Three issues in and the Multiversity event shows no signs of slowing down or disappointing. One of the added joys of The Just for me personally was seeing more of Ultra Comics and that books titular character, who does indeed seem to not only visually evoke Marvelman but also Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel. Satire? Homage? Timely none the less, considering recent announcements from Marvel Studios. Another interesting thing to note is that we are shown scenes of Ultra facing imminent and all-consuming peril. If Ultra is indeed the most obvious fiction suit offered to the reader in this series then we will very shortly be facing that same peril with the fate of the Multiverse resting on our shoulders.
Having discussed Grant Morrison’s ability to write engaging villains in my Interlude, it was also quite a pleasant surprise to find a more than sympathetic and entertaining villain in the form of the daughter of Earth-16′s Lex Luthor; Alexis. Part of the premise of The Just is that the prior generation of Superheroes were successful in their quests against crime and evil. This leads to a sense of self-indulgent privilege and boredom. Alexis’ father, it turns out, was also successful having at some point killed Superman. Part of me likes to think that the murder was achieved in a not too dissimilar fashion to the solar poisoning as depicted in All Star Superman. What interests me about Alexis is her passion, her interests (which include her comics and her relationship with Damian Wayne), and her inventiveness; all of which provide the catalyst for Earth-16′s participation in the Multiversity event.
After delving into the quantum world, a common almost Gnostic conclusion that many modern magicians, philosophers, and even some of the more open minded scientists come to is that we are the sense organs by which the universe comprehends and appreciates itself. Translate this into comic terms, in particular Morrison’s work, and you have the idea that all the diverse characters are the feelers for the realms in which they inhabit. This is not far off Grant’s idea of the Superorganism evolving towards and inhabiting the Supercontext, as posited in The Invisibles. Further, if we think of the entirety of the Multiversity as an independent entity – in magic we call this an egregore, thoughtform or tulpa – one could argue that The Just marks the dawning of its’ (hopefully increasing) self-awareness.
Confused? Ok. House of Heroes can be read as a traumatic birth by which we are introduced to the Multiverse through various unsettling events. In Conquerors of Counter Worlds the nascent Multiverse begins to hesitantly remember it’s nature, albeit on a rather limited scale. By The Just however, particularly as Damian plays catch up with his girlfriend Alexis through her comic collection, we and the Multiverse learn more about the structure of the Multiverse than in either of the prior issues. With that in mind is it any coincidence the story told in this issue is christened #planetme? Obviously the title is a reference to the narcissistic and shallow nature of Earth 16′s heroes but as with all of Grant’s work it is often the little things that hold multiple meanings. I can’t help but wonder if Grant who once attempted to explain Recapitulation theory is using the Multiversity event to apply and explore that theory applied to the comic medium.
On first reading, #planetme is quite sedate, very little seems to actually happen. If anything it is a tale of false starts and disappointment which perfectly illustrates the idea of existential ennui. This general apathy and malaise, in a world where the prior generation of Superheroes eradicated all evil, manifests as indifference among the populace, a self-indulgent decadence among the next generation of capes and cowls and an almost ossified existence for their surviving predecessors. Just as this is the state the Archons attempt to engineer humanity towards in The Invisibles and Darkseid inflicts an advanced state of this via the Anti-Life Equation in Final Crisis so The Gentry begin their infiltration of Earth-16 through dreams and art. Dreams are universal, art too is everywhere, both are subliminal. In a world where actual interdimensional invasions are a seemingly daily, and easily deterred, occurrence, what better way to infect and corrupt a jaded populace?
Going back to the premise of my first Multiversity article, and as illustrated in a few examples already mentioned, The Just informs and is informed by a variety of Grant’s prior works. The most obvious of these would be Zenith. Zenith‘s titular character is the child of two superheroes, using his powers for fame and kicks who is drawn into a battle against multidimensional evil. This could be any number of the analogous heroes in #planetme. Another less obvious influence is the one shot story We’re All Policemen Now from The Invisibles. In this story Grant, using King Mob, deconstructs the notion of celebrity by throwing it into a particle accelerator. The Superhero birthday party seen in The Just is a safer depiction of the orgiastic rites seen not only in We’re All Policemen Now but also Flex Mentallo #3.
The Just also ties into All Star Superman in a variety of ways. The most important being it’s depiction of suicide. Everyone agrees and will hopefully always agree that Superman taking time out to come to Regan’s aid is the most poignant moment in that series if not all of comics. Christopher Kent’s failure in his relatively task free existence to avert Saffi Mason’s death is further compounded by his inability to think of her as anyone other than Megamorpho.
Finally Ben Oliver’s art alongside Dan Brown’s colouring perfectly capture a world of beautiful if somewhat flawed and tarnished souls. So there you have it, even in the shallow hollow worlds of celebrity and privilege great depths can be found. Of course there is much more to be found in this issue than I have discussed here. However rather than plaigeristically regurgitate the words of others I again recommend you head over to Comic Book Resources and Deep Space Transmissions for their page by page annotations. With any luck I’ll see you next time as we take a trip to Earth-4 in Pax Americana to once more meet my most favourite Superman of all Allen Adam.