The Multiversity Annotations, Part 6: The Guidebook – ‘What Great Hand Casts the Lightning and Remakes the World?’
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.
The sixth issue of the series, Guidebook, while certainly the D&D-style sourcebook of the event and a guide to Morrison's vision of the DC multiverse, is also a necessary section of the overall story, answering many questions and asking others, as well as providing the introduction of the Empty Hand, the series' true villain and master of the monstrous Gentry.
It's structured as stories within stories --- Marcus To draws a segment with Li'l Batman and Atomic Batman on Earth-42, while Paulo Siqueira illustrates the New Gods, Kamandi and the history of the DC Multiverse in an intercut sequence taking place on Earth-51. Both of these stories intersect with pages from the Guidebook itself, designed by Rian Hughes with illustrations by a large number of artists.
We pick up from last month's Thunderworld Adventures and the Legion of Sivanas with Hannibal Lecter Sivana helping Li'l Sivana pretty much brutally murder the Li'l League of Earth-42. The middle panel, with the death of Martian Manhunter, is a call-back to Martian Manhunter's death by fire in the first issue of Final Crisis, way back in 2008, complete with him calling out the name of his long-dead wife. (If there's no death on Earth-43, what happened to Mars there? Did they all fall asleep?)
We Saw Wonder Woman and Steel with the House Of Heroes peeps back in #1.
I presume the words that activate the transmatter device are kept illegible for a reason; for what it's worth, the last thing Superman says before it activates back in #1 are "STAND BACK, EVERYONE! I've SEEN what this thing can do, and I won't risk any---" so perhaps it's "risk"? Or "stand"?
Here we've got Atomic Knight Batman of Earth-17, who you can learn more about on page 40. The colored cube on the desk in the second panel looks kinda like the New 52 Mother Box; I'm not sure if this is or isn't the Four-Stone that Atomic Batman talks about on the next page. The Cosmic Grail that Batman's looking for, according to the text pages, is the last remaining artifact of Earth-15, which Superboy-Prime completely destroyed in Countdown (the in-continuity status of which is as much of a shock to you as it is to me). Judging by the picture, it might be that universe's Green Lantern Power Battery, although that could just be a random symbolic picture.
The rose that grows in winter is something we'll get closure on by the end of this issue. The Vault of Ages could be Kamandi's Command-D vault, or Darkseid's tomb on Earth-51 from later. I presume the Darkseid on Earth-17 is one of the many aspects the New Gods comment about later, as well. As for the Four-Stone... I have no idea.
I'm not sure why Little Batman is Dick Grayson instead of Bruce Wayne; I checked back on all their Michael Green/Mike Johnson appearances in Superman/Batman, and Bruce seemed to survive them all. Additionally, even if he did die, you'd think that he'd come back due to the Empty Hand's deus ex machina at the end, since it seems like that's happened before. Perhaps he was an unseen casualty of Superdoom's attack that we glimpsed in Action Comics #9?
The Legion of Sivanas, reappearing from Thunderworld Adventures. The ones on the back screens aren't easily identifiable, but the main ones there we can now pretty confidently attach Earth designations to: left to right, the black Sivana of Earth-23, vampire Sivana of Earth-43, lady Sivana of Earth-11, snake Sivana of Earth-26 and robot Sivana of Earth-44. The fact that the Legion of Sivanas were only sending robots through the transmatter cubes at first would seem to finally answer the question of where the robot that attached Earth-23 in the first issue came from, as well.
The fake Rock of Eternity seems to still be around, and operating like a reverse TARDIS --- the obvious reference "much smaller on the inside than it looks from outside!" is making.
If there's 25 Sivanas in the legion, and their combined IQ is over 80,000, that makes each Sivana's average IQ 3200, so unless there are some crazy outliers, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take the really obvious stance of calling bull on an evil snake.
This confirms that Earth-26 is where Snake Sivana is from, since Dr. Hoot building the transmatter hatch was also referenced by Captain Carrot back in #1.
