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The Multiversity #1 Annotations

 
THE MULTIVERSITY #1

House of Heroes
 
DC Comics, October 2014, Color, 48pgs, $4.99
 
Written by GRANT MORRISON ; Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO; 1:10 Cover by IVAN REIS; 1:25 Cover by CHRIS BURNHAM; 1:50 Cover by BRYAN HITCH; 1:100 Cover by GRANT MORRISON

The biggest adventure in DC’s history is here!

Join visionary writer Grant Morrison, today’s most talented artists, and a cast of unforgettable characters from 52 alternative Earths of the known DC Multiverse! Prepare to meet the Vampire League of Earth-43, the Justice Riders of Earth-18, Superdemon, Doc Fate, the super-sons of Superman and Batman, the rampaging Retaliators of Earth-8, the Atomic Knights of Justice, Dino-Cop, Sister Miracle, Lady Quark, the legion of Sivanas, the Nazi New Reichsmen of Earth-10 and the latest, greatest Super Hero of Earth-Prime: YOU!

Comprising six complete adventures – each set in a different parallel universe – plus a two-part framing story and a comprehensive guidebook to the many worlds of the Multiverse, THE MULTIVERSITY is more than just a multipart comic-book series. It’s a cosmos spanning, soul-shaking experience that puts YOU on the frontline in the Battle for All Creation against the demonic destroyers known as the Gentry!

In issue #1, pencilled by superstar artist Ivan Reis (AQUAMAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE), President Superman of Earth-23 uncovers a threat to all Reality so apocalyptic it will take a team of incredible heroes from across the Multiverse to face it – including Captain Carrot, like you’ve never seen him before!

But even with a multitude of alternate worlds to choose from, where every variation is possible, can anyone hope to prevail against the onslaught of ultimate evil and undying hatred – in the unstoppable form of a one-time cosmic defender with unimaginable powers?! Join us, if you dare, for the beginning of THE MULTIVERSITY!

 
 

Commentary

 
The five year wait is over, and Grant Morrison's latest final word on superheroes is here at last.  In case you haven't seen (yeah right, who am I trying to kid?) the legend that is David Uzumeri has returned to Comics Alliance for their annotations, and Yeezus of the New Gods Jim Harbor is crafting an epic analysis for the ages on his own blog (multiple thousands of words on the first three pages so far - link as soon as it's done!).  I suspect (hope, pray) the Mindless Ones will cast their esoteric hat into the Borromean ring as well at some point, and I I'd urge you to check them all out - there's a lot to be said for fresh pairs of eyes, and, if The Multiversity proves to be half as dense as Seven Soldiers or Final Crisis, you could comfortably read a million words on it and still not cover every wrinkle that hides between the pages.

Over at Comics Alliance, David has already said that he's not planning on ticking off all of the trivial Easter eggs and cameos (and there are plenty in the first issue alone), preferring instead to take a more holistic view of the recurring imagery and underlying themes.  That's great news for me as ticking off Easter eggs is exactly what I'm planning on doing, though (hopefully) I'll have a bit to say about how The Multiversity relates to Morrison's previous work and what, if anything, it has to say about the world today as well.  I feel like it's important to keep in mind that this gigantic Multiversal DC sand box is the collective creative work of hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of actual people, and if Grant or any of The Multiversity's artists decide to sneak in a background cameo for 1950's science adventurer Darwin Jones, then someone should be giving creators David V. Reed and Paul Norris a shout-out.  Pretty happy to be that guy to be honest.

DC started the pre-release excitement with the Multiverse map by Morrison and designer Rian Hughes, and are continuing the bonus content with this week's unveiling of The Interactive Map of The Multiverse on DC's own website.  It looks like there'll be short descriptions of each parallel Earth and it's heroes as they're revealed in-story.  I'd say the odds are pretty good that the site's content has been written by Morrison himself rather than a DC marketing monkey, and it's possible (probable?) that these are actually the descriptions we're going to be reading in The Multiversity Guidebook (currently expected to be published between Thunderworld and Master Men, around January 2015).


Annotations

 
Cover - The regular cover by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado showcases the 'Cosmic Neighborhood Watch', a kind of Justice League of the Multiverse who'll feature in both of the Multiversity bookends.  Amongst their number are (from left to right) President Calvin Ellis, the Superman of Earth 23; a dark-haired alternate Earth Mary Marvel (presumably from Earth 5, the setting for the Thunderworld book); Abin Sur, the Green Lantern of Earth 20; and Captain Carrot, a cunicular crime-fighter from Earth 26.  In a classic Morrison touch they're reaching out to you, the reader, to join them in their multi-dimensional peace-keeping mission.

Captain Carrot is also the star of Chris Burnham's 1:25 variant - a funny animal recreation of Joe Shuster's iconic Action Comics #1 cover.  The nameless hoods of the original have been replaced by n'eer do wells from  the good Captain's rogues gallery - Fat Cat (who made his one and only previous appearance in 1983's Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #12 by Scott Shaw), Doctor Hector Frankenswine (who appeared in the final story in Captain Carrot #17, also from 1983 by E. Nelson Bridwell and Rick Hoberg); and The Amazing Hairy Gnudini (alias bank robber Willy Wildeest - he first (and last) appeared in Captain Carrot #18, in a tall tale by Nicola Cudi and Stan Goldberg).

