end of the book. If there’s anything we really should take away from this for the conclusion of Multiversity, it’s the enduring power of nutshots.

5. The Just #1

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The second world we stop on is Earth-16, home to Young Justice and DC’s legacy heroes. Sasha Norman, daughter of Mr. Miracle, is on the phone with Megamorpho when Safi jumps off of a building, killing herself. Sasha, through their “telebond,” caught a glimpse of a “big creepy space lady…from a horror movie or something.” The main villain of this issue seems to be ennui – it’s a world of spoiled superkids, where crime and conflict have been eradicated by Superman and an army of his robots, leaving Damian Wayne and Chris Kent (now Batman and Superman) to dick around and do nothing.

Dame Merciless is the Gentry influence here – she’s the subject of an increasingly bizarro-degraded Conner Kent’s painting. Menta finds her when she psychically inspects Megamorpho’s remains, and she’s the one Sasha sees in the telebond. Backing this up is Kyle Rayner’s conversation with Offspring (Plastic Man’s son) about how dark the Ultimate Universe got, which, screw Ultimatum, he’s totally right. Alexis Luthor and Kyle are the two who read Ultra Comics in this, and Alexis ends up coopting Chris Kent’s Superman robots at the end of the book. If Dame Merciless represents grimness, it’s an important point on how the heroes will save the day: the way you overcome the crushing, cynical insistence on gore masquerading as “adult themes” in comics is with shouted joy at how crazy comics can be. Not that ennui doesn’t have its place. I guess. Whatever.

6. Pax Americana #1


This issue was rightly nominated for an Eisner, and it’s on infinite “best of 2014” lists (including ours), because it is an absolute masterpiece of comics storytelling. Pax Americana is Morrison and Frank Quitely’s deconstruction of Watchmen, and an important piece of the Multiversity puzzle. It’s the only Earth with no representation in the Hall of Heroes because it’s the only issue of the miniseries with no heroes in it. Everybody is a bastard.

Earth-4 has, I think, been corrupted by Lord Broken, the evil house. The characters are all trapped in a loop of deconstruction, stuck in the intricate comic book structure built around them. There is one really important hint to how it will play out, besides the particle accelerator that sends Captain Atom off into the Bleed to be Chekhov’s Superman. Early in the book, the new President tells Nightshade, his daughter, “After the towers fell, we sold the dreams of children to fearful adults.” This comes up later, but the tendency in comics since then has been to align the published versions of the characters with their movie equivalents, and it started with X-Men and accelerated in 2002 with Spider-Man. Overanalysis and that treatment of the characters as brands to align are important later, and are definitely villains. Remember organic web shooters? GARBAGE.

7. New Thunderworld Adventures #1

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This whole issue should be called “Because Comics: A Manifesto.”

The fifth issue of Multiversity takes us to Earth-5, the old Fawcett world populated by the Marvel family. It’s not the best, but it is my favorite issue of the series because it’s so much fun. The Sivanas of the Multiverse create a technological duplicate of the Rock of Eternity and capture the wizard Shazam so they can mine Suspendium from the rock and create a permanent eighth day, Sivanaday. Billy Batson once again proves his value to the entire Captain Marvel story by figuring out that Sivanaday is shorter than a normal day, and using suspendium to create a time loop so he can help himself figure it out goddammit time travel.

This is the most all-ages friendly book in the series, and it’s also the first one where there’s any sort of happy ending. The Legion of Sivanas, probably a Demogorgunn stand-in, are trying to mine the magic out of comics. The magic vs. science conflict is dismissed by Captain Marvel when he paraphrases Clarke and says that they’re the same thing, but this is also Morrison pointing out that overanalysis and “adultness” suck the fun out of comics. As an aside, Quitely’s art on Pax Americana is probably the best, but Cameron Stewart’s art here is my favorite. The panel where Magnificus Sivana hits Captain Marvel with a car was AWESOME. Aside to the aside: I love that I get to write things like “The panel where Magnificus Sivana hits Captain Marvel with a car.”

8. The Multiversity Guidebook #1

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Usually these handbooks are fanwanky fluff, designed to excite hardcore fans but to be disregarded by anyone concerned with the overarching narrative in the book. This issue, though, ended up being the linchpin on which the rest of the series hinged. It’s here where the main villain of Multiversity was revealed.

The framing sequence has li’l Dick Grayson (pun almost certainly unintentional, because as has been canonically demonstrated by Midnighter in Graysondat ass) fighting off an army of Sivanabots to protect the chibi transmatter array. It takes place on Earth-42, and has the Atomic Knight Batman from Earth-17 (who is now on the cover of Multiversity #2) joining him. It also lays out Morrison’s idea of the structure of the multiverse, the importance of the Flash to the entire multiverse. It lays out the events critical to the history of the multiverse: the creation of the Flash; him meeting his Earth-2 counterpart; the JLA/JSA crossovers from the ’60s; the creation of the cosmic treadmill; and the critical crossovers since Crisis on Infinite Earths – Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, 52, Final Crisis and Flashpoint. In the course of explaining why Darkseid from the first arc of New 52 Justice League was a tire fire of a character (HEAR HEAR) it also reveals that The Empty Hand is the boss of the Gentry. The origin of the multiverse is told, showing the hand closing around the early universe that’s been canon since the ’80s and has represented a bunch of different stuff, most notably Krona, the rogue Guardian from Oa.

