Friday, November 21, 2014

Multiversity: Pax Americana Mysteries

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.


  1. he's also going to need us! (great post and I really loved your annotations)

  2. Tom, thanks. He does need us! And, as Captain Atom's poor dog showed us, he needs us not to pick him apart too finely.

    I went awry in places with my annotations, mainly from lack of familiarity with the Charlton characters. There's a lot more to be said about Multiversity, and particularly this issue. I hope to take a look soon at how the Gentry's activity here fits in with the other issues. And the intriguing trend, perhaps coincidental, that the Gentry is less directly visible in each successive issue.

  3. I was sort of thinking that Captain Atom was headed to the Orrery of Worlds considering that machine they tried to kill him with is the same one that sent Earth-9's Superman, Captain Carrot, etc. to the Orrery. I do have one question, though, where did you find the name of the Sergeant who is acting as the agent of the Gentry? I guess I need to reread the issue, as I never saw him named beyond his rank.

  4. Sergeant Lane is referred to when the young superheroes are gathered together by Harley. Sarge Steel is a Charlton character who is never referred to by name, but his metal left hand makes the match. Iron Arms is another Charlton character who matches the guy killing Nora. I assumed that Sergeant Lane and the other "Sarge" were the same, but they may not be. I doubt if it matters too much.

    As far as I can see, those names and identities don't matter much. They are thugs working for the VP, Eden. Incidentally, notice that we have an Adam, Eve, and Eden: That's from the original creators, not Morrison.

    As I noted elsewhere, this is the first issue that doesn't show a Transmatter Symphonic Array. Maybe the particle accelerator has one hiding behind the walls, or maybe Captain Atom teleports himself across space, time, or the Multiverse before they can kill him. But we don't see one on page.

    This is also the first issue that doesn't mention the Gentry directly. The first three issues mention "the Gentry" by name exactly once.

    1. Ah, I guess it got confused in my memory because of all the different flashing lights. I need to reread it again.

      As for the names, I guess I should have done more research into Charlton, as I didn't know all those characters are from the original comics, I thought at least some of them were Morrison inventions. Now that I've looked into them, you're probably right about Sarge Steel being the guy who beat up Peacemaker and Iron Arms being the one who killed Norah, as the former only has one metal hand while the latter has two fully metal arms. I guess I was focusing on them because I didn't necessarily think VP Eden was directly being influenced by the Gentry while Sgt. Steel does seem to be, based on his comments when he kills the scientists.

  5. Grr... my comment got eaten. So this will be a crappier shortened version due to laziness. Sorry.

    *Too many knowns are suppositions
    -We don't know what Nora knows (perhaps it was about Chris' wellbeing?)
    -We don't know how well the Algorithm works
    -It could've changed given the Gentry's/Ultraa's influence
    -Nora didn't seem to predict her own death

    *Ideas about Hayley,etc.
    -Perhaps he knows that the Alg. says Adam won't return/his plan fails. Hence why his plan was impossible and he needs a superhero to do the impossible; break the Alg. and free the universe from it/determinism/the Gentry.
    -The VP and co. don't seem to know all of the plan, such as the why behind the Pres. death. This seems to indicate hope, as the Gentry's agents are a bit worried.
    -Perhaps it has to due with closing the door opened with yellowjacket's death

    *About comics
    -Are they good or bad
    -Cursed or necessary 'messages in a bottle'?
    -Is Ultraa, which doubles as a superhero really cursed? Or a Pariah-esque figure
    -Comics have to end up redeemed right?
    -As such I want to trust Hayley (but Earth-4 does seem to reward it's bastards...)

  6. machinegungeek,

    These are all good questions. Some of them remain pending. Some additional clues may be found in my next posting, which I'm about to post now!

  7. Had to give you the props you were due in my write up for Sequart

  8. i really wish that Captain Adam had shown up in a previous issue of this series, or there were easter eggs of him in each issue but instead it looks like the "tie together moment" is probably Ultra comics issue 1, and that issue for us most likely will, as Rikdad suggested, have the moments that occured in other books.

    Love betraying Love, sacred relic consecrated with blood, a hero killing?? idk