What Should I Be Looking For?: "The Multiversity: The Just #1"
All around the multiverse, people are reading comicbooks, the same comicbooks, these comicbooks written/and to be written by Grant Morrison.
The Multiversity: The Just #1Publisher: DC Comics
Length: 48 pages
Author: Grant Morrison, Ben Oliver
Release date: 2014-12
In Grant Morrison's comicbook The Multiversity comicbooks play a central role. In every universe of the multiverse that Morrison has so far revealed, people read comicbooks. In The Multiversity #1, Nix Uotan – the Superjudge – reads comicbooks; so do Dino-Cop, Red Racer and Captain Carrot. In The Multiversity: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1, good guys, Doc Fate and the Atom, and a bad guy, Felix Faust, read comicbooks. And in the third and most recent issue in the series, The Multiversity: The Just #1, people read comicbooks: Sister Miracle reads comicbooks; Alexis Luthor reads comicbooks; Offspring and Green Lantern read comicbooks; and, eventually, Batman and Superman read comicbooks.
"What do you see?" Batman asks Superman as the World's Finest read a comicbook while standing atop the Metropolis Municipal Morgue where they have just examined the remains of a friend and fellow superhero.
"What should I be looking for?" Superman asks as he peers deeply into the magazine he holds in his hands. " -- cellulose pulp, formaldehyde, wax emulsion -- ."
And the funny thing is that the magazine Superman is reading is The Multiversity: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1. Somehow, Grant Morrison's The Multiversity is seeping through the walls of the worlds, bleeding into universe after universe, finding its way into local comicbook shops on Earth after Earth after Earth.
And it's not only the last issue that shows up; as a matter of fact, the last issue doesn't even seem to be all that important. What is really important is another issue of The Multiversity that shows up as well. Only this is not one that we have seen on our Earth. It is one that is yet to come. It is our future.
This future comicbook is the one that drives the action in this issue, the one that leads to despair and suicide. And, in the last issue, it was this future comicbook that Doc Fate called "the most dangerous thing of all." It was this future comicbook that Nix Uotan, way back in The Multiversity #1, subjected to what he called a "live dissection." Ultra Comics it is/will be called. And it is/will be haunted.
So, all around the multiverse, people are reading comicbooks, the same comicbooks, these comicbooks written/and to be written by Grant Morrison.
People are reading the same comicbooks, but reading them in vastly different worlds.
In one world, Superman is the President of the United States. In another world, time seems to have stalled in "The Golden Age." In this latest issue, the world looks something like the future of the (fictional) DC Universe. I can't speak to the world that is to come in the pages of that haunted issue from our future; that is yet to be revealed, at least to us here on this Earth.
And so, here we are in the present, in a world without superheroes. Here I am writing about this issue, this new one, this present one that will itself be past by the time this review goes live at PopMatters.
And I find myself wondering if this world, this world that I inhabit, is going to be in the pages of Morrison's The Multiversity and wondering what bits of dialogue he might choose to put on the page, which artist might be tasked with revealing our strengths and our flaws, our beauty and our ugliness.
And I wonder which of the comicbooks in this series we will be reading, which one will be important to our story, which one might be the most haunting to us. Of course, I have yet to see the one that is coming, that comicbook of the future, and cannot yet know what it contains. But I suspect that it might be this current issue that we will be caught reading, this The Multiversity: The Just #1. I suspect that this issue might be haunted too, at least on our world, at least to us.
After all, so many of us, though not nearly enough of us, live in a world of privilege and wealth and safety that is reminiscent of the world in these pages, a world watched over by a benevolent and powerful army of protectors, a world in which celebrity style and celebrity romance can sometimes become an all consuming distraction, a world in which those of us at the top rest on the laurels of our ancestors and refuse to care about those who find no such rest, a world in which fiction is more interesting to us than reality because our reality is so safe and boring, a world in which we spend hours poring over the minutia of a fictional universe, or a fictional mutiverse, tracing down every dead-end lead left by the wise and playful author, searching for hidden meanings and clues about things that are not and never will be real – at least not real in the way that blood and dirt and tears are real.
And so what should I be looking for, Mr. Morrison, when I read this book? What should we be looking for as we read its pages from the roof of the morgue, or the shade of a garden, or the comfort of our bed? I know about the cellulose pulp, formaldehyde, and wax emulsion. But Batman tells me that it is "not about the chemical composition." Batman tells me that it is the "content" that is important.
But when I look at the content I can see at least two very different things.
One is playful, self-referential, ironic. Look who Batman is dating! Look what Morrision did to Johnny Thunder! He's including us in the story; WE are a part of the DC multiverse!
It's a "post-postmodern way to make superheroes seem interesting."
But I see something else: a warning against the very triviality that The Multiversity seems to celebrate, a cautionary tale for those – like me and like you, I suspect – who spend all of our time worrying and wondering over something as insignificant as cellulose pulp, formaldehyde, and wax emulsion.
What should I be looking for? What should we be looking for?
All I know, the only clue that I have as to how to read these stories, is found in the fact that the comicbooks in Morrison's tales are dangerous things. They contain a threat and a challenge to every world in which they appear. The virus they contain is more dangerous than any techno-virus, any Bizarro-virus. They contain the most dangerous thing of all.
They are deadly serious. They are haunted.
This is what I see.
What do you see?