By Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke
For the first time, I’ve felt remorse for the remainder of my pull list.
I woke this morning to my phone whistling its obnoxious notification alert. It is 8 A.M. on my day off, and Patrick has messaged me, “Read Multiversity twice.” Chiseling the sleep from my eyes, I snatch my tablet and boot up Comixology–I’ll buy the physical copy later when the shop opens. I’d known from the solicitations this Ultra Comics issue was to be something moderately interactive (or as interactive as comics can be), perhaps something akin to a choose your own adventure. What I expected to be an intriguing read turned out to be an enthralling experience unlike I’ve ever encountered. (From my romps throughout Interwebs Land, I understand this is not something wholly unique to this specific issue.) Even more unexpected was that it may have been the best crafted and most clever issue Grant Morrison has ever done without tail spinning into a jumbled mess.
(Don’t come here looking for a summary. Those are everywhere. If you are truly interested in what happened, buy the book.)
Leave it to Morrison to snare the entire readership by cognitively linking us with the lead superhero Ultra Comics. The titular character is an embodiment of comics itself. He feels himself built of the same components as our favorite four-colored funny books. His life cycle takes him through the various eras of comics (Golden, Silver, etc.). In one of the best moments, Ultra even transitions from communicating with the readers via word balloons to sleek, modern rectangular caption boxes. As our thoughts infuse with his own, he adapts. Perhaps this is Morrison’s metaphor for the way the readership shapes what comics become. This is certainly not the first time he has played in the meta-fiction sandbox, but this sure as hell is one of his prettiest sand castles.
Take, for example, the perfectly shaped spires in which we find the internet criticisms, typed at a safe distance, so often attributed to not only Morrison himself but the comics medium as a whole–not a grain out of place. The opening sequence during which UItra travels back to the beginning of the comic to warn the reader not to read on, for he now understands our journey to be a well-laid trap–the morsels dampened flawlessly to allow for a sturdy foundation. And the notion that ideas can both inspire and entangle, spreading once planted for better or worse–the surrounding moat teeming with imaginary alligators, though readily able to be evaded by way of a bridge constructed of pure thought. However, be wary of the big bully, Gentry, as he stomps his way through the sand.
Where I’m typically not a fan of Doug Mahnke’s art, the overly heavy inking does not detract from the comic. In fact, the writer and artist pair quite well, as they have in the past. Between Ivan Reis, Chris Sprouse, Ben Oliver, Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Jim Lee, and the slew of artists who participated in the Source Book, it is clear DC did not skimp on the visual talent.
This is the penultimate chapter in Morrison’s phenomenal Multiversity series, with the final issue set to showcase the concluding battle against The Gentry. Unlike other comics published today, this one allows readers to intimate the true meaning or purpose of the 48 pages. Unless you’ve perused this issue meticulously, there are bound to be cameos, Easter Eggs, and even wildly different interpretations hidden within the pages. The best remedy, follow the advice:
“Read Multiversity twice.”