Bryan Hitch's variant - the first in what will presumably be a series of 'History of the Multiverse' covers - calls back to the very first DC Multiverse story, 'The Flash of Two Worlds' by Gardner F. Fox and Carmine Infantino from 1961's The Flash #123.  It features the Barry Allen and Jay Garrick incarnations of The Flash teaming up to tackle the nefarious trio of The Thinker, The Fiddler and The Shade at the Keystone City Museum.

Grant Morrison's "variant cover", actually a collage of some of his preparatory sketches, features another member of the 'Cosmic Neighborhood Watch', The Thunderer, flanked by (I think) a Morrison sketch of Leatherwing, the Nazi Batman from Earth 10.

The trade dress on the far left of each cover shows all 52 Earths in a descending list.  The Earths picked out in white are a handy ready reckoner to those whose residents feature in this issue.  Some of these are more obvious than others and I'll go into that a bit more as they each appear in the story, but I think this is how they break down -

Earth 0 - Home of Nix Uotan, Superjudge, at least as of the end of Final Crisis.
Earth 5 - Most likely the home of the robot that Superman trashes on pages 14 and 15 (according to Steel it's a probe from a parallel universe built using weird old technology that shouldn't really work)
Earth 7 - Home of Thunderer
Earth 8 - The home of The Retaliators and Lord Havok
Earth 11 - Home of Aquawoman, Queen of Atlantis
Earth 16 - Home to Bloodwynd and Gypsy, both present in the Hall of Heroes
Earth 23 - Home of Calvin Ellis, Superman
Earth 26 - Home of Captain Carrot
Earth 36 - Home of Red Racer and Flashlight
Earth 41 - Home of Dino Cop and Spore
Earth 42 - The 'Chibi' Earth of the 'Lil Leaguers.  The Wonder Woman and Steel of this Earth are both present in the Hall of Heroes
Earth 44 - Home of robot Hawkman
Earth 48 - Home of Lady Quark and Lord Volt
 
Page 1 - Open with a nine panel grid - a staple of gritty realism in comics.  We're in Watchmen territory here - cynicism as realism, superhero comics about late rent checks and landladies with hair lice.  It's very likely that the "Wherever life can take root..." opening narration will be echoed at the conclusion of this story.

The swarm of insects spilling out of the panel border and into the page bleed space (the white spaces between and around the panels) suggests that the threat is something from outside the Orrery of Worlds, something that threatens to consume the Source/Overvoid (or if you'd rather the blank white page) itself.  This is further reinforced by the bugs' repeat performance on the final page of this issue.
 
Page 2 -Immediately the nine panel grid is gone, transferred on to the comic book page in Nix Uotan's hand - we're in a higher sphere than grim 'n' gritty now and we won't see a grid like this again in this issue.

As he was at the end of Morrison's Final Crisis, Nix Uotan, last of the Multiversal Monitors, is in his apartment attempting to lead a 'normal' life inside the main DC reality of Earth 0.  Metron's Rubiks Cube is on his desk.  Notice also the stuffed monkey sat where Stubbs will appear on the following page.

Zoloft is a prescription drug used to treat depression, anxiety and OCD.  Advil is branded ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory and painkiller.

The drawings on Nix's desk in panel 4 are Grant Morrison sketches that have been 'shopped into Ivan Reis's art.  The sketch underneath Nix's right hand is of Earth 20's Abin Sur (as seen on Reis's cover for this issue),  The one in the middle of the desk is Leatherwing, a Batman analogue from the Nazi Earth 10 who's due to appear in Master Men.  You can see the top of the same sketch on page 5.

Also on Nix's desk is a copy of Ultra Comics, currently scheduled as the sixth and final Multiversity one-shot and set for release around March 2015.  Ultra Comics, set in our own reality (or Earth 33 as per the Multiverse map), is the 'haunted comic' that JMS and Nix are discussing on the message board.  Prior to the preview of this issue going up on line, no artist had been confirmed for Ultra Comics but, given what we can see here, it would be pretty surprising if it wasn't Doug Mahnke.  We don't know who the guy on the cover is yet - it could be Earth 36's Optiman (mentioned but not seen in both Action Comics #9 and in this issue) or Earth 8's Hyperius.  It could be a character based on the pre-Crisis 'Superman' of Earth Prime, Ultraa (a pretty good candidate given the book's title); or it could be someone wholly different.  I'd like to throw Triumph into the ring as a possibility - founder of the JLA, lost in time and completely forgotten, appeared n Morrison's 'Crisis Times Five' arc in JLA.  If it is him, there'll be much more to say about that when the time comes.

