Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Multiversity Guidebook


The Multiversity Guidebook plays two distinct, major roles. An inner section provides a map, mini-encyclopedia, and timeline of the Multiverse, and serves as a reference, clip-and-save style, for fans to consult on matters of Multiversal navigation for the indefinite future. Around this section, and referring to it, is a chapter in the continuing story of the Gentry’s effort to crush and conquer the Multiverse. It returns us to the narration from Multiversity #1, and in this sense serves as a sort of Multiversity #1½ that will lead into the series-ending Multiversity #2 a few months from now. The narrative is not linear, however, but nested and branching – not as complex as Pax Americana, but complex enough to merit close attention.

The story opens as a logical continuation from Thunderworld, with the “Serial Killer Sivana” leading his robots and fellow Sivanas in an attack on Earth-42, home of the Little League. This opens with the little Martian Manhunter being killed in a panel that copies the death of the regular Martian Manhunter in Morrison’s Final Crisis #1 down to the similar posture and the death cry “My'ria'h!” The Marvels of Earth-5 are in hot pursuit, but the Sivanas have ample time to kill several little heroes, and fulfill their real goal, access to a better transmatter device that allows them to travel anywhere in the Multiverse. That transmatter machine was built by Sivana-42, another instance of an idea that is key to this story’s plot having been placed in someone’s mind by a dream. I’ve earlier discussed the importance of dreams to the Multiverse, as originally described in Gardner Fox’s stories about the Flash, and affirmed now by Morrison.

As the Legion of Sivanas depart, the Batman of Earth-17 appears and rescues the Batman of Earth-42 from Sivana robots. (Incidentally, these robots resemble the robot that Superman of Earth-23 was fighting in Multiversity #1, but are not identical in size or design. It remains possible that Serial Killer Sivana built that robot.) Although the two Batmen are allied, Batman-17 is willing to use deadly force, in stark contrast to the nice Batman-42, exactly the sort of corruption that appeared to bring Earth-20 down (notice that a Mayan temple is seen on Earth-51 in the Guidebook and at the end of Society of Super-Heroes), which implies that heroes who kill are possible in the metaphysics that Morrison is laying out.

As Batman-42 picks up a copy of the Guidebook itself and reads a history of the Multiverse, which begins by paraphrasing a similar telling of the history in Superman Beyond #1. Then the history goes forward to describe travel between the Universes and the Crises which followed, all of which, as I noted earlier, depends crucially on the Flash, Barry Allen. Then the action switches to Earth-51, where Kamandi, Tuftan, and Ben Boxer arrive in pursuit of their lost colleague, Flower, the original of which appeared in only two issues of Kamandi back in 1973.

What Kamandi and his colleagues find opens up new perspectives on the plot of Multiversity. As the characters on Earth-51 confer, they are being watched by the New Gods on New Genesis. Highfather and the New Gods discuss the situation, giving us some helpful exposition along the way. Darkseid was released from a tomb on Earth-51, allowing him to go forth in the form of multiple instantiations across many worlds. His tomb was opened by Nix Uotan, the son of Dax Novu. Nix Uotan, as we’d already seen, was corrupted by demons, the Gentry.

Here, the story opens the mystery wider. We knew that the Gentry corrupted Nix Uotan, but the New Gods tell us that the Gentry themselves are the agents of a higher, more evil power, The Empty Hand. Morrison has a preference for structuring his stories around a hierarchy of villains, with minor villains reporting to mid-level villains, and finally an ultimate top villain. In this story, the Big Bad is The Empty Hand, a name that calls to mind The Black Glove from Morrison’s Batman run. The identify of this villain is being presented as a mystery, “whose name none dare voice,” Highfather says. Lightray calls the villains, “The sons of midnight.” Who is The Empty Hand?

In an earlier post, I noted that the Justice League of the Multiverse had no Batman. Here, he arrives: Batman of Earth-17 appears in the House of Heroes and is immediately enlisted as the Gentry are attacking. We see a three-eyed, many-tentacled, be-fanged demon with a city as its head trying to eat the House of Heroes. Earlier, we saw another member of the Gentry, “Lord Broken,” appear as a house with an evil red eye inside. The name “the Gentry” and these buildings suggest that the Gentry are people, and as I’ve offered earlier, the villains of the story may be us (or among us), the people of the real world, Earth-33, which, as the Guidebook tells us, “exerts a powerful and unknown influence on the progress and development of the entire Multiverse.”

