Grant Morrison, and to some extent the metaphysics of the DC Multiverse, have a very Gnostic flavour with an affinity for Manichean Dualism. Universe A and Universe B, The Invisibles and the Archons, Apokolips and New Genesis, Monitor and Anti-Monitor. The multiversal map conceived by Morrison and Rian Hughes seems to be made up various binary couplings be they the world’s within the Orrery or realms beyond its boundaries. So in a way it is almost no surprise to find that the Multiversity event concludes with a tale wherein both good and evil are victorious. This idea Grant has at least previously explored in his heavily Gnostic The Invisibles. As a product of the train of thought Superjudge becomes a story that is both layered and meaningful but also light and humorous.
On the surface, Superjudge has a surprisingly happy conclusion, particularly when we consider the generally bleak theme of the series as a whole. Not only that, but the journey to that conclusion is a grand and glorious rollercoaster ride. The Sivanas get their comeuppance, the riddle of the Transmatter Symphonic Arrays is solved allowing the heroes of the Multiverse to unite and defeat the Gentry, this in turn leads to the formation of Multiversal league of heroes. Finally Nix is liberated from his corrupted slavery, albeit at the cost of an eye which now renders him much like his namesake. (Uotan/Wotan, wink-wink) The series ends much where it began but with Nix able to pay his landlady. Incidentally, the always astute Rikdad explores the implications of the narrative quite thoroughly in his thoughts on the issue. Particularly in light of a suggested reading of the event that he and many others have been formulating as the series has progressed.
Though the Gentry are indeed brought low and their master is forced to retreat, it is not without some revelation and warning. If we didn’t catch it during the excitatory buzz of the first reading then on further reading we realise that the Empty Hand and the Gentry are far from defeated and could indeed pose a far greater threat than that which we initially imagined. Another thing that might escape us on our initial reading is a big clue as to who the Empty Hand may actually be. If anything, this is something that might never have crossed my mind had it not been for a conversation on Twitter the Thursday after the book’s release.
That’s pretty intense when you think about it, even if it doesn’t turn out to be true. However looking at the panel wherein we are given our fullest glimpse of this particular antagonist the visual clues are there. The Ultragem no doubt corrupted and forming a double inverse Trikona yantra. This not only resembles Ultra’s chest logo but in Tantric iconography symbolises masculinity and godhood, or doubly so in this case. Notice also the subtlest hint of Ultra’s angular shoulder pads. Of course by having the ultimate thought robot or golem become the villain of villains sort of parodies our desire to see our heroes darkened or broken. One can easily imagine a cackling Grant reminding us we should be careful what we wish for. I’ve tried to fathom just how Ultra becomes the Empty Hand, and I have an idea but it’s pretty ethereal and abstract. (Possibly convoluted.) When all’s said and done, and when you really think about it, the intricacies don’t really actually matter. Not least because, through a sort of retroactive enchantment, Ultra and the Empty Hand are now, to borrow a quantum phrase, entangled. The twist is just so delightfully sinister and mischievous and allows Ultra Comics to truly become the haunted comic we had been warned of all along.
There really is just so much to this one issue alone. For example last night I started thinking about why the Marvel analogues and Earth’s 7 and 8 play such a prominent role? Then it struck me. In Multiversity we have an analogue of events soon to be played out in Secret Wars. We know that the Ultimate universe (Earth 1610) will come to an end, as will Earth 616 (the current mainstream continuity), and what remains will be brought into a new mainstream Marvel continuity. Deliberately or not Grant has played out a very similar fate for his Marvel analogues within Multiversity.
Of course this seems to be the year of the Multiverse, what with the previously mentioned anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Multiversity, Convergence, Secret Wars. In the pages of MTMTE, James Roberts essentially creates or confirms the existence of a multiverse within IDW’s G1 Transformers properties. Heck, even Gail Simone’s Swords of Sorrow umbrellas various female pulp icons utilising them in what appears to be a crisis event narrative.
So beyond a critical and interpretive legacy that will probably endure unto the ages, what else does Multiversity leave us with? What is the legacy of this event and Grant’s supposed departure from mainstream monthlies? While no series directly follows on from Multiversity, the Multiversity Guidebook gives us possible glimpses of some post Convergence titles and narratives. Grant has already put his spin on Darkseid’s return post Final Crisis, and with two prologues already published the upcoming Darkseid War is the most obvious progeny of sorts of Multiversity. Not only that but in the space of a few pages in Justice League #40 DC essentially recalled and canonized its entire prior continuity much in the same way that the Multiversity Guidebook did for its narrative. That same week in Action Comics #40, we were taken to what I presume is Earth 29 when Earth 0′s Superman was catapulted into the Bizarro-verse. This may or may not be its setting but we do know there is a six issue Bizarro series being published post Convergence. Finally, is it too much to hope that the upcoming Dark Universe title gives us more of Earth 13 after our brief dalliance there at the beginning of Superjudge?
Of course, even if readers do not care for current continuity, then the series as a whole, and no doubt the Multiversity Guidebook, should hopefully lead them to various moments in Grant’s and also DC’s vast back catalogue. Since the series began, I have picked up and read trades of Zenith, Kirby’s Fourth World, and Shazam! I’ve dusted off my copy of Watchmen and reread Final Crisis several times over. Come to think of it, I really should finish the final volume of The Invisibles soon. So, in a way, even if no one else has, I at the very least will fulfil the notion first postulated in my first Multiversity write up. Every Grant Morrison book is at the very least a gateway into other Grant Morrison books.
Either way this has been something of a journey for me, both as a contributing writer and as a person. Without plucking at your heart strings too much, I’ve been going through a lot of upheaval. Multiversity and my write ups have been my rock in some ways. However you look at it, this is definitely turning out to be a year for change.
I’m not fond of goodbyes, or generally don’t tend to believe in them. But I won’t be able to stay away from online contribution entirely. Still, I guess like some poor analogue of the great Grant himself, I too am stepping away from monthly’s but not the medium entirely so to speak.
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Further down the river,