A couple of important things happen in this issue besides the historical retellings: the “local” multiverse is mentioned, as well as a canonical statement that the records of all the missing/deleted/destroyed universes are kept “…written into the fiction of Earth-33.” Nix unleashes Darkseid on the whole multiverse while the New Gods sit in New Genesis, orbiting the Orrery of Worlds regaining their strength. The biggest clue to the ending and meaning of the series comes at the end of the story, when the Empty Hand revives the dead members of the chibi League as zombie slaves. The multiverse is powerless in the face of li’l Dick.

9. Mastermen #1

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Any book that starts with Hitler on the can squeezing out a rageloaf should automatically be considered a masterpiece. Mastermen is the story of Earth-10, a world where Superman’s ship crashes in occupied Europe at the start of World War 2, giving Hitler the weapon he needed to take over the world. And he does, using Superman to conquer the United States at the end of a more prolonged conflict, showing us scenes of the Nazis burning comic books at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Jump forward 60 years, and we see Overman having guilt dreams about the death of his sister/clone, Overgirl, in a callback to both Final Crisis and Crisis on Infinite Earths, only with Lord Broken floating around in the background, and that’s the key to understanding this story.

Overman is trapped by his own story. He has no choice but to be the Nazi Ubermensch because by a fluke of chance, that’s where he’s raised. But he struggles against the confines of that story, trying to find a way to redeem himself when there’s no way out but the massive tragedy that he’s most likely the cause of – he is the traitor to the Nazi Justice League, giving info to Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and causing the Human Bomb’s explosion on The Eagle’s Nest (the League’s spacebound watchtower), which destroyed Metropolis when it fell from the sky. It’s redemption, but it has a cost. Also worth noting: there aren’t any copies of other Multiversity books in this story. They’re all probably hiding in Leatherwing’s thighs.

10. Ultra Comics #1

The final issue of the trip is the comic that’s been haunting and infecting the rest of the multiverse: Ultra Comics. It was also the funniest comic I’ve read from Morrison in years.

He deliberately picks apart his own tropes and storytelling tics. Ultra, the first hero of Earth-33, is INSANELY meta. He is outright stated to be a comic book hero, whose blood is four color ink and sees his thoughts on the page they’re written on. He’s a “cybernetic comic book designed to capture and dissect a suspected hostile independent thought form” – Intellectron, the evil easter egg. He’s released into a time-jumbled world where the fight with the Gentry is simultaneously over and ongoing, and he fights off a bug Justice League trying to save “Red Hood,” a girl whose character design invokes Hit Girl, but whose name seems to be mocking Jason Todd. He actually manages to overpower Intellectron at one point because of snarky Tumblr comments on the page as captions.

This whole issue is about infection: the infectious power of bad ideas, GIGO information overload caused by the internet and the multitudinous ways of information conveyance in our society today. It’s also a subtle slam on the impact that movie and tv adaptations have on comics. “The oblivion machine” that Intellectron talks about darkens our stories – “where once were palaces and spaceships, only charnel houses and brothels remained.” It “eats yur precious mortal hours, grows fat on yur wasted time.” The only thing that eats my precious mortal hours more than the tube is that stupid Avengers Facebook game. AAH SHIT I’VE BEEN INFECTED.

So What Have We Learned?

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Reading these books again for this list was an absolute blast. This series has been a hell of a lot of fun and an intense intellectual exercise, and now’s the time for our informed speculation! Based on the clues I’ve pulled from the rest of the series, here’s what I think will happen in Multiversity #2:

The Guidebook calling out the “local” multiverse was too conspicuous a statement to not be important. There are also points of entry on the map of the Multiverse where it’s been speculated that new worlds can enter and leave. So I think the infinite multiverse is coming back. The orrery will be broken. Mastermen and The Society of Super-Heroes tell me that sacrifices have to be made by the heroes to win, and somebody is going to die. Overcorp (from Action Comics #9) and the Empty Hand seem to indicate that corporatization of comics, turning the companies into IP farms, is the real enemy.

The composition of the team sent into the multiverse on the Ultima Thule in Multiversity #1 and the group that saved the day at the end of Final Crisis showed how to beat that, though: the infinite interpretations of Superman, the creativity of the Green Lantern Corps and the hope represented by the Pax Dei all defeated story vampires, and they will again. Demogorgunn will be beaten by a stand in for the expanding comics audience – probably a new team of infinite, infinitely diverse Monitors; Lord Broken will get caught by an out of nowhere twist (Captain Atom coming back, I bet); Dame Merciless will get hugged to death by chibi Steel; Hellmachine will be ignored until he goes away; and Captain Carrot will drop an anvil on Intellectron. And Ultra Comics will probably show up and snark the Empty Hand to death. Because as we’ve learned time and time again, no corporation can withstand the combined might of three sarcastic assholes on Twitter.

Previously by Jim Dandeneau
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