The Ultra Comics cover we see here is clearly based on that perennial Morrison favourite, The Flash #163, though this time around the nameless protagonist of Ultra Comics is urging us not to read the comic (Thanks to Richard de Angelis for reminding me of that Flash cover).
 
Page 3 - "I'm vivisecting a comic book" - well, that's this stuff isn't it?  Writing about it, annotating it, trying to tease out the hidden meanings...

That second panel looks like a piece of Mahnke art from Ultra Comics.

Mister Stubbs the stuffed monkey magically transforms into a real chimp in a full pirate outfit.  David's annotations already covered one possible source for this guy in the obscure Disney movie Toby TylerHis name could also be a reference to Stubb, the second mate on The Pequod from Herman Melville's Moby Dick.  It seems pretty certain that he was the mysterious monkey man imprisoned alongside Metron in Final Crisis #5, who reminded Nix of his magic word and enabled his first transformation into Superjudge.
 


Page 4 - We're looking at Nix through Stubbs' finger goggles, hence the border around the page.

Nix Outan's outfit has undergone the New 52 treatment since we last saw him in Final Crisis; all Nehru collars and busy seams.  The yellow design on the front of his jacket can be read as a sideways letter "M''.  Monitor?  Multiverse?  

There's the Leatherwing sketch in the background again, along with Nix's copies of Ultra Comics, The Just and Chris Burnham's Captain-Carrot-in-Action Comics variant for this issue.

The introductory caption is a deliberate echo of the introductory speech of the George Reeves Adventures of Superman TV show from the 1950's -

"Yes, it's Superman ... strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman ... who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!"
 
Page 5 - Stubbs' "Like I always say...comic books can damage your health" and "But d'ya think it's normal to be reading the comics at our age, boss?" make one of the probable themes of this series pretty explicit - the anxieties of the adult comic book reader over what's widely percieved as a juvenile medium.

The Ultima Thule - named for the term in medieval geography for any location beyond the borders of the known world; "Here be dragons" if you will - is Nix's Yellow Submarine, a Monitor Explorer ship presumably recovered by Nix after it brought The Question and the Multiversal Superman Army to Earth 0 for the final showdown with Mandrakk in Final Crisis #7

The Ultima Thule navigates the Multiverse through music played on the harp-like instrument we can see in panel 3.  More of that later.
 
Page 6 - Responding to the "We need your help" SOS lightning, Nix and Stubbs reach Earth 7, a reality we haven't previously encountered.  As we'll see, this universe is effectively the 'Ultimate' version of the Marvel-analogue world Earth 8.  Things look to have gone pretty far south here.

The screaming ball of energy in the sky might be intended to invoke Solaris, the Tyrant Sun from Morrison's DC One Million and All Star Superman.  I doubt that the faces in the sky are meant to be interpreted as specific characters, though it looks like some of them resemble Hawkman, The Flash and Wonder Woman.  That could be either Earth 7's Plastic Man analogue or "Ultimate Mister Fantastic" spread out all over the floor.
 
Page 7 - "It's so badly out of tune..." - The Multiverse, like music, is all about universes vibrating in harmony.  Earth 7 seems to be pretty far out of whack.

First appearance of Thunderer, an Australian hero named for an Aboriginal rain spirit.  He's an 'Ultimized' version of Wandjina the Thunderer - himself a DC analogue of Marvel's Thor - who first appeared alongside his team mates in the Champions of Angor in 1971's Justice League of America #87 by Mike Friedrich and Dick Dillin.  The original Wandjina was a big bald white guy with a big axe and a furry collar.  He makes an appearance later this issue.



The Champions of Angor, who also counted analogue's of Marvel's Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Yellowjacket amongst their ranks, debuted the month before the first appearance of Marvel's Squadron Supreme (Marvel analogues for DC's Justice League of America) in The Avengers #85 by Roy Thomas and John Buscema.  Friedrich and Thomas were friends in real life, and probably planned their respective stand-ins to debut in (or around) the same month.  Interestingly, Jonathan Hickman (one of the guests at 2012's Morrisoncon) has been using an analogous Justice League in the pages of his Avengers titles for the past few months - I wonder if he and Morrison discussed it beforehand?

At Thunderer's feet lies a pretty blatant stand-in for Captain America
 
Page 8 - Our first look at Intellectron, a member of mysterious villains of the piece The Gentry.  Looking up 'black eggs' on the internet led me to this letter by Aleister Crowley reprinted in his book Magick Without Tears and it's reference to 'the basilisk's black egg'.  The letter concerns Crowley's thoughts on the adept's journey across the Abyss of Choronzon, the last great obstacle to Magickal Enlightenment, and quotes liberally from his own The Vision and The Voice, an account of Crowley's journey through the Enochian Aethyrs of 16th Century magician John Dee and his apprentice Edward Kelley.  Morrison's own experiences crossing the Abyss formed the basis of The Filth and Final Crisis, and in a rare public moment of self-doubt, appeared to be called into question - with Bruce trapped forever  "in a cave, in the dark" - in the finale of his Batman Incorporated

When Nix's eagerness to 'vivisect' the cursed comic book is coupled with Stubbs' self-loathing dim views on the medium, I'd hazard a guess that Morrison is returning to the 'story as spell' of The Invisibles and that The Multiversity is an attempt to pull the whole medium, or at the very least this comic's audience, across Choronzon's Abyss along with Nix himself.  Pretty bold if it is, as there's already been a lot of soul-searching on the Comic Internet in the run up to the series' publication.  Here's hoping the series succeeds in giving us all the catharsis we seem to need.
 
