DC Comics, November 2014, Color, 48pgs, $4.99
Written by GRANT MORRISON ; Art and cover by CHRIS SPROUSE and KARL STORY; 1:25 Variant Cover by FRAZER IRVING; 1:50 Variant Cover by GUILLEM MARCH; 1:100 Variant Cover by GRANT MORRISON
The biggest adventure in DC Comics history continues!
Grant Morrison joins modern legend Chris Sprouse (TOM STRONG, BATMAN: RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE, ACTION COMICS) for a trip to Earth-20 starring a Society of Super Heroes unlike anything you’ve seen before! It’s pulp Super Hero action with a post-modern twist — you can’t afford to miss it!
Apparently inspired by an unused idea for DC's short-lived First Wave range of books, Grant Morrison and Chris Sprouse tackle the derring-do and high adventure of a pulp fiction parallel Earth in this latest chapter of The Multiversity - pitting Earth 20's square-jawed idealists against their all-evil-all-the-time Johnny Foreigner Earth 40 counterparts. The incompatability of traditional pulp adventure - with it's unsavoury attitudes towards both race and brutal violence - with Morrison's 'super-hero as inspirational figure' philosophy is touched upon, but maybe not as well developed as it could be (I totally missed what Morrison was going for with the reveal of Doc Fate as black until I read it later in an interview for instance). As a tall tale of rip-roaring adventure though it's hard to top, and probably a stronger stand-alone comic than last issue despite them sharing for all intents and purposes the same plot.
Though mentioned as a member of the Society of Super-Heroes in various interviews prior to Multiversity's publication, Morrison's pulp take on The Bat-Man doesn't make it into this issue.
Mildly worried that every issue of The Multiversity will end just as the final act begins, just like this issue and the prior one, though I'm confident that Morrison can still surprise us with what he can do within this repeating structure. I'm also slightly surprised at the apparent lack of Alan Moore baiting here, given Moore's love of the pulp tale (as seen in Tom Strong), but not sorry to note it's absence to be honest. I wonder if there was ever any plans for this issue to be set on the America's Best Comics' Earth? (Incidentally, a noticable absentee from the Map of the Multiverse, despite it being owned by DC. Maybe Earth 15, destroyed in Countdown and something of a black void on the map, will be retconned to be Earth ABC?).
Anyhow, enough of all of this Alan Moore talk, there'll be plenty of that when Pax Americana gets here. On with the annotations...
Cover - The regular cover by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story has Doc Fate's Society of Super Heroes facing down Felix Faust's zombie stormtroopers, all wrapped up in a neat (Rian Hughes?) design that evokes the pulp magazines of the 1930's. The 'featured Earths' sidebar is very straightforward this time around - Earth 20 for the S.O.S. and Earth 40 for their malevolent counterparts, the Society of Super-Villains.
Frazer Irving's variant, like Chris Burnham's Action Comics #1 homage last time around, is a hat-tip to another classic DC cover - this time it's Kevin Maguire and Terry Austin's iconic Justice League #1 from 1987. It features the Justice League of the Vertigo-esque Earth 13, led by Superdemon, a Superman/Etrigan mash-up who appeared in the sketchbook section of Final Crisis: Secret Files and made a fleeting one panel cameo in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1. Directly behind Superdemon with the Ankh design over his right eye is Jared Stevens, alias A Man Called Fate, a grim 'n' gritty 90's take on Doctor Fate who first appeared in 1994's Fate #0 by John Francis Moore and Anthony Williams. Behind him in the black domino mask is John Constantine, Hell Blazer, a Marvel-style costumed crimefighting take on Alan Moore's scouse magus who first appeared in Grant Morrison and Ken Steacy's 'And Men Shall Call Him... Hero!' in 1992's Doom Patrol #53. You can see Grant Morrison's original design for Hell Blazer alongside his teammates in the Mighty Mystics here.
I didn't know who any of the rest of those guys were, so rather than subject you to the 500+ words of baseless speculation that I had originally written here - in a nutshell, Blue Devil, the Tattooed Man, The Radiant, Negative Man and Thula from the Resurrection Man-era Forgotten Heroes - I just asked Frazer Irving on Twitter...
Either side of Superdemon is Zatanna (probably on the left) and the Enchantress, behind them are Fate and Deadman. Back row is Klarion (the Witch Man?), Ragman and Hell Blazer, and behind them - a ghostly green swamp gas floating in the background - is Swamp Thing. Thanks Frazer!