I guess now we know where the Marvels went after the end of Thunderworld Adventures --- their poses here are a more serious version of the last page of that book. I'm still super unclear on who the Lecter Sivana is, and I'm beginning to think he may have a more direct connection to the Gentry than the rest.
So weird that Batman picks up the comic he's currently in, but magically hits the next page in the one we're reading, and doesn't read about himself. I realize that's a messed-up line to draw with regards to suspension of disbelief here, but...
Kamandi, the cyborg Ben Boxer and tiger Prince Tuftan, from Jack Kirby's original Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth series. Earth-51 was created from the Kirbyesque flotsam and jetsam of other universes, stitched together by Nix Uotan at the end of Final Crisis. Continuing the Marvel Family connection, Final Crisis also established that Tuftan's tiger people got their civilized demeanor from the example of Marvel's dapper feline sidekick, Tawky Tawny.
The map Tuftan's holding is from Kamandi #32, the Island of the God Watchers is located in the fragments of what used to be South America --- which is, notably, where Niczhuotan's temple in Society of Super-Heroes was located as well.
Flower is Kamandi's first love interest in the original Kirby comic, before she got fridged and replaced with her twin sister (no, really). She has a red flower in her hair, which is the aforementioned Flower that Grows in Winter. I'm not sure about the impaled skulls; I feel like their messed-up horns are a reference to something Kirby-specific, but I couldn't tell you what.
Tuftan somehow figuring out that, yeah, they're getting watched by voyeuristic New Gods in panel one. He also finds Flower's, er, flower --- there's a weird "deflowering" subtext here I'm just not going to get into --- while the New Gods watch.
The New Gods! Takion, Big Barda, Mister Miracle, Highfather, a guy I can only presume is either a younger Himon or a particularly chilled-out Orion, Lonar, Fastbak, I think a significantly redesigned Avia (Highfather's wife) and Lightray getting their creep on watching the Isle of the God Watchers! Tuftan knew what was up on the last page.
I'm not 100% on Avia --- she has to be killed to set off the New Genesis/Apokolips war that leads to Scott Free being raised on Apokolips and becoming Mister Miracle, but it's totally possible everyone just came back to life post-Final Crisis in their most recognizable forms.
Morrison throws a little bit of shade on the New Gods stuff going on in the New 52 with this spread, essentially writing off the Darkseid of Geoff Johns's Justice League, the Orion of the Azzarello/Chiang Wonder Woman and Earth 2's Mister Miracle and Barda as "emanations" of the true New Gods and Darkseid, who all rested and resided on Earth-51 post-Final Crisis. Highfather's question --- "what dread hand unlocked his tomb?" --- is obviously answered with the Empty Hand, the villain of Multiversity revealed at the end of this issue.
Ben Boxer, it turns out, is mashed up with Kirby's OMAC character in this world, and syncs up with Brother Eye to become...
BiOMAC. Morrison used the term "bio-factored" to refer to Kalibak's reborn tiger body back in Final Crisis; presumably he's using this to refer to Ben Boxer's mutant body engineered to survive in the post-Great Disaster world. Also, it makes for a nice portmanteau.
Ben Boxer's warning about the dangerousness of stories reflects both the Monitor origin story from here and Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, where they're corrupted by the power of story, and the danger of the Gentry and Ultra Comics. The eyes on the wall seem to be an embellished version of the eyes on the Island of the God Watchers in the original Kamandi map, now more sinister and foreboding.
Here begins a retelling of the Monitors' origin story from FC:SB. In the big impossible expanse of the blank page, story begins to form and infect, and as the possibilities grow, the Monitor-Mind (shown here to be the eyes we saw in symbol form the last page) forms itself in relation to that story, containing it within the Orrery of Worlds.
Dax Novu, the first Monitor, goes into the multiverse and is split in two, into the Monitor and Anti-Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths, essentially becoming part of the story, infected by it. Ben Boxer picks up a copy of Flash #123, the first meeting of Jay Garrick and Barry Allen and the genesis of the DC Multiverse.