Page 9 - Intellectron calling Nix 'Supergod' is or course a reference to his embodiment of the ideas presented in Morrison's own book on the history and philosophy of super-heroics, Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero (or, in the US, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human).

Stubbs' watch can tell him that interdimensional doorways are being closed by undefined cosmic threats - presumably it's a remote link back to the Ultima Thule.
 
Page 10 - The Gentry's motives are bleak and empty - give up your dreams, abandon all hope.  Be like them.

The Rainbow of Worlds is presumably Thunderer's term for the Orrery.
 
Page 11 - The Gentry probably wanted Nix all along, a trap he willingly walks into.  Thunderer's 'invisible rainbow' is, per the Multiverse map, probably The Source Wall, implying that The Gentry are from somewhere outside the Multiverse entirely.
 
The Multiversity is the House of Heroes (which, as we'll see in a minute, is also a familiar site from comic books past).  Why only 50 worlds?  It would be 51 worlds including Thunderer's own so which one is missing or out of bounds?  Earth 33, our world?  Is it because there are no heroes here?

"Tell them there are things beyond Gods" - again, as per the Multiverse map Nix's realm of Nil sits above and outside the God realms.  In the DC Universe the Monitors are literally beyond the Gods.
 
Page 12 - Nix is being crushed by the panel borders as they shrink.  Even as a Monitor, a denizen of the highest realm, he's not privvy to manipulating the confines of the page itself.  Another suggestion that The Gentry are somehow from beyond the Source Wall - a Multiversal cancer using the 'rules' of the comic book page against their inhabitants.

Our first look at the rest of The Gentry - Dame Merciless, Hell Machine, Lord Broken and Demogorgunn,   Their design reminds me very much of Grant's Doom Patrol work with Richard Case.  I wonder if these monsters were, like many of the Doom Patrol's opponents, the result of deliberately sleep-deprived, semi-concious writing sessions undertaken in the wee small hours...

Page 13 -The Anti-Death Equation - a neat spin on Kirby's Anti-Life - sound similar to Darksied's Life Trap, where the victim is doomed to live an endless procession of miserable lives with no respite and no hope of ever leaving the Karmic Wheel.

It's worth noting that Dame Merciless is completely outside any of the panel borders - cutting an ominous figure through the white page itself.  But what is that she's holding?  Have the bugs in the second to last panel been released from this container?

The Gentry systematically destroy Earth 7 by breaking down the fundamentals of comics art - scale and perspective.

Nix awakes into 'reality' (but which reality?  Earth 0?), his chosen weapons by his side - comic books, anti-depressants and a Rubik's cube...
 
Page 14-15 - Earth 23, home to President of the United States Calvin Ellis, alias Kryptonian orphan Kalel and secretly this world's Superman.  Ellis first appeared in the opening pages of 2008's Final Crisis #7 by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke and starred in Morrison's Action Comics #9 in 2012 (for all intents and purposes this issue was The Multiversity #0).  He was intended as an embodiment of the hope for a brighter future that people were feeling in the wake of Barack Obama's election as President.   Six years later it feels more than a little like he's now more representative of an unfulfilled promise.



Superman is battling a robot that I think has come from Earth 5, likely built by Captain Marvel's arch-nemesis Doctor Sivana - with it's prominent 'teeth' and round spectacle-like eyes, it even looks quite a bit like him.  That would certainly jibe with Steel's description of the robot's inner workings and theories about it's purpose a couple of pages from here.  It's also pretty much the only candidate left given that Earth 5 is highlighted on the cover and there aren't any other obvious inhabitants of that world in this issue.

The Brainiac of Earth 23 is a Kyptonian artificial intelligence that assists Superman via a voice link in his belt buckle.  This bears some resemblance to Morrison's own reworking of Brainiac at the end of his first Action Comics arc, which itself drew on the Kryptonian origin for Brainiac given in the 1990's cartoon Superman: The Animated Series.

General Wade Ealing's Earth 0 counterpart first appeared in 1987's Captain Atom #1 and was created by Cary Bates, Greg Weisman and Pat Broderick.  Ealing was a hard-nosed US military man with a deep-seated suspicion of super-types.  After being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, Ealing stole (and shaved) the body of the indestructible robot the Shaggy Man and rechristened himself The General in 1999's JLA #25 by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter.  Ealing was reintroduced in the New 52, a hard-nosed military man once more, in J.T. Krul and Freddie E. Williams II's short-lived Captain Atom series from 2011.

What is the robot pointing at?  Look to the skies...
 
