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Monday, February 9, 2015

MULTIVERSITY POWER RANKINGS: The Top 10 Earths

Back when the first issue of Multiversity came out, I wasn't so hot about it, but since then, I'll admit that it's steadily been working to win me over with each issue.  The Multiversity Guidebook was released recently, and I've been really loving flipping through and seeing all the little capsule notes about the different earths and thinking about all the stories that we're never going to see.  In a way it reminds me very much of reading video game strategy guides for games I'd never played back when I was a kid.  I got a bunch of old Nintendo strategy guides from an older cousin and I'd read through those things, telling myself that if I ever did get to play any of these games, I'd be prepared.  Same thing with X-Men trading cards.  I really liked X-Men when I was a kid, and aside from the cartoon, the trading cards were my favorite way to just devour information about the complicated back stories.  All of these handbook/guidebook type things take me back to a time when I was a kid who was just hungry for pure information, ready to assemble my own context for these disjointed glimpses of narrative.  The Multiversity Guidebook really works to capture that hungry energy and to place that within the scope of Grant Morrison's larger narrative.

Of course, not all Earths are created equal, and with listicles dominating internet #content these days, I figured I'd take a crack at creating my own Multiversity Power Rankings, to give you what I think are the top 10 and the bottom 10 earths so far in Multiversity.

Here are the rankings for the top 10 Earths as of whenever The Multiversity Guidebook was released:

THE TOP 10
10.  Earth-47
I know very little about Prez aside from what I half-remember from that one issue of The Sandman, but mostly what I like about Earth-47 is those wacky Hanna-Barbera-esque designs, particularly that logo on "Sunshine Superman" and that Shaggy-looking "Magic Lantern."  Something really funny to me about a children's cartoon character being an upfront, anti-establishment slacker.

9.  Earth-43
It's a world of super-vampires drawn by Kelley Jones!  Oh, what?  Are you over vampires?  You're over one of the most enduring horror fixtures of all time?  Do I need to remind you you've been reading superhero comics?  Please.

8.  Earth-13 
I cannot believe the multiverse contains TWO goth earths, but here we are, and I'm having a great time.  I've always had a casual fondness for those DC magic/supernatural/horror characters, and Jae Lee's designs look appropriately dark while being tongue-in-cheek.  Making Etrigan this Earth's Superman is a really funny and exciting idea, and I can't wait til this Earth's stories are told exclusively on van murals and large denim jacket back patches blocking your view of the Iron Maiden concert.

7.  Earth-20
This is like a world where everybody is friends with Indiana Jones.  It's an Earth that's filled with tough as nails pulp-hero men and women who are those Doc Savage-type dudes who are probably all about living a balanced life, so they definitely run that line at you like "It's important to work out your body and your mind to realize your fullest potential.  Why, I remember a few years ago when I was in Nanda Parbat..."  Just think about how inspired you'd be to, like, buy some dumbbells and read a bunch of Penguin Classics while you have steak and eggs and cocaine for breakfast.

6.  Earth-18
Just about the only thing tougher than a pulp-hero Earth would have to be a Cowboy Earth, right?  I love thinking about a western-syle DC universe, just filled with a bunch of dirty, ugly super hombres.  I'm also really down with Andrew Robinson's Wonder Woman cowboy design.  Detractors may call it out for being a theme-party Earth, but to them I say this: Flip through the book again. They're ALL theme party Earths.

5.  Earth-3
The Crime Syndicate of America is such a dumb, comic book-y idea, and it feels kind of classic in that regard, but what I like about it is how broadly the idea of "the opposite of our heroes' world" is applied.  Good is evil, things are made of anti-matter, crime is legal, etc.  It's like an Earth where it's The Purge ALL THE TIME.

4.  Earth-4
Superheroes existing at the decline of American optimism is such a good setting, particularly for DC's fixations on tradition and legacy, as it seems like a perfect point of inevitable change while struggling to hold on to an idealized past.  Also, after that Frank Quitely-drawn issue, it's tough not to want more of that. Bonus: This is an Earth that exists largely as a subtweet to Alan Moore, and I think that's an amazing power move (or I guess it'd be more of a power move if Alan Moore actually gave a shit about comics anymore, but let us hold on to this adolescent power fantasy). 

3. Earth-0
This one is here because it just has to be, c'mon.  It's the main earth in the DC universe, and while it's had its fair share of bumps and Jim Lee-designed bruises, it's the one we keep coming back to, the one where the stories we love have happened.

2.  Earth-51
It's the Jack Kirby Kamandi Earth!  Sort of.  We've got a couple of fun changes here like a Ben Boxer/O.M.A.C. mashup called biOMAC and the New Gods hanging out (question: maybe I missed something, but why are the New Gods hanging around this earth in particular?  Do the New Gods exist outside of the 52 Earths, or are there 52 versions of the New Gods?).  My favorite little redesigns here are Mr. Miracle's new extra chain and Highfather's Mark Mcgwire forearms.  Grant Morrison loves working with Kirby concepts, and it's always pretty fun to watch him try to recapture that Kirby energy, something that maybe no one will ever fully be able to do while working with Kirby's own creations, but you know, shoot for the moon and all that.

1.  Earth-16
This one's at the top because The Just was my favorite of the Multiversity issues so far.  (Sidenote: is The Just a little dig at Mark Millar's Jupiter's Legacy?  Maybe some one upmanship?  Or maybe it's just another superheroes as celebrities thing, I really can't tell.)  The Just, I think, takes the concept of DC's preoccupation with legacy and pushes it forward.  Not only do we see the future versions of the children of our heroes, but we see our current heroes aging and unable to move on from their past.  Perhaps the older heroes, caught up in their historical reenactments, are a stand-in for older superhero fans unable to move past the glory days of when comics were exciting and fun for them, and the children of the heroes are the new generation of readers born into this world where it's all been done.   I think the concept of superheroes being bored celebrities is pretty well-tread at this point (my favorite being Milligan & Allred's X-Force and X-Statix), but I always find it interesting because it seems like one of the most realistic outcomes of superheroes existing in our world (the other outcome in my opinion being straight up fear/fascism).  It's fun and trashy, playing up the triviality of these superhero comics by so closely paralleling celebrity gossip magazine story lines.  This take on superheroes really just leans into that more voyeuristic hunger/dependency of fan culture.  It's shameful, but we're all guilty of it, and it's interesting to see that reflected back to us in the context of our beloved superhero genre.  It's a fun concept for me because it doesn't entirely boil down to "Stay positive, don't let the cynicism of the world/industry twist you" message that has been present in Morrison's corporate superhero work lately.  Don't get me wrong, I think he does that well, and I don't mean to reduce his output of late to that single theme, but it's nice to know that he still has at least some interest in adding some shades of gray and layers of critique to that message.

NEXT TIME: MULTIVERSITY'S BOTTOM 10 EARTHS

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