- Writer: Grant Morrison
- Artist: Frank Quitely
- Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
- Letters: Rob Leigh
- Publisher: DC Comics
- Release Date: 11/19/14
Grant Morrison’s voyage through DC’s elaborate Multiversity continues this month with a stop at the universe populated with the characters first created by Charlton Comics, which was later bought by DC Comics and brought their characters into the DC Universe. These included characters such as Captain Atom, The Question, and The Blue Beetle. Now, Grant Morrison gives us his take on these characters…and they seem familiar, but not in the way you think.
Without giving away the plot, the story focuses on the investigations into, not to mention the causes of, the murder of the President of the United States by Peacemaker, one of the members of the Pax Americana, a super team brought together by this President to promote peace and protect the country. Adding to this mystery is a strange equation, the disappearance of Captain Atom, and the murder of the Peacemaker’s wife. The Question/Vic Sage is obsessed in finding the answers, Blue Beetle/Ted Kord is just trying to keep the peace, Nightshade/Eve Eden is dealing with family issues (such as her father now being President), and Captain Atom is…a bit out there. The comic causing havoc among the multiverse is seen, but this world seems to be protected from the horrors invading the other worlds, but could end up destroying itself. Told in a style that goes back and forth between past and present, Morrison weaves a complex tale that is both satisfying and fun. His characters are diverse, and the plans for what would become the Pax Americana are interesting. However, this comes with a major caveat.
Back in the 1980s, Alan Moore asked to use the Charlton Comics characters for the miniseries that would become Watchmen. DC denied this, wanting to keep the characters available for the main universe. Moore went forth and did pastiches on the characters to create his cast. Morrison (who has a legendary feud with Moore) somehow decided to use the Charlton characters, but hew them closer to their somewhat more famous analogues. The Question becomes a closeted libertarian with Rorschach’s obsessive and brutal nature (ironic given the Question once famously said “Rorschach sucks!”). Ted Kord, while braver than his counterpart Nite Owl II, still is the one trying to reason with The Question. Nightshade becomes Sally Jupiter, with less plot development while Captain Atom, who Morrison used in Final Crisis as the Superman of his world, becomes a Doctor Manhattan figure described as “an unkillable autistic god”. That description, and how the characters insinuate The Question’s sexuality, gives one pause. These quibbles potentially draw you out of the story, and it makes you wonder whether Morrison should have tried being more original than hewing closer to the knock offs of the characters he was writing. However, despite that, this is a strong story.
Quitely’s art matches the quality of the story telling as he takes on the various characters. Blue Beetle and The Question are their recognizable selves, while Peacemaker and Nightshade, who are not as familiar, are drawn very well too. Captain Atom, as previously mentioned, is more Doctor Manhattan than his normal silver skinned self, but Quitely gives him a quiet serene grace that even the other glowing blue being does not have. The fight scenes, including Peacemaker’s torture, is rendered brutally and bloody, as is a psychic dissection of a beloved dog, but is juxtaposed with quiet scenes in a garden estate and a moment between husband and wife. Fairbairn’s colors give a bright finish to Quitely’s art, even for the moments that can be downright seedy.
Morrison once again has a major successful entry in his tour of the Multiversity, though it isn’t as unique as the previous tales told in this miniseries. It is still a solid entry, and while the characters might be more reminiscent of their homages, they do get themselves into a twisty mystery that even Rorschach might not be able to solve.
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