MULTIVERSITY – PAX AMERICANA #1
I know this one has been out for a little while, but I’m out off sync with a lot of my reading so I thought, why not?
As I mentioned in an earlier post, while I do enjoy much of Grant Morrison’s work, I find he’s hard to read in monthly instalments as his work tends to benefit from being read in trades. This allows you the chance to look at the bigger picture, as his stories often don’t come together until the very end. I found this especially true of his recent work on Action Comics, where some of the issues in the middle of his run made little sense until seen in the context of the completed story.
Because of this, I decided I’d wait and read Multiversity once it had been collected. I popped into my local comic shop though and just couldn’t resist picking up this issue as Morrison is working with his frequent collaborator, the fantastic Frank Quitely. Quitely doesn’t do a lot of work, but when he does it’s almost always as fantastic as his work here.
Knowing nothing of the Multiversity storyline, I was glad to learn that this issue is (apparently) almost totally unconnected to the larger storyline so it could be enjoyed on its own. The general idea is that the DC Universe is made up of multiple different parallel universes, with the majority of DC’s monthly books taking place in only one of these. Glimpsed at before, Morrison now delves into several of these parallel DC universes.
Pax Americana finds us on Earth-4: the home to the characters of Charlton Comics, a publisher whose back catalogue was merged with DC’s in the mid 80’s. Blue Beetle and The Question are probably the two most well-known characters to make the jump, but even they are better known in an alternative form to many readers.
When DC took over the characters, Alan Moore was keen to use them, but his story involved the demise of several characters, something DC wasn’t too happy about, considering their recent acquisition. So instead of using the Charlton characters, Moore created his own, thinly-veiled analogues. Blue Beetle became Nite Owl, and most famously, The Question became Rorsharch, in Moore’s most famous work, Watchmen.
So now, several years later, Morrison uses the Charlton characters to critique/homage Watchmen, telling a tale both different and very similar, but in only 40 pages. Morrison’s tale moves forward and backward in time, giving us the events leading up to, and the aftermath of, the assassination of the US president. As with Watchmen, panel design and layout are very significant, as we follow the story of a character who is aware of this structure and can use it to see the past and future. Similarly, the one major issue with Pax Americana is that while technically amazing, it may be a little cold, but unlike Watchmen, Morrison is aware of this and even acknowledges it as being the point – we can take the stories we love apart and even recreate them, but we’ll probably not understand why we love them or be able to recreate the magic.
On second thought, the only major issue with Pax Americana is that it’s only 40 pages long, a mere taster of a fantastic comic that exists on a parallel Earth.