A recap of Flash #123, introducing both the multiverse and the concept Multiversity is based on, that the different Earths can communicate to each other in comic books. The last panel is a quick touchpoint on the first JLA/JSA crossover in Justice League of America #21.
The multiverse expands, and the original Crisis occurs. The story-forms of Dax Novu as Monitor and Anti-Monitor die, and presumably Dax Novu returns to the Overvoid, corrupted, as the vampiric Mandrakk, where he's entombed until the events of Final Crisis. The Multiverse becomes a single universe again, presumably with the exception of Earth-Prime (later Earth-33), because our universe did not cease to exist between 1986 and 2006, that we know of.
The Time Crisis of Zero Hour, the attack of Superboy-Prime in Infinite Crisis as the multiverse became remembered again, the rebirth of the multiverse in 52, and the Monitors overseeing the new ordered multiverse in Final Crisis.
The Monitors all die except Nix Uotan at the end of Final Crisis, with Uotan --- Novu's son --- moving into the multiverse as the Superjudge. The next panel touches on the latest reality reboot in Flashpoint, where all 52 worlds had their realities restructured, and a touch on the Empty Hand, a concept that's existed since the very first appearance of Krona in Green Lantern v2 #40. Krona was a Maltusian (predecessors to the Oans, Guardians of the Universe) scientist dude who broke space-asshole law by making a machine to view the origins of the universe, and only saw this big ol' empty hand. This event led to the creation of the original multiverse, in Crisis lore, as well as the forming of the Anti-Matter Universe where the Anti-Monitor resided (which is oddly absent both from the Map of the Multiverse and the entirety of Multiversity as a whole).
It turns out the Kangarat pirates used the Multiversity comics to perform a ritual to take Flower somewhere, presumably to another Earth; it could be a sort of cargo-cult version of the Transmatter Symphonic Array.
The map of the multiverse, which we've used as a guide all along. Click here for the giant-sized version.
That cover of Batman: Li'l Gotham is real, although the cover blurb was invented for this issue. The original wasn't, as far as I can tell, a Halloween issue, either. The close-in on the Rubik's Cube in the final panel probably refers not only to the Transmatter Symphonic Arrays (which, in retrospect, seem to be the colors of a solved Rubik's Cube!) but likely to the Rubik's Cube Metron solved back in Final Crisis to catalyze his (and Nix Uotan's) apotheoses. It may also refer to the Four-Stone Atomic Batman referenced earlier, although that was likely just the TSA itself.
Obligatory "they're knocking at the door!" for this issue. The atomic battery/krakkin POWER! line is a pretty obvious nod back to the "Atomic batteries to power!" Batmobile start-up refrain in the 1966 TV show. I guess Batman's comment means that Sivana whistled to open the array rather than speaking, which makes sense considering the musical superstructure of the DC multiverse. It's also interesting that the DC multiverse is apparently the "local multiverse," implying that it's part of a fractal series of multiverses of multiverses, therefore allowing it to occupy the same fictional continuum as other comic book worlds.
(I presume the Orrery is preventing it from being engulfed by Rabum Alal's multiversal disaster over at Marvel, but that's a level of fanwank I should probably stay away from.)
Some quick notes on the ones that aren't original or already in this series:
Earth-0: The main DC Universe of the New 52.
Earth-1: The Earth One graphic novel line.
Earth-2: The Earth of, well, uh, Earth 2.
Earth-3: Destroyed by the Anti-Monitor prior to Forever Evil; the Crime Syndicate ended up on Earth-0 afterwards.
Earth-6: The "Just Imagine... Stan Lee's DC" line from the '90s. Note it's opposite Earth-51, the Kirby earth, on the multiverse map.
Earth-7: Ultimate Marvel analogue.
Earth-8: The Marvel Universe, in analogue.
