Urg, Pax Americana is in this part, but so is Thunderworld – so yay!
In Which We Burn (The Multiversity: Pax Americana)
I’m going to have write something about every scene just to make this recap worth reading: Quick Summary: Earth-4: Peacemaker shoots president Harely. Nightshade argues with her father, now the president. They have two different conversations but he is adamant, the American Superhero is dead and Peacemaker killed it. Blue Beetle and Nightshade fail to apprehend The Question, who’s investigating the murder of Nora O’Rourke and Algorithm 8. The Question investigates the crime scene of O’Rourke’s murder, she was Peacemaker’s lover (?*) and she cracked Algorithm 8 – a pattern, a formula that can predict the future – O’Rouke was killed with a bust, used like a club, by someone wearing the weapons of an old Pax Americana villain. Captain Atom is teleported out of the universe by a Hadron Collider-come-Transmatter Cube while reading Ultra Comics #1, the scientists have put a black hole in his head, Sgt. Steele shoots them to death. Nigthshade argues with her mum. How long ago did Peacemaker plan to kill the president? The Question kills a criminal and talks about Spiral Theory. Pax Americana (The Question, Tiger, Peacemaker, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and Nightshade) are unveiled by President Harley, Captain Atom builds a new three towered structure where the World Trade Centre once was – out of nothing, in an instant. Presidential candidate Harley meets Captain Atom and explains his plan and Algorithm, using it he has decided to be killed and resurrected to show the people a miracle. Peacemaker saves Dubya. Peacemaker says Harley chose to become the sacrifice in his plan because he deserved it. The Question kills a smack dealer with his own smack, Blue Beetle is horrified. At his father’s graveside Harley has his epiphany. Harley finds his father’s gun in his studio when Yellowjacket comes in, Harley shoots him dead, he takes of his mask – “Dad?”
I’ve heard the argument that people only use ‘pretentious’ when something’s too smart for them and they don’t understand it, though apparently it actually means “attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed” that is pretending to be more than it is, Pax American is trying to be more than necessary so it’s not really pretentious it does piss me off though, and part of that is because it’s too smart for me but mostly because it’s overstuffed and like all overstuffed things, it tastes funny. We have a comic retelling Watchmen with the Charlton Comics characters (who were originally supposed to be the characters featuring in that series) and commenting on it, everything referencing the number 8, and the whole thing is based around Spiral Dynamics, a not-that-well-known theory that is generally considered pseudoscience bollocks and that’s mostly only shown by the colouring, and the whole story is told backwards. That’s a lot of stuff to stuff into a single 1-shot, too much stuff and half of its unnecessary and here just to show how clever Grant Morrison is, the book’s doing so much it forgot to tie into the event its part of. If you want a really good in-depth look at it, how it breaks down and fits into Spiral Dynamics and what it all means then the Comics Alliance did a fantastic piece on it here.
Some people will tell you this is the best book in the series and will undoubtedly be called pretentious bastards by the others who will tell you that this is the worst book the series and will be branded shallow by the first group. It’s undoubtedly the best drawn book the series, Frank Quietly is pretty damn brilliant anyway (that potato face issue aside) but shows up as even more talented here when he’s forcing his art into the rigid 8-panels-per-page format (Watchmen used 9 panels per page) without his art looking compromised. On the rest of it – well here’s the thing: I don’t care about Spiral Dynamics, I don’t care about theories in general, and I don’t care about what comments the bloke who wrote Planet X has on one of the most perfect comics of all time, so the extra symbolic elements do nothing to enhance my experience but that is entirely personal and if those sorts of things are your sort of things then the book’s fine in that regard. It is the major problem with the book though – what if you don’t care and just want a good story with the Charlton Comics characters? What’s left then? Not a lot. It’s an ok little story but not a very original one – not just because it’s a variant of the events of Watchmen – it’s a simple murder mystery with a simple twist (the victim set up his own murder) with a small cast of characters (we barely meet Tiger) and some needlessly hard to read page layouts, compared to all what’s going on in some of the other books this feels like all symbolism no substance.
Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was (The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures)
Yaaay! Quick Summary: The Wizard Shazam finds a new day in the Cosmic Calendar – Sivanaday – just as a new, artificial Rock of Eternity arrives. Sivana has worked out the messages in the comics and joined up with a whole Multiverse of Sivanas and inserted a new day and is going to conqueror the Multiverse, not only that but he’s worked out a formula that allows him to duplicate the effects of Captain Marvel’s lightning – turning Magnificus, Georgia and Thaddeus Jr. into Captain Sivana, Georgia Sivana and Captain Sivana Junior! On Earth-5 in Fawcett City time is out of control and Billy Batson is reporting on it, when a Billy Batson from tomorrow turns up and warns his past self to look at the clock and the sun. As Future!Billy fades the Sivanna Family arrive and – Shazam! – Captain Marvel takes on all three of them until Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior can arrive. Then it’s time to wrap up the right – but with Sivanna Junior punched to the moon and Georgia tricked into depowering Captain Sivana is still smiling; they were only keeping the Marvels busy until their dad could release the Monsters. The Monster Society of Evil* have arrived – BUT so have the Lieutenant Marvels lead by Tawky Tawny and no monster can stand up to a badass tigerman with a jetback, an education and a big ass gun. Free to save their wizard Cap flies to the Rock of Eternity via the subway tunnel he came through when he first got his powers, after some psychedelic pop-art bullshit he’s read to tackle Sivana, but the Legion of Sivanas are ready for him (even if Serial Killer Sivanna creeps them out a bit): Marvel arrives and Sivana becomes Black Sivana and as Marvel’s argument that science and magic are the same thing doesn’t sway Sivanan’s ‘SCIENCE R BETTER’ rant they resort t punching. When that fails Captain Marvel turns back into Billy to buy himself some time, sends the message we saw earlier to past!Billy and figures out what he meant – the other Sivanas tricked his one, they scrimped on the necessary Suspendium and only gave him an 8-hour day, which is now over, and Sivana fails once again.
That was awesome! I’m having trouble writing a sensible ‘review’ of it and that’s kind of fitting as the whole point of this story seems to be don’t overanalyse and spoil the wonder of the superhero, that was the point of Pax Americana too but all the symbolism and horseshit and Spiral Theory kind of undermined the point by requiring analysis just to understand the book. You can analyse Thunderworld Adventures if you like but it WILL spoil the fun, because the book IS fun, a great adventure from one of the genre’s greatest – and purest – heroes fighting his arch nemesis with one of his typically bizarre and creative yet ultimately doomed schemes and crowd-pleasing appearances from all the major names in his supporting cast and rogue’s gallery. Captain Marvel shouldn’t be anything but fun and awesomeness, he doesn’t need to be anything else and this book is a lovely bit of proof, proof that DC itself needs to take notice of after how they’ve been treating the Fawcett heroes and ESPECIALLY the Marvel Family since Infinite Crisis.
Cameron Stewart’s art is especially gorgeous and actually proves a point about superheroines and their costumes – people complain about women and their depiction in superhero comics and rightly so; the problem that usually comes up is that women are overly sexualized in comics – they are – when people missing the point say ‘but the men wear tight costumes too’ the reply is that they are not sexualized in how they’re drawn, women often are – this is also true. Unfortunately the way the Big Two seem to be dealing with the issue is by giving female characters new costumes to cover them up, these costumes are invariably inferior and often ugly, awkward and over-designed – how much skin they show is irrelevant, they’re just shitty costume designs - and it’s all for naught if they don’t stop the artists drawing them in a sexualized manner, they just draw them that way with more clothes on. Now look at how Stewart draws Mary Marvel and Georgia Sivana (transformed) – Mary doesn’t really wear much (though Georgia wears less) but Steward doesn’t draw her in a sexualized manner, he does do this for Georgia because that’s part of her point, she’s over-sexualized because that’s what the ugly girl inside sees as an ideal (and she is very attractive, Stewart gives her a lovely facial design that just finishes her off and makes her gorgeous). The main problem with female superheroes (as I, your lord and master see it) is people drawing the Mary Marvels like they’re Georgia Sivanas (or worse) not their costumes, as Stewart proves perfectly here with Mary Marvel.
So in conclusion there is no bad here, read Thunderworld Adventures.
Maps and Legends (The Muliversity Guidebook)
While the guidebook is a sourcebook it also has a story running through it, and it’s the first time we’ve gotten back to the main plot since Multiversity 1. Quick-ish Summary: On Earth-42 Serial-Killer Sivanna roasts some of the Little League, much to the shock of Lil’ Sivana, done he takes his mini-me through the Transmatter Cube to their false Rock of Eternity leaving Lil’ Batman, Green Arrow and Hawkman to make a final stand. Lil’ Batman allows Arrow and Hawk’ to escape* but is happily saved by the surprise arrival of Atomic Batman from Earth-17. A-Bats is as surprised as anyone else. On the False Rock the Legion of Sivana’s turn on Lil’ Sivana and eat him, but the Marvels arrive so they bug out, Serial Killer Sivana staying behind for Mary Marvel. Batman picks up one of the comic books the Sivanas left behind – this comic to be precise, and reads, as do we:
On Earth-51 Ben Boxer, Kamandi and Chief Tuftan arrive on the Island of the God Watchers looking for Kamandi’s lover Flower. Watched by the New Gods* they come across the empty Tomb of Darksied* and once inside – thanks to Boxer’s BIOMAC form – they find the history fo the DC Multiverse up to this point.