Who is The Empty Hand? We have a few clues. Most directly, when Kamandi reads the history of the Multiverse, we see an empty hand at the dawn of creation, with the text, “What great hand casts the lightning… and remakes the world?” This hand was famously seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but we can pinpoint its origin even earlier, to Green Lantern #40, when Krona and his effort to view the creation of the Universe were introduced. So that’s The Empty Hand, but it was earlier portrayed as a mere force of nature, not a character with the potential to be good or bad. Clearly, there are more reveals to come, attaching that hand, so to speak to some very powerful character we’ve otherwise known, or giving it a new identity. Near the end of the issue, it makes the dead Little Leaguers revive as its servants and says, “Get up. Reset. You have died before, and you will die many times more before I am done with you. See how my hand is empty.” Red-eyed, the zombie heroes respond, “Empty is thy hand.” The red eyes suggest Darkseid. The word “thy” suggests the Early Modern English of the King James Bible. Together, these reinforce that The Empty Hand is something primal, powerful, and evil.

What does The Empty Hand do? Reset. The history of the Multiverse, which we already knew, consists of many cycles of death, followed by regeneration. And the people who are really performing this regeneration are the writers, editors, and readers on Earth-33. Everything in the Guidebook continues to bear out that the threat in Multiversity comes from our world, a meta-story about the threats to superhero comic books that begin in those who shape the medium itself.

Erratum: The description of Earth-7 says that Thunderer is a survivor of Earth-4. This probably meant to say Earth-7.


20 comments:

  1. Awesome analysis as always Rikdad! It was interesting issue. Did I read it correctly that Flashpoint only restructured the timeline on Earth-0 (New Earth) and the rest of the Earths in the multiverse are relatively unaffected? I noticed the events of Countdown to Final Crisis were specifically mentioned as still being in continuity, with Superboy-Prime's destruction of one of the Earths.

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    1. Also, an interesting and revealing interview on ComicsAlliance yesterday with Grant Morrison about the insperation for The Gentry and Multiversity

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  2. Jonny, thanks. I don't the Guidebook says anything about whether or not Flashpoint affected the whole Multiverse or only Earth-0, but in an interview, Morrison said that he planned it before Flashpoint, and fortunately for his plans, he didn't have to change much because he's not dealing with Earth-0. Obviously, there's no compelling creative reason why Flashpoint *should* have changed much on worlds that had never been shown except in cameos before. (Earth-2 certainly changed, though.)

    The Crises and stories which re-configured the Multiverse and timelines always leave a bit of a narrative paradox which DC has never really dealt with very well. With COIE, for example, there are very rare characters who remember the pre-COIE Multiverse, but COIE existed as an event in the memories/timeline of the post-COIE DCU which was different than the one which was seen in the 12-issue series, and was briefly summarized in JLA: Incarnations and other places. But Psycho-Pirate and Harbinger's computer remembered COIE the way we saw it and the pre-Crisis Multiverse as a whole.

    So, "in continuity" means different things. The text that Kamandi is reading remembers all of these things, but that doesn't mean that they "happened" in the history of Earth-0.

    I did see Morrison's interview. That was very revealing regarding his intentions for the Gentry. Not so different, I think, from what I was supposing.

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  3. Is there some significance to Earth 42 Batman discovering he's a machine? Seems like it's an important moment- is that the "secret" of that Earth, and why?

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  4. In House of Heroes, when Calvin Harris can't recall meeting Captain Carrot during Final Crisis? I always thought that was something to do with Flashpoint.

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  5. Alex, There are some interesting clues about the Little Leaguers. I'm not sure if there's enough to figure out what's going on. Quirks include:

    1) Lil Batman is Dick Grayson, but the cover of Lil Gotham shows both a Batman and a Nightwing.
    2) The Lil Leaguers in the House of Heroes suddenly go red-eyed and say "Empty" when under attack. Is this because of some silent signal, or is it a word they hear, a la Batman hearing "Zur En Arrh"? (e.g., "S.O.S."?)
    3) That they're machines.