Page 16 - President Ellis' assistant Courtney appeared previously alongside him in both Final Crisis #7 and Action Comics #9
 
Page 17 - In their headquarters above the world - a combination of the second Watchtower introduced in Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes' Justice League of America #7 from 2007 and the original Justice League satellite that first appeared in 1970's Justice League of America #78 by Denny O'Neil and Dick Dillin - we're introduced to the Justice League of Earth 23.  In a neat inversion of the mainstream DC Universe, Earth 23's Justice League are all black, barring token white guy Batman.

Steel, alias John Henry Irons, first appeared in the wake of the Death of Superman story as one of the four potential replacement Supermen.  A cross between Marvel's Iron Man and Thor via the legend of John Henry, Steel was created by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove and first appeared in The Adventures of Superman #500 in 1993.  The lady in the foreground of panel 2 is Nu'Bia, the Wonder Woman of Earth 23, initially based on Beyonce as Superman was with President Obama, she also first appeared in Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke's Final Crisis #7 (though may have been inspired by a much older character created in 1973 by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck).  To her left in the background are Cyborg, Teen Titan of long-standing and current token black guy in the mainstream Justice League, he was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and first appeared in 1980 in DC Comics Presents #26; and a black Zatanna, based on the (white) character created by Gardner F. Fox and Murphy Anderson who first appeared in 1964's Hawkman #4. 

On Nu'Bia's right from the top down we have a character based on the Red Tornado, an android introduced in 1968's Justice League of America #68 by Gardner F. Fox and Dick Dillin; a charcter based on Green Lantern John Stewart, who first appeared in 1972 in Green Lantern #87 by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams.  Beneath him is Superman and Batman (who looks pretty identical to the character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1938's Detective Comics #27); beneath those two on the right is Black Lightning, who first appeared in 1977's Black Lightning #1 by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden, and on the left is the Manhattan Guardian, who first appeared in 2005's Manhattan Guardian #1, part of Morrison's Seven Soldiers mega-series, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart.  Finally, in the bottom right hand corner is Vixen, created by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner she should have first appeared in the first issue of her own series in 1978 but it was cancelled before it was published.  She eventually made her debut proper three years later in 1981's Action Comics #521 and went on to be a long-standing member of the Suicide Squad and the Justice League on two separate occasions.

This dude's statistical analysis of a universe divided into Green Lantern-sized chunks suggests - at a conservative estimate - that the number of inhabited planets per sector would be a hell of a lot more than 101.

Luthor's parallel-world traversing Transmatic Symphonic Array played a major part in Calvin Ellis's last appearance Action Comics #9
 
Page 19 - The House of Heroes is located inside the bruised and battered shell of the (original) Monitor's satellite, which first appeared in New Teen Titans #21 in 1982, a full three years before it's purpose would be revealed in Marv Wolfman and George Perez's Crisis on Infinite Earths series. 
 
Page 20 - Ah, Captain Carrot.  2014 man, and we're all loving a comic with Captain Carrot in it.  Amazing.  The good Captain first appeared in a special preview insert in New Teen Titans #16 in 1982, by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!, before moving across to his own series, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, which ran for 20 issues trough to the end of 1983. A noble if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to revitalize the Funny Animal genre, his appearances since the end of that series have been few and far between, though in an unlikely turn he was recently revived in the New 52 as Captain K-Rot by Keith Giffen and Tom Raney in the pages of the 2013 Threshold series.  Captain Carrot met the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman of Earth 1 in the first issue of his own series, and met the post-Infinite Crisis, pre-New 52 Superman in the closing pages of 2008's Final Crisis.  His comments about not being able to tell humans apart, along with the shiny metal carrots on his post-New 52 suit, are priceless.


 
Page 21 - Dr. Hoot, malevolent mastermind owl and arch-foe of Captain Carrot, first appeared in Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! #5 by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!.  Apparently, according to this page, the diabolical Doctor is based on Doctor Who, so his plot to trick Captain Carrot into the Transmatter Hutch makes a lot of sense.

Captain Carrot, like 1970's Captain America and 1990's Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, was a comic book artist in his secret identity of Rodney (originally Roger) Rabbit.

We'll meet Spore and Dino Cop over the next couple of pages.  Their home world of Earth 41 appears to be analogous to the first wave of Image Comics from the early 90's.

This throwaway mention of the Fifth Dimension - home to malevolent imps Mr Mxyztplk and Lord Vyndktvx and one of the last mysteries of the Multiverse map - will likely pay off as the series progresses.
 
Page 22-23 -On the far right of this double page spread - lurking in the shadows like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing did in the original gathering aboard the Monitor's satellite in Crisis on Infinite Earths - is probably the aforementioned Spore.  Interesting that Morrison would position this pastiche of Todd McFarlane's Spawn as a counterpart to Swamp Thing rather than the probably more obvious Batman.  Spawn first appeared in the first issue of his titular series at Image in 1992 and, almost 250 issues later is still going from strength to strength.  I wonder if his appearance here is the source of the recent rumours that Morrison, who wrote three issues of Spawn in the mid 1990's for a reported fee of $1 million, would be returning to write the title again?

