Outside of David Uzumeri, who spent a good portion of last week learning about Spiral Dynamics just so he could talk about Pax Americana in excruciating detail, I'm as big a fan of Grant Morrison as you're likely to find. For me, JLA, New X-Men, his seven year run on Batman and even the 11 issues of Aztek that he co-wrote with Mark Millar are easily on my list of the all-time greats. That said, if we're being completely honest with each other, I'm not that keen on his work outside of mainstream superheroes. I can take or leave The Invisibles and The Filth didn't do much for me, and while I like Joe the Barbarian a lot, that book basically has Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe in it, so it barely even counts.
As a result, I wasn't really paying attention to Annihilator, the book Morrison and Frazer Irving are doing through Legendary, until the aforementioned Uzumeri was singing its praises. Curiosity got the better of me, so today I sat down with the first four issues to see if it was worth all the hubbub, and the result was that I liked it a lot. It's a bizarre and compelling sci-fi epic where Irving is doing some of the best work of his considerably impressive career -- and on top of that, it is quite possibly the most Grant Morrison comic of all time.
The fourth issue of the series, Pax Americana with art by Frank Quitely, colors by Nathan Fairbairn and letters by Rob Leigh, is probably the most widely anticipated of the series, and certainly the most-hyped. It's Morrison's attempt to update and revise the structure of Watchmen, but applied to the original Charlton characters, as that Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons work was originally intended to in its first pitch. While Watchmen followed a strict nine-panel grid structure (some panels would be bisected or extended, but that was the general latticework on which everything hung), Pax Americana goes for eight, resembling not only harmonic octaves of music and colors of the rainbow that make up much of the multiversal structure Morrison is working with but also the "Algorithm 8" that allows President Harley to perceive the underpinning structure of the universe and use it to his advantage. That algorithm is, of course, the eight-panel grid (and the 8-shape made by one's eyes while reading the page) that forms the comic book universe he lives in.
The book moves backwards in eight color-coded sections, which I'll denote, that correspond to the evolutionary stages of humanity/a single person espoused by Don Beck and Chris Cowan's spiral dynamics, or, more specifically, Ken Wilber's later integral theory, which incorporated it. I'd never heard of it before this book, and from all research I've done there's a reason for that; it seems to be widely accepted as bunk pseudoscience by any academic institution, which makes it a perfect evolution of the original Question and Rorschach's stark black-and-white Randian Objectivism, while also tying into not only Pax's obsession with the number eight but its role in the Multiversity series as a whole, both due to the nature of music in octaves which makes up the structure of the DC multiverse as well as the colors of the rainbow that form the Source Wall.
I'm sure more than one comic came out this week, but you wouldn't know that form my Twitter feed, where all anyone is talking about is Pax Americana, the latest chapter of Multiversity by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Nathan Fairbairn. Using the old Charlton Comics characters that inspired Dave Gibbons and Alan "The Original Writer" Moore's classic graphic novel Watchmen, Pax Americana tells a story that is in turn inspired by Watchmen, creating a meticulously structured comic with layers so dense that it's blowing minds all across the comics scene.
And one of the most important parts about the comic is color. That's true of any comic printed in color, of course, but in this particular issue, color becomes a major theme, creating a backdrop for the story that's tied into ideas about spiral dynamics, something that's verbosely explained by the Question about three quarters of the way through the book.
If that sounds complicated, well, it is, and our own David Uzumeri is hard at work on annotations explaining it all. Until then, we're fortunate enough that Fairbairn has taken to his Tumblr to break down his coloring process and how he worked with Quitely to create the incredible visuals of Pax Americana.
Teased for years and finally launched in 2014, The Multiversity is a universe-jumping series of DC Comics one-shots tracking the cosmic monitor Nix Uotan and an assemblage of star-crossed heroes as they attempt to save 52 universes and beyond from a trippy cosmic existential threat that, like much of Morrison’s best work, represents something far more mundane and relatable. Tying back into the very first Multiverse story in DC’s history, the heroes of these universes become aware of this threat by reading about it in comic books… comic books that, it turns out, take place in neighboring universes. Indeed, writer Grant Morrison continues his streak of highly metatextual DC cosmic epics with this eight-issue mega-series (plus one Tolkienesque guidebook).
Described by Morrison as “the ultimate statement of what DC is”, The Multiversity naturally offers the reader much beyond the surface level adventure, and that means annotations. Rather than merely filling out checklists of references, my hope with this feature is to slowly unearth and extrapolate a narrative model for Morrison and his collaborators’ work on The Multiversity; an interconnecting web of themes and cause and effect that works both on literal and symbolic levels.
We’ll be focusing here on the third issue of the maxiseries, The Just, written by Morrison with artwork by Ben Oliver and color assistance from Dan Brown (the excellent colorist, not the literary hack).
