The Multiversity: Guidebook #1 “Maps & Legends”
Written by Grant Morrison
Oh, Grant… Why is it that when I read half of your work, I have to sit and debate if I love it or not? Please stop making me think, and just make things easy for me… I’m kidding… kind of… I’m going to discuss this issue in two portions: the plot and the Guidebook. And before anyone starts throwing a hissy fit about how “everyone else that read this thought it was amazing! You’re the first critic that didn’t love it! What’s wrong with you?” argument, I just want to clarify. I greatly enjoyed both aspects of this book, but I thought the two elements felt very clunky together when viewing this as a single piece. So while I thoroughly enjoyed each aspect on its own, I felt like the way the Guidebook was included hindered the actual plot of this issue.
This is the first issue since the debut of Multiversity that feels like it’s connected to all of the other stories we’ve been reading. Yes, we’ve had the theme of the comic book which has been featured in every issue and serves as a constant, as well as a commentary on comics compared to life/ reality, but this story actually starts bringing those worlds together as it did in Multiversity #1. I was concerned that this issue would be a hot mess (you can quote me) because I thought Morrison was going to try and include everything and the kitchen sink… Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. I mean, there’s A LOT crammed in here, but he contained himself and remained focused.
This issue kicks off on Earth 42 with the Sivanas of multiple Earths (who appeared in Multiversity: Thunderworld) invading Earth 42 to try and get something that is apparently very dangerous. In the process, they are massacring the Little League – who are the cute, little versions of the Justice League on this Earth. Once Sivana gets what he came for, he takes the Sivana from this Earth with him and flees, leaving androids to finish off the Little League, including Little Batman. I’m not going to lie… I literally thought, “Don’t kill all of them! They’re too cute!” And then I felt like I needed my manhood back… but look at them! They’re cute! Anyway, it looks like these little guys are toast, but Batman from Earth 17 appears and saves the day.
I loved the discussion that followed between both Batmen once they stop the robots. It’s not anything deep or ground breaking, it’s just the way they approach the situation logically. Little Batman is actually Dick Grayson, and when there’s uncertainty that the two are fighting for the same cause, Dick quickly pulls his cowl off to reason with Bruce. Though Nova Batman (Earth 17 Batman) is cautious, he quickly realizes that they are on the same side and are in this together. There’s a moment where Dick takes in the devastation, and it’s actually heart breaking. It looks as though he’s lost his innocence. I think the loss of innocence is one of the most devastating things that can ever be depicted. Rip my heart out Morrison. Just rip it right out.
To keep with the trend of Multiversity, both Batmen find the comic book that Sivana was using, which happens to be The Multiversity: Guidebook… the same book I’m reviewing. Physics and space-time continuum kids… Mr. Morrison enjoys all of this trippy stuff. They start using the book to try and determine where the Sivanas went, and what they wanted from this Earth. Dick starts using his keen detective skills to put pieces together, determine which Earth he and Nova Batman are from, and how to leave. As Dick pieces together the comic to their reality, the issue jumps to another Earth, Earth 51.
Earth 51 features Kamandi, the last boy of this earth, BiOMAC, Prince Tuftan, and is watched over by the New Gods, including Barda and Mister Miracle. Kamandi and team have traveled to the Island of the God Watchers, and are searching for Flower, who has been kidnapped. In their search for her, they stumble upon the Darkseid’s tomb, which is now empty. The New Gods realize the tomb is empty. They claim that Darkseid “touches many worlds, and claims many faces. All grim.” But the question at hand is how he was freed.
As Kamandi, BiOMAC, and Prince Tuftan enter the tomb, they discover ancient symbols on the walls, similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs. These symbols tell the story of the multiple Earths and their “creation,” for lack of better words. The tale claims the imperfections in a nearly perfect assembly of worlds, and the fall into corruption of Science Monitor Dax Novu. I absolutely love what follows. The story essentially summarizes the past 75 years of DC comics, walking you through other worlds and universes, the creation of the Multiverse, Crisis on Infinite Earths, the effects of the worlds coming together again, lives being re-written… it’s all a nice homage to the past, and Morrison does it in a way that respects the previous continuity, and maintains its relevance for today. I can’t tell you how much I loved this aspect of this book.
Both groups of heroes on the two Earths are discovering the same information and essentially coming to the same conclusion of the current state of affairs. Nova Batman even makes the proclamation that this “is reality from the outside.” Morrison’s words reminded me right away of Lana del Rey’s lyrics from Gods & Monsters when she claims, “Life imitates art.” It’s crazy to think about, but it is true. It’s at this point in the narrative that the book jumps to the actual Guidebook. I’m being serious. The plot completely stops, and you work your way through each Earth within the Multiversity. But we’ll get to that later.
Once the Guidebook ends, we jump back into both narratives. We’ve been set up with the mystery of who freed Darkseid from his tomb, as well as how the two Batmen will escape their current situation. The worlds begin to converge in some ways, as aspects of both Earths begin to cross with one another. The narrative races towards a close, revealing the identity of who freed Darkseid, as well as a reveal of the true nature of Earth 42, that ties everything into where we left off at the end of Multiversity #1. “Empty is thy hand.”
Morrison tries to lead into the Guidebook using Little Batman, but it still feels clunky. The Guidebook itself just feels out of place. I had to turn back a page afraid I’d missed something because it literally interrupts the plot to walk you through all 52 Earths. If I didn’t know that this wasn’t a mistake, I would assume that this comic had a portion of a DC encyclopedia mistakenly printed inside of it… It just threw me off. But considering that the Guidebook literally interrupts the story for a total of 32 pages… it really bothered me.
Now, the Guidebook itself, is actually wonderful! I enjoyed every second of it, and honestly wish this would have been released as a companion book with Multiversity #1, or immediately after it. Page after page, it walks through each Earth within the Multiverse, providing a brief summary of that Earth and it’s inhabitants. It was a great foundation for this crazy world that Morrison has created, and it would’ve done a lot to educate readers before they jumped into the previous Multiversity issues.
If I’m being honest, I really wish they would’ve included more information about these worlds. The paragraph was nice, but it left me wanting more – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of these characters in these worlds have been featured elsewhere in DC’s history. It would’ve been cool if the Guidebook had provided a glossary of issues that feature these characters and Earths. It would’ve let readers who weren’t familiar with these other incarnations, and pick-up back issues prior to the New 52.
Overall, it was a great way to solidify all of the potential stories and characters that DC could utilize at any point, and Morrison was nice enough to leave seven worlds unknown in the event that someone decided to come along in the future and make their mark on the Multiverse.
The Art: There are a ton of artists featured here! Everything was done extremely well, and one of my favorite aspects of the Guidebook itself, was that different artists drew the featured characters of each earth. But instead of discussing each artist (we would be here all day) I’m just going to provide a screenshot of the credits for this issue, and add some internal art in the spoiler tags below.
- You’ve enjoyed Morrison’s ride through the Multiverse.
- You were curious to see if and how all of these Earths would be tied together.
- You want a breakdown of what’s taking place on each Earth.
Overall: This book claims to be 80 pages, but it’s really 72 with some ads. It’s also a hefty $7.99, but considering you’re essentially getting two comics in one, it’s a reasonable price. As I stated, that interjection of the Guidebook within the plot of this issue really bothered me because it derailed the stories and moment while they were reaching their climax, but each aspect is really enjoyable. If you’ve been reading Morrison’s Multiversity, or you just want a better understanding of all the Earths, then you should pick up this issue. It’s too bad that I bumped the rating down a point due to what I felt was a weird layout.