“Our Sonnet’s End Attained, Awaits The Hearse Let’s Raise Our Gaze From Verse… To Multiverse!”:

Multiversity #2, Superjudge

The Multiverse's birth recalled on the first page of the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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.

So yes, if you’ve enjoyed my write ups or any other articles you’ve read on Sequart do consider contributing to our Patreon. You get some seriously good monthly treats in return.

Further down the river,

Dave

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hopepunk. Rapturist. Support worker. Writer. Firm believer that Chaos Magic is the Punk rock of the Paranormal and that Comic Books are our modern Grimoires. Dave views his contributing role to Sequart as the opportunity to nurture and hone his craft. All the while celebrating the comic medium and exploring it's interpretation and importance.

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11 Comments

  1. ...David Whittaker says:

    Sean,

    Thanks for that link man. You know, in the Twitter conversation I mentioned Neb-ul-oh came up as a possibly identity for the Empty Hand as well.

  2. reynard says:

    David,

    I also assumed that TEH was Neb Buh Loh and thus the mature form of Qwewq and thus our world and thus the Earth-33 that Ultra Comics was published on and thus we ourselves reading the comic. I think TEH may be all of those things as well as the Original Empty Hand that Krona (of Oa) saw, essentially bringing evil into the DCU and creating the need for the Green Lantern Corps.

    Grant Morrison always has nice callbacks to his earlier work and discovering that the seemingly innocuous (though actually incredibly important) subplot of the Infant Universe is finally wrapped-up, and brandishing the Ultragem, gave this a particular type of closure for me. Though does this imply that we are the threat that the new Multiversal League must combat? Are they the noble/good thoughts and ideas that have to deal with all of the malicious/bad ideas barraging our minds in our hyper-connected modern world?

    I for one would love to know that Captain Marvel can single-handedly battle depression within the mindscape but I may be reaching. Especially since as far as I can tell no follow-up to this series is planned (though I assume we thought we would never see Limbo from “Animal Man” again and such was my surprise when I read “Superman Beyond).

    • ...David Whittaker says:

      *nods*

      I don’t discount the Qwewq hypothesis at all. As a matter of fact I’m pretty enamoured of it. Not least because it ties in with the whole growing a universe idea posited in the Invisibles and gives me a wholenew level of reading and plausible puzzle to solve.

      is this the last we see of Qweq? Could one posit a link between Qweq and Universe B? A lot of descriptions of the Outer Church dscribe it as sort of living albeit sick and machine like being?

      I also see a parallel with Flex Mentallo. Creativity and goodness corrupted, lashing out (self) destructively.

      • Sean Dillon says:

        It should be noted that the author of the post I liked to also completed a series of essays on The Multiversity recently (http://mindlessones.com/tag/multiversity/) and has previously written about it’s sister series Seven Soldiers (http://andrewhickey.info/tag/seven-soldiers/) both of which posit that Qweq is a product of corruption from both the diegetic (which, in this case is, is our actions within it) and the extradiegetic (the DC Universe itself).

      • reynard says:

        I had forgotten about Universe B. Time to work on this puzzle, as you say, and what a puzzle to look forward to. I imagine walking through the labyrinth, its shape unknowable from within, only to have the beautiful moment of finally knowing the full form.

        “If our words are circles then theirs are bubbles” which I believe is from Zenith.

        Excellent read, thank you again.

      • ...David Whittaker says:

        I finally reread the last volume of the Invisibles. I saw a kind of parallel between The Empty Hand/Qwewq/King of All Tears particularly when King Mob confronts the King in 2012 *POP*.

        Not sure if they’re all the same entity but I think Grant is kind of using them to convey his message about evil and corruption, particularly in relation to his more transcendental ideas llike the Supercontext. Thanks for those further links Sean. I’ll settle down with those and a cup of tea later. Plus, any reason to reread Seven Soldiers. The corruption of Qwewq definitely is a combination of processes both inner and outer so I look forward to reading about that.

  3. reynard says:

    But the King of All Tears is actually the same being as the head of the Invisible College as well, right? Wouldn’t that mean that TEH is actually also the Overmind or whatever the “opposite” side of the DCU is to him?

    I always interpreted the Invisibles as being about the inherent flaws of duality and finding the relationships between the two seemingly opposed sides. With Morrison’s DC work, particularly those featuring Qwewq, I always saw the story about how hope and inherent goodness must triumph over the nonsense/noise presented by such foes as Darkseid and the Gentry. I mean, Darkseid and Superman are not two sides of the same coin, they are two opposing forces where one clearly does triumph.

    Please, though, tell me what you saw. This is great!

  4. ...David Whittaker says:

    Maybe I’m too much of a slacker and truant but I never saw the Invisible College as having a head (master). Sure you have the Harlequinade but Enlightenment 101 teaches us we are the sanctified higher authority we seek, not some external agency. Ergo your Darkseid Supes analogy could apply to Dane and the King of All Tears.

    I’m not too sure of my thoughts on Qwewq at the moment mainly because I’m not sure a lot of what I’m seeing or thinking is Grant’s authorial intent or apophenia and confirmation bias. When I heard Grant has contributed to the conception of Convergence’s Brainiac he suddenly started looking a bit dark and a bit nebulous, if you get what I mean…

    I’m probably going to have to reread Grant’s Action Comics run.

    Oh my. How awful.

  5. reynard says:

    I was thinking of the Harlequinade but now prefer your interpretation to my own (thank you!).

    Heh, dark and “nebulous.” I see what you did there and now that is all I am going to think about as I attempt to reconcile the Multiversity with Convergence. I could see him sitting on a similar throne as I imagine Glasgow looks essentially like that devastated Earth-8 (or 7, whichever).

    I enjoyed his AC run only because it was a Superman story I had never seen before and because I assume that the spear of 1,000 points was the reason the New 52 world was different than the Pre-Flashpoint/Post-COIE “Earth-Composite” that I grew up with.

    Not saying it is Morrison’s best work but I could understand how he could not turn down the chance to write “Action Comics #1″ regardless of the circumstances.

    • ...David Whittaker says:

      Hey don’t take my word as gospel, there are far more knowledgeable authorities out there. I just saw the Harlequinade as beyond both the College and the Outer Church but engaged with both.

      Don’t get me started on reconciling Multiversity with Convergence. Maybe I’m missing something, but that whole erase COIE reboot the Multiverse macguffin in theory sounds good, but like so much of the main title of Convergence is executed poorly, so I feel like I’m missing something. Because of that I end up being uninvested and disinterested. The way I see it in my personal Canon is Convergence happens before Multiversity.

      I really dug Grant’s Action Comics run, especially the reveal and climax. I can’t wait to get to it, I’ve just become sidetracked by 7 Soldiers.

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