The Multiversity- The Just #1. Grant Morrison- Writer, Ben Oliver- Art, Ben Oliver with Dan Brown- Colorists.
This comic may not be the most self-aware comic ever published, but it is without a doubt a comic about comics as much as it is about anything else. We are introduced to another parallel Earth that is both different and familiar. It is easy to imagine this world as a possible future of the pre-Flashpoint DC Earth. Connor Hawke, Chris Kent, Damian Wayne and Pieter Cross (Dr. Mid-Nite) all make an appearance. The comic opens with a startling suicide. In this respect the issue reflects the first issue of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen– a mystery death of a super-hero and only one character realizes that there’s something more going on. In this issue the heroes are clearly bored as all crime has been eliminated by their parents and mentors.
As the issue moves on the Batman of this world slowly puts together the pieces of what’s going on. Another curious influence on this issue is the romance comic genre. Much of the issue revolves around the romantic relationship between Damian Wayne (Batman) and Alexis Luthor (Lex’s daughter.) A disapproving Chris Kent (Superman) is none too happy about this because Lex is responsible for the death of Clark (Superman) Kent on this world. None the less, these two are still the “World’s Finest” team.+
As Batman finds the comic the deceased Megamorpho (Saffi Mason) was reading before she took her own life, he is intrigued by the rise in popularity of comics. He continues to investigate and comes to find the disturbing truth about the comics- they are from parallel universes and the mode of transport for an invasion. The story is not a complete story there are a lot of characters and a lot of ideas tossed at the reader.
Ben Oliver’s art is really one wonderful to experience. It’s well drawn and very painterly. He has many opportunities to show emotion and he does a great job doing this. The many references to comics themselves are a real treat. Alexis, at one point, questions Batman’s sexual orientation. Clearly this is a reference to the accusations made by Frederick Wertham in “Seduction of the Innocent.” This sort of commentary on comics and comic criticism is also found in Watchmen. The sheer number of concepts and ideas that float around are certainly enough on which to base a whole line of comics, though vastly different from standard super-hero fare. It would seem this world is a place to do romance comics under the guise of the super-hero. Again, this is a double meaning, it’s a romance comic wearing a mask. Kon-El’s degeneration into a bizarro is both quick and humorous, but there is a wealth of story possibilities in this concept. Also, the plot actually moves forward a bit more clearly. In this series of one-shots, it is crucial to get movement since the characters are different in each issue.
The romance angle is somewhat off-putting. It takes a while to get used to it. There is a bit of a startling scene between Alexis and Batman as well. As in Winnick’s first issue of Catwoman in the New 52, it is not expected in a standard super-hero comic. This felt a bit out of step in tone with the previous two issue of The Mulitversity. However, it is not out of place for a mid ‘80’s independent comic. Reflecting on this, it’s almost as if Morrison is showing bleed over from one comic affecting another comic in a parallel universe, which in turn is what Batman discovers is happening to the comics in his world.
As always with Morrison, there’s a lot going on under the surface and between the lines. He puts a lot of references in both direct and indirect. It makes for an enjoyable experience, even if it feels like this issue slowed the progress of the over-arching narrative down. He saves it with Batman’s insight about the comics. But there is something unsettling here that makes it feel off-kilter. Perhaps, that what Morrison wants the reader to feel, a little uneasy, a little unsure. I have no doubt that when read all together it will fit seamlessly with the rest of the story, but standing alone it did not come across as strong as last month’s “Society of Super-Heroes.” 3 1/2 Daily Planets.