The Multiversity: Mastermen #1 “Splendour Falls”
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencils by Jim Lee
Inks by Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Mark Irwin, and Jonathan Glapion
Colors by Alex Sinclair and Jeromy Cox
It’s another installment of Morrison’s Multiversity, and once again, I’m a fan. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Morrison’s storytelling is at its best when he isn’t so keen on indulging his own intelligence and wit. That’s not to say that I don’t want Morrison to tap into that from time to time, just that complex isn’t always better. This issue was similar to Society of Super Heroes in terms of how the narrative is crafted. Like Society of Super Heroes, this feels like a stand-alone story that is the launch its own book. And if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind if this really were issue #1 of an ongoing series!
Mastermen takes place on Earth 10. If you picked up The Multiversity: Guidebook, then you should know a little about Earth 10. If you didn’t, then you’re screwed… I’m kidding. Earth 10 is the alternate world where Superman crashed on Earth in Germany during the 1940’s. Superman is called Overman on this Earth, and considering he was reared under Hitler’s Reich instead of in Smallville… his ideals and morals are a little different. And naturally, with Hitler having a powerhouse like Overman on his side, the war ends a little different than how you and I know it. This isn’t a new idea. For years now, numerous mediums have toyed with the idea of what the world would be like today had Hitler, or another country such as Japan, succeeded and won the war. This is essentially DC’s take on that potential outcome.
I knew from the first page that I was going to thoroughly enjoy this book. I mean, with an opening page like this, how could you not?
Seriously, how could you not be sold after this page? Aside from the opening, I really enjoyed the representation of history in this issue. There were a lot of nods to World War II history (German scientists coming to America after the war; a race – the Atlanteans here – that despite being a “lower race” were spared based on their Aryan appearance, etc). There was a nice touch on the history of comics as well. If you’re not familiar with the Golden Age of comics, they thrived during the 40’s due to the war. It was common for kids to have comics because they were rather cheap and often contained some type of voucher in them. Comics were also shipped overseas to soldiers due to the fact that the Comics Coalition was pushing the pro-American ideology, and soldiers found them motivating. Overall, they were nice touches by Morrison, and respectful inclusion.
My favorite aspects of Mastermen though, are the themes. A majority of the story takes place nearly 80 years after the war. Overman’s idea of right and wrong is skewed due to his upbringing. Things that we collectively consider “wrong” were simply a way of life for him. As he’s grown though, he’s becomes haunted by his actions, having nightmares every night – the death of Overgirl (this Earth’s Supergirl) serving as a catalyst for these emotions. There’s a struggle for understanding, acceptance, and redemption with Overman throughout the entire issue, as he comes to terms with what he’s done, what he’s been taught to believe, and what he personally feels. It really lets the character of the Superman we know and love reveal himself underneath this life plagued with war and death.
The other theme is the fight and drive of the American spirit. The U.S. was essentially founded due to rebellion, and that notion is captured here. Despite Morrison not being an American, he captures that pro-American mindset pretty well. There are definitely times when reading this issue that I get that “Merica!” perception. That being said, there are also times where he captures the American spirit in a way that makes me miss the pride we used to have as a country. Americans here are what we started off as. They’re rebels… But they’re rebels with heart, fighting for what they believe in – and the same can’t be said for Overman.
The Art: Jim Lee ladies and gents! I must say, considering two of the books on my review list contain terrible art, it’s refreshing to know that each month Multiversity will deliver class art, despite a monthly rotation in artists. Jim Lee really delivers here, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. There’s so many details to his work that add so much to the image. There were spreads throughout this issue that I wouldn’t mind having blown up and placed on my wall! There was one panel where Leather Wing (Earth 10’s Batman) has thunder thighs though. Regardless, Lee is definitely one of the best in the industry! Feel free to check out some of his magnificent work below in the spoiler tag!
The Good: Let’s just make this easy… there’s a lot of good here! The story, the themes, the characters… they’re all a win for me. I really would like for this story to continue because I’m invested in both the plot and the characters. I’m really curious to see Overman’s journey, as well as this Earth’s version of the Justice League against America’s Freedom Fighters.
The Bad: Aside from verging on being a little too “pro American” at times – there’s a point where you can cross the fine line of patriotism and verge into “’Merica’s the best country ever!” territory – I didn’t find much fault in this book. I’ve mentioned twice now that I’d like for this story to continue. Naturally, this shouldn’t be a bad thing, but considering we want get additional issues, it really is a let-down to just move on…
- You enjoy World War II related stories.
- Nazi Superman intrigues you.
- You enjoy when Morrison leaves theories of physics and space and time continuum out of his narratives, and just focuses on a strong story with strong characters.
Overall: While this didn’t quite pack the punch that Pax Americana did for me, its a close second. It was a damn good issue that will leave you wanting more!