“The Multiversity Guidebook” Distills the Comic Book Experience Into a Single Issue (Review)

Note: This first appeared at ComicsBulletin.com as part of it’s Sunday SlugFest feature.

Despite its name, The Multiversity Guidebook is not a typical guidebook – even one for the DC Multiverse. In a recent interview, Morrison stated that he framed The Multiversity – and this issue in particular – like the experience most of us had when we started reading. Publishers make a great deal of effort defining and advertising “jumping on points” to attract new readers, but much of the current readership made the plunge into comics mid-story, filling in the blanks along the way. For me, this is the experience that The Multiversity Guidebookdelivers.

We’re thrown into the middle of a frantic battle between the adorable and outmatched Batman of Earth-45 and the various Dr. Sivanas of the Multiverse (and their evil robot lackeys), when another Batman, this one the high-tech version from Earth-42, teleports in to save the day. It’s insanity. The issue goes on to provide a history of the Multiverse, from its birth in the pages of The Flash #123 to its death in Crisis on Infinite Earths and eventual rebirth inInfinite Crisis. Essentially, it’s an info-dump to catch readers up on the story so far.

This brings us to the Guidebook itself, easily the most anticipated (and most marketable) element of this issue. On one hand, some of the disappointment is understandable. Morrison is one of the greatest comic book minds of his generation, if not all time. Given his near limitless creativity, it’s disappointing that so few of the Multiverse’s many Earths are not original creations. He doesn’t even bother to fill in the blanks for seven of the fifty-two! Instead, he opts to pull from the history of DC Comics. With the exception of Watchmen and the former Wildstorm Universe, brings nearly every story dating back to that first issue of Action Comics in 1939 into modern continuity. This ties not only into the overarching theme of Morrison’s DC work – that everything is canon – but also adds to this issue being a microcosm of the comic book reading experience. There is an ever-growing volume of material available, but most it is beholden to the past. And even with the amount of information readily available to today’s readership, there are some things that will continue to elude our understanding.

Expectations drive reactions, no matter how impartial one tries to be. As a result, nearly any book, no matter how widely praised, is destined to be a disappointment. Some are justifiably disappointed in The Multiversity Guidebook, but it is disappointment which I personally don’t share. My expectation was for this installment of The Multiversityto be a continued celebration of DC’s 75-plus year history, which it was. I did not expect was to be reflective on my experience in jumping into the medium.


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