Grant Morrison's "The Multiversity: Guidebook" #1 opens with a bite-mask wearing Professor Sivana and a swarm of Sivana-controlled robots decimating the members of the Little League. Batman of Earth-17 shows up as the tale opens and gives readers the opportunity to learn about the struggle they've collectively burst in on.
This seventy-page comic book visits the aforementioned Earth-42 and also checks in on Earth-51. On Earth-51, readers are introduced to BiOMAC, the bio-factored one-man army corps. An ally of Kamandi, BiOMAC affords Morrison yet another opportunity to play with the Fourth World of Jack Kirby. Morrison pushes beyond names, faces and DC Comics mainstays to play with their world and universe a bit more, merging concepts and overlapping the worlds in a dizzying mental Venn diagram.
Kamandi's story is compelling but, as a story within a story (and even containing another story), it teeters on overwhelming. Morrison keeps everything fun, even the deaths administered by Sivana. Even as he serves up surprises, the profile pages are certain to entertain readers throughout this comic.
A virtual army of artists contributes drawings for the profile pages and Morrison even sneaks in space for the Map of the Multiverse, a welcome addition to this mighty comic. The profiles (which Morrison built into the story itself) are drawn by comics legends far and wide, from Kelley Jones and Jon Bogdanove to Bryan Hitch and Joe Prado. Each sliver only gives readers a tease, but those teases are filled with plenty of energy to spark countless imaginations.
The narrative of "The Multiversity: Guidebook" #1 features art from Marcus To (who handles the Batmen and Sivana chapter) and Paulo Siqueira on the Kamandi adventure. To is joined by Dave McCaig for colors while Hi-Fi shines up Siqueira's line work.
To and McCaig keep the art fun and bright, as one would expect in a tale that features a cartoon version of the Caped Crusader talking with his exosuit-wearing counterpart. The Little League Batman is bright-eyed and innocent, but smart and determined. To manages to bring all of that through the character while giving the other Batman a gruff, impenetrable stance to match his outer shell.
As playful and upbeat as To's art is, Sequeira's is lush and detailed, reminiscent of Kamandi's "Prince Valiant"-like adventures that Ryan Sook drew for "Wednesday Comics." Siqueira keeps the camera high throughout Kamandi's story, eventually revealing to the readers the New Gods' observation of the adventures on Earth-51. Hi-Fi's colors fit the story beautifully and, when Kamandi and the reader are presented with a four-page recap of the history of the Multiverse, the colors take on a faded, worn look that pushes forward like the older printing process. Siqueira jams so much amazing detail into those four pages that I know I'm bound to lose an hour or two in the very near future just studying the variations of the Doom Patrol in the "Infinite Crisis" panel or the slick image of Rip Hunter, Booster Gold and Supernova flying through the Multiverse.
Todd Klein masterfully letters the entire, hulking issue and he does so with amazing finesse and bedrock consistency. The argument the Batmen have as they try to figure out what's going on is verbose and thick, but Klein hits all the sweet spots on the page to keep the story flowing. Likewise, when the New Gods peer in to Kamandi's journey, Kamandi and crew have word balloons with a bit of a squiggle to them, indicating the filter of distance and device.
With seventy pages of heft to it, "The Multiversity: Guidebook" #1 is certain to have readers flipping back and forth, reading it again and again, sifting through panels for clues and finding more reason to continue to get fired up about "Multiversity." If every event series presented readers with a guidebook like this, the events themselves might just be a little more entertaining and fun. Then again, not every event is a Grant Morrison-dreamt epic seven years in the making.