Next to Spore's head are Flashlight and Red Racer, Earth 36's versions of Green Lantern and The Flash respectively.  They were mentioned in Action Comics #9 but this is the first time we've seen them.

Opposite Flashlight and Red Racer on the platform is Dino Cop, a (very) thinly veiled version of Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon.  Larsen initially seemed fairly unimpressed when somebody pointed this out to him on Twitter, though he seemed much more amenable to it after sleeping on it.  Larsen's Dragon first appeared in Megaton #3 in 1986, but is probably best known for his ongoing Image series which has just hit the #200 mark.  Savage Dragon is an under-appreciated gem in today's comic book world and if you've never read it before you really should give it a look.

Below Dino Cop's platform are Gypsy and Bloodwynd, two fairly unpopular Justice Leaguers from the 80's and 90's respectively.  Gypsy, part of Aquaman's 'Justice League Detroit' - a bunch of amateur heroes who could look after League business full time while Superman and Batman were away having adventures in their own titles - first appeared in Justice League of America Annual #2 in 1982 and was created by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton.  Bloodwynd is a heroic necromancer (there's a rarity) created by writer/artist Dan Jurgens who first appeared in the first issue of Jurgens' run on the 90's Justice League in Justice League America #61.  He later turned out to be the Martian Manhunter in disguise, though in a Xorn-esque move the *real* Bloodwynd, who looked and sounded exactly like the imposter, surfaced at around the same time.  Both are probably from Earth 16 and are likely to appear in The Multiversity: The Just one-shot due to drop in October. 

Next to Bloodwynd is a robotic Hawkman we haven't seen before - judging by the highlighted Earths on the cover he's probably from Earth 44, which was noted as having a robotic Justice League lead by the human Doc Tornado in Final Crisis #7.  (Update:  My bad, we have seen him before - fighting the real Justice League in that very issue...)



Standing beside the robot Hawkman is Aquawoman, Queen of the Seven Seas, a female version of Aquaman who hails from the gender-reversed Earth 11.  Though this is Aquawoman's first appearance, her homeworld was seen in Superman/Batman #24 from 2006 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness.  Loeb was probably inspired by 'The Turnabout Trap' from Superman #349 by Martin Pasko and Curt Swan, which also featured a gender-reversed parallel Earth and was, unusually for a one-off tale, featured heavily in Jeff Rovin's seminal Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes (a reference work Morrison himself referenced in his Animal Man run and in the bibliography of Supergods).

Next to Aquawoman are Lady Quark and Lord Volt, who again judging by the Earth checklist provided by the cover, are from Earth 48 (the yellow triangle may be a stylised 'V' for Volt).  Both originally first appeared as parallel Earth cannon fodder in Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, though in the pre-Crisis DC Universe they hailed from Earth 6.  Lord Volt was killed in his first appearance and Lady Quark fared little better, spending the next 20-odd years making cameos in the various L.E.G.I.O.N. series and playing a minor role in Jim Starlin's incomprehensible noughties DC space saga. 

Finally, in front of Aquawoman and robot Hawkman are Wonder Woman and Steel from the 'Chibi' (little bodies, big heads) world of Earth 42.  The Wonder Woman of this Earth appeared previously in Action Comics #9, where it was revealed that Superdoom had ravaged their world and (probably) killed their Superman.  The history of the L'il League of the Chibi world is pretty weird - though they appeared in a couple of issues of Superman/Batman by Michael Nelson, Michael Green and Rafael Albuquerque in 2008, they had first appeared (only once) some 24 years earlier in the Super Jr.'s Holiday Special: Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #58.  They had actually been created two years before that and appear in Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's classic DC Style Guide from that year.  Apparently they appeared on a ton of merchandise in the early to mid-80's but, prior to 2008, only appeared once in an actual comic.

Page 23 - "Great Vathlo!" - Vathlo was an island on Krypton where all of the black people on Krypton lived (...).  It was first mentioned in a map printed in Superman #239 in 1971 - though Sal Amendola is credited with it's creation on Wikipedia, I'm sure I've seen mention that E. Nelson Bridwell had a hand in it as well (let's say reference forthcoming... Update: Well, now that I found the picture I'm pretty certain it was written by Bridwell, no-one seems to know definitively though).  Alan Moore would mention Vathlo as a hotspot of racial tension in his classic 'For The Man Who Has Everything' from Superman Annual #11 (1985), and Morrison established Earth 23's Vathlo as the science-capital of Krypton and birthplace of Kalel in Final Crisis #7.



"Harbinger systems operational" - Harbinger was the herald of the Monitor in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths.  She was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and first appeared (as Llyla, her 'secret identity') in New Teen Titans Annual #2 in 1983.  Her armoured costume, which her virtual self is wearing here, was first seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths #1.  Harbinger, like Pariah and Lady Quark - two other characters created explicitly for Crisis on Infinite Earths - struggled to find a sympathetic writer following the Crisis, with most of her appearances coming in big summer crossovers like Millenium and War of the Gods.  She was killed repelling an invasion of Paradise Island by the Female Furies of Apokolips in Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner's Superman/Batman #10 in 2004.  Apparently she currently features in the Arrow TV series as a member of the Suicide Squad (?!).