Guillem March's 'History of the Multiverse' cover is a (very) straight recreation of Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson's cover for 1963's Justice League of America #21 - the first meeting between the Justice League of Earth-1 and the Justice Society of Earth-2. March does a good job, but I'm disappointed he decided to drop the 'everybody holding hands' seance vibe from his version.
Finally, the 1:100 Grant Morrison cover is another collage of preparatory sketches. This time around they're of Earth 20's Green Lantern, Abin Sur, and his Society of Super-Heroes cohort, Doc Fate.
Page 1 - The issue opens at the junction of 53rd Street and 5th Avenue, New York. Looking at Google Maps, the Tower of Fate - Doc Fate's towering windowless obelisk headquarters - sits in roughly the same place that Trump Tower - home to both The Apprentice TV show and Jay Z and Beyonce - does here in the real world. Chris Sprouse peppers the real New York architecture with fictional vehicles, buildings and walkways that befit a society that's aesthetically barely left the 1940's. The Doc's biography in the sketchbook section of Final Crisis: Secret Files established that Earth 20's equivalent to World War 2 has only just ended and, whether as a result of the toils of war or due to the lack of a post-war baby boom on that Earth, the world's population stands at only slightly above two billion.
The Immortal Man's reference to V Radio in the introduction, and the V Radio Repair truck in the foreground - visual radio? Earth 20's version of TV, simultaneously looking to the future and quaintly old-fashioned.
"It must have been 110 summers since I last strolled down Fifth Avenue." The Immortal Man, a caveman who's exposure to a strangely irradiated meteor millions of years in the past has enabled him to live forever (or, in the original stories, reincarnate immediately on death), first appeared in 1965's Strange Adventures #177. It's not known definitively who created the character, but all of his early adventures were drawn by Jack Sparling and at least some of them were written by Dave Wood. The character as he appears here bears little resemblance to the one who appeared in Strange Adventures - it wasn't until Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane's Forgotten Heroes tale in 1984's Action Comics #552-553 (also featuring Morrison favourites Animal Man and Dolphin) that his back story as the opposite number to Golden Age Green Lantern villain Vandal Savage (another cave man endowed with immortality) was established.
Coupled with the comments about his living amongst the animals later in this introductory passage, it's a decent bet Morrison is positioning the Immortal Man as Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes to Fate's Doc Savage. The '110 summers' remark might be a reference to Tarzan's adventures in the USA from Burroughs' first book - though they actually took place in the forests of Wisconsin there, they've most commonly been transplanted in movies and TV to the urban jungle of Manhattan.
Professor Rival's discovery of the Immortal Man in 1912 is a veiled reference to Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World, published in that year and featuring Professor Challenger discovering primitive tribes and ape-men living on an Amazonian plateau alongside a world of still-living dinosaurs. 'Anthro', the name bestowed on the Immortal Man by Professor Rival, is Howard Post's caveman boy-hero who first appeared in 1968's Showcase #74. He also appeared at the beginning of Morrison's Final Crisis. I don't think he's been linked to his fellow cavemen Vandal Savage and the Immortal Man prior to this issue, but it's a neat tying up of obscure bits of Stone Age DC continuity.
The Immortal Man's comments about the persistence of life - "the city couldn't wait one minute longer to be born" - echo the nameless narrator's introduction on page one of last issue.
Page 2-3 - I love Chris Sprouse's redesign of the Immortal Man - cocky and full of swagger, as befits a guy who's going to live forever. With his striped jersey and wide smile, I'm thinking there's definitely a touch of the Kirk Douglas in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea about him.
Inside the Tower of Fate stand various statues of the ibis-headed Thoth, the Egyptian God of magic, writing and science.
Page 4 -Lady Blackhawk and her Blackhawks are based on the crew of ace aviators who first appeared in Quality Comics' Military Comics #1 way back in 1941, created by Chuck Cuidera, Bob Powell and Will Eisner . There have been various Lady Blackhawks over the years stretching back to 1943, but Morrison's version doesn't seem to be a direct riff on any one of them in particular. The Lady's Blackhawks - Killah, Pixie, Red, Monkey and Princess - are by Morrison's own admission based on 90's British pop group the Spice Girls (Scary, Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Posh Spice respectively). Morrison also divined inspiration from the Spice Girls for the Stepford Cuckoos during his New X-Men run - the initial letter of their forenames were intended to spell out S.P.I.C.E., but Morrison only got around to introducing four of them before Chuck Austen messed it up and called the last one 'Mindy'.
