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.