The central snarl of Pax Americana is that Harley has a plan. We see that he has confided – in some way or another – in Captain Atom, Vice President Eden, and Peacemaker. But are they all in on the same plan? Was Harley deceiving any of them, or all of them? The Gentry is behind this plan. Who is working for the Gentry and knows it? Who is working for the Gentry and doesn’t know it? Who, if anyone, is working against the Gentry?
The Question: What is Harley’s motivation and plan?
Known: Harley accidentally kills his father, a superhero. He covers that up. He develops a plan to become President, be assassinated, and have Captain Atom return him to life. He tells people his motivation, but is he lying?
Known: Chris Smith, the Peacemaker, believes that his assassination of Harley will be undone by Captain Atom.
Known: Peacemaker was let in on a plan by Harley. But what he was told is incomplete. We know this because Nora O’Rourke, when she works out Algorithm 8, tries to reach him by phone, fails to, and is killed. So Peacemaker was given incorrect information. The information he was given was not an accurate account of what Algorithm 8 predicts.
Known: Algorithm 8 predicts that Captain Atom will not return. Captain Atom predicts that he will return. So two predictions regarding the future disagree: One is right and one is wrong. A metaphor for this is the Schrödinger’s Cat analogy involving Captain Atom’s dog.
Known: Because Algorithm 8 predicts that Captain Atom will not return and Harley told Peacemaker that Captain Atom would return, Harley is lying. Harley is not trustworthy.
Known: Harley introduces Captain Atom to comic books and Captain Atom is later seen reading Ultra Comics. Ultra Comics led to the corruption of Al Pratt, Alexis Luthor, and Kyle Rayner. So seemingly, Harley is corrupting Captain Atom, although we don’t have perfect confidence that Harley introduced Captain Atom to Ultra Comics, per se.
Known: Although it happens in only a single panel, we see in the car after Harley’s meeting with Captain Atom that Harley has confided in Eden, “In comic books, we trust.”
Known: The black hole research that tries to kill Captain Atom is led by Vice President Eden. He intends to kill Captain Atom in order to prevent the resurrection of President Harley. This is what Peacemaker and Nora do not know.
Known: Eden expects the assassination to succeed, not be reversed, and lead to the eradication of all superheroes and make him President.
Known: Peacemaker and Eden therefore represent two opposing beliefs. They both expect the first part of the plan, the assassination. They have opposite intentions and expectations regarding what happens after that. So:
The Question: If Harley gets his information from Algorithm 8, then he knows what Nora knew, so why is he willing to die? Does he believe that eliminating superheroes is worth his own death?
The Question: Why is (Vice) President Eden interrogating Peacemaker? Is it a real interrogation, in which he wants answers, or is it a sham because public perception demands that an investigation take place? Is it simply for sadistic reasons that Peacemaker is beaten up behind closed doors?
The Question: Of the two opposing prophecies, which is correct: Will Captain Atom return or not?
The Answer: We don’t know, and it may be resolved in the Multiversity finale, but Captain Atom tells us, and is probably correct, that he will survive their attempt to kill him. On the other hand, he is reading Ultra Comics, which has had some corrupting effect on everyone else who read it (Nix Uotan, Al Pratt, Alexis Luthor, and Kyle Rayner). This doesn’t turn Al Pratt or Kyle Rayner absolutely evil, however, so it doesn’t necessarily make Captain Atom absolutely evil. Also, we have already seen, in Superman Beyond, that he is a being of higher consciousness.
So, the story ends on a cliffhanger, which is symbolized by the Schrödinger’s Cat moment with Captain Atom’s dog. In quantum mechanics, two contradictory predictions can both be true until they are tested.
The Answer: Morrison has said in interviews that the struggling victims in Multiversity eventually figure out how to beat the Gentry. So, probably Captain Atom is right, and will come back, and defeat the plan of the Gentry and their underlings, including (Vice) President Eden.
The Question: What does this mean?
The Answer: Morrison’s larger story here is about the future of comics, whether they will be ruined by the violence that corrupts Earth-20, or the irrelevance that afflicts Earth-16, or the deconstruction (i.e., Alan Moore’s efforts) of Earth-4. And if he’s got a happy ending in mind, it involves the Justice League of the Multiverse, who is coming to save the day. And that amounts to an affirmation of the good and noble heroes, as Morrison sees them, as exemplified by the Silver Age Justice League.