This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on October 26, 2014.
I would not be opposed to Grant Morrison creating number one issues for DC Comics as a full time job. The centerpiece of his series Multiversity is a collection of issues that introduce brand new takes on the DC universe. Two issues in and he has struck gold twice. Here he follows up the pulp-inspired JSA riff Secret Society of Super-Heroes #1, with a modern combination of superheroes and celebrity culture laced with parody.
Morrison and Ben Oliver manage to both introduce a brand new world while also navigating a complete narrative. Oliver should receive a large share of the credit for his design work alone. He creates outfits and costumes that inform readers on both the personalities and heritage of the many heroes that populate these pages. Damian Wayne is clearly Batman, but his use of a leather trench coat (making him resemble the Midnighter as much as his father), reveals the surly attitude that lurks beneath it. The summer dress of Sasha Norman looks natural and displays her open and fun-loving personality, while making reference to her father Mister Miracle. The focus on fashion itself serves to emphasize the superficial focus of this story.
The Just #1 isn’t necessarily interested in what would happen if superheroes existed in reality, but it is interested in how they would interact with the reality of celebrity culture. The importance of image, superficial relationships, and a complete lack of responsibility creates a world where the most important parts of life often seem trivial. The antics of Batman, Superman, and Alexis Luthor are amusing, but are divorced from the ideals of the superhero genre. Concepts like justice, self-sacrifice, and the sanctity of human life are all notably undervalued. In this way The Just #1 serves as both an appraisal and criticism of the superhero genre.
Although the overarching story that connects all of these #1 issues is intriguing, it is not nearly as exciting as the concepts within each issue. The Just #1 recreates the old intellectual property at DC Comics with an amusing new conceit. There are only 40 pages to be found here, but it has left me wanting more. If this trend continues, Morrison and his collaborators will not have created one of the most exciting new ideas at DC in the past decades, but seven of them.
– Chase Magnett
It’s possible that Grant Morrison doesn’t actually exist. It’s might be true that he’s the creation of a fifth-dimensional imp that causes havoc on our Earth when he comes here and who is forced back to his dimension whenever he says his name backwards. It’s possible. It might be true. The concept sounds like it comes from one of Morrison’s comics; in fact, this could be the plot of the next Muliversity crossover. The man loves his ideas – and thankfully he also loves to play.
Multiversity: the Just is another chapter in Grant Morrison’s exploration of the concepts that fascinate him: parallel worlds, killer comic books, doppelgangers, alien invasion, fashion, the differences between the ways that we see ourselves and the ways that the world sees us. But as always with Morrison this delightful book is more than the sum of its parts or its notions.
Morrison delivers an absurdist, wild, ridiculous comedy short film, with a cracking hilarious script full of awesome one-liners (“That was your big team-up with Sandman? You fell asleep and had a dream?”), stupidly hilarious scenes (Arrowette teasing her dad Green Arrow is hysterical), clever continuity call-outs (Kyle Rayner still mourning his girlfriend who was killed and left in a refrigerator) and the mystery of a suicide at its center that’s haunting and weird and full of techno-organic call-outs to us uber geeks.
This issue is short on action but long on talk and deep thought. The Just is deliberately claustrophobic, the world of the super-heroes in this story feeling tight and clannish in a way that seems ultimately more destructive than constructive, where everyone in a costume knows everybody else in a costume way too well, and that situation leads to a world of true super-hero decadence, of wild parties and secret girlfriends hiding inside lead-lined jackets and, oh yeah, a frightening threat that appears as the issue wraps up and shows that there are consequences for the loose lifestyle.
Ben Oliver draws everything in a slick, fashion-influenced style in which the heroic characters look bold and beautiful (especially in civilian clothes) but that de-emphasizes the backgrounds. And that works because the backgrounds show the worlds of normal people, and that doesn’t matter at all.
It all amounts to a hilarious first half of a great summer action flick – the calm and character setting before the giant invasion that will happen in the second act. We’re giggling and ready, Grant. We’re ready for the action to begin.
– Jason Sacks