Al Wadi, means 'the valley' in Arabic. It's also the name of a fictional DC Universe city in Moorish Spain that featured in Robert Vendetti's Demon Knights. Vendetti's 2013 tale was the last storyline to feature Vandal Savage prior to this one, so it's not completely out of the realms of possibility that Morrison may have read it for research prior to polishing off the dialogue for this issue.
'The Man-Eating Men of Ghulistan' - Cannibals are, of course, par for the course in pulp adventure tales, Ghulistan was the setting for Robert E. Howard's Conan tale The People of the Black Circle, though Morrison's not just using it here to reference an old Conan tale. Doc Fate's reference a couple of pages later to Ibn Al Ghul - translated, the Son of the Demon (Damian Wayne?) - suggests that Ghulistan may in fact be a country ruled by the Al Ghul family - a Nation of Assassins if you like.
''The Eye of the Giaour' references Lord Byron's 1813 poem 'The Giaour - A Fragment of a Turkish Tale', in which the nameless giaour - an offensive word for 'non-believer' in Turkish - falls in love with Leila, who is drowned by her outraged master for her indiscretion. After the giaour kills the master in revenge, he retires to a monastery in penance, cursed to become a vampire upon his death, killing and drinking the blood of his loved ones.
"Al Pratt, A.K.A. The Mighty Atom" is based on the diminutive Golden Age hero of the same name created by Ben Flinton and Bill O'Connor, who first appeared in 1940's All-American Comics #19. Morrison's Atom takes his 'Mighty' appellation from Flinton and O'Connor's real-life inspiration, 5' 4" Coney Island strongman Joe Greenstein - a Polish Jew who was arrested in 1939 for beating up a group of 18 American Nazis with a baseball bat while he himself suffered no injuries. Apparently, when grilled by the judge about the incident, Greenstein said "It wasn't a fight your honour, it was a pleasure."
The Atom was, like Greenstein, a scrapper and a tough guy with no super powers, but that didn't stop him becoming a founding member of the Justice Society of America in 1940. In 1948, eight years after his first appearance he inexplicably developed super strength and a radioactive 'Atomic Punch' (retroactively explained by Roy Thomas in his All Star Squadron series as an after-effect of a battle with the villainous Cyclotron)
Page 5 - "the only person who completed the Iron Munro Bodypower Course." A reference to Charles Atlas's Dynamic Tension course, the bodybuilding program that "made a man out of Mac" and also inspired Morrison's Flex Mentallo. Iron Munro was another Roy Thomas retrofit who first appeared in 1987's Young All Stars #1 as a Post-Crisis proxy for the Golden Age Superman, who had been erased from DC continuity after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Thomas appropriated Munro's name from a series of pulp tales by John W. Campbell, and his background from Philip Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator, a key inspiration for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
The Atom's mask has the chemical symbol for hydrogen on it, which - as per Final Crisis: Superman Beyond - also appears on the forehead of Earth 4's Captain Adam (Morrison's.version of the Charlton hero Captain Atom), and on the forehead of his primary inspiration, Doctor Manhattan from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen.
"I've been on a long walk to and from the Center of the Earth and I'm trying to catch up." So, he's Tarzan, Kirk Douglas, *and* Pat Boone from the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth movie as well. A proper pulp action man.
Herr Hex could be named for the German word 'Hexe', which means witch, or, given we're playing in the DC sandbox here, could be a villainous Germanic version of Jonah Hex (Johann Hex maybe?). Reference to his 'Desert Crescent' allies and various other throwaway comments scattered throughout the issue suggest that America's enemy in Earth 20's Great War were Muslims rather than Nazis - a very 21st century update of the fear-fuelled racism of the original 1930's pulps.
Page 6 - Our introduction to Doc Fate, leader of the Society of Superheroes and Earth 20's greatest hero. Doc is primarily based on the Golden Age DC superhero Doctor Fate - created by Gardner F. Fox and Howard Sherman in 1940's More Fun Comics #55 - and Lester Dent's pulp adventurer Doc Savage, who first appeared in Doc Savage Magazine #1 in 1933.
