For a time, DC Comics seemed prepared to pass the titles of some of their longer running heroes to newer, young faces. Characters like Wally West, Kyle Rayner, Connor Hawke and Pieter Cross became the Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Dr. Midnite. Others, like Jakeem Thunder, Offspring and Damian Wayne filled the ranks as a new generation of heroes that might eventually become the full replacement for other existing characters. And while the company-wide reset now known as the New 52 undid most of those heroes, Grant Morrison and Ben Oliver certainly hadn’t forgotten about them. Enter “The Multiversity: The Just” #1, set on a world where those replacements continued throughout the years until all of the older faces have been swapped out with new legacy heroes. There’s just one problem: they’re bored.
The basic concept behind “The Multiversity: The Just” is familiar and something we’ve seen left and right over the years. What makes this particular take on the idea work so well is Morrison and Oliver’s execution, with lots of little touches that give it that extra bite. Morrison’s take on this younger generation pulls in characters from all over the place; everyone from Chris Kent and Cissie King to Bloodwynd and Gypsy. The ever-present mood hanging over them, though, is a perfect level of hipster ennui. Everyone’s seen it all before and almost no one can muster up any energy for something else. With Morrison’s creation of “Earth-Me” where an army of Superman robots perpetually keep the peace to the point that costumed superheroes are meaningless, we’ve ended up with a utopia full of living, loaded guns unable to fire.
The end result is a story where superhero suicide and petty squabbles escalating to world-destroying feuds are the name of the game. We’ve seen this story before, sure, but there’s something especially sharp about this particular take. From the self-aware snarks at our world (“What’s wrong with calling them comic books?” “When did hipsters get into comic books?” “What Sandman? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman?”) to the familiar faces attached to these moments, “The Multiversity: The Just” grabs your attention. Morrison’s ability to come up with what feels like throw-away character names continues to impress, too. Sister Miracle and Megamorpho are two of the best “next generation” renditions of existing superhero names, ones that tickle the imagination about the untold backstory behind them. The comic is as much a cautionary tale of why superhero comics can never truly advance beyond a certain stage of plotting, as it’s a signal of how the stakes would be raised if you did take that next step forward. The world won’t end in a biblical armageddon, but rather self-loathing snark.
Oliver was a smart choice to draw this comic; his slick, semi-realistic art style is the closest we’ll get to a fumetti (or photograph-based comic) and that’s exactly what we want in this self-obsessed world where superheroes have more in common with Kardashians than Olympians. His gentle coloring scheme makes this come to life, looking almost like it was airbrushed onto the pages with skin tones so realistic it’s not quite like anything else on the market. It doesn’t hurt that the characters also look mightily realistic just from the pencil and ink realm, of course. A pose as simple as the Atom crouching after leaving Sister Miracle’s bloodstream looks wonderful; there’s a relaxed nature to the drawing, his arms positioned in a way that makes the entire moment feel matter-of-fact rather than like a superhero who’s springing into action. Oliver can also bring the fantastic to life; when Damian Wayne cocks his fist at Offspring, look at how the latter’s body literally drips backwards as he rears back from the threat. It’s an expressive moment that both brings the emotion to the foreground even as it uses Offspring’s powers to show that reaction in a way that few other characters could do.
“The Multiversity: The Just” #1 is a comic that takes known themes and makes them feel engaging and different even while going through familiar paces. For a series that is primarily a series of one-shots, “The Multiversity” is continuing to come across as interesting and fun, and those who have enjoyed the comic up until now will find no reason to turn away after “The Just.” Morrison and Oliver work well together in “The Multiversity: The Just” and this will make you want to see another collaboration from the duo, and soon.