Back on Earth-42 Lil’ Batman and Atomic Batman team up to get the Transmatter Cube working and Lil’ Batman uses the guidebook to pick an Earth. We meanwhile get files on all 52 earths (Earths 0-51). On Earth-51 Kamandi & Co escape the temple as a the skies turn red and a Crises I supon them, Nix Uotan releases Darksied to plague humanity and the New Genesis New Gods decide to not interfere directly until their power is fully returned (after their death and rebirth in Final Crisis) as the Empty Hand is behind everything. On Earth-42 Lil’ Batman gets the Transmatter Cube working but finds out they’re all robots there, and is sent to earth-17 by Atomic-Batman who in turn ends up in the House of Heroes, which is under attack from Hellmachine, and the Empty Hand activates his sleeper agents – the Lil’ Leaguers of Earth-42.
This is how you do a sourcebook right – you make it as interesting to read as the rest of the issues it’s a guide to, hell you make it essential reading to the story, BUT you keep all the information plain and easy to find, read and reference.
The story is ok but it shares a few issues with Multiversity issue one – we have smaller cases of things not being shown, jumping from one part of a scene to another, needlessly confusing dialogue (Atomic Batman’s clearly talking in the slang of his world but it does get a little over-the-top), some panel’s layouts not giving us a clear idea of where everyone is in relation to everyone else and/or not focussing on something that needs to be focussed on to aid our understanding… and no fucking sound effects making some actions hard to decipher when they really shouldn’t be (and the lack of feet stamping sounds really kills the atmosphere of the Sivanadroids approaching the Batmen) but it’s not as noticeable as Multiversity 1 nor do these problems appear in such vital panels/scenes (most of the time).
I really like the Atomic Batman design with its ‘70s style manga influences – I can’t seem to find who designed the suit but it’s just fantastic to look at, it looks like an old Japanese toy and is very well balanced in both colour and design AND it’s not over-detailed. I don’t get the Lil’ Earth and its characters, I think it’s supposed to recall stuff like Tiny Titans or Lil’ Gotham (which were both awesome) or just the Chibi style of art but it’s a pretty unoriginal idea that’s been used better* (The cute things are really evil/they’re all really robots) even if it is always creepy, and the Lil’ Leaguers as agents of the Empty Hand will have no effect on anything anyway.
|They actually made Jack-in-the-Box look MORE Creepy?|
On the new earths – I like the concept of there being Earths that are equivalents of comics that have Superman equivalents in them (Big Bang Comics, Astro City, Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios/Maximum Press/Awesome Comics) though a lot of the designs aren’t that great, they seem a bit rushed and uncreative, and the Astro City characters are downright creepy (I like that, but it doesn’t really work as a stand in for the classic superhero style Astro City uses). I’m also completely on-board with them having an Image-equivalent Earth, after all they’ve had a Marvel-style earth since the 1970s though again some of the designs don’t do much for me, though this time it’s more that they’re not as good as Dino-Cop, it’s like all the effort went into that and there was none left to give us good analogues of Shadowhawk, Witchblade, Invincible et all – and they really missed a trick not making the Martian Manhunter analogue also the Pitt analogue which in turn would have referenced Pitt being so clearly inspired by The Incredible Hulk. Who else was there? The Gender-swapped Earth (Earth-11) is a concept that’s been around for ages and is fine, the Nu52 Wonder Woman costume really works as a bloke’s outfit; I’ll save my thoughts on Superdemon and Earth-13 until it shows up in Multiversity 2; I think Earth-31’s new but it looks awfully familiar in a way too, that’s either a sign of good design work or I’m thinking of those Pirate Batman action figures Kenner made; Earth-39 is just plain silly as the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are in the public domain and they could have just used the real things, but then given DC’s history of paying for things that are now in the public domain (and probably was then too) maybe it’s fitting; I like how Morrison’s brought together so many elements to make the new Earth-48 but Lord Quark talked utter bollocks in the main story and then had the cheek to go ‘can I be more clear?’ yes you could Grant, often.
Next Part: Hitler on a toilet – what else do you need to know?
* She could be his wife, I’m not sure
* Mr Mind, Sobek, Mr Atom, Oom the Mighty and Storm King from Hoppy the Marvel Bunny!
* think that’s what happens – it’s not really shown - again.
* Multiversity sets up the satisfying concept that the various New Gods showing up in the New 52 are all emanations of the ‘true’ New Goods (the original Jack Kirby ones) who reside in the Godsphere
* Darkseid’s tomb is based on an unreleased playset from Kenner’s The Superpowers Collection action figure line.
* going back to the Extremists Vector again, the ‘really robots’ reveal was used there and it was far creepier and far better handled, and there was an additional plot twist.