I wonder if Ibn Al Ghul's Suicide Djinn are connected to the 'real' Djinn of the Fifth Dimension?
Doc's reference to his 'techno-etheric' expertise positions him as both a scientist and a master of darker arts.
The Atom is leafing through a copy of Ultra Comics, the 'haunted comic book' also seen last issue (and due to be published as an installment of The Multiversity in early 2015).
"You don't read comic books Doc? That's like saying you don't watch movies." One upshot of a world that hasn't aesthetically progressed much since the 1930's seems to be that comic books are still a wildly popular mainstream pursuit...
Like her male namesake and inspiration, Lady Blackhawk seems to be Polish. 'Sweity Bog' translates as 'Holy God'.
Morrison wastes no time setting out this mysterious visitor's stall as a (literally) unearthly presence via the time-honoured tradition of understanding the emotional (in this case the concept of comedy) only in purely logical dictionary-definition terms, ala Mister Spock.
Page 7 - Abin Sur of Ungara was the Green Lantern who crashed to Earth in 1959's Showcase #22, sending his ring to locate a worthy replacement while he lay dying in the ruin of his spacecraft. Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, Sur passed the torch (or, more accurately, the lantern) to Hal Jordan, and kickstarted the Silver Age saga of the Green Lantern Corps. Sprouse and Morrison's Earth 20 redesign of Sur's costume calls back to the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, created by Martin Nodell in 1940's All-American Comics #16.
Abin Sur's horns and fangs are a new look for autumn 2014, though they provide a convenient explanation as to why none of the Society have encountered him previously in their Earth-bound adventures. The heros' reaction to him also touches on the idea that the heroic pulp adventure word of Earth 20 is an inherently problematic one when it comes to questions of race, something Morrison returns to later in the issue (though probably doesn't develop enough if I'm honest...)
Presumably The Atom's 'Abin Soor' dialogue is meant to indicate that even the most optimistic, youthful and politically progressive of the Society's heroes doesn't make the effort to pronounce the outsider's name correctly even as he extends the hand of friendship to him.
John Stewart, Green Lantern of Earth 23, mentioned last issue that he patrolled one hundred and one populated planets in Sector 2814 of that universe. I wonder why Abin Sur has one less?
Radium, a radioactive element with an eerie green glow, was once used to paint watch dials and aircraft instruments, and was even used as an additive in tooth paste and food. After five 'Radum Girls' - women who painted the watch dials with radioactive paint - sued factory bosses over illnesses they'd contracted after licking the paintbrushes (!) the dangers of radioactivity became a hot button news item and by the 1960's, it had rapidly fallen out of favour.
Page 8 - I wonder whether the Immortal Man was at the traditional Middle Ages Camelot or the pre-historic Hyperborean version from Morrison's Seven Soldiers? Both maybe.
Doc Fate's giant crystal ball recalls the crystal ball used by Earth 1's Justice League to contact Earth 2's Justice Society in 1963's Justice League of America #21 (whose cover is reproduced by Guillem March on one in fifty copies of this very issue...). The crystal ball was given to the JLA by Merlin following the their battle against the Secret Sorcerers in Justice League of America #2 - a Gardner F. Fox and Mike Sekowsky joint. When the 'Magic Dimension' and the 'Science Dimension' swapped places, the always-rational JLA lost their powers and begrudgingly resorted to magic cauldron's and incantations in order to beat a cabal of giants, manticores and medieval magi. Not as good as you'd hope it might be.
Some interesting ideas here that haven't come up before - though Earth 20's Guardians of the Universe probably aren't aware of the bigger Multiversal picture (otherwise they would have already known Earth 40 was there rather than having recently detected it), they can (and are) monitoring the Bleed Space for some reason. The idea of parallel worlds in binary opposition is an intriguing one. How many more worlds are a direct reflection of their opposite number?
Doc Fate's comments about a 'ghost airship' call back to his appearance alongside Lady Blackhawk in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1, where he briefly saw the Ultima Thule travel though the skies of Earth 20 on it's way to Limbo.
An ominous first glimpse of the Society of Super Villains, looming over a New York in flames...
Page 9 - This was Chris Sprouse's second attempt at the splash page for this issue and chronologically the last page he drew for it. You can see his first version in this (very good) interview with Sprouse from Newsarama..
"Conquerors from the Counter World" But in the end, who's conquering who? And which is the Counter Earth?