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  6. the dread hand is the left, the crisis hand is the right. darkseids thumbs down in final crisis and many panels over the years has him using his left also. its a 23 enigma when u realize it

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  7. David, I think your suggestion is correct: Superman-23 doesn't remember Final Crisis because Flashpoint changed the whole Multiverse. We also know that Ultraman was rebooted between Final Crisis (he was made into a vampire, then killed) and Forever Evil, and Earth-2 was rebooted by creators other than Morrison. I think we can credit Flashpoint for all of those changes.

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  8. the 52 worlds are rebooted, but that doesn't imply much. for example we know captain carrot at the very least still remembers a Superman (either from his origin or Final Crisis). and Allen Adam is deff the same one. So is Doc Fate (from FC)

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  9. Andriulli, those are all great observations. But I think the creators are using the convenience of Flashpoint to make creative changes when they want to. I don't know *why* these changes have been made; they may not mean much. There may be some other explanation still to come for Superman-23 not remembering Captain Carrot, but they definitely were together in that scene at the end of Final Crisis.

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  10. Why can't Earth-38 be the Earth-2 we so fondly remember? From the description in Multiversity, E-38 is obviously intended to be John Byrne's Generations earth but there really is no discrepancy between 2 and 38 being one and the same.

    Traditionally, Earth-2 was the home of a lineage that began in 1938, fought in World War II, and had at least a second generation of heroic family members.

    Now if only we had an earth counterpart to the old Earth-1.

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    1. Well, the Kingdom Come Earth was pretty much just an alternate future version of the post-Crisis Earth so it goes to reason that the WWII JSA existed on this Earth as well. So we still have room for the WWII JSA. Whether or not they went on to become the inspiration for the JLA or not wouldn't change this fact.

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  11. Flashpoint changed some aspects of the multiverse, but then curiously leaves others like Superboy-Prime's rampage during Countdown.

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  12. gerry, Superman & Batman: Generations, like the Roy Thomas, et al, stories about "Earth Two" written in the Seventies, started with the Golden Age stories as their backstory, and did a reasonable job of continuity-smoothing, then went into a different direction. Earth-38 (Notice the number? Action Comics #1, 1938. Hint, hint!) borrows the Generations set-up, which means it pretty well ruined the characters from about 1960 forward. Byrne's effort was written as a story with a definite beginning and a definite (sort of) ending. I guess future writers could set new stories built on that Golden Age set-up by placing them in the past of Earth-38, but they might just as well record them as legacy stories of earlier continuities without the Multiversal ZIP code of Earth-38.

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  13. 588, thanks for the request! I have a list of planned posts that I'm working through gradually, and that wasn't on the list, but I'll add it and hopefully get to it soon! I have a lot of Retro reviews I'd like to post, and Superman Earth One is quickly becoming retro itself.

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  15. The Hand of Glory in Invisibles, wasn't it at one point likened to a hand that holds the computer mouse? And plays the game "Invisibles"? Could the empty hand be the hand that holds the comic book, even though it is not empty.
    Just a thought.

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  16. My last comment made ZERO sense so I deleted it haha. But here's one for ya. (Hopefully this one isn't wacky too).) After "Final Crisis," the New Gods moved to Earth-51, correct? "The Multiversity Guidebook" mentions that the New Gods have been slumbering (I'm assuming since "Final Crisis") and implies that they've just awoken from said slumber. Now, if you look at Supertown as depicted in "The Multiversity Guidebook," it's akin to Mount Olympus, yes, but I think the literal grounding of it to the Screaming Mountains is Morrison and company telling us that this isn't Supertown on New Genesis. It's Supertown on Earth-51. The Supertown of New Genesis was a floating city.

    This would mean that both Apokolips and New Genesis have been vacant since "Final Crisis," allowing for "Flashpoint" to spawn the New 52 emanations we've seen in all the New 52 titles on Apokolips and New Genesis.

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  17. In the history of the Multiverse, Morrison writes "Only the monitors kept a record of it all, written into the fictions of Earth-33." But in the bio of that earth he says "Monitor conjecture suggests that ideas created by ordinary human minds on Earth Prime become realities on other worlds of the Multiversal Orrery structure." How is that the Monitors recorded the events of the multiverse in Earth-33 fiction yet think that other worlds spring from Earth-33? Would they not know that they planted the stories of the mulitverse in earth-33? Or that they sprung from earth-33 to begin with? Did they plant the stories there and now Earth-Prime is affecting the other earths? Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to be a contradiction.

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