Is it possible that the second installment of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity event is even better than the first? This second installment in the series isn’t really “issue two” as much as it is a next chapter in Morrison’s exploration of the new DC Comics multiverse, but Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes – Conquerers from the Counter-World is pure fun from start to finish, and the kind of comic you read multiple times just to pick up on all the little details and nuances you missed the first time you read it.
On Earth-20, there is no Justice League or Justice Society of America or seemingly any version of Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. Instead, it’s sometime in the 1940’s (or possibly 1930’s) and the world is protected by “Doc” Fate and the Society of Super-Heroes. On this Earth, Morrison has created a world steeped in the pulp tropes that were so popular in the twenties and thirties, before Superman and Batman hit the scene, the kind found in cheap dime store novels that featured heroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow. On Earth-20, the mystical helmet of Nabu has fallen into the hands of one such Doc Savage type (with a dash of the Rocketeer for good measure) and presto! Morrison has created the perfect amalgam of rugged period adventurer and master sorcerer. It’s a super obvious combination that you wonder why no one’s made it until now, and yet it’s also a totally original idea at the same time.
Other heroes on this Earth are an eighteen year old Al Pratt (who, much like in other universes, is the Atom), Lady Blackhawk, and Green Lantern, who is an even more alien-looking version of Abin Sur, the Green Lantern who was Hal Jordan’s predecessor on “our” Earth (wearing a version of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott’s costume. So many references!). Our entry way into the S.O.S in this issue is through their newest recruit, the Immortal Man, a character whose power it is to literally not be able to die. I love that Morrison mixes and matches from so many different DC comics eras; the easy thing to do here would be to take the Justice Society characters from the forties and give them pulp fiction tweaks, but Morrison takes from various DC eras. Immortal Man is a sixties character, for example, as is Abin Sur, and the creature Parallax makes an appearance here as well, a much more recent addition to the DC mythology. Everything in the DCU is subject for Grant Morrison to put in his giant blender and be given a pulpy twist, and it all comes out pretty awesome.
As far as plot goes, Doc Fate has revealed to the team that Green Lantern has has given him some deadly info, and by peeking into his giant crystal ball, they learn of the immanent invasion of their Earth from the parallel Earth-40 (it seems every hundred thousand years or so, an Earth in the Multiverse becomes blurred with its opposite number, and one world can bleed into the other with ease). Earth-40 is ruled over by one Vandal Savage, also an immortal, who gained his power the same way that Immortal Man did on his Earth, by coming into contact with a mysterious meteor back in the stone age. But instead, Savage uses that immortality for evil, selfish ends. He unleashes a war on Earth-20 with every nasty little thing at his disposal: killer robots, zombies, you name it. The war lasts for five years, and the Society of Super-Heroes fight Vandal Savage’s army with ever weapon at their disposal until finally both Immortal Man and the Atom have to break promises made to themselves to stop him. But in doing so, they unleash something far worse upon the Multiverse. All of this in one issue too.
This issue is essentially a standalone, and although it sort of ends on a cliffhanger (which will continue in the next standalone Multiversity one-shot, The Just) as a story it also feels complete and whole unto itself. Big, grandiose ideas flow out of Grant Morrison’s brain, and when you read them you can’t help but marvel at how much fun you’e having reading it. Lots of things happen in this one comic, yet it somehow doesn’t feel overstuffed or hard to follow, which can be a problem with Grant Morrison’s writing sometimes (like in Final Crisis). In so many ways, this Multiversity event feels like a big palate cleanser, because DC has made so many “dark n’ gritty books” since the New 52 began, and yet Morrison is all about making things big, crazy, bright and FUN. Even an evil robot and zombie invasion seems like a fun romp when Morrison writes it.
Aside from Morrison’s script of course, the secret weapon of this issue is the artwork by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story and Walden Wong. Sprouse is maybe best known for his work with Alan Moore in the pages of Tom Strong, a character also inspired by the pulp fiction novels of the twenties and thirties, so you can easily see why Morrison chose him to pencil this issue. His artwork is clean and crisp and just this side of cartoony, but absolutely perfect for the world Morrison created in Earth-20. The last time I remember seeing Sprouse’s artwork was in the Midnighter series a couple of years ago, but his pencils seem way more suited for the likes of the S.O.S. and the pulpy, art deco world they inhabit. Although this is a one-off, the potential for more S.O.S stories exists, and I for one hope someone, even if it’s not Grant Morrison, takes advantage of this. Grant Morrison has created a fascinating new playground for DC to play with this new Earth, and I truly hope DC is smart enough to take advantage of it beyond just this one issue.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Burritos