T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Superman #15 brought fans of the Man of Steel the second chapter of the ambitious Multiplicity arc. Scripted by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, the most recent issue followed up on the storyline’s opening installment with a full-fledged embrace of the daunting challenge of producing a worthy sequel to Grant Morrison’s conjoined epics, Final Crisis and The Multiversity. ComiConverse’s Krypton correspondent, T. Kyle King, attempts to encapsulate the adventure in this review.
(Warning: Spoilers unavoidably follow!)
Superman #15 Review:
Half a dozen parallel Earths, at least that many incarnations and analogues of the Man of Tomorrow, the House of Heroes, the Orrery of Worlds, and the Ultima Thule all feature prominently in Multiplicity — Part 2 as various realities’ respective Last Sons of Krypton combine forces to combat Prophecy’s mysterious machinations. So, yeah, this is kind of a big deal.
Superman #15 Synopsis:
The Gatherers have come for Earth-14’s Superman, but that world’s Justice League of Assassins stands with its leader and defeats the singleminded minions… only to have Prophecy arrive, slaughter the less powerful heroes, and take from the Action Ace the power of which he is “very much in need”. The pre-Flashpoint Superman has accompanied the Justice League Incarnate to the House of Heroes, where they learn of the carnage on Earth-14.
Unable to predict Prophecy’s next target, the dimension-spanning heroes quickly visit several Earths to take their respective Supermen into protective custody, whether by persuasion or by force. Once assembled aboard the Ultima Thule and traveling through the Bleed, the Supermen elect to re-enter the space-time continuum to attract Prophecy’s attention. Once the villain commences his inevitable attack, the post-Crisis Man of Tomorrow sends his teammates out of harm’s way and steels himself to face Prophecy alone.
Superman #15 Analysis:
Multiplicity — Part 2 takes up a fast-paced 20 pages, half of which are devoted to double-page spreads, leaving little room for exposition, recapitulation, and multiverse-building. Tomasi and Gleason make good use of scant space in Superman #15, succinctly setting up and summarizing the complex concepts from Morrison’s sweeping grand designs with concision and considerable humor. When our Superman attempts to articulate his understanding of the Justice League Incarnate’s mission statement, the imprecision of his comprehension is swiftly corrected with a NATO-style directive from the businesslike Batman of Earth-17: “A threat to one Earth is a threat to all Earths.”
Although he is not a major contributor to this story, the Atomic Knight Batman nevertheless represents an important presence in this issue, as he was one of the dynamic duo of Caped Crusaders who starred in Morrison’s The Multiversity Guidebook #1. That reference work is essential to tracking the action in Superman #15 as the multiple Metropolis Marvels make their odyssey around the Orrery from the Earth-13 of the Superdemon Etrigan and the League of Shadows to the Earth-10 of Overman and the New Reichsmen to the Earth-12 of Justice League Beyond to the Earth-18 of the Superchief Saganowana to the Earth-16 of the Just.
Perhaps the most notable of the alternate Earths, however, is the one the Justice League Incarnate never visits: Earth-14, home to the Justice League of Assassins, was listed in Morrison’s Guidebook as the first of seven unknown worlds, which was formed “by an Inner Chamber of 7 Monitor Magi for a mysterious purpose yet to be revealed.” Coupled with Prophecy’s declaration that the Earth-14 Superman’s “innate powers” were what the cosmos-hopping villain needed, it is difficult to dismiss that detail as trivial. Multiplicity — Part 2, after all, is the continuation of a tale so vast, its author literally had to draw us a map, imbue its minutiae with layers of meaning, and litter the whole opus with copious clues. In Superman #15, Tomasi and Gleason clearly are being deliberate in perpetuating the mythology so carefully crafted by the master of the long game.
In this issue, as in Morrison’s The Multiversity, the visual imagery is the handiwork of several artists, lending to the proceedings a varied yet not discordant aesthetic. Ed Benes, Jorge Jimenez, Clay Mann, and Ryan Sook all contributed artwork, to which Ulises Arreola, Dinei Ribeiro, Alejandro Sanchez, and Sook added colors. Rather than give Multiplicity — Part 2 a choppy and disorienting appearance, the division of labor in generating the graphics helps to sell the notion of multiple Earths, each with inherent similarities but still distinguishable through unique distinctions.
Sook’s cover, in particular, is strewn with revealing detritus laden with allusions, including Superman #15’s only overt reference to the devolutionary fate that befell Earth-26’s Captain Carrot in the preceding installment. The only major flaw in the artwork pertains to the portrayal of the few female characters who appear in this issue; the Earth-11 Aquawoman most often is posed to be ogled, especially on the pages drawn by Benes, whose Rob Liefeld-like tendencies in this regard, regrettably, are well documented. (Anyone who deems that observation an overreaction is invited to examine Mary Marvel’s stance alongside Aquawoman in each of their initial appearances, then to offer an explanation of what, precisely, would prompt her to stand in such a way at that instant.)
Unsurprisingly, the star of Superman #15 is the series’ title character, who assumes the lead role even as an interloper into the Justice League Incarnate. It is the post-Rebirth Clark Kent, not the New 52-era Calvin Ellis, who implements dramatic changes in strategy — both to protect the other Supermen and to draw Prophecy into the open — then surprises his teammates by sending them away so he can face the malevolent adversary alone. Despite presuming to anoint himself the group’s primus inter pares, Superman still treats his fellow heroes with the dignity they are due, prefacing divergent views using deference (“With all due respect…”), referring to the absent New Super-Man of China in the culturally customary manner (“Kong Kenan”), and addressing Ellis as “Mr. President”.
Although Kal-El prefers to be polite, and to persuade instead of punch, he is, above all else, resolute. Meeting with determined resistance from the delightfully poetic Etrigan, the Big Blue Boy Scout takes it easy on the League of Shadows as long as he is able (even allowing himself to be wrapped in mummy’s rags like the Unknown Superman in a nice homage to All-Star Superman #6) before quickly and singlehandedly dispatching the heroes of Earth-13. The Man of Steel patiently explains: “We’re here to help save you and your world. We’d prefer you make your decision consciously… but unconsciously works just as well.” In the end — when asked by Prophecy, “Who are you?” — he says simply: “I am Superman.” He most certainly is.
Multiplicity — Part 2 builds on some of the biggest of the DC Universe’s big ideas and properly fixes Superman at their center. Tomasi and Gleason smoothly move the story along with efficient and economical exposition that never detracts from the action. The myriad of artists aid the co-authors in showing instead of telling. Neither the fine details needed to further Morrison’s thick theses nor the simple essentials of the Metropolis Marvel’s iconic mythology are slighted in a story that pays appropriate attention both to the forest and to the trees. Superman #15 is a second superb step in the effort to extend the epic Multiversity into the excellent Rebirth.
Was Multiplicity — Part 2 worth taking the time to read while traveling through the Bleed?
ComiConverse with us in the comments and let us know your reaction to Superman #15!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
The authors are aiming high in this ambitious arc, and, so far, they are maintaining the high quality of the source material they are extending.