Earth-9: The Tangent universe.
Earth-12: Batman Beyond.
Earth-15: Note that the Cosmic Grail here is searched for by the Atomic Knights of Earth-17, including Atomic Batman. The events described here are from Countdown to Final Crisis, where it was actually designated Earth-51 before it got remade and destroyed again to become the Earth-51 Nix Uotan got exiled to Earth for being able to prevent the destruction of at the beginning of Final Crisis.
Earth-21: Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier.
Earth-22: Mark Waid and Alex Ross's Kingdom Come.
Earth-30: Mark Millar, Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett's Superman: Red Son.
Earth-32: Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham's Batman: In Darkest Knight.
Earth-33: That is totally The Dude from The Big Lebowski admiring Ultra's ass there.
Earth-34: Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's Astro City, in analogue form.
Earth-35: Rob Liefeld's Extreme/Awesome Comics line, as analogues. To steal a joke from my buddy Matt, it's really a missed opportunity for a joke that they didn't hide everyone's feet.
Earth-37: A mash-up of Thrillkiller and Twilight, this Earth is all Howard Chaykin.
Earth-38: John Byrne's Superman/Batman: Generations. When someone asked him his feelings about this on his message board, he immediately closed the thread.
Earth-39: The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
Earth-41: Image Comics analogues.
Earth-43: Doug Moench and Kelley Jones's Batman: Red Rain trilogy.
Earth-44: We saw Doc Tornado and the Metal League back in Final Crisis #7, when they went berserk and destroyed the JLA satellite's trophy room in the Final Watchtower, when it was all that was left of space and time.
Earth-45: Superdoom from Action Comics #9.
Earth-47: Joe Simon and and Jerry Grandenetti's Prez mashed up with the Love Syndicate of Dreamworld, including Sunshine Superman, from Morrison and Chas Truog's Animal Man.
Earth-48: Lady Quark is from the original Crisis's Earth-4; everyone else here appears to be new, with the exception of Forerunner, a Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray creation from Countdown to Final Crisis.
Earth-50: The Justice Lords from the Justice League animated show.
The Hand of the Source shows up, apparently controlled by Corrupted Nix Uotan. Highfather sure knows a lot about what's going on and who the Empty Hand is; I'd figured maybe the Empty Hand was also the Source Wall's Hand of Fire, but that appears to be Nix Uotan's here.
It looks like the skies are turning red for Crisis Time on Earth-51 and Earth-17.
It looks like the flower Kamandi left behind in Darkseid's tomb somehow found its way through the Transmatter Symphonic Array to Earth-42, where Li'l Batman finds it. I'm not sure what note Batman generates here beyond human ears that activates the TSA, or where it goes to, since the note that actually takes him to Earth-17...
...is generated by Atomic Batman's Sonic Disruptor instead. Note Cyborg J'onn, our first hint to the "terrible secret" Earth-42 harbors.
We can see that the sky's turned red here as well as Earth-51 --- is the sky turning red on every world or just those? I don't think the DC multiverse goes all Red Skies only on some Earths, but then again, we've never seen them here on Earth-33.
Atomic Batman arrives at the House of Heroes, with
Savage DragonDino-Cop still manning the control center, to chill with Lord Quark, Bloodwynd and Li'l Steel.
Now, the House of Heroes gets attacked by Hellmachine, which, I'm not gonna lie, is a pretty damn metal visual. At this point, Li'l Steel and Wonder Woman start to go into Empty Hand Mode, so presumably Li'l Batman does the same on Earth-17; seeing as how none of this is mentioned in Mastermen and likely won't be in Ultra Comics, it stands to reason this will all resolve itself on April 1 with Multiversity #2.
What's the deal with all the Li'l League being robots working for the Empty Hand? If the Empty Hand can resurrect them from death, why is Dick Grayson Batman on that world? Mysteries for the future! But now we have an idea of the identity of the villain, and of from where the Gentry might be coming.