"Are all the Monitors dead?" - This seems to suggest that Harbinger and the original Monitor were always aware that there were multiple (infinite?) Monitors, something that was explicitly not the case in Wolfman's original Crisis on Infinite Earths series.

'Valla-Hal' = Valhalla, put through the Monitor Name Generator, probably - like Weeja Dell - intended to evoke the Silver Surfer's lost love Shalla Bal, a Morrison favourite in the exotic name stakes.  Valhalla is the beer hall of the after-life where the Norse Gods will retire for a pint and a crafty fag when Ragnarok is all done.

Page 24 - "The hour has come to summon the greatest heroes of fifty two worlds" - but according to Nix, Thunderer can only summon another 50 to the House of Heroes.  So who's the last one?  Is it... me?

"The corruption of the Orrery is underway" - These are the Earths we'll be visiting in The Multiversity one-shots that follow this issue - Earth 4 (Charlton Earth, Pax Americana), Earth 5 (Shazam Earth, Thunderworld), Earth 10 (Nazi Earth, Master Men), Earth 16 ("Me" Earth, The Just), Earth 20 (pulp Earth, The Society of Superheroes), and Earth 33 (our 'real' Earth, Ultra Comics).

Page 25 - Dino Cop's mastery of the Cyber Chair will let the folks remaining on the satellite see what the away team on board the Ultima Thule are doing when they set off into The Bleed in a couple of pages.

As hinted at by Morrison in the run up to The Multiversity's publication, one parallel Earth is the setting for the comic books of another.  That's Gene Ha's cover to Action Comics #9 'shopped into Reis' art in panel three.

Nice bit of diplomacy from President Ellis there.

Page 26 - It looks like there are various other ships from the Monitor Sphere (as detailed on the Multiverse map), in the satellite's hangar.

"Strange, it's like something I've seen in a dream."  Could be a reference to Final Crisis' uncertain canonical status post-New 52.  I can assure him though, he's definitely been on it before.  I remember reading it...

Justice 9 are presumably the Justice League of Earth 36.  Optiman's fate was hinted at in Action Comics #9.  'Major Comics' are the Multiversal analogue for Marvel Comics, as we'll see when we get to Earth 8...



Page 27 - "So sad... so hopeful... so brave" was how the Earth 23 Superman described the Music of the Spheres in Final Crisis #7

Page 28 - In the background of panel 2 we can see the Hawkgirl that currently features in DC's Earth 2 series, and a clock at 5 to midnight - presumably an Earth 4-related reference to the Doomsday Clock that featured so heavily in Watchmen.  I'm not sure anything else there specifically relates to the story we're reading, though I do like Chris Sims' suggestion that those two cars racing each other is a window into the parallel Earth of The Fast and The Furious.

The only reality that green monster has managed to get it's tendril into is the Hall of Heroes itself.  I wonder if this foreshadows sort sort of Zenith Phase III-style 'enemy amongst us' situation later in the series.  My God, I can't believe it's taken me this long to get around to referencing Zenith Phase III.  More of that in a minute...

Is that monster how The Gentry look outside regular dimensional space?  A composite being?

Jazz?  Superman should try getting his funk on...

Page 29 - Earth 8.  Formerly known as Angor, Earth 8 has long been established as a DC anologue of the Marvel Universe and this is a kind of 'New 52' version of it, with updated costumes and, in at least one case, a new character in for one who's previously appeared.  Angor debuted 1971's Justice League of America #87 by Mike Friedrich and Dick Dillin.

Lord Havok, Earth 8's Doctor Doom, was created by Keith Giffen, Gerard Jones and Bart Sears and first appeared as leader of The Extremists in 1990's Justice League Europe #15.  His Omni-Gauntlets appear to be analogous to Marvel's Infinity Gauntlet, and Wundajin's Lightning Axe corresponds to the Hammer of Thor.  Though I initially thought of Krona's Cosmic Egg from Kurt Busiek and George Perez's JLA/Avengers, a commentator on David's Comics Alliance annotations thought the Genesis Egg might be equivalent to the cocoon that Adam Warlock hatched from.  They're probably right.

Page 30 - That's the original Wandjina - the white bald guy with the furry collar mentioned upstream but here renamed Wundajin - that Thunderer is punching out.  The Iron Man analogue in panel six is Machinehead.  A previous Angorian version of Iron Man appeared in 1990's Justice League Quarterly #3 by Gerard Jones, Keith Giffen and Mike Mckone, but that guy was called Tin Man.

"Something tells me there's a link with the disappearance of Hyperius" - Another missing Superman, another contender for the ultimate antagonist of the series.  Though Marvel would love it if anybody (please...) considered The Sentry as their premier Superman stand-in, everybody knows that nobody likes The Sentry, so it looks like we're sticking with Hyperion from the Squadron Supreme...

