About five years ago as a young adult I had to come to the acceptance that their were many things in this world that I wouldn’t totally understand at face value and accept them on those terms. It’s been a helpful life lesson that’s also made for a great thing to remember when reading whose over time become my favorite comics writer Grant Morrison. I love Multiversity: Pax Americana. All due respect to my esteemed colleagues pick for this weeks finest but I think it’s the best issue of the week by a country mile. It also might be the best single issue of the year. I don’t totally understand it but that’s ok. One of the things that people get hung up on with Morrison is how his single issue’s don’t make complete sense. I can concede this on some level although I think there is always enough going on with them to make reading it worthwhile and at the same time this is hardly Naked Lunch or The Sound & The Fury but I’ve never read one of his comics stories from front to back that didn’t crystalize everything at the conclusion and make the whole experience all the more rewarding from start to finish. But to get there you have to accept that there is going to be moments of confusion along the way, that it’s really an essential part of his story telling technique. Trust me in that the ride is much more enjoyable as a result. Outside of that context (or maybe because of that) Pax Americana is still an amazing single issue of a comic that explores the dichotomy of cyclical and non cyclical history, violence, utilitarianism, the theoretical nature of linear and non linear time, Watchmen and Steve Ditko. The latter two is perhaps most important as much of the narrative centers on a dichotomy of Alan Moore’s view through the his Captain Atom and Steve Ditko’s via The Question and how to reconcile both the overarching theory of everything with concrete objectivism. It’s a non linear story about the very real question of how far one will go to seek peace versus objective morality. And that is a very real yet criminally unexamined question for comics that makes sense as a stark correlation with Moore’s Watchmen that basically says a bunch of people dying is better for the greater good or the central thesis of Ditko’s entire world view of objectivism that centers on an individuals morality and right to live exactly as it see’s fit being the be all, end all of our existence above anything else. Pax Americana is a study in that dichotomy and that’s essentially the central conflict but in it you have the man in the middle of Haley who in effect uses those idea’s against one another to further his own vision of America, one that was inspired by comic books no less. Haley and his father represent the infinite legacy of humanity to find a center between those two struggles. How Haley becomes a Christ figure in multiple versions of the comics time stream represents the son of god as both a leader and everyman in the way that we are all theoretically god’s children but still choose one son of god to follow and Pax: Americana is almost asking if those two conflicting ideologies may not be the central infinite struggle of man kind or at the very least the evolution of western society. It’s there in the beginning and last page with Quitely’s grid paneling. Oh yeah let’s talk about that because hallelujah this guy is limitless. It’s amazing how often the artist can push the boundaries on his singular style on every book he does but that’s double for any collaboration with Morrison. If there is a better writer/artist duo in the history of the medium I haven’t seen it yet and yes that includes Kirby/Lee (the former always carried the latter) Pax Americana is perhaps the most detailed and comprehensive work that the two have done together as each small panel is full of life, detail and energy in beautifully disgusting renditions. Something like the opening page of the bullet going out of President Haley’s head, the twin towers being rebuilt, The Question’s interrogation or the full scale defense of the white house from terrorist attacks are unreal and again that grid work is pure Ditko through and though while much of the imagery and visual symbols are very much borrowed from Gibbons Watchmen work. Multiversity is a comic series about comics but as is normally the case with a Morrison book that mean’s much more then the elevator pitch. What do comics mean for the world at large? How do two of it’s most important creators conflicting world views reconcile for us? What does that mean? Pax Americana isn’t supposed to give the answer and if that’s what your looking for then you are reading the wrong book. The issue is one of many central questions that make the sum of Multiversity as a whole. Purely as a comic it’s a visceral and entertaining mini epic but as a piece of larger whole that we’ve only just begun to see it’s so much more. What if you could see reality and time as Captain Atom? What if you refused to believe that was viable like the Question? How do you negotiate the two? The answer isn’t here for you but if we all think about it hard enough maybe we can find some truth in it. Is that part of what Morrison means by making the Multiversity reader the superhero? I couldn’t tell you but I know that having it makes the medium all the more better. As is the case with Morrison and life in general, embrace the unknown and enjoy the ride; it’s not like you have a choice in the matter.