Of all the spooky characters that I throw the spotlight on at Halloween, there's one that I've never really written too much about: Vampirella. That seems like a pretty big oversight, too. I mean, I once wrote about the Tomb of Dracula anime for Halloween, you'd think I could muster up a few words for one of the most recognizable horror characters of the '70s, right?
Well, the fact is, Vampirella's not actually that scary. I mean, despite her name, she's not actually a vampire. She's an alien from planet Drakulon, a planet where water has the same composition as blood. Or at least, I think that's how it worked, until 1997, when it was revealed that Drakulon was the product of memory implants and she was actually the daughter of Lilith, mother of all vampires, who sent her to destroy a 2,000 year-old conspiracy organized like a vampire Catholic Church (complete with a Vampire Pope) with the help of a time-traveling nun. Hoo boy. This is going to get complicated.
I'm going to go ahead and assume that if you're reading this, you're probably already familiar with Grant Morrison. That said, even if you've gone back and read through everything from Animal Man on up trying to put together a comprehensive, unifying theory of his work, then there's still a piece of the puzzle that you might be missing: Zenith, the story about a teenage superhero that he and Steve Yeowell created in the pages of 2000 AD. Aside from a limited edition hardcover that sold out quick last year, it hasn't been reprinted until this week, when 2000 AD released it as the first title that they've ever simultaneously printed on both sides of the Atlantic.
Grant Morrison has been talking about his film passion project, a psychedelic Western called Sinatoro, since at least 2010. It was even promoted with a poster. But the writer's screenplay has ended up taking the route so many projects take on the way to becoming movies: It will be a comic first.
Morrison will work with artist Vanesa Del Rey on the series, which will come out some time next year from Black Mask Studios, the comics and transmedia company launched last year by comics artist Ben Templesmith, writer Steve Niles, Bad Religion guitarist/songwriter Brett Gurewitz and Matt Pizzolo of Occupy Comics. It's one piece of a big and not too shabby slate of new comics coming from the publisher in the next year, the highlights of which you can check out below.
We'll be focusing here on the second issue of the maxiseries, the unwieldily titled The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World, written by Grant Morrison with pencils by Tom Strong's Chris Sprouse, inks by Karl Story and Walden Wong, and gorgeous colors by Dave McCaig.
I'll admit here from the beginning that while I can talk about this series' relationship to the DC Universe and Morrison's oeuvre, I'm close to clueless about the vagaries of early 20th century pulp fiction and would be incredibly interested in hearing from more learned readers whatever I've missed from that angle. That said, there's still a great deal of meat to dig into in this issue, which serves as a sort of conceptual counterpoint to Final Crisis's opening scene, showing us the end of Anthro and Vandal Savage's 40,000-year feud.
Teased for years and finally launched this week, The Multiversity is a universe-jumping series of DC Comics one-shots tracking the cosmic monitor Nix Uotan and an assemblage of star-crossed heroes as they attempt to save 52 universes and beyond from a trippy cosmic existential threat that, like much of Morrison’s best work, represents something far more mundane and relatable. Tying back into the very first Multiverse story in DC’s history, the heroes of these universes become aware of this threat by reading about it in comic books… comic books that, it turns out, take place in neighboring universes. Indeed, writer Grant Morrison continues his streak of highly metatextual DC cosmic epics with this eight-issue mega-series (plus one Tolkienesque guidebook).
Described by Morrison as "the ultimate statement of what DC is", The Multiversity naturally offers the reader much beyond the surface level adventure, and that means annotations. Rather than merely filling out checklists of references, my hope with this feature is to slowly unearth and extrapolate a narrative model for Morrison and his collaborators' work on The Multiversity; an interconnecting web of themes and cause and effect that works both on literal and symbolic levels.
Three pages into the preview for The Multiversity #1, I knew I was going to have a lot to work with.
With no further ado, go get your erasers and your textbooks, close your laptops, sharpen your pencils, and get ready for some course notes. Let's go to school.
While at Comic Con, Grant Morrison dropped several enigmatic hints and subliminal messages to ComicsAlliance about his next mega-event, Multiversity, broke down the divisions between fictional universes, and even proclaimed that he thinks that he's made the world's first real superhero. He says things like that. Some people like him, many love him, and some people straight up hate him. With Multiversity starting up in August, you can be sure that there will soon be legions of detractors proclaiming that Morrison is the most overrated writer in comics, and nothing he's ever done has ever made any sense.
The release of DC's Doom Patrol Omnibus finally equips us to give these people the bludgeoning they deserve. (Metaphorical bludgeoning. ComicsAlliance does not condone actual bludgeoning.)
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