Page 10-11 - As per that Sprouse interview, the Society of Super Villains' aircraft is essentially two zeppelins and a flying wing bolted together.
A 'centimillenum' would be 100 millenium, or 100,000 years (as Felix Faust confirms). Here on Earth 33, it's either not really the right term or so lightly used in a proper context that most Google hits for it are people yabbering on about numbers of message board posts...
Vandal Savage, *another* immortal caveman and opposite number to the Immortal Man, was created by Alfred Bester and Martin Nodell and first appeared in 1944's Green Lantern #10. He's something of a pet villain of Morrison's, having appeared previously as one of the main antagonists of both DC One Million and The Return of Bruce Wayne. He's pretty comfortable dropping back into his cannibalistic caveman ways when the situation calls for it.
The Earth 20 Felix Faust is, unlike his Earth 0 counterpart, obviously of Middle Eastern heritage. Interesting that while one of Morrison's stated aims of Multiversity is to promote a more inclusive and diverse DC Universe, in this chapter it's the villains who demonstrate that diversity, while the heroes are mostly white. Morrison commented in this interview that Doc Fate's helmet-removing reveal later in the issue was meant to make us question why the only black man on the team would need to wear a full face mask. If World War has been raging for fifty plus years on Earth 20, did the Civil Rights Movement ever happen there? Are the social attitudes of these characters towards race stuck in the 1930's along with their design aethetic?
Clearly the much more refined tastes of the hellish Earth 40 have confined comic books to the literary dustbin, where they belong.
As in the similarly pre-superhero inspired The Return of Bruce Wayne, Morrison jams as many pulp traditions in as he can. Dude's not *just* a caveman, he's a pirate caveman!
Page 12-13 - If the interdimensional invaders as Middle Eastern terrorists allegory wasn't already spelled out clearly enough for you, that appears to be the World Trade Center that the villain's have toppled in the top panel.
In the bottom panel, amidst the drones, robots and shock troops, we get our first gliimpse of Felix Faust's Necro Man: Nazi-like zombie stormtroopers
Page 14 - Cut to Doc Fate's Aztec temple hideaway, five years later. Morrison is (or was, whenever this issue was written) clearly still on a massive supercompression tip - you don't need to see five years of the toils of war, fill in the gaps yourself. It's ending here, now, and that's the important part of the story...
The Fear Thing, as we'll find out in a couple of pages, is Parallax.
Page 16 -The Music of the Spheres (or Musica Universalis in Latin - the "Universal Music") is an ancient philosophical concept of a natural harmony between the heavenly bodies - a harmony that unites mathematics and divine spirituality and imperceptibly affects all life on Earth. It would seem to be a key lynchpin of Grant Morrison's conception of how the DC Multiverse 'works'.
Doc Fate referring to Parallax as The Makara is an interesting one on a couple of different levels. 'Makara' is both a mythological Hindu sea monster (perhaps tying the dragon-like Parallax we see here more closely to Ion, the Geoff Johns-created space whale embodiment of the Green Lantern force) and also the collective name for the Seven Sisters who became the Pleiades star system in Australian Aboriginal mythology. With just one throwaway descriptor (and a kick-ass flying tyrannosaurus skeleton redesign) Morrison makes Geoff Johns' interminable Judeo-Christian-heavy Green Lantern Ur-myth one thousand times more appealing to me. More of this please.
As Doc Savage - Fate's inspiration - was the Man of Bronze so Fate is the Man of Gold, with an obligatory golden sheen to his skin tone.
Page 17 - As Jim Harbor pointed out on Twitter, according to the extra pages added to Final Crisis for the Absolute Edition (and the new version of the trade paperback), Nix Uotan was Rox Ogama's son, not Dax Novu's. Maybe Morrison forgot, or maybe we're supposed to think of *all* of the Monitors as Dax Novu's children. I dunno.
Reframing Nix as an Aztec God - Niczhotan. I'd imagine that all of the Multiversity one-shots are going to have a world-specific take on Nix and his Fall, as seen last issue. Though we all thought he came back to Earth 8 as a vampire last time around, maybe he was actually supposed to be a (Marvel) zombie?