Page 31-32 - Of course, if this is equivalent to the Marvel Universe, then any gathering of heroes must result in a big dust-up.  These rampaging Retaliators of Earth 8 are (from left to right), a stand in for The Wasp? (Not sure about this at all.  There's an historic Champion of Angor called T.A. who's a lady with big metal wings but she looks nothing like this - I don't get who she's supposed to be a stand in for either though.  And what sort of a name is T.A.??); a stand in for former-Ms. Marvel, current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers - Captain Major maybe?  The American Crusader, a pretty obvious Captain America riff; The Bowman, a stand-in for Hawkeye (no idea why he's blue); Brown Widow (joking, but yeah, why not?); a stand in for Spider-Woman (Angor's Spider-Man is named Bug, but Bug-Woman is a terrible name); and some sort of S.H.I.E.L.D.-style liaison who looks uncannily like the Twitter avatar of Armagideon Time's Andrew Weiss.

Again, we're firmly in Zenith Phase III territory here - where The Multiversity encompasses both DC and Marvel comics (or very close equivalents), Zenith was a very British Multiversal Crisis that drew in both Fleetway and (thinly veiled analogues of) D.C. Thompson's Beano and Dandy characters.  Still, it's not like the big bads are Lovecraftian monsters from beyond space and time is it?  Oh...

Was Superman's jazz a bit off then, or is there a reason the Thule couldn't return to Earth 7?  Have The Gentry crumpled it up and binned it like a mother at the end of her tether over your untidy room?

Page 33 - Calvin Ellis, Earth 23's premier peacemaker...

Cool type treatment on American Crusader's name.  The Future Family are the Earth 8 equivalent of the Fatastic Four and The Bug, "The Hero You Hate To Love", is Spider-Man (he's actually appeared a couple of times before - in Justice League Quarterly #3 and as a villain in Superman/Batman #20-24 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness - though that might have been a different parallel Earth Spider-Man analog with the same name.  Sorry, my Loeb mojo is pretty weak...). 

The G-Men are alternate verisons of the X-Men, and Stuntmaster is Daredevil.  Both are new additions to Earth 8/Angor lore.  Also new is Doctor David Dibble, a.k.a. Behemoth; Earth 8's version of the Hulk.  In a nappy.

Page 34 - Captain Carrot gets involved in a bit of Tom & Jerry-style horseplay.  I'd like to see more of this please.

Page 35 - Frank Future is the Earth 8 version of Marvel's Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mister Fantastic.  Havok's declaration that he's Future's "greatest creation.  Your ultimate failure."  is probably a reference to Morrison's own Fantastic Four 1234, where Doctor Doom duped Mister Fantastic into believing that Doom was actually Reed's 'dark side' whom Reed had expunged and given physical form as a Tulpa.  1234 is a good (if a little dark) Fantastic Four story that I haven't read for ages and I'll definitely be digging out again now.  You should give it a go if you haven't before.



"Don't do this Damon!" - According to Frank Tieri's 2007 Countdown Presents: Lord Havok & The Extremists mini-series, Havok's real name is Alexi Nikolai.  This apparently incongruous tiny detail has totally spoiled my enjoyment of this comic :/

Of course Frank Future has stretching powers, just like his Marvel counterpart.  Presumably that's two more members of the Future Family, the Earth 8 versions of the Human Torch and The Thing, laying defeated in the foreground of panel two.

Page 36 - 'The Power Eternal' is probably equivalent to the Marvel 'Power Cosmic'.  One more tick in the box for the Genesis Egg being a version of Adam Warlock's cocoon, as Warlock did indeed possess the Power Cosmic.

Havok cracks the egg.  I don't think what's going to come out of it is what he was expecting... 

Notice again the energies contained in the egg have spilled out of the panel borders and started to infect the page...

Page 37 - "I SAW THEIR FACES!" - The Gentry?  Us?  Havok, like The Gentry back on Earth 7 has seen the other side and transcended the gutters and panel borders.

Harsh move from Hawkeye - sorry, The Bowman.  Shooting both of Havok's eyes out with an arrow?  Yeesh.

Page 38 - The infection from the egg starts to spread, wrapping it's tendrils around the structure of the page itself.

Uotan's trapped in the egg?  How does Thunderer know that?  Why do his eye's keep changing colour?  Will this be another mystery made unsolvable by incosistent colouring ala Hal Jordan's scar in Final Crisis?

Page 39 - The basilisk's black egg has hatched and birthed a new vampiric Nix.  He's also - at least partly - broken free of the restraints of the comic book page, while the Multiversal effluent flowing from the egg drowns the page in chattering vermin, sinister tendrils and black amniotic fluid...

And you thought Final Crisis was Death Metal...

-------------

As usual,if you've any comments, corrections or questions, searing critiques or glowing appraisals please do get in touch.

See you in September for The Multiversity: The Society of Superheroes: Conquerors of Counter Earth #1!


  
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