President Superman and Captain Carrot fighting “Doctor Doom” and pan-dimensional monsters would be amazing. Too bad that didn’t happen in The Multiversity #1.
If the folks at DC Comics are good at nothing else, it’s whipping together an impressive dimension-breaking crisis. But doesn’t it seem a little strange that the same planet Earth is always in the middle of them? If the DCU really is having cosmic events every year, wouldn’t it stand to reason that massive conflicts are also being thwarted somewhere that Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League will never find out about?
That’s the basic the gist of The Multiversity. Instead of pitting the New 52 Justice League against yet another universe-shaking disaster (they’ve got their own problems right now, thank you very much), Multiversity centers on a motley crew of heroes from parallel Earths facing something Earth One’s heroes have no clue about. It’s a great opportunity to properly map out the rarely explored 52 universes, meet characters buried in DC lore, and even give a few tongue-in-cheek acknowledgements to the competition at Marvel and Image.
The downside to that is that the concept is so huge that Multiversity #1 can’t offer much of a story. Instead, it’s dedicated to setting up the big picture ideas that will pay off in later books, while throwing a multiverse of characters and concepts at readers without giving space for things to sink in.
Multiversity is the latest mega-crisis project to come from DC scribe Grant Morrison, and bears some similarity to his Seven Soldiers of Victory books. Each Multiversity chapter will tell a standalone story in a parallel universe, building up interconnected scenes that describe a grander threat. Unlike Seven Soldiers, each book will be set in a different parallel dimension, focusing on different aspects and genres of DC history through the lens of rotating artists. It’s a great way to draw in readers who might pick up the series partway through while still rewarding those who follow Multiversity from the first issue.
With that in mind, what exactly happens in Multiversity #1? Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors, travels to Earth 7 only to discover that it’s suffered an apocalyptic event. Dark beings capable of travelling between dimensions and breaking the souls of superheroes have ravaged the planet, forcing Uotan to trade places with Thunderer, Earth 7’s final champion, to save his life. In response, Thunderer activates a machine that summons superheroes from across the 52 universes, forming an interdimensional league that can hopefully save the day.
And who exactly makes up these heroes from 52 worlds? First and foremost is President Superman, the black world leader and supehero of Earth 23. Next up is Captain Carrot, the anthropomorphic rabbit superhero of a cartoon physics world. Aquawoman is Earth 11’s Queen of Atlantis. Red Racer is the Flash of Earth 36, and a full-fledged geek to boot. There’s even alternate versions of non DC characters; Dino-Cop in particular is clearly supposed to be Image’s Savage Dragon.
That’s where the real joy of Multiversity‘s first issue comes from: Flipping from page to page and seeing impossible characters alongside each other. President Superman and Captain Carrot end up taking center stage here, just by simple virtue of being the most interesting-yet-bizarre combination of the bunch. But there’s many more references careful readers will pick up on. Earth 7 and 8 look suspiciously like the Marvel Universe. Thunderer is an Australian Aboriginal reimagining of Thor. Classic characters like Lolt Volt and Lady Quark can both be seen on the Monitor Watchstation, and there’s even miniature versions of Wonder Woman and Steel that I really want to know more about.
Trouble is, even though there’s so many characters packed together, they don’t actually do anything. Multiversity #1 is the first of a two-part bookend storyline giving a big picture view of the pan-dimensional threat, with other issues focusing on specific parallel Earths. So instead of having a clear beginning, middle, and end, Multiversity #1 introduces all the major series concepts but leaves the climactic payoff for Multiversity #2. That gives us a massive team of heroes and a wide range of impressive powers who just stand around talking backstory. Actual conflicts are constantly threatening to break out, but only two punches are thrown in the entire issue, and not between actual heroes and villains. The closest we get to a climax is a standoff between the heroes and a Doctor Doom-esque enemy, but that resolves itself with no help from the Multiversity. If DC had permission to use actual Marvel and Image characters, the extra novelty might have been worthwhile. Instead we have a bunch of flashy costumes posing and talking about how this mission is oh-so-terribly dangerous.
To Multversity‘s credit, some of the concepts it introduces should prove interesting later on. The biggest example is that in each universe, comic books are actually true stories of what’s happening to other heroes in a parallel dimension. It’s a great extension of the meta-concepts Morrison has toyed with in previous series, and it also works narratively; the Multiversity is already aware of the histories of individual members and doesn’t need much in the way of introductions. It also gives meaning to the fact that Earth-Prime, which Morrison has stated is our own world, will become a key focal point for the conflict in future issues.
But as a single issue, Multiversity #1 is the first act of a story and nothing more. I have high hopes that the standalone specials will be more cohesive, and it’s entertaining to spot some familiar faces. Until Multiversity #2, this is just a preamble instead of the standalone story that was advertised.
Bottom Line: As a series, Multiversity could be an engaging and higly imaginative mega-crisis event. But as a standalone chapter, the first issue throws a dozen new concepts at the reader while offering a payoffs. It’s great fun to see how many outlandish characters Grant Morrison fits in a single book, but we need another few issues to see how everything will fit together.
Recommendation: If you enjoy hunting through each panel for obscure references, get Multiversity #1 today. But if you’re looking for cohesive stories in the DC multiverse, you should read the upcoming specials first, then return here to catch up.[rating=3.5]