Page 18 - The big guy in the suit is an Earth 40 take on Nightwing villain Blockbuster. He first appeared in 1989's Starman #9 by Roger Stern and Tom Lyle, though the bulk of his appearances and characterisation came under the pen of Chuck Dixon during his long run on Nightwing. He was actually the brother of a previous villain also called Blockbuster, a thinly veiled DC repaint of Marvel's Hulk, who first appeared in 1965's Detective Comics #345 by Gardner F. Fox and Carmine Infantino. The long white hair and bulging head veins also recall the white ape incarnation of Earth 2's villainous Ultra Humanite, a brain-transplanting body-hopping scientist who debuted in the Golden Age but took on his most recognizable form in Gerry Conway and George Perez's tale of the JLA and JSA's battle against the Secret Society of Super Villains, from 1981's Justice League of America #195-197 (incidentally, some of my favourite comics of all time, and a fine multiversal saga to boot),
Page 19 -"Buddhakh-Amun" is a combination of Buddha and the Egyptian god Amun-Ra. Though initially a 'local God' only worshiped in Thebes, thanks to frequent geographical shifts in the power base of ancient Egypt, eventually he would rise to the top of the pantheon as King of the Gods,
Similarly, "Ra-Amida" is a combination of Ra, the Egytian sun god and Amida is a (Westernized?) name for the celestial Buddha Amitābha, described in the scriptures of the Mahāyāna school of Buddhism.
Page 20-21 - Greg Rucka and Philip Tan's Final Crisis: Revelation mini-series equated Vandal Savage with Cain, the first murderer. Morrison is likely alluding to Rucka's series with Savage's use of a rock as his weapon of choice.
"As long as I get Doc Fate's balls to wear as earrings." Lady Shiva was created by Denny O'Neil and Ric Estrada and first appeared in the pages of 1975's Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #5. O'Neil brought the character with him for his stint writing The Question in the 1980's, and eventually established her as a sometimes-ally sometimes-antagonist in the Batman titles during his long reign as group editor there.
"The rule of brute strength and red chaos will prevail! Rape and cruelty and..." Somebody suggested this may be a sly dig on Morrison's part at Alan Moore and the question mark widely cast in recent years over his inclusion of rape in many of his stories. Moore as the bearded, long haired Savage and Morrison as the jovial braggart Immortal Man? Seems a bit of a stretch, especially given the Immortal Man ends up implicitly just as bad as Savage. Scathing self commentary maybe, I dunno...
Page 22-23 - The Blackhawks, like their historical namesakes, fly airplanes based on the Grumman F5F-1 Skyrocket, an American plane designed as an answer to the British Spitfire that never actually went into production beyond one aircraft built for testing. It's probably the iconic Blackhawk aircraft though, dating back to their earliest appearances in the 1940's.
Savage's involvement with history's greatest dictators is a key part of his schtick, and features heavily in his appearances in Morrison's earlier DC One Million.
Looks like Lady Shiva's not going to let Savage have a monopoly on the old (cannibal) pirate dialogue.
Page 25 - Earth 40's Felix Faust is based on the villainous sorcerer created by Gardner F. Fox and Mike Sekowsky in 1962's Justice League of America #10. He's appeared previously in 52, co-written by Morrison, though his appearance there were most likely penned by Mark Waid.
Page 26 - "Zombies! I expected something more original." Tiny bit of meta commentary from Morrison there on the over abundance of zombie stories around these days, in comics and elsewhere.
Faust as prophet of the Gentry recalls Libra as the prophet of Darkseid in Final Crisis. Jim Harbor speculated that as Faust is this issue's main link to the Gentry, his Necro Men could be some sort of representation of Demogorgunn, who we first saw last issue. We'll have to wait and see whether any more harbingers of the individual members of the Gentry appear in the next few issues.
Page 27 - "Abrahadabra" is the Crowleyian version of the well-known 'magic word' "Abracadabra". In his Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley replaced the 'C' in "Abracadabra" with an 'H', which his Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn sect linked with Breath and Life, as well as with the Egyptian god of the 'new aeon' Horus. Doc Fate counters it with an Indiana Jones-esque swift kick to the privates and a good ol' fashioned pistol-whipping.
Things start to fall apart for the upstanding Society of Super-Heroes as the Mighty Atom is forced to use his last resort - the Deadly Atom Punch.
Page 28 - The action man mindset of the pulp heroes starts to unravel. Are these men and women, all but the Atom quick to kill at the earliest opportunity just like their hard-boiled 1930's predecessors, 'heroes' at all? Al Pratt's guilt is very unlike the traditional pulp hero. But would anyone really suggest that's such a bad thing?
