The Vanier Report: Week 3
The Multiversity Guidebook #1
Written by: Grant Morrison
Pencils and Inks by: Marcus To and Paulo Siqueira
Colours by: Dave McCaig and Hi-Fi
Letters by: Todd Klein
Additional Art By: Various Artists
After years and years of anticipation, it’s hard to believe that we’re over halfway through The Multiversity, Grant Morrison’s epic exploration of the entire DC Multiverse. And though I’m incredibly excited to continue following the unfolding narrative, I can now say that I am in possession of the issue I have looked forward to the most. With the release of The Multiversity Guidebook, I now – quite literally – have the entire Multiverse in my hands.
Did you hear that? That was me squealing.
The 80-page issue contains a directory of all 52 worlds of the Multiverse, a map of all creation, and a history of all of DC’s major “crisis” events. To Morrison’s credit, that massive amount of information does not make the Guidebook feel overly encyclopaedic. In fact, this issue is the first concrete continuation of the main narrative since The Multiversity #1.
Picking up where Thunderworld left off, The Multiversity Guidebook’s narrative begins on Earth 42, home of the Little League, chibi-inspired childlike versions of the Justice League. The Legion of Sivanas has attacked, killing Earth 42’s Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg, but before their robot minions can defeat chibi-Batman, the Atomic Knight Batman of Earth 17 accidentally arrives. The story follows the two Batmen as they discover the Multiverse – not only that it exists, but also that the fictional comic books they read are windows into the parallel worlds.
What is truly brilliant about this conceit is that it provides an accessible narrative lens, but it does not read as a “story within a story”, which makes sense given that the action on Earth 42, Earth 51, Earth 17, and New Genesis is all happening currently, with comic books serving as each world’s window into the other. This idea has been around as long as the Multiverse itself, appearing in Flash #123’s “Flash of Two Worlds” storyline in which Barry Allen discovers that Jay Garrick, a fictional character on Earth-One, was very much a real hero on Earth-Two (in another act of shameless self-promotion, here’s a piece I wrote about the issue and its influence on Morrison: Retro Review: Flash #123 (1961) – “The Flash of Two Worlds”).
The conceit brilliantly plays into Morrison’s powerful meta-fictional brand of storytelling. As chibi-Batman reads one comic book, the narrative shifts to Earth 51, where BiOmac, Tuftan, and Kamandi – the last boy on Earth – are in turn discovering the nature of the Multiverse. Each narrative layer leads into one of the more encyclopaedic elements of the book, before zooming out layer by layer.
But what elevates this issue and indeed – all of The Multiversity – is how it engages the reader. The early solicitations promised that we – the readers – would be a part of the story as it unfolded. At first, I pictured some horrible version of a “choose your own adventure” novel, but really the answer was in front of me the whole time. I am, after all, reading this comic, this window to another world. The inclusion of our world – the so-called “real world” – as Earth 33 implicitly involves us in the high stakes of the threat facing the Multiverse. Perhaps there is someone on Earth 13 reading about us and hoping we can be their heroes.
I cannot think of a comic series, let alone a single issue, which made me feel that I was as much a part of the world as The Multiversity Guidebook. As the main narrative continues to unfold, the plots of the Legion of Sivanas, Nix Uotan, and the Gentry have as much to do with me as they do Captain Carrot or Aquawoman.
Grant Morrison is already considered one of comics’ greatest writers, but I believe that The Multiversity is his magnum opus; it is his lovesong to the medium to which he has given so much, and is one of the greatest pieces of meta-fiction I have ever read.
Feature Written By: Reid Vanier
“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”