WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for several recent DC Comics releases, including Sideways #2, on sale now.
DC Comics has needed its own cosmic toy chest for a very long time. Thanks to the work of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Jim Starlin in the '60s ad '70s, Marvel currently enjoys a vast array of cosmic characters. From Galactus and the Celestials to the Cosmic Abstracts and The Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel Universe has a strong foundation for stories that take place out in the depths of space. Unfortunately, for various reasons, DC Comics doesn't have quite the same wealth of ideas, and in recent years it has been hard to find any kind of consistency in how its cosmic rules function.
DC has (almost) always had a healthy helping of Green Lantern comics, but with the Legion of Super-Heroes off the boards for the past few years, things have been looking pretty slim. Efforts have been made in the past to create a viable stable of cosmic characters, with titles like L.E.G.I.O.N., R.E.B.E.L.S., Darkstars and even the recent Omega Men series. Unfortunately, none of it has led to much long-term success. Given Marvel's ability to turn the Guardians of the Galaxy into a valuable film franchise and a comic book standard, it's shocking that DC hasn't been able to figure out how to do the same.
However, before the publisher can worry about its super teams, DC needs to establish the board these pieces will be playing on, and who will be sitting down to play. Thankfully, recent comics have done well to establish the foundation of the DC Comics cosmic universe.
A New Multiverse For a New Generation
For DC Comics, the cosmic world begins with the Multiverse. It has been a staple of continuity for decades, and the elimination of the Multiverse may have been the single biggest mistake the company made since 1985. After about two decades without one, DC has been working to re-establish it for almost as long.
Several false starts later, Grant Morrison's The Multiversity helped to define and explore the different worlds that make up the new DC Multiverse. Though the publisher has yet to fully embrace the usage of these worlds, some comics have played with the toys Morrison left behind. Forever Evil and "Darkseid War" explored Earth 3 and the evil counterparts of the Justice League. Justice League of America has dealt with the characters from Angor, which is a pastiche of the Marvel Universe and has been designated Earth 8. And Superman recently reintroduced Bizarro World of Earth 29.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have also done a fantastic job introducing a brand new concept on top of everything. The Dark Multiverse that was introduced in Dark Nights: Metal adds much needed depth to the cosmic landscape at DC Comics. Without infinite worlds to pull from, the Multiverse is a little too stable and could eventually become stale. This new concept allows new ideas to come together without creators feeling that everything must be left exactly how they left it. We don't know what will happen in the final issue of Metal out later this month, but it would be a shame for the Dark Multiverse to go away so soon.