Page 29 - Doc's rehabilitation via electro-shock technique is straight out of Lester Dent's Doc Savage stories, where the good Doctor would regularly subject his enemies to the same treatment.
Parallax, the Avatar of Fear and living embodiment of the energy that fuels the rings of the Yellow Lantern Corps, first appeared in 2005 in Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's Green Lantern: Rebirth #3, where he was revealed as the corrupting influence behind the fall from grace of Green Lantern Hal Jordan (who, incidentally, also went by the name Parallax during his ill-considered heel turn during the 1990's). I like Morrison and Sprouse's redesign of him as a T-Rex skeleton with wings a lot. He seems to function is this issue as a sort of familiar to Count Sinestro, who we'll see (briefly) later in the issue.
Page 31 - Great work from Sprouse on what must have been a really tough scene to draw. Shiva is temporarily blinded the Eye of Giaour, given to Lady Blackhawk by the Immortal Man earlier this issue.
Page 32 - Is there a suggestion here that the 'falling star' that granted immortality to Savage and the Immortal Man is multiversal in nature? In other words was it the same meteor on Earth 20 as on Earth 40, and presumably all of the other Earths too? Towards the end of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's first Resurrection Man series it was suggested that the meteor had crashed to Earth after falling through time, though they never got around to revealing how or why that was the case as the series was cancelled soon after.
Again with the 'Savage as Cain' allusions. The rock became the first murder weapon as related in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel (or Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey if you're feeling a little more secular today).
Page 33 - (Deliberate?) echoes of the last issue of Morrison's Batman Incorporated here, with Shiva as Talia and Lady Blackhawk and her pals playing the Kathy Kane executioner role.
Page 34 - Like Luthor on Earth 23 and Doctor Hoo on Earth 26, Doc has managed to build a machine that can traverse the Multiverse.
Doc Fate's reference to his adopted mother and father - is he another Superman analogue?
Probably the most telling piece of dialogue in the whole issue. On a world dominated by pulp fiction archetypes, the war won't ever end. There'll always be more sinister racial stereotypes and avatars of the fears of the age for the 'good guys' to fight and kill.
Page 35 - Kent Nelson was the secret identity of the original Doctor Fate. The idea of Nelson losing his humanity and being consumed totally by the vast cool god inside his helmet is one that recalls a similar scenario briefly touched upon in Neil Gaimans Books of Magic mini-series.
Al Pratt, a teenager empowered by a bodybuildng course, fears the loss of his looks. A final, crippling vanity.
Fear of failure made real (by Parallax?) as the multiversal machine fails at the final hurdle.
Page 36 - Re-enter stage left Abin Sur, reciting Hal Jordan's Green Lantern oath, originally penned by Alfred Bester in the mid-1940s'. He's carrying Count Sinestro, dressed in some pin-sharp forties fashions (in various shades of yellow, of course).
Page 37 - Sur's apparent escape from the jaws of death seems a little suspect, especially given his insistence that he join the Cosmic Neighborhood Watch in place of Fate.. Wouldn't be surprised to see that come up again before the story's conclusion.
It's way too late for me to be sitting and doing the maths to find out what 100 billion megawatts corresponds to in the real world. Suffice to say, it's an awful lot.
So the Guardians have assigned Sur to combat the Multiversal threat of the Gentry? Hmm, I wonder if any other Green Lantern's will be called up to the fight.
Page 38 - Maybe The Immortal Man is a parallel Earth equivalent to Savage rather than his opposite number - like Savage, he's had violence running through his blood for hundreds of thousands of years.
Morty's forging of a cunning spear to counter Savage's brutal rock recalls the spear that played a central role in Morrison's Seven Soldiers - piercing through history to play a vital role in the final fate of the world.
Page 39 - "I turned you into killers... I win... always" Like the brutal Marvel-esque heroes of last issue putting out Lord Havok's eye, through violence these corruptions of the super-heroic ideal bring forth the end of their world.
Page 40 - This world's manifestation of Nix Uotan makes it's dramatic entrance. "The god began to speak", but we don't know what he has to say (yet)...
If you've a comment, correction or question, a damning indictment or a heartfelt testimonial, you can reach me by the usual methods - by email, twitter or carrier pigeon.
See you next time around for The Multiversity: The Just!