Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Epic

The Korvac Saga: written by Roger Stern, Jim Shooter, Bill Mantlo, and David Micheline; illustrated by George Perez, David Wenzel, Sal Buscema, Klaus Janson, Pablo Marcos, and many others (1977-78; collected 2011): Enjoyable, sometimes absurdly wordy 1970's Avengers epic that introduced the nigh-omnipotent and nigh-omniscient Michael Korvac to the 20th century. A man-machine hybrid from the 31st century, where he was an enemy of the original Guardians of the Galaxy (the ones without a raccoon or a talking tree in their ranks), Korvac would give the Avengers fits. 

And it may have all been in a good cause, as Korvac has reformed by the time he gets to the 20th century (and has absorbed all the knowledge in Galactus' computer banks). He just wants to make the universe a better place. Or maybe he wants to eliminate all free will. As knowledge is power in this story-line, Korvac is seemingly all-powerful. A surprisingly equivocal ending to the epic is somewhat undone by an odd epilogue added nearly 20 years later for an earlier reprint edition than this. 

As seems to have been the case with The Avengers for long stretches of their history, a regular artist is hard to come by, and the art on the book varies wildly: George Perez is great, Sal Buscema is perfectly fine, and David Wenzel seems to have been dropped into the deep end without warning. Occasionally shaggy but highly enjoyable. The inclusion of the apocalyptic early 1980's What If? story that pondered a different ending to the saga would have welcome. Recommended.




Multiversity: written by Grant Morrison; illustrated by Ivan Reis, Frank Quitely, Chris Sprouse, Cam Stewart, Jim Lee, and others (2014-2015): From the metafictional mind of Grant Morrison comes the DC miniseries Multiversity, a multiverse-spanning adventure with an Ultimate Villain who may be a nigh-omnipotent Hollywood Executive charged with turning fun superhero comics into dreary but popular superhero movies. I'm not kidding.

DC's then-ostensibly-52-universe-large Multiverse (and by 'then, I mean, 'from about 2006 to just last month') comes under attack from a mysterious group of hyper-powerful monsters who call themselves the Gentry. And they want to Gentrify all the universes of the multiverse. They are not fun. Instead, they bring madness, despair, and destruction to the universes they attack.

And so called into action is Nix Uotan, last of the Multiverse-defending Monitors, and his trusty partner Stubbs the Talking Chimpanzee. Worlds will live. Worlds will die. Specifically, Morrison's thinly veiled version of Marvel's Ultimate Universe will die, to have all but one of its heroes resurrected by the Gentry to fight against the forces of Good.

Morrison creates an unusual structure for this 9-issue comic-book epic. The main storyline starts in Multiversity #1, is touched upon midway through the overall narrative in the Multiversity Handbook, and concludes with Multiversity #2. Along the way, we get six comic books set in six different universes under siege by terrible forces. These single issues tie into the overall storyline, but they also stand alone. 

In them we see a world of super-heroes conquered by super-Nazis; the world of Shazam's original Captain Marvel; a riff on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen involving the original Charlton Comics superheroes whom Watchmen was originally supposed to involve; a pulpy world protected by Doc Fate and the Society of Superheroes; a world of disaffected, millennial offspring of the original superheroes; and our world, a world protected by a superhero who is himself a comic book. Not a comic-book hero. A comic book. Ultra Comics.

Yes, comic books. They also allow for communication between multiverses. And they may carry a thought-virus that is destroying the Multiverse, thanks to the nefarious Gentry and their terrible hidden master. Or they may also carry the key to defeating the Gentry. 

And so superheroes from dozens of Earths must team up to beat back the invasion. But not everyone is what she or he or it seems. And I'd also say that the redesign of Captain Carrot is sort of awful. Now drawn as the world's tallest and most muscly super-rabbit, his cartoony charms have been subsumed by the contemporary, non-cartoony super-marketplace. Or is this too part of the commentary on the pollution of superhero comics by the modern multi-media-platform marketplace? I don't know. But it was fun getting there in yet another cosmic-comic Grant Morrison extravaganzapalooza. 

And kudos to the artists on the various chapters. The different worlds are well-matched with their artists. Chris Sprouse's pulp world of Doc Fate and Cam Stewart's Captain Marvel and friends are especially pleasing and refreshingly, suitably Old School. Ivan Reis does solid work on the frame tale, with its army of superheroes from dozens of different realities. Though I'm still not happy with that weirdly muscled, 8-foot-tall Captain Carrot. Highly recommended.

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