I am not a long-time DC geek. I say that because I want it to be clear that I’m not approaching this topic with a sense of entitlement, that “I’ve been reading DC for 20 years so they damn well better not mess things up…” If anything, my recent conversion into a DC fan (starting with Identity Crisis and increasing with Infinity Crisis and all the tie-ins) allows me to say what some might call heresy: The multiverse can go to hell.
I understand the purpose of the multiverse, the whiff of sci-fi that it brings into comics, the way it allows generational gaps among heroes and how nice an element of confusion it can be. But it’s a crutch, and always has been. It’s a way to explain incongruities amid continuity (which seems a bit ridiculous, since we’re talking about make believe men in tights). So it was that during Infinite Crisis (which was as well coordinated and dramatic of a mega-event as comics has ever seen), I almost felt relief to see the multiverse bite star dust. Good riddance to bad rubbish and all that.
But now, as revealed in an amazingly cipherable riddle from Dan Didio, we know the multiverse “still exists.” And this pisses me off.
I suppose, having said the above about the multiverse’s inherent worthlessness, I could simply say that the multiverse is needless crap and I’m annoyed to have it further meddling with my future enjoyment of DC comics. Just as any stamp of Civil War on a Marvel cover sent me running, I’ll be carefully looking out for hints of multiversial intrusion into my books. Any whiff of cross-dimensional mischief, and I’m gone. However, that isn’t what really annoys me about this news. That would be the very clear problem that any revival of the multiverse invalidates so much progress DC has made and stomps on the company’s defense of its mega-event. Bringing back the multiverse completely invalidates Infinite Crisis.
DC has always been a bit too obsessive over the sanctity of their characters and the continuity of the DC universe. Especially starting with Crisis on Infinite Earths (but even going back to the JSA-JLA crossovers), the company has planned each mega-event as a way to “fix” things, to reboot and present a new, clean entry point for new readers (while selling a few million books in the process). Especially in the form of Zero Hour and Armageddon 2001, they’ve really only mussed things further. And, with dozens of separate books steered by different creative teams, there are always bound to be incongruities cropping up. Marvel handled matters in a different way entirely (at least after Onslaught sent people away in droves) by starting afresh with their Ultimate line.
In Infinite Crisis, DC resorted to their same old rubric for rebooting the universe, they just took things to a heretofore unseen level, by plotting a truly company-wide crossover that both honored the company’s history and made for exciting comics and, most importantly, streamlined things by pulling all these disparate threads into a single ribbon. They killed the multiverse.
Since then, we’ve seen the relaunch of several characters in new ways (some successes and some failures), and, most importantly, there hasn’t been any turmoil over continuity. We’ve just seen a lot of good, simple superheroics and a renewed focus on the individual characters and teams. But, perhaps by plan or perhaps because this lack of a historic brouhaha had led to Marvel jumping back on top in a big way, the powers that be decided to stick those big purple hands back into the universal stew at the beginning of time.
Maybe not-too-coincidentally, this comes as their World War Three and Countdown events are looming. Just a little tidbit to the readers to draw interest into the next mega-events. Except, we’ve seen around the blog-o-sphere a certain amount of exhaustion at these spectacles. Civil War dropped readers as the series dragged on, and now it’s been largely eviscerated in public. There are already groans about World War Hulk, Marvel’s next big one.
What the publishers should see is that before long, they’re going to have to engage readers a lot more to keep them faithful enough to drop a huge chunk of change on a big series with lots of tie-ins. And to do that, readers need to be convinced that the mega-event will matter.
With his “multiverse still exists” riddle, Didio and DC showed that Infinite Crisis mattered much less than they’ve always claimed. And so, I ask